The DCEU may be on top right now thanks to Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, but it didn't have the smoothest start with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. The movies were unquestionably financially successful, but people didn't respond well to the stories. But what made those shortcomings all the more frustrating wasn't the mishandling of the characters or at times incoherent stories.
No, that honor went to the defense the films' cast and crew retreated behind when addressing people's dislike for the film: They were made for the fans, not critics. Actors like Cara Delevingne and Ben Affleck began using that defense, and it essentially became a free pass for the DCEU movies' shortcomings. After the dismal reviews for #SuicideSquad hit, Delevingne famously bashed critics for the poor performance:
“The critics have been absolutely horrific. They’re really, really horrible. You know, I just don’t think they like superhero movies,” Cara Delevingne told Reuters. “It doesn’t really matter what the critics say at the end of the day, it’s the fans that we made this movie for.”
The excuse got so popular that it spread even to non-superhero movies, with the latest examples being The Mummy director Alex Kurtzman claiming the movie was made for audiences, not critics, and Dwayne Johnson also bashing bad reviews in the wake of Baywatch's dismal performance.
While the DCEU is clearly certainly not the only franchise to use that excuse, the practice understandably caused a stir around the internet for fans who worried that its refrain meant the studio wasn't learning from its mistakes. Fast-forward a year later, however, and fans who were bothered by that excuse will be pleased to know that times are changing for the better.
Warner Bros. Is Ready To Move Away From The 'It's For The Fans' Excuse
DC producers Jon Berg and #GeoffJohns sat down for an interview with Variety. Berg was asked whether the poor reception #BatmanVSuperman and Suicide Squad received taught anything to the studio. Berg stated:
“There are lessons from every movie. You would be silly not to analyze how a movie was received — what went right and what went wrong on the making of a movie.
The producer then finally admitted where Suicide Squad and BvS failed. It wasn't the critics being snobs or fans not understanding the source material. It was that the narrative and structure simply didn't work:
"On 'Suicide Squad,' the movie did incredibly well commercially. It didn’t work narratively. You had some great casting and some great characterizations, but where the story fell down was on narrative, on plot. We could do better. 'Batman v. Superman' was tonally dark. People didn’t respond to that."
The key word in his response was "people." The sad thing about the notion of a movie being for the fans was that many failed to understand its implications: Ultimately, what does the tired for-fans-not-critics excuse mean? Aren't critics also fans? Does that mean that fans are too short-sighted to realize when a movie isn't good?
There are a lot of problems that come from that deceivingly simple phrase, so it's great to know DC is hopefully steering clear from it and owning up to its mistakes from now on.
Getting A Better Grasp Of DC's Superheroes
Following Berg's comments, Geoff Johns opened up about the impact Wonder Woman had on the DCEU's tonal approach:
“'Wonder Woman' celebrated exactly who the character is, but looking at it, it’s not like we should change everything to be about hope and optimism. There’s nothing to change. That’s what these characters are.”
That statement carries an important message: #DC is finally getting its collective head around what makes Marvel so successful. It's not the structure of the big ol' shared universe that keeps fans engaged but that Marvel has a firm hold of what its characters are all about. It's something that DC hasn't always necessarily done well in attempts to reimagine its beloved characters in way fans didn't embrace. A big example of misrepresentation in the DCEU is #Superman. In the comics, the Big Blue Boy Scout is a figure of hope, and optimism. By comparison, he's a few steps shy of becoming Batman in the movie universe.
Ultimately Superman was forced to fit into a particular mold. But as Johns explained, it's not about changing every character to fit a certain tone, it's about identifying the ones who fit it and the ones who don't and then handling them accordingly and remaining true to those characters. Rather than create a world in which only a certain type of character works, you create a world in which all characters can work.
These statements are exciting because they show us how Warner Bros. is paying attention and learning from its mistakes. We'll be able to see how the #DCEU continues to evolve once Justice League hits theaters on November 17, 2017.
How do you feel about the people behind the DCEU admitting the films' shortcomings? Let me know in the comments!