How to Fix the DC Universe Franchise (VIDEO)

In this FandomWire video essay, we explain how to save the DC Universe franchise.

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How to fix the DC Universe

Characters from the DC Universe

Year after year, the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe top the box office and are among the films that engage audiences the most. And while DC is arguably the more established comics brand, Marvel movies tend to fare better with audiences than DC movies. Why is that?

Many have wondered how the MCU became so successful — it’s not just overnight popularity. In fact, there was a time when comics were considered something on the fringes of pop culture, and it’s only recently that they’ve become more mainstream. The MCU glowed in a bottle – something audiences had never seen before and used good movies to do. But why couldn’t the DCEU emulate that success?

When it comes down to it, general audiences had far fewer expectations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than they did of the DC Extended Universe. Everyone and their brother know who Superman and Batman are even if they don’t care about comics. While everyone now knows who Iron Man and Thor are, the characters who became the MCU’s anchors weren’t widely known outside of the comics community until they were made into movies.

Though it was out of necessity, Marvel wisely chose to base its cinematic universe around characters that were effectively a blank slate for them. Would the MCU look like this if Marvel Studios had the rights to Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in the early days of the MCU? Probably not. But we have a team of the Mightiest Heroes on Earth – not just Earth most recognizable heroes, and it benefited from that.

The truth is that, for the most part, the lesser-known Marvel properties are a lot better than the lesser-known DC properties. The MCU had characters like Iron Man and Thor to pull from, while DC had to fall back on a guy who talks to fish and a foster kid who turns into a lightning-wielding superhero when he says a magic word. That’s not to say Aquaman and Shazam aren’t cool characters – they’re just a lot harder to sell.

However, that doesn’t mean the DCEU is alone in its struggle to find characters to build its cinematic universe around. Sony’s division of Marvel is really struggling after making an unsuccessful film around the character diseasewith more films on the way focusing on characters like Kraven the Hunter and El Muerto.

Perhaps the biggest mistake the DC Extended Universe made, however, was rushing into a Justice League team-up film. before The Avengers, there were five full films to establish the characters’ arcs before they would come together to battle a larger enemy. Before that, there were only three films justice league – four if you count suicide squadthat doesn’t have much impact on the plot of justice league.

The other big flaw of the DC Extended Universe was that it handed the reins over mainly to one director: Zack Snyder. Regardless of which side of the aisle you land on in Snyder’s filmmaking, giving him control of the cinematic universe was a mistake. Kevin Feige was the driving force behind the MCU as a producer, but he hired multiple directors for each film. Snyder directed man of Steel, Batman vs Supermanand Justice League, and also produced wonder woman and executive produced suicide squad. That’s too much control for a filmmaker.

When the DCEU abandoned the Justice League thread, it lost any semblance of stylistic vision. It went from one extreme to the other. First it was the Snyder verse, and then it became a series of films with very little context. Worse still, few of these films felt as stylistically ambitious as they could. Though the directors each brought a bit of flair – James Wan and David F. Sandberg had thrown in some horror-esque sequences Aquaman and Shazam!for example – they still felt relatively safe.

The few films with real stylistic vision felt like trying to capture the success of other, more established films. For example James Gunns The Suicide Squad felt like an R-rated version of the same brand of humor he brought to the MCU Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The DCEU failed to strike the balance of personality and cohesion that films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Shang Chi to thrive in the MCU.

Then there’s the fact that the DC Extended Universe kept releasing butchered cuts of their films in theaters just to get better cuts of their films released on home media. Ask anyone and they will tell you that the Ultimate Edition of BvS and Zack Snyders justice league are much better than their respective theatrical versions. When the theatrical versions of these films are as bad as they are, viewers become disillusioned and stop showing themselves.

Another aspect of the MCU that allows it to perform reasonably well is its general family-friendliness, which isn’t always the case with the DC Extended Universe. The DCEU has two R-rated films — birds of prey and The Suicide Squad – but even beyond that, his PG-13 movies are generally much darker than anything done in the MCU. While these films aren’t necessarily made for children first, they cut off a large portion of their audience by making films that parents don’t show their children.

Once justice league failed miserably at the box office, the DCEU lost sight of all the coherent threads. While we don’t need anything as strong as the MCU, where each individual film contributes to a larger team-up arc, there needs to be at least some sense of cohesion. Stylistically different films are great, but if they’re trying to be a cinematic universe, they at least have to feel like they’re all taking place in the same world.

The other big thorn in the side of the DCEU was when they lost their anchors in Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman. Due to the length, there was a delay between films after post-justice league Pivot, the DCEU lost its main heroes. At this point, audiences expect a Justice League built around Batman and Superman. It’s not like The Avengerswhere audiences haven’t already come to expect every A-list character to be part of the team – an effective DCEU needs to have Batman and Superman at its core.

That’s what DC had hoped The Lightning would be her reset button, but due to controversy surrounding the film’s star, Ezra Miller, the chances of that happening are getting fewer and fewer by the day. Even if the film eventually comes out, will audiences embrace it as the “new” launch pad of the DC Extended Universe?

The Flashpoint storyline is similar to the Multiverse storyline introduced in the MCU Spider-Man: No Way Home, would open the door to alternate realities that would allow for rewrites in a completely natural way. We wouldn’t have to worry about an actor other than Henry Cavill playing Superman because DC could just say it’s Superman from another universe. But with the future of The Lightning in jeopardy, this reset button seems unlikely.

In fact, at this point, the DCEU must go back to square one. I don’t mean that they have to discard everything they’ve already done – but that they should focus on building individual stories. Don’t try to rush someone else justice league movie, and don’t try to force a reset with The Lightning. Invest in these characters and keep audiences interested. That way, the audience will be on board with the collaboration.

Where is the DCEU supposed to go from here? You should invest in some of the properties with an untapped audience. The success of Shazam! has shown that audiences enjoy watching movies with a great story, even if they’re not based on one of the more established properties in DC Comics.

With that, maybe the DCEU can find an anchor that isn’t Batman or Superman. Many other recognizable DC characters could step in to fill that spot as the center of the expanded DC Universe. For some reason it seems like they chose Harley Quinn since there are now three movies starring her and honestly that’s the wrong choice.

Why not someone like Wonder Woman? Both films were hugely popular, making the first film one of the most financially successful in the franchise. The character is one of the most well-known superheroes and it’s a fantastic opportunity to have a cinematic universe led by a female superhero. If the DCEU went with one of their already established heroes to lead them, she would be the one.

Or maybe they could go with a character that hasn’t been introduced to the DCEU yet… maybe Green Lantern? Sure, there was the 2011 Green Lantern Movie that wasn’t well received at all but the thing about the Green Lantern Corps is that they are full of possibilities. There’s not just Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern brought to the screen by Ryan Reynolds, but others like John Stewart. Wouldn’t it be great to have a person of color at the helm of the DCEU?

Whichever path the DCEU chooses, one thing is clear: they can’t wait for their next Superman or Batman. No one knows who will be their new anchor. Will it be Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman? Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam? Or will it be someone we haven’t seen yet?

What do you think? Who should be the new anchor for the DC Extended Universe? Let us know in the comment section below and don’t forget to like and subscribe. Until next time.

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