The DC Extended Universe has been divisive, to say the least. Man of Steel was a decent start, but faltered at the box office, bringing in less than Warner Brothers would have liked. So they changed gears, and rather than make Man of Steel 2, DC decided to try to play catch up with longtime (friendly) rival Marvel, who has had twenty straight smash hits over the last ten years, building a universe made possible by architects Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. DC, naturally, wanted a slice of that pie, and rushed to produce Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Comics geeks rejoiced. They were finally going to get to see Batman and Superman duke it out in an epic, sprawling action-adventure many of them dreamed of since they picked up their first DC comic. Certainly since Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns in 1986. But what they got was dark, and garbled. Muddled by far too many storylines and questionable character motivations, to say nothing of the much-mocked “Martha” moment, Batman vs Superman was…well, less than super, let’s just say.
Dawn of Justice was followed by Suicide Squad, a Frankenstein’s monster of a film that tried to be dark and gritty, but also tried to imbue humor into the moody DCEU. Ultimately, Suicide Squad couldn’t survive the studio’s meddling, and the jumbled film failed to capitalize on it’s star power.
Then came Wonder Woman, arguably the best of the bunch of DC films (at least the live action ones). Gal Gadot, who premiered her character in Batman vs. Superman, was joined by Chris Pine in a World War I period piece. It was bombastic, humorous in spots, and touching in others. It was a spark of hope that was drastically needed in the DCEU.
Following the success of Wonder Woman, Warner Brothers proved that apparently they didn’t learn their lesson, as they brought the extremely talented Joss Whedon on to try and salvage the reportedly much darker Justice League when Zack Snyder was forced to leave the project due to a family tragedy. Though Snyder and Whedon are both very talented, they are very different directors. Whedon’s trademark humor clashed with the dark and gritty take on superheroes that Snyder was trying to present. The result, again, was a mish-mash of action with strange intercuts…well, all over the place. Like Superman’s CGI upper lip, which you can’t stop staring at. And oh, yeah. Aquaman. In the desert.
Aquaman was released this past December, and was positively reviewed, having the second highest Metacritic rating in the DC slate of films. It was wildly popular with overseas audiences, raking in $700 million dollars. Domestically, it didn’t fare quite as well, scoring $300 million during it’s run. It contradicted a few ideas presented in Justice League, leading some to ponder if there really was a DCEU anymore.
Today comes news that the DCEU might just be dead–and that’s a good thing. Warner Brothers bigwig Toby Emmerich, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter had this to say:
We all feel like we’ve turned a corner now. We’re playing by the DC playbook, which is very different than the Marvel playbook. We are far less focused on a shared universe. We take it one movie at a time. Each movie is its own equation and own creative entity. If you had to say one thing about us, it’s that it always has to be about the directors.
That definitely sounds like a death knell for the DCEU. Certainly following the speculation that Cavill is leaving the franchise, and that Affleck may be hanging up the cowl. But if you know anything about comicbooks, you know that death, while frequent, is rarely permanent. It appears the DC films are about to enter a renaissance, and with hotly anticipated movies like the Joaquin Phoenix-led Joker, Birds of Prey, Matt Reeves’ The Batman, and Wonder Woman 1984, the future is looking up for DC fans.