Right now public opinion of the DC cinematic universe is bad. According to multiple user experiences, Rotten Tomatoes scores, and the Fandom Menace, all DC is doing right now is “playing catch up to Marvel.” I disagree with that statement. If anything the DC movies have tried everything in their power to create a different experience than Marvel. Most criticism is based on comparisons to previous DC movies, ideas of what these movies “should be”, or the illusion that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is perfect. I don’t think any of the DCEU movies are bad. If one or two scenes were different and people measured their expectation, I actually believe these movies could even be beloved.
The DCEU, or as it was recently re-branded Worlds of DC, currently has released 5 movies. They are Man of Steel (2013), Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Wonder Woman (2017), and Justice League (2017). Other than Wonder Woman, most of these movies have endured some harsh reviews. But even Wonder Woman has multiple people complaining about the third act. Each movie has individual issues, by no means is this an argument for DC over Marvel. My point is not to try to tell you to like movies you don’t or call you dumb for having your individual tastes. As a fan of the superhero genre, I just think these movies aren’t as bad as public opinion seems to suggest.
First and foremost, I think more people should have measured exceptions about these movies. This is an issue with audience members in general. Specifically with DC movies however I have noticed every single scene being put under a microscope. Every reviewer holds these movies to some unreal expectations and than destroys the movie after every sin. The DC universe is not the Marvel universe. This is not just with the movies, but the comics themselves. When comparing the Justice League to The Avengers, there aren’t many similarities outside of ‘group of heroes saving the day’. The Avengers have always been about the individual overcoming their humanity to save other humans. And that is something the Marvel movies have figured out. The Justice League represents a far more immense endeavor. Each character has to save the universes/dimensions, their stories are not so much about the individual but the ideas they represent. The power sets of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Aquaman are that of gods. Each one could easily defeat the Avengers in a fight. Their stories aren’t always about the fight. The DC movies, for the most part, have capitalized on those same idea. Audience member’s just have been expecting them to be more grounded, and that was DC’s own fault.
The Batman trilogy known as “The Nolanverse”, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises, all of which were directed and written by Christopher Nolan, might be a strong reason for the negativity surrounding the Worlds of DC. Majority of people love those movies, The Dark Knight alone has one of the biggest fan followings of all superhero films. Following the Nolan trilogy, Man of Steel was expected to be just as grounded and gritty. In some aspects it was, but watching it now, the movie is far more about a mythological metaphor. Clark isn’t a man in the story, he represents the idea of what it means to be truly good in an evil world. Another thing people tend to forget is that DC has been around the movie game for a lot longer than Marvel. Before the Nolan movies, we had four other batman movies. Green Lantern, Jonah Hex, The Watchman, V for Vendetta, Red, The Losers, and… Shaq’s Steel, were all released under the WB DC banner. Not all of them are good movies, but many of them are decent enough. Not to mention the gigantic DC animated catalog, that is widely considered as amazing films and shows. The problem is that Marvel started the connected universe. So now audience members have disregarded the idea of judging a single film by itself. DC has had a lot of experience and experimentation with Elseworlds and alternate realities. The Worlds of DC is just another Elseworld story. They are not trying to do what Marvel is doing, they are not trying to be like their comics, and they aren’t trying to connect to all of their previous movies. If people went into these new movies realizing that, then maybe they wont judge every little detail and enjoy the creative choices of these directors/writers/producers have made.
Many “fans” watching movies today say things like “they should have…”, “I would have…”, “… don’t know what they’re doing”, “ruined my childhood”, etc. I think audience members think they own the rights to the characters and plots. Then when a movie doesn’t do things exactly how they remember from their memories or mental imaginings of these characters, they confuse that with being a plot hole or a misrepresentation of the properties. As I stated, these movies are full of creative choices for a new look at the characters. These are alternate realities. The franchise itself is a darker version of the DC universe. Both in tone and visual color palettes. I don’t even understand how color blind people view these movies. But being darker isn’t a bad thing. This falls back to the point about this film series trying to differentiate itself from Marvel. Adults can enjoy superhero movies as well. Not every movie needs dick jokes and costumes designed to be toys. The characters of these movies have to be as dark and unique as this universe that is being crafted.
The most common choices that people hate are The Joker and Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, Lex Luther from Dawn of Justice, and Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman. The thing is, these characters exist in a world of differences. Aquaman and The Flash are not anything like their characters, but no one complains about them. The choices made to create new versions of the characters for a modern audience are not flaws. I personally don’t love Jared Leto’s Joker, but I appreciate the fact that they tried to do something different with the character. Jessie Eisenburg’s Lex is definitely a unique take on the character, but he was just as evil and intelligent as Lex has to be to take down a super powered alien without throwing a single punch. I’m sorry to break it to you but Batman is a psychopath. He has killed so many people in movies and comics. I know that is his “one rule” but lets face it, breaking someones collarbone and giving them a concussion while leaving them in an alley is basically a death sentence. He beats people to a pulp in a bat costume because he watched his parents get murdered in front of him, he’s a lunatic. Bruce Wayne is the only member of the Justice League without powers, and yet everyone is afraid of him. Ben Affleck’s Batman is an acceptable portrayal of the character whether you agree with it or not. I mean shit George Clooney used a credit card and Christian Bale killed dogs, but I see people saying Ben Affleck is the worst Batman? I also want to state that we have barely gotten into the universe. It’s easy to compare Batfleck to Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. But RDJ has had 8 movies to fully grow into that character. We as an audience have to give them the chance to flesh out their characters and flesh out this universe. Stop ranting about a piece of promotional art or teaser trailers, setting yourself up to hate the movie before you even watch it. This cinematic universe is a baby, I just want us to forgive the little issues now and see where these movies go.
So by now I’ve defended these movies pretty hard and you think I’m just some #ReleaseTheSnyderCut! fanboy. If you’ve read some of my other articles, you would know I’m not a fan of Snyder. DC’s biggest mistake was trusting that director to start their cinematic universe. I do not believe he’s the worst director or anything, but trusting him to create the first 3 movies in a franchise was not forward thinking. Snyder did an amazing job with The Watchmen, so having him do another darker DC property made sense. A lot of people did like Man of Steel. The universe would have been fine with that as it’s opening. It wasn’t as good as Iron Man, but a lot of the phase one MCU movies weren’t show stoppers. I think Zach Snyder doesn’t have the ability to write movies, his best work is done when getting to use someone else’s script. That’s why Batman v Superman was a mess. He tried using 5 different comic stories jammed into the same film. Not to mention having Flash time travel in the film for no reason didn’t help keep the story coherent. The movie wasn’t that bad though. If only you removed the Flash dream sequence and changed the infamous Martha scene, then maybe the jumping off point of the Worlds of DC wouldn’t have left such a sour taste in people’s mouth.
It’s weird to think a movie would get such terrible reviews based off one or two scenes. But that is what I’m trying to covey to you. Audiences unconsciously forgive flaws in a movie that is generally loved (Black Panther has some pretty insane plot holes and super convenient plot progression but people think it’s perfect). The opposite effect happens for a movie that is not loved. I don’t take that much stock in Rotten Tomatoes personally, but a lot of people do. When Suicide Squad was coming out, everyone was pretty excited (other than harshly judging Jared Leto’s Joker). No matter how the movie turned out, or the drama behind the scenes, the trailers for Suicide Squad were really good. So once the reviews came out that the movie was terrible, everyone’s perceptions changed. I think it is possible that when you’re told a movie is bad, then you go into the theater looking for all the flaws. It changes the way you view the film. Suicide Squad was the first movie in the new line of DC films not directed by Zach Snyder. It was written, in only 6 weeks, and directed by David Ayer, someone who has never had to work with CGI or fantastical characters. And if the rumors are correct, he was not allowed in the editing room. In my opinion, his movie is the weakest of the Worlds of DC but that doesn’t mean it was bad. Like the other movies, there is only really one scene that ruins the film, aside from the soundtrack. The scene where the team realizes they were set up, Deadshot discovers that Waller sent in these villains so that way the news would think they committed all the damages. The truth about Waller losing control of one of her assets would never be discovered because she was going to kill the Squad and be seen as a hero for stopping this group of terrorizing villains… The problem is we never actually got to see that scene. The whole discovery takes place off-screen. Instead we get a comedic moment with the characters in a bar and them realizing they are really all just good people who want to save the world. They’re villains and monsters, they wouldn’t want to save the world. If the audience would have seen Deadshot discover Waller’s plan, then the plot would have made sense, the character’s identity wouldn’t have changed suddenly, and Waller would have still been seen as the bad guy of the film instead of the Enchantress. Moments like this happen throughout all of the DC movies.
If Man of Steel didn’t have Clark’s father telling him to let a bus of kids die, then Superman’s character would have made sense. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for Clark to grow up to become the symbol of pure good, when he lets his dad die in a tornado. The real Superman from the comics is never conflicted. He does what is always good with no compromise. If Dawn of Justice didn’t have the scene where Superman says “save Martha”, causing Bruce to flip out and change his attitude in a total 180 over a name, then the audience wouldn’t have lost all respect for the character. Instead if he would have mentioned something about just needing to save his mother or a person in general, then Bruce could have had a similar reaction, because he would no longer see Superman as an alien. Clark is a boy with parents that he wants to save, which is Batman’s entire motive. Bruce would see Clark as a hero. If this scene was written better, I think the movie wouldn’t have been judged so poorly. If Wonder Woman would have ended on the note that there is no God of War causing WW1, then the movie could have been perfect. The Patty Jenkins DC movie is widely considered the best of the franchise. I think that is because we got the hero that should have been in Man of Steel, a hero that is truly good and uncompromising. But the end of that film really ruins the chance to make a powerful statement. That men are just evil because humans are flawed creatures that don’t deserve heroes. Instead we got a giant CGI battle with a moustached villain (wouldn’t have minded that one being removed in post) that creates a bit of a plot-hole seeings how after Ares’ death we still had WW2. The most recent DC film was their end of a phase. Justice League, half-directed by Zach Snyder and half directed by Joss Whedon, was a fun movie. I don’t actually have an “if one scene was changed” for Justice League. The movie was very enjoyable. That movie has gone through a lot of strides to course correct the DC cinematic franchise in a better direction. It introduced a lot of new likable heroes. The only flaw I can think of is the fact that there is 45 minutes of movie that was cut and we won’t get to see the scenes of Cyborg before the accident, Flash saving Iris West, or Superman being evil for a lot longer. The fact that it is currently sitting at 40% on is baffling and makes me sad that people didn’t enjoy the film as much as I did. If anything, it has made a me even more excited for the future of this franchise.
Currently the Worlds of DC have shown trailers for Aquaman and Shazam. Both of these movies look promising. Aquaman looks like an action packed epic filled with beautiful landscapes, funny writing, and character’s you want to root for. James Wan was given the choice to create and DC property and he picked Aquaman. Backing passionate creators is how you get good movies and James wants to make a great movie. I know less about Sahzam and the director David F Sandberg, but based on the trailer looks good. One thing the DC movies lack is organic comedy and lightheartedness. Having a character that is self-aware of the tropes of the superhero genre could be good. It’s worked out for Deadpool. There has been a plethora of other movies announced in the future, but the only movies that are actually in production are the highly anticipated sequel Wonder Woman 84 (smart move not making it WW2). The other movie confirmed to be in production is the Joaquin Phoenix Joker film which seems like an interesting choice. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this film, but I will wait before judging it. It is exciting that they’re taking risks with some unique concepts and alternate dimensions.
The future of the DC movies look promising and the foundation it has already built up upon isn’t that bad. I think if we the audience can forgive the minor flaws, then we could enjoy the movies more. Remember, these characters represent the ideas of being good and honest. If you are really a fan of superheroes, then adapt that message, be a better person and don’t waste so much time hating on art. I ask you to re-watch these first few movies in a new light and look for the good in them while having a little faith in where The Worlds of DC goes.
Movies watched and article written by: Troy Smith