Huge Issues Facing The DC Cinematic Universe
Man of Steel Is A Shaky Foundation
Marvel kicked off their cinematic universe with Iron Man, a critical and commercial darling that really started out on the right foot. I did like Man of Steel, but it's no Iron Man. Years on, it's hard to find anybody who'll say anything positive about this movie, whereas people were still going gaga for Iron Man years on, and the hype train for IM2 was huge.
MOS is an undeniably shaky foundation. I feel that DC should be taking a step back and looking to perfect their formula before rushing forward. A proper, good quality MOS 2 could have done this. So could a standalone Batman film. Even better, both!
They're Trying Too Hard To Not Be Marvel
Warner and DC have this strict "No Jokes" policy, we have heard. They want to distance their movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe by being gritty, dour and serious, akin to Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy. But this type of dark, humourless approach is going to get very old very quickly. Joyless and dark doesn't mean good. It can also mean boring as fuck. Marvel's movies work because they are varied; they mix up seriousness with light-heartedness. The tone of a movie is dependant entirely on the movie. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a gritty thriller without much in the way of humour and it was commended as such because it was befitting of the source material, not because it was mandated by some silly studio policy.
Also, while Marvel does use a lot of CGI, the DC movies are lathered in it. There's not a single shot that doesn't look patently digital. Yeah, they're trying to develop their own aesthetic, but honestly, a vibrant, colourful look with some semblance of, well, reality would be just fine. I look at Man of Steel and all I see is just digital, digital, digital, not to mention a desaturated colour palette. I look at something like Guardians of the Galaxy and see a lot of big sets, natural flesh tones, and a colourful "look." The CGI overload is just getting out of control. I miss the days when things were shot on celluloid and looked real and tangible.
They Aren't Letting It Develop Organically
Everyone can see this one. Marvel has had so much success that DC is scrambling to do something, and fast. They tried with Green Lantern and Jonah Hex to get something going, and now they've accepted Man of Steel as good enough and they're going for it.
Although Marvel hinted that The Avengers was coming at the end of the first Iron Man, they still took their time. Iron Man 2 came a couple of years later, and then Thor and Captain America. They started from the ground upwards, and only now has the Marvel franchise started to get crazy. Warner and DC seem to be panicking to up the ante, hence their second movie is Batman v. Superman. Where's the build-up? If MOS is really supposed to be DC's Iron Man, shouldn't we at least see a MOS 2 and maybe a standalone Batman movie before we dive into this? Yeah, we've seen standalone Batman films before, but we haven't seen him introduced in this universe. And there are rumours that Dick Grayson or other Robins might show up. Whoa, where's the build-up there? The original Batman movies from the 80s and 90s at least took their time to get to Robin, and established everything. Here, everything is just kind of being thrown at the wall without proper establishment. God help the casual movie-goers who won't get all the fan service.
DC's approach just doesn't seem organised or smart. They're rushing into everything. And if one movie fails, then DC are sent back to the drawing board.
They're Also Taking Too Long
By the time Batman v. Superman is released in 2016, it will have been eight years since Marvel came onto the scene and started its MCU. Also, three years since MOS. That's a long time. Are people still interested? And this is only the second entry in the DCCU. They're jumping into the big one with Batman v. Superman when they should've instead released MOS 2 and even a standalone Batman movie in 2015, before letting it all culminate in 2016 with their mash-up, and then laying the framework for Justice League.
Is Zack Snyder Really The Man For The Job?
The real "father" of the MCU is Joss Whedon, who came in for The Avengers and has been chaperoning every new movie ever since. The "father" of the DCCU appears to be Zack Snyder, with the man's name attached to pretty much everything that's coming. He's directing Justice League. He'll probably direct Man of Steel 2. He's going non-stop. But is that really a smart move?
Snyder is a decent director when he's on his game, but the difference between Snyder and Whedon is huge. Whedon cut his teeth with Firefly and Serenity, two of the greatest things ever, and he's showed he's great with characters on Buffy as well. Snyder just directs noisy, showy, CGI-infested movies that can be good, but are undeniably style over substance. The DCCU needs somebody with more talent for character development and dialogue to see it through.
The Superhero Craze Will Eventually Crash
We've had various superhero movies over the past few decades, but now it's the IN thing and everyone is scrambling for a piece of the pie. But how long, realistically, can this last before audiences start to lose interest? Marvel has some sense of security because they kinda started the whole thing, but what's going to happen to DC as they keep trying to push new characters like Shazam, Cyborg and Aquaman to the fore in their own solo movies? Without a built-in interest, casual movie-goers will not have any reason to go see these movies.
There are at least thirty superhero movies pencilled in for the next five years or so; inevitably, people are going to become sick and tired of them. I mean, superhero movies are a fad. Look at how quickly the 3D fad burnt out. I'm already kind of over it.
The CW Shows Are Kicking Their Ass
Arrow debuted in 2012, before Man of Steel came out. And now The Flash is here, long before the separate Flash movie comes out in 2018. Arrow has even tackled the Suicide Squad, and there's going to be a Suicide Squad movie in 2016.
CW's shows are actually really good, and I have zero interest in a Flash movie because I'm happy with the TV show. I'm very skeptical about a Suicide Squad movie because Arrow has done it. It just feels like Warner & DC are stepping on CW's toes. Yeah, technically the characters belong to DC, but CW are doing their own thing extremely well and nobody is complaining. Marvel taking Spider-man back was exciting because Sony's movies sucked.
Characters Are Too Niche
Marvel has its fair share of niche characters, but DC literally has nobody recognisable beyond Batman and Superman. Those are the characters that movie-goers have seen on-screen for decades. The Flash and Wonder Woman are also kinda recognisable, but that's about it. Ask the Average Joe if they've heard of Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg or the Suicide Squad, and they'll look at you strangely.
The argument can be made that several Marvel characters were niche before they were brought to the screen, but Marvel did a bang-up job and their movies were infused with real humanity and humour. Relying on the gritty Nolan approach is going to be a problem. And of course, with superhero fatigue guaranteed to set in soon, nobody will care. People will stick with the formula that's already won them over: The MCU.
Aquaman Is A Big Problem
There are a few weird and difficult characters that Marvel has steered away from. Another standalone Hulk movie is off the table at this point because it's hard to make a standalone Hulk movie that works. They're tried twice, and failed both times.
Aquaman is one of the characters who might not work in his own movie. The animated Justice League: Throne of Atlantis was meant to be his big introduction in the animated realm, and it sucked. Aquaman as a character is not compelling enough. His back-story is weird. Even DC fans admit that he's a lame character whose water-based antics are simply not interesting.
There's even been a Family Guy skit which shows why an Aquaman movie won't work: All the bad guys need to do is get out of the freaking water to escape him.
There are three separate continuities running simultaneously at the moment: The CW TV universe, the DC Cinematic Universe, and the DC animated universe. Everyone knows about the movies, the animated entries are growing more and more in popularity, while the CW shows are doing quite well. Admittedly, Marvel has a string of animated movies, but they've just kind of fizzled out. But three separate continuities -- that's confusing to casual movie-goers. I was actually surprised to learn that the CW shows do not tie into the movies, because I was under the impression initially that they were. Imagine the Average Joe going to see the upcoming Flash movie after being hooked on the TV show, and being slapped across the face when they realise it's a whole other thing.
Here's another pertinent point: The animated movies are actually doing very well. They're covering dozens of comic book story arcs and oftentimes doing them properly. The Dark Knight Returns is a freaking masterpiece, and Under the Red Hood is amazing. If all the animated movies were released as live-action, I'd be very happy with that DC cinematic universe. But Warner and DC are just kinda unsure about what to do. In an attempt to distance these movies from what has come before, Batman is suddenly older, and it looks like Batman v. Superman will take a lot from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. But you know what? I actually want a faithful adaptation of TDKR, after seeing the entire history on-screen of Superman and Batman. By doing their throwdown in their first motion picture together, the emotional heft of the fight doesn't exist.
There are so many stories that should be done live-action that have been covered in the animated movies, but the live-action department is just kinda tackling a lot of the big stuff too soon without letting it develop properly. The whole thing is a jumbled mess.
Also, it's going to be hard for cinema goers to divorce these new movies from the Nolan trilogy. While that's a can't-win kinda deal anyway, this is why it's so important for us to be properly introduced to Batman. Having him introduced in the DCCU as a supporting character in a Nolan-inspired movie? Yeah that's a bit squiffy. We needed a standalone Batman movie with a whole different tone.
I will be watching each movie, but I have concerns.