DECU End: Justice League Featured

Several publications are pointing to Warner Bros Picture Group Chairman Toby Emmerich’s recent interview with Pamela McClintock at The Hollywood Reporter as the latest evidence that the DCEU as we know it is dead. This joins other evidence including Henry Cavill no longer being Superman, no JUSTICE LEAGUE sequels in development, and the ongoing saga of “we have no idea who is going to be Batman except it isn’t Ben Affleck…probably.” Emmerich did not exactly say, “Screw this noise, this shared universe thing is for the (Marvel) birds.” However, he did say they were moving away from it. And let’s be honest, we kind of all knew that already didn’t we?

Rather than get stuck in a mourning place, we here at ComicsVerse are all about solving things. With that in mind, we have put together a plan for where DC Comics movies can move on from here.

DCEU Shared Universe: Batman
Batman reacted as you’d expect when he heard about the end of the DCEU, pensive. Thoughtful and sad. (Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures)

Build On Present DCEU Successes

The critical community has not always been kind to the DCEU films, admittedly. I did not review most of them, but I have made it pretty clear my feelings on MAN OF STEEL, et al. However, there exists two fairly prominent exceptions that have proven both critically popular and financially successful. Those are AQUAMAN and WONDER WOMAN, of course.

WONDER WOMAN already has a sequel on-deck with WONDER WOMAN 1984, scheduled out in 2020. AQUAMAN, on the other hand, still haunts the metroplex and is pulling down cash to the tune of 300 million domestic and over a billion internationally. It seems both silly and unlikely the Warner Bros will not greenlight another go-round for the Ruler of the Seven Seas in light of those numbers.

Additionally, while SUICIDE SQUAD was rightly critically savaged even its biggest detractors seemed to agree that Margot Robbie turned in a strong performance as Harley Quinn. Warner Bros has also already begun to move to capitalize on this with the gloriously titled BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN). This is smart on multiple levels. First of all, it is a women heavy movie in a genre that increasingly has proven popular with women AND especially popular with women when female characters are given big, smart roles. Second, it casts off the bad without losing the good.

That approach brings me to point #2.

DCEU Shared Universe: Flash
It’s possible Flash misheard us when we told him the dreams of a shared universe were ending. (Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures)

Sometimes Dead is Better, Shared Universe or Not

A lot of people liked Ezra Miller’s performance as Flash even if JUSTICE LEAGUE proved a non-starter. It makes sense to spin him off much like Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Unfortunately, Warner Bros has been trying for years. All they have to show for it is multiple departed directors, a rumored title associated with one of the worst crossovers in DC history – FLASHPOINT — and several unused scripts. Similarly, consider the announced CYBORG film which has been on the books as long as FLASH and made even less headway.

Then we have the aforementioned Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck. It is not impossible to bring either or both of them back. Still, it has been months since Warner’s had any kind of agreement with either of them. Affleck, for his part, seems uninterested in anything Batman these days. Cavill, on the other hand, has still been showing love for the DCEU. Yet, not even a whiff of a rumor of him coming back.

I like Cavill and think, as I’ve written elsewhere, he has the potential to be a great Clark Kent/Superman in the right project. Also, we all know my deep and abiding love for Affleck. Nonetheless, it has to be said. These endeavors are all already dead, essentially. Just let them slip away into the darkness that is project abandonment. Better they be snuffed out without doing damage than forced and further hurt whatever momentum the DCEU/Warner Bros has coming off AQUAMAN.

I don’t like it, either, but sometimes one needs to start over to make things work.

DCEU Shared Universe: Superman
Superman, perhaps, took it worst. Did he come back from the dead for this? (Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures)

Make the Icons Work

That said, Warner Bros really should get back on the horse when it comes to Superman and Batman. In addition to being the two most recognizable characters in their proverbial quiver, they are also the ones that boast the most storytelling versatility.

Matt Reeves’ THE BATMAN (not the real title, evidently) looks to begin filming later this year so that is heartening. I’m not sure what the tone will be, but I trust Reeves as a filmmaker. I’m hopeful it will be smart and different enough from Snyder’s tortured but kind of dumb aging Batman and Nolan’s ultimately redeemed and retired Dark Knight that it feels fresh out the gate.

Wherever Warner Bros goes next with Superman should feel similarly new. Ditch the nostalgic inertness of SUPERMAN RETURNS and the mix of mope and brutal carnage of MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE in particular. Find a new path that honors Supes as both one of the most powerful and human heroes of DC Comics. And by human, I mean “humane” not grouchy and responsibility avoidant.

Look, at the end of the day, there are so many ways to do Superman and Batman “right” there is no reason the DCEU shouldn’t have thriving franchises for them both, connected universes or not.

DCEU Shared Universe: Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman was surprised by the end of the shared universe. She knew she’d continue on, but to lose allies once more was very sad. (Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures)

Quirk and Diversity Are Good

Considering what Warner Bros has coming up — SHAZAM, THE JOKER, WONDER WOMAN 1984 — and what seems likely to follow — BIRDS OF PREY, THE BATMAN, AQUAMAN 2: EVEN WETTER — they have the potential for a pretty wide array of tones.

Certainly, one can have a diversity of tone and a shared universe at the same time. I think — and I know MANY who will disagree — that Marvel has found a nice balance between “house tone” and giving each film a unique flavor. However, if you don’t have to worry about that? Well, that’s just that much more freedom, isn’t it?

The other advantage of the diversity of tone is that you don’t need every film to work for the next one’s sake. If all your films share a common drive, the whole house of cards can collapse in a big way if one movie flops hard. Here though, even if, say, AQUAMAN 2 turns out to be a horror show, it is disconnected and distinct enough from the rest of the slate not to damage them.

Plus, expectations can differ. SHAZAM should make a wheelbarrow full of cash because it is big superhero spectacle. THE JOKER, on the other hand, looks like a smaller, meaner, dirtier film. Freed of shared universe expectations, THE JOKER can make less and still be a great success because the measuring stick will be different.

DCEU Shared Universe: Aquaman
Aquaman did not know how to receive the news. He just made all that money, hadn’t he? (Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures)

Scale Back, For Now At Least

If you believe some of the lists out there, Warner’s has announced, at various times, something in the neighborhood of 20 films it has not yet even begun filming on. Some of them, like the unnamed JUSTICE LEAGUE sequel, seem largely abandoned. Others, such as GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, may have been derailed/folded into other movies. BIRDS OF PREY in the case of SIRENS, for instance.

Either way though, we are talking double digit movies on deck, many of them with little to no talent attached either in acting or directing, nearly all of them without an identified script.

In Hollywood, lots of movies get announced and never made. However, compared the DCEU’s nearly twenty to, say, Warner Bros full slate. First, you’ll notice that while Warner’s has more in pre-production it is not proportionally more considering the size of the DCEU in comparison to the studio’s overall output. Second, many of the pre-production projects you’ll have never heard of because Warner’s is nowhere near as aggressive in announcing them as they been in announcing DCEU projects.

Warner’s needs to take a break from announcing all these movies. The more announced that never go anywhere, the more the perception is that the brand is floundering. I don’t want present too many comparisons to the MCU but consider the biggest failure of the Feige period, INHUMANS. Announced very early on, pushed multiple times, rushed to IMAX and then burned off on television all to bad reviews and dismissive attention. To protect the brand, it is better to play the cards close to the vest.

DCEU Shared Universe: Cyborg
To Cyborg it felt like the shared universe was ending before it even began. So close and yet… It was all too painful. (Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures)

Always Time To Try a Shared Universe Again Down the Road

Warner Bros tried to emulate the MCU with a completely different approach. They, essentially, skipped about eight steps to rush a shared universe into existence. It’s disappointing. I disliked more than I liked the films of the DCEU. Nonetheless, I still love the characters and I love the idea of a shared universe. It’s sad to see that possibility end.

However, it is only ending for now. There is nothing to say that the DCEU might not have put together several successes in a row. Fueled by that, perhaps they could bring together Shazam, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, a new Batman, a new Superman, and maybe, I don’t know, Black Canary for a great JUSTICE LEAGUE. Don’t forget, after BATMAN AND ROBIN, Batman seemed toxic as all get out. Then Christopher Nolan took the helm and created, arguably, one of the best superhero trilogies ever. Moreover, he definitely created one of the best superhero movies of all-time in THE DARK KNIGHT.

When it comes to creative pursuits, “it’s over” just means, “for now.” Before we know it, we might end up obsessing over the DC connected universe films. Before then, what if we get a bunch of great movies? Does it really matter if a shared universe is at the end of that road?

One Comment

  1. Truth

    January 23, 2019 at 10:02 am

    LMAO….DCEU is far from dead. Cavil & Affleck are coming back. Continue with the new process, and #Releasethesyndercut!


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