Man of Steel marked the start of the DC Extended Universe, but it wasn't the unanimous victory Warner Bros. had hoped for. The film was divisive to say the least, and it’s re-imagining of Superman would set the tone for the rest of the DCEU. Man of Steel’s dark tone worked to some degree, but it certainly wasn’t universally loved, and many fans of DC Comics didn't warm to this new version of Superman.
After the release of #ManOfSteel, it was announced that the next film would be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Fans were enthralled at the prospect of these two iconic superheroes starring in their first live-action film together. But that joy was short-lived; BvS proved to be even more divisive than its predecessor. Many staunchly defend the movie, but critics & some fans were left with a sour taste in their mouth, citing the depressing and humorless tone as one of the film's weakest links.
The next DCEU release, #SuicideSquad was no less divisive, and the cycle continued. After Suicide Squad's release, we saw a fundamental shift in the #DCEU plan, and the time of course-correcting was upon us.
The DCEU is moving on from their original plan, and is searching for a new horizon. President & CCO of DC Comics #GeoffJohns has an idea of what the DCEU needs to succeed in the future — and it sounds a whole lot like DC Rebirth.
Geoff Johns Lays Out The DCEU Keys To Success
Whilst speaking at the DC films panel at WonderCon about the new direction for the DCEU, Johns identified three main traits: “heart, humor, and heroics.”
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This new set of descriptors laid out by Johns lines up with the humor we saw in the Justice League trailer, which seemed organic and true to the characters — unlike in Suicide Squad where the humor felt like an afterthought. This change in tone is in stark contrast of the DCEU’s original decree ("dark and mature" tone), and their new direction seems to be taking them closer to their wildly successful comics line: #DCRebirth.
Heart, Humor, & Heroics... Rebirth?
"Heart, humor, and heroics” describes DC Rebirth to a T. The relaunch of the DC Comics line began in 2016, and restored the DC Universe to a similar state to where it was pre-Flashpoint. In a nutshell, Geoff Johns and the creative team at DC brought the original feel of the comics back, and the fan response was overwhelmingly positive. Johns had this to say regarding the launch of DC Rebirth:
"...re-laying the groundwork for DC's future while celebrating the past and present. It's not about throwing anything away. It's quite the opposite."
This idea of recognizing the past but moving in a new direction sounds like it would be perfect for the DCEU, but Warner Bros. has to know what direction they want to take in the future.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Geoff Johns described why DC Comics decided to relaunch there entire universe after the New 52, and he hit on a few points that ring true for the DCEU as well:
"I sat down and I read everything, and I thought, I don't feel any sense of history, legacy, hope, optimism, a cohesive universe — and by that, I don't mean crossovers every week — emotional bonds was a huge one. Over the years, some of this stuff had been lost. Not just characters, but smaller things too, tonal things that are really hard to nail."
Johns’ description of the prior state of DC Comics is almost identical to the current DCEU. There is no real legacy, hope, or optimism, and the films have suffered because of it. It might seem premature for a Rebirth type event in the DCEU, but it is better to fix the problem early on rather than facing a more complicated problem down the road.
In Rebirth #1 they used Wally West and the Speed Force as the centerpiece of the relaunch, but the films could use any number of things to accomplish the same goal in a less complicated way. The idea has been floating around that the DCEU would do a soft-reboot after Justice League, and with Geoff Johns as one of the driving forces behind the DCEU, it is highly likely we could see a DCEU Rebirth (or something like it) in the future.
When it comes down to it, the DCEU doesn’t need a universal tone or more humor to succeed — they just need to make great films. If Warner Bros. puts out quality movies, people will flock to see them, but shaping the DCEU like the wildly successful DC Comics Rebirth is a great place to start. We must wait and see if the new DCEU plan is the right direction when Wonder Woman hits theaters on June 2, 2017.