…and no, none of them are “Rebirth.”
Check out our list of FIVE THINGS DC CAN DO TO SAVE THEIR CINEMATIC UNIVERSE!
*SPOILERS FOR DC FILMS AHEAD!*
Otherworldly lightning bolts splinter, illuminating the far reaches of a conflagrant, crimson sky. Earlier this year, a crisis befell the DC Cinematic Universe when its two favored champions engaged in deadly fisticuffs. Unfortunately, the bleak superhero battle-royal was only the tip of the iceberg. Scathing words erupted from critics’ mouths like a caustic, projectile word-vomit. Negative reactions spread exponentially across the world like an untreatable virus, infecting nearly every audience member. The ruinous rift driven between The World’s Finest had furnished the internet with enough unbridled hate to destroy entire star systems. Justifiably, a majority of the target audience had lost faith in the dreary DC Entertainment brand and were quickly abandoning the sinking ship.
The outlook for the DC Cinematic Universe was grim.
The recently released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition serves as a harsh reminder of the negative audience perception regarding the DC Cinematic Universe. Moreover, the initial reactions to Suicide Squad have done little to mitigate audience perception of the DC Cinematic Universe. Suicide Squad reactions aside, Wonder Woman and Justice League will be DC and Warner Brother’s next two attempts at achieving box-office and critical success. As information seeps from the cracks of San Diego Comic Con, it is obvious that these films seek to rectify the creators’ past mistakes. In consideration of these upcoming films, here are five things that DC can do to save their Cinematic Universe.
5) Skip Superfluous Origin Stories
DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios have utilized wildly different approaches when it comes to constructing cinematic universes. Marvel’s methodology of introducing each obscure character by first exploring origin stories allowed the company to lay the foundation for a captivating world. With each new film, Marvel has been able to introduce audiences to new layers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through building their universe with more grounded aspects first, the company paved the way for audiences to buy into the more fantastical elements of the Marvel brand.
DC Entertainment’s strategy of cramming every concept, character and plot into the proverbial blender and turning on the power without the lid for the audience’s viewing pleasure is a vast departure from what audiences have come to expect from superhero films. This process has effectively thrown audiences into the middle of the action with little to no build-up on the characters with the exception of Superman. With Justice League set to release in 2017, there is too little screen time to dedicate to developing full-fledged origin stories of each team member. As a result, it will be necessary to for DC Entertainment to not waste any screen time with superfluous origin stories.
Audiences are already familiar with the origin stories for Superman, Batman and the Flash as the result of Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Trilogy and The Flash Television series, respectively. Additionally, Superman’s origin was explored most recently with Man of Steel. Although some individuals may wish to forget the first two entries of the DC Cinematic Universe, it is completely unnecessary to treat the audience as though they suffer from severe forms of dementia. Superhero film enthusiasts do not need to be reminded of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder every time Batman enters the scene. The audience gets it. Batman was born out of tragedy. The Flash’s name is Barry Allen and he’s the fastest man alive. Aquaman is the king of Atlantis and he can telepathically talk to fish. The best way to handle these stories is in a manner similar to Batman’s origin in Batman v Superman.
This is not to say that all superhero origin stories are superfluous. One of the biggest reveals from San Diego Comic-Con 2016 was the trailer for Wonder Woman. In Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne begs the creators to explore the seemingly ageless superheroine’s origin with the typed line, “Who are you?” Thankfully, the creators at DC Entertainment are providing an answer for the uninitiated. Due to the complex nature of Wonder Woman’s origin, as well as a lack of any media representation since the 2009 animated feature, audiences deserve an exploration of this character’s origins.
Moreover, Cyborg’s inclusion in Justice League will certainly explore his origins as the plot will revolve around Steppenwolf acquiring Mother Boxes on Earth.
4) Continue Utilizing Dynamic Action Sequences
If there’s one thing that DC Entertainment’s films possess as a positive, it is the beautifully choreographed action sequences. Although many individuals may classify Man of Steel’s ultimate showdown between General Zod and Superman as destruction porn, it is also important to note that this was one of the best big screen battles involving Superman. In this film, he wasn’t lifting a giant Kryptonite island into outer space or throwing cellophane S-shields at his enemies. Superman finally had a physical adversary that could match him blow-by-blow.
Batman v Superman continued this trend of awe-inspiring action sequences as Batman behaved just like his comic book counterpart. One of the best action sequences involves Batman saving Martha Kent from Luthor’s thugs in the warehouse. The fluid use of gadgets in what amounts to a live-action interpretation of the free-flow combat system from the Batman: Arkham Series was magnificent.
Initial viewings of the Wonder Woman trailer from San Diego Comic Con 2016 reveal that the film looks to continue this trend. Action sequences involving her battling a group of soldiers solidifies her position as bad-ass Amazonian Warrior-Princess. It is also important to note that her fighting style utilizing the Lasso of Truth increases the awesome-factor of that weapon by about ten-thousand percent (yeah, go ahead and watch the trailer AGAIN!).
3) Produce Palatable Plots
When crafting sequels, filmmakers embrace the mantra: “Bigger is better.” Although this can be true, it is often misinterpreted as: “More is better.” In other words, more heroes, villains, storylines, twists, action and destruction. Batman v Superman was distended with so many elements that it began oozing story beats and characters like an open wound. In the end, the plethora of plot points felt completely underdeveloped as no amount of time was devoted to fully developing any of them.
Instead of attempting to push everything into a single film, DC Entertainment needs to take time to craft well-rounded plots. This can be accomplished through allowing each story beat the screen time it needs to breathe. Audiences don’t need twenty under-developed villains to occupy the same screen as the Justice League for thirty minutes of glorious battle. Film-goers need one fully-developed villain who can take the entire team on at the same time. DC Entertainment is doing the right thing in having Justice League focus solely on Steppenwolf recovering the three Mother Boxes on Earth. Instead of cramming a multitude of New Gods onto the screen with whom the team can battle, this allows the creators to fully explore Steppenwolf as a villain. Additionally, this allows the creative team to up the ante for the next installment and Darkseid’s imminent arrival on Earth.
2) Deconstruction Not Destruction of Heroes
“How would our modern world react to the presence of Superman?”
“How would Superman behave in the modern world?”
The two guiding questions felt throughout the course of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are certainly intriguing premises and allow the creators to explore engaging themes. The critical success of The Dark Knight paved the way for the exploration of darker themes using DC Comics’ library of heroes. This allowed for the deconstruction and study of DC’s two most iconic superheroes.
Unfortunately, the final result was considerably dark, utterly bleak, and completely joyless. Batman was as brooding and brutal as ever on the big screen. This characterization was the result of his eternal war against crime. This is a concept with which many fans are familiar, because it was ripped from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns.
Superman was almost unrecognizable. The character goes as far as to say that the “S” on his chest is Kryptonian for hope. Little more than lip-service is paid to this crucial concept. The internal drama and angst surrounding Superman’s role on our planet, as well as a “fish-out-of-water,” would have been more powerful if the character exuded hope. Due to the fact that a majority of screen time was spent on the xenophobic nature of humans, too little time was spent showing Superman’s inspiration for the people. Superman as the living vessel of hope and inspiration can be incredibly powerful. Illustrating how The Man of Steel could provide an “ideal for people to strive for” could have helped to improve Superman’s characterization.
In spite of the creators’ obvious love for the source material, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman feel almost like the destruction of characters. Superman lacks any semblance of hope; a quality he should exude regardless of the circumstances. Additionally, when an icon makes choices that violate his or her code of ethics without repercussions, it feels as almost a ruination of the character.
Deconstruction of characters is not a bad thing. The process allows a film to explore themes that resonate with the audience. Deconstruction of each character should ultimately distill them down into their most basic elements and how they operate within the world. This is something that DC Comics has embraced with their newest relaunch, Rebirth. If DC Entertainment wishes to win back audience members, it is imperative that creators isolate the characteristics that make the characters work. It is crucial that these traits are explored in upcoming ensemble films like Suicide Squad and Justice League. Ultimately, exploration of these characteristics should produce interesting interactions between every cast member.
1) Embrace Humor, Fun, and Joy
Following the events of Batman v Superman (and, I suppose, Suicide Squad), the DC Cinematic Universe is in a dire state. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman explored stories with a darker Superman that lacks hope. One could even go as far to say that these men don’t enjoy being heroes. As a result, the DC Films lack the three qualities that Marvel films have mastered: humor, fun and joy. These three qualities are what make Marvel Studio’s film blockbusters as well as critical successes.
This is not to say that every character should be a comedian and spouting more one-liners than a 90’s action film. It would be impossible to take the Ben Affleck Batman seriously if he said, “Yippie-ki-yay,” or “Hasta la vista,” in the demonic T-Pain voice. However, I do think that Batman experiences some catharsis in brutally breaking villains’ bones.
The Flash is a perfect character for expressing some comedic relief in the films. Some of the best moments from the Justice League trailer released at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 involve interactions between The Flash and Batman. Barry’s line, “You said that like it explains why there’s a total stranger sitting in the dark… in my second favorite chair,” had me grinning from ear to ear. Moreover, Bruce’s line “I hear you talk to fish,” inspires some hope that this incarnation of Batman does possess a dry sense of humor.
Overall, the new trailer provides some hope that DC Entertainment has begun listening to the fans and infusing their films with some humor, fun, and joy. Not every character should be a brooding carbon copy of Batman. Each member should possess their own personality and influence the other members of the team toward a positive direction.
These are five things that DC could do to save their Cinematic Universe. Each of these elements are crucial in moving the brand forward as well as helping to save the sinking ship without the use of a “Reboot” or “Rebirth.” What are your thoughts? Have we missed anything that you think could save the Cinematic Universe? What were your initial reaction to the Wonder Woman and Justice League trailers? Sound off in the comment section below!