STAGNATION THREATENS THE FUTURE OF DCEU

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Kevin Lynch, Entertainment Editor

DC movies aren’t as good as Marvel movies. It’s practically a fact in the pop culture world at this point, one that you have to agree with lest you risk looking like a raving lunatic in the entertainment world. It’s reached the point where poking fun at the DC Extended Universe isn’t even original or funny anymore, a point that almost convinced me not to write this piece.

But then again, why is that? There are a number of things you could point to for the DCEU’s downfall: sloppy direction, inconsistent tone, and a studio more interested in a payday than a coherent universe. All of these are completely valid reasons for disliking DC movies, each done to death by film critics for years, and for a while, I thought there wasn’t anything else to it.

However, after being suckered into paying for HBO Max to watch “Wonder Wonder 84,” I had a unique opportunity. I had seen most of the DCEU movies, but I had never bothered to watch “Man of Steel” after its sequel, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” shot itself in its three-hour-long foot.

Much to my surprise, “Man of Steel” was far better than its successor; it’s definitely one of the DCEU’s best offerings, but even then, I saw exactly how the DCEU could fix itself. Unfortunately, it’s not a plan I quite agree with.

Warner Bros. recently announced its vision to give its directors more control, shifting focus from crossovers like “Justice League” to far-more-profitable solo entries like “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman”.

While it could be seen as a step in the right direction, anyone familiar with the movie landscape recognizes it as an abrupt 180° after the embarrassing flop of “Justice League.” Sure, it has led to what I would consider to be “better” movies, but there’s a flaw present in this line of thinking that could potentially destroy the DCEU from the inside. 

Say what you want about the originality of MCU movies, but show anyone any MCU movie, whether it be a hi-fi space adventure or a gritty spy thriller, and the tone and universe feel uncannily similar. Compare this to DC, where a movie like “Birds of Prey” is meant to stand alongside “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” two movies that could not be more different in terms of humor, style, pacing, and whatever other filmmaking buzz words you can think of.

Not only this, it feels like each new movie is actively competing with every pre-established one. 

The best analogy I can think of is that old mobile game “Stack,” where you try to stack layers on top of each other, and if you line it up incorrectly, the edge without anything below it falls. But, instead of random squares, it’s each movie’s distinctive worldbuilding trying to cover up the previous ones as the universe grows bigger and bigger, while simultaneously shrinking. At the end of the day, the worldbuilding ends up feeling sloppy and inconsistent, even if the individual movies may be good.

For instance, how is anyone supposed to believe that the world wouldn’t accept the existence of aliens in “Man of Steel” after a psychopath on TV granted the wishes of the entire world a few decades earlier in “Wonder Woman 1984”? The suspension of disbelief has been stretched to the utmost degree for no real reason besides studio incompetency, leading to a universe that is visibly tearing at the seams.

Zack Snyder, the man behind the trio of “Man of Steel”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” (a trilogy I like to call the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), is who I generally point to as one of the biggest problems with the movies. 

He treats the characters like an angsty teen who dug up his old action figures to make a poorly written iMovie that completely misrepresents the characters, and, much to my disbelief, many people disagree. Despite my complaints, I also have to admit that he is practically the only option to save the DCEU from fading into obscurity.

While I dislike his movies and his direction, I have come to believe that Snyder can fix the DCEU by implementing his vision, regardless of the desires of individual directors. While this is the same thing Marvel is criticized for, if the DCEU continues down its current path, the movies will get so far removed from each other that they will almost assuredly combine to form an utter joke of a cinematic universe. 

Though I currently can’t condone his direction, I can’t help but think that Snyder’s Batman might not have come off as a disturbed sociopath had he been given a proper solo introduction, or his Justice League have come off as, well, his Justice League, without massive studio interference.

If Warner Brothers was willing to commit to a direction, they might not have such a basket case on their hands. Instead, they like to tentatively test the waters and then quickly pull out when they don’t earn enough money, and one of these days, they’re going to fall right in.

If they commit to a singular vision, that will not only create some semblance of consistency, but it’ll also give them the opportunity to create team-up movies like “Justice League” and “Suicide Squad,” except this time, with proper and consistent introduction so that maybe this time the hard work will pay off.

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” a recut of the original with Snyder’s unobscured vision for the movie, is releasing on HBO Max in March, as the embodiment of the now-infamous “Snyder Cut” that (some) fans have been begging for since 2017.

As sick as actively supporting Snyder makes me feel, I know in my heart that giving the movie as much buzz as possible is basically the only way to get Warner Brothers to consider this idea outside of just waving money in their faces.

I realize that, from my point of view, I’m essentially asking the DCEU to stop making “good” movies, but I can’t help but feel that DC’s beloved characters, many of whom have been around for more than a half-century, should amount to something more than an extra billion in the wallet of a Warner Brothers executive. 

Ask any comics fan and they’ll tell you that the majority of DC comics are leagues better than anything Marvel has released. I just wish that the mainstream audience could see this, instead of a hollow cinematic universe that is content with simply putting out a half-decent movie every other year.