Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was hardly a flop, raking in $873,260,194 since its March premiere — but the film hasn't exactly been the roaring success that Warner Bros hoped for either. Many fans hoped that Suicide Squad would prove the saving grace of the DCEU, but despite hauling in a respectable $720 million worldwide, it too fell flat with the critics. Suicide Squad currently boasts a Rotten Tomatoes score of 26% — that's one point worse than Batman v Superman. Even Jeff Bewkes, the chief-CEO of Time Warner, has admitted that the DCEU has "a little room for improvement."
And this isn't the first we've heard of conflict within the company. Rumors of in-house fighting came to a head when Jared Leto publicly denounced David Ayer's cut of Suicide Squad, claiming that the final release was very different from the project that he originally signed up for. All of this trouble led to a significant change at DC HQ, where producers Jon Berg and Geoff Johns took executive control of a newly dedicated film division.
While it could be considered alarming that DC felt the need to overhaul their management after producing just two DCEU films, the studio is clearly invested in making things work. Their response to the critical mauling that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received should be considered a good sign.
Grab your cape, pull your underwear on over your jeans, and join us as we suggest ways that Berg and Johns could save our beloved DC heroes from the same fate as Catwoman and Jonah Hex. Trust us. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that never happens again.
1. DCEU: Quality Control
Don't get us wrong— Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad certainly have their strengths. But considering the amount of money, time and sheer expectation placed on these films, it's not unreasonable to expect films which warrant more unanimous praise.
Critics have pointed out a number of flaws in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, including the clunky handling of Doomsday — and the less said about the "Martha" revelation at the end of the main fight, the better. On the plus side, Gal Gadot, nailed the role of Wonder Woman in a way no one expected, and Jason Momoa certainly has the potential to end the Aquaman ridicule once and for all.
Suicide Squad fielded similar accusations, where many critics derided the film's simple narrative and a general lack of fun. However, it also had the same strengths as Batman v Superman — the casting. The performances by Jay Hernandez and Will Smith were both widely praised; Margot Robbie made Harley Quinn the breakout star of the movie,
2. Streamline The Plot Of Each DCEU Film
Superhero movies — and even blockbusters in general — are butt-numbing affairs these days, and the first three instalments of the DCEU are no exception. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad all clock in at around two and a half hours each, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, Captain America: Civil War shares the same running time (making it the longest Marvel movie yet), but the four films fill this length in very different ways.
While Captain America: Civil War takes a streamlined approach, logically progressing the action-filled plot with regular beats that advance the story, the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seem to be thrown together somewhat randomly. The first half of the film struggles to find its tone, veering between Batman's story of vengeance, Lex Luthor's maniacal scheming, and Superman's newfound status as a religious deity of sorts.
Suicide Squad was similarly criticized for the way that it rushed each characters' introduction, and plotting issues arose here too. Man of Steel was better in this respect, possessing a more direct story arc with clearer character motivations. However, there are still those who question why exactly Jonathan Kent had to die, and it could be argued that the final battle was drawn out for an unnecessarily long time.
3. Introduce Characters Gradually Into The DCEU
DC fans like myself were overjoyed when the company announced plans to extend their cinematic universe beyond Man of Steel, incorporating popular characters such as Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn into the mix.
One of the highlights of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the chance to finally see the likes of Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg and Wonder Woman onscreen for the very first time, despite the brevity of each cameo. Harley Quinn became a fan favorite over a year before Suicide Squad even hit theatres.
Brush up on your Wonder Woman knowledge with this video before the film hits cinemas:
No one is saying that all of these heroes need a solo film dedicated solely to their origin — audiences have become tired of this trope — but DC needs to ensure that the eventual Justice League team up and a Suicide Squad sequel feel organic, with plot development that moves beyond the obvious, "Oh no, there's a bad guy — let's team up!"
4. Make 'Em Laugh
Many of DC's detractors have argued that the studio should strive to make their stories lighter in tone, often citing the humor of Marvel's Cinematic Universe as an example of how to achieve this best. But, of course, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with developing more mature comic book movies.
The problem for the DCEU right now is that they're treating 'mature' and 'fun' as though they're diametrically opposed. Even the darkest of comic book stories contain moments of humor, bleak or not, but films like Man of Steel are often come across as too dour and sour-faced for mainstream audiences raised on the original comic book versions of these characters.
Suicide Squad went some way to rectifying this, supposedly undergoing reshoots to inject more humor into the proceedings — but the balance didn't develop organically. That's not to say that Ayer's villainous movie should have been a barrel of laughs from the get-go, but just that work is still needed before the DCEU fully captures the tone of the comics.
Funnily enough though, DC actually has a fantastic record of balancing the light and dark within their material. The executives in charge of the DCEU should look no further than the TV exploits of Arrow and The Flash for inspiration, two extremely popular shows that contain moments of darkness and tragedy while still featuring extremely fun and likable heroes.
Yes, even Oliver Queen cracks the odd smile when he's not cracking a few skulls.
5. Incorporate The Multiverse Into The DCEU
Fans of the DCEU are likely to be tired of constant comparisons to Marvel's fun tone and their universe-building approach, but there's a solution to both problems that can be encapsulated in one single word: Multiverse.
By bringing characters together from both their TV and movie canons, DC could theoretically appease fans across the board, appealing to a wider demographic while breaking new ground cinematically. The company already set precedent for this recently with the Supergirl/Flash crossover that established that heroes could traverse between the separate worlds.
Such a risk would help differentiate the DCEU from Marvel and could even lead to a movie adaptation of the iconic storyline Crisis on Infinite Earths somewhere later down the line. The main issue with this, though, is that they would then run the risk of making things too complex, particularly for audiences unfamiliar with the original source material.
It's like they always say: "You can't make a cinematic universe without breaking a few inter-dimensional barriers."
6. Continue To Take More Risks
After Marvel established their cinematic universe with the likes of Thor and Iron Man, they began to take gambles with lesser-known characters such as Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. You don't need me to tell you that these risks are paying off in a huge way.
The DCEU is still relatively new, so it makes sense to focus on the heavy hitters such as Batman and Superman to start with, but further down the line, they could easily do the same. Suicide Squad performed well enough financially to warrant both a sequel and Harley Quinn's very own spin-off, but that's not all that Warner Bros. have up their sleeve.
Justice League Dark will feature more obscure characters such as Zatanna and Deadman, and recent talk of a solo Booster Gold movie proves that the studio are willing to start thinking outside of the box.
- DCEU Wishlist — Remember That Time Deathstroke Single-Handedly Defeated The Justice League?
- 'Suicide Squad 2': Ultimate Guide To The Latest News, Release Date, Trailer & All You Need To Know
- Who's In The Justice League Dark? Everything You Need To Know About The DCEU’s New Characters
If DC continues to take chances like this, then the DCEU still has the potential to become a viable cinematic universe that could rival or even surpass Marvel, while still appealing to the comic book fans who followed the exploits of Batman and Superman since childhood.
Let's make sad Affleck happy again!
How would you improve the DCEU?