We are in the age of comic book movies. Properties we never imagined would see the light of day are becoming pop culture icons, and it seems like every new superhero film that's released finds success, either critically, financially, or both. However, as it goes in this uncertain movie industry, putting a tights-wearing superhero on the big screen is not a guaranteed icon-in-the-making for any given studio.
Crafting a good superhero franchise is tough, and making it stand out in our modern, sci-fi obsessed culture is even tougher. There's no better subject to illustrate this struggle than the DC Extended Universe.
Warner Bros. hasn't had the best of times trying to lift the #DCEU from the dark hole it's currently in. Multiple rewrites, push-backs and delays, questionable choices in both story and characters and a revolving door of directors have plagued the universe since its wheels started turning. Fortunately, it doesn't have to continue down that path, because there's a very simple solution to its struggles, and it's one that DC finally seems to be embracing: a soft reboot of its entire cinematic universe.
But before we get to that, we need to understand what exactly is going on with the DCEU and the problems that prevent it from finding its footing.
Let's Face It, There Is No Clear Vision For The DC Films
In 2014, Warner Bros. announced its ambitious slate of superhero films that went all the way to 2020. At the time, it looked like a clear attempt to catch up with the MCU. But fans put that aside and understandably kept their minds open for the possibility of something great in the making.
Unfortunately, as of now, the studio has demonstrated the opposite of a positive future for the franchise. And that's due mainly to its random nature, which affects two important areas of the overall franchise building.
First, DC films don't seem to know what they want to be. Warner Bros. regularly changes their films according to public perception instead of sticking to its original vision, mainly because that vision is never clear in the first place. It was the biggest problem with Batman v Superman: The movie tried so hard to be so many things at once that it inevitably lost its way.
Second (and perhaps most importantly): Warner Bros. has a penchant for taking on more projects than it can handle. Various movies like Nightwing, Gotham City Sirens, Black Adam and even Deadshot seem to be added to the slate at random. That could be acceptable if the films that have been in development for more than three years already weren't in such a delicate state. #TheFlash and #TheBatman, both pivotal films for the universe, are two films in particular that have encountered problem after problem in their respective development processes, such as director losses and complete script rewrites.
The effects of this were underscored with the news that Warner Bros. is looking to fast-track another film to release in 2018 to not have #Aquaman as its sole superhero adventure next year.
Basically, the studio is churning out projects that clearly are not ready in order to catch up to its competitors.
Those unexpected moves prove one thing: Warner Bros. is not sure of where to take the DCEU. And that leads the studio to keep announcing movies without having a set strategy or a contingency plan in case things go awry. So what needs to be done to fix this?
Wait For 'Justice League' To Come Out Before Moving Forward With The DCEU
With the lack of planning finally becoming a weight that Warner Bros.' shoulders can't bear much longer, a more strategic approach needs to be taken for the DCEU. That means starting from the bottom.
Before announcing or moving forward with any more movies that could potentially become Darkseid-size burdens to carry out, WB first needs to see how well #JusticeLeague and all the superheroes in the film are received.
After all, a scenario where the public doesn't respond well to Barry Allen at the same time his $100+ million production is already underway would be a disaster for everyone involved.
The studio has learned some hard truths: Just because a character might seem like a slam-dunk, if the story around it is rushed, or that character doesn't resonate with a larger audience, there will be backlash. For as much as a certain segment of fans like to blame critics for their poor reviews, there's been just as much unhappy feedback from fans themselves about the state of the DCEU to this point.
First and foremost there has to be not just an okay, but a great movie to act as a foundation before constructing a successful franchise on top of it. And that's exactly the model Warner Bros. needs to follow: Seeing how one movie performs before moving on to planning the next twenty.
Yes, the years-old game of fans declaring the next DC movie as the savior of the franchise has already begun with the new Justice League trailer. But from past experience, that doesn't mean much when it comes to the reception of the final product. Fortunately, all the recent upheaval might be a good thing for the studio.
DC Seems To Be Learning From Its Mistakes
Like I said before, The Batman and The Flash are not in a good place right now. And throughout this past month, we've been getting "explanations" for each project's predicaments. It was reported that The Batman was delayed for a year due to Matt Reeves having contractual obligations to the Planet of the Apes franchise. And similarly, that The Flash had been pushed back to find the right voice for the project while #EzraMiller is away filming Fantastic Beasts 2.
It's pretty clear from all the turmoil that those explanations are just a way to give fans assurance regarding the DC brand. But in reality, those delays might be a sign of Warner Bros. finally adopting that desperately-needed long-term mindset.
It's entirely likely, in fact, the studio put those projects on pause in order to wait and see how Justice League is received before deciding where to take the universe in the future. It's actually a very smart move, because it allows the studio to shift to a contingency plan that it seems to already be putting in place:
A Reboot Of The DCEU (Or At Least, A Soft one)
Put down your pitchforks and tridents for a second and hear me out. If Justice League ends up being more of the same from the DCEU, then the best course of action would be to reboot the universe. Taking into account the evidence above, WB is clearly going for that.
But relax, a complete makeover similar to what's happened with the Spider-Man franchise is neither necessary or ideal, especially with all the money that has gone into building this universe. Instead, it could take advantage of the environment that's already there and do be a subtle restructuring. How in the world would that be achieved? Well, Warner Bros. just needs to take the focus away from the usual suspects: #Batman and #Superman.
We've seen too many (way too many, in fact) Superman and especially Batman stories throughout the years. And no matter how iconic the characters are, a constant stream of stories from them on the big screen can get tiring. It's time to give them a rest. WB would benefit from taking advantage of the vast DC library at its disposal and exploring other lesser-known characters to freshen up and revitalize the undoubtedly struggling universe.
In fact, they already have movies lined up to pull that off. Mainly, the aforementioned #Nightwing, the long-in-development #DarkUniverse, along with the upcoming #SuicideSquad2 and #GothamCitySirens, even the long-rumored Blue Beetle and Booster Gold movie. Three promising properties in a multitude of others that would steer away from the Son of Krypton and Bat of Gotham and give us a much-desired look at a different - and potentially more appealing - side of the film universe. It's no mistake that the audiences for those tend to skew a bit younger and revolve around fan-favorite characters like Dick Grayson and Harley Quinn and opens the door for others like Barbara Gordon and Poison Ivy.
- How 'Nightwing' Will Bring A Much-Needed Change To The DCEU
- Warner Bros. Would Be Willing To Make An R-Rated DCEU Movie: Here Are 4 Perfect Candidates For It
- Marvel And DC Could Learn A Lot About Post-Credits Scenes From 'Logan'
Warner Bros. is a great studio that has shown us its incredible quality standards in the past, and the #DCUniverse is an amazing world full of interesting and exciting characters. That's a match made in Heaven. Their cinematic ventures are already being handled by extremely talented people, they only needs a little nudge in the right direction to live up to their full potential. Fortunately, that nudge seems to be happening.
A change of course for the DC Universe is always a touchy subject for diehard DC followers. But ultimately, all we want as #comicbook fans is a worthwhile representation of the characters we know and love, and if a restructuring of the DCEU is what's needed to have that as a reality, then we should be open to the idea.