The DC Universe Animated Original Movies have, for the most part, been cinematic masterpieces. The DC Extended Universe films, however, have been very divisive amongst fans and critics. You would think it would be easy for the studio to translate the best parts of the comics to their live action films, especially when they have had such success with their animated ones.
Warner Bros. recently released their updated DCEU slate at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago, so let's compare these future #DCEU films with the DC Universe Animated Original Movies and other animated DC properties, to see what they can borrow to improve the films going forward. Be warned, for there are mild SPOILERS ahead.
Why Are DC Universe Animated Original Movies So Good?
The DC Universe Animated Original Movies are not afraid to embrace their comic book roots. These animated features are lifted right from the page with very few changes from the original source material. The films usually have a dark tone that accentuates the characters' personal conflicts and storylines. The films walk the line of being for children and adults. This is the sweet spot that a studio wants to be in. Since the films are animated, they can get away with showing lots of blood and gore that live action films can not. They also incorporate well-known voice actors, such as #KevinConroy and #NathanFillion, who have portrayed DC characters in other media.
Choosing Interesting Stories
The current slate for the DCEU is as follows:
- Justice League (2017)
- Aquaman (2018)
- Shazam! (2019)
- Wonder Woman 2 (2019)
- Green Lantern Corps (2020)
- Flashpoint (2020)
- Suicide Squad 2 (TBA)
- The Batman (TBA)
- Justice League Dark (TBA)
- Batgirl (TBA)
Justice League is currently in post-production, and Aquaman has recently started filming. The rest of the films, however, are in the beginning stages of pre-production. Looking to the DC Universe Animated Original Movies and other DC animated shows, there are ripe stories for the picking that just need to be translated into live action. For example, Shazam! can easily be based off of Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam. Warner Bros. has decided to save Black Adam for his own film, which could easily work as a prequel to Shazam!. So, all they would need to do is change out the villain that #Shazam!/Captain Marvel battles in the film. This would also incorporate #Superman into another DCEU film while they figure out a Man of Steel sequel.
#WonderWoman is another character who has had amazing portrayal on the small screen. Since her origin story has already been told in the DCEU, we can dive into many stories, both past and present, for her character. They have enough open space in Wonder Woman's mythology that they can still retcon certain things to further expand her story. Strong female characters have been increasing in Hollywood as of late. It would make sense for Wonder Woman 2's villain to be female. A great base for that story would be, the Justice League episode, "Fury." In that episode, we saw a rogue Amazonian try to kill off all the men in the world. Combine this story with the origin of Barbara Ann Minerva/Cheetah and you have a recipe for success.
With #MattReeves now writing a new Batman trilogy, starring #BenAffleck, it would be great if he looked into the DC Universe Animated Original Movies for inspiration. The main story that people are excited to see is "Batman: Under the Red Hood." This storyline has already been set up in the DCEU with the death of Jason Todd. But if he plans to do a trilogy, then it would be great to explore storylines introduced in Son of Batman, Batman vs Robin, and Batman: The Killing Joke. These stories incorporate other characters that the DCEU plans to use, such as Batgirl, #Nightwing, and #Robin. The animated films aren't afraid to get into the psyche of Batman with the stories they choose to tell because they know how dark of a character he is. Unlike the Marvel films, a #Batman film is supposed to be dark and somber, which leads me into my next topic...
Keeping The Dark Tone
The problem with the DCEU has never been its dark tone. The issue has been its editing and dialogue. Most of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies have a very dark tone. One of the best and darkest DC Universe Animated Original Movies is Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. In this film we see many heroes and villains die, albeit within an alternate timeline. With Flashpoint due to hit theaters in 2020, it would be best if Warner Bros. did a copy and paste when transferring this story to the silver screen. This is a major #Flash story, and if they really want to tackle it in the first film, then its best to go with a proven formula.
Other films, such as Suicide Squad 2 and Justice League Dark, should not shy away from the darker topics and characters explored in the DCEU. If Warner Bros. plans to make any of their films rated R, then these would be the ones to do it with. Also, Suicide Squad 2 would be a great place to move Deathstroke if Matt Reeves decides not to use the character in The Batman. This stone cold mercenary would fill one of the open spots on Amanda Waller's team of bad guys. On the other hand, Justice League Dark should go down the line of a superhero horror film. Likened to Dracula: Untold, the film could explore the supernatural, while keeping it grounded in the reality of the DCEU.
Embracing The Comic Book Roots
One issue fans have with the DCEU is that it takes itself too seriously. Let's not forget that these are, indeed, comic book based films and therefore should have a sense of wonderment. The DC Universe Animated Original Movies have a slight edge in that it is easier to handle giant monsters, ghosts, and aliens when they are animated. However, the DCEU can easily take these comic book stories and set them in a realistic world. They have started to embrace this fact a little more in both Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad. Their upcoming films, #Aquaman, Shazam!, and Green Lantern Corps, will have to do the same.
Warner Bros. tried to make a #GreenLantern film, before they established the DCEU, that was loyal to its comic book roots, but they didn't set it in enough realism. They should be able to learn from the mistakes of that film and make Green Lantern Corps great. Their idea to make it like Lethal Weapon in space is perfect. The Green Lantern Corp has a rich mythology that should be explored on-screen. The DC Universe Animated Original Movie, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, explored much of the Corp's lore: from the formation of the original Green Lanterns, to the prophecy of Sinestro turning evil.
Since the DCEU film is expected to feature Hal Jordan and John Stewart, along with a plethora of other Lanterns, it would be simple for them to take some time to give the Corps a decent backstory. If done correctly, this could be Warner Bros. answer to the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Do you agree that the DCEU can learn from the DC Universe Animated Original Movies? Are you excited for their newest release schedule? Leave your thoughts below.