What is the Future of the DCEU?
Is Henry Cavill out as Superman? What about Ben Affleck, is he out as Batman? Well, all the information that we have been given lately verifies that both are out of the DCEU, which leaves Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller for future movies. So, with both of the biggest names in the DCEU out, what is the future of the DCEU? Before we get there, let’s talk about the DCEU for a bit.
The DCEU was supposed to be Warner Bros answer to Marvel Studios and the success of the MCU. It was not nearly as well set up, stuffing multiple characters into fewer movies, not giving the audience enough time to connect with them. This is one thing that the MCU did very well, even if some early movies were not as good as they could have been (looking at you Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World).
I don’t really want to stir the pot with the DCEU vs MCU argument. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but it is clear that the MCU has succeeded on a scale that many other cinematic projects wish that they could.
DC Has Some of the Best Source Material
DC Comics have nearly a century of stories to pull from their catalog. The source material is full of rich, entertaining and sometimes quirky stories that are able to be used as a basis for any movie franchise. They also have some best super heroes and villains to choose from in order to tell these stories.
Warner Bros has held the licensing rights to DC’s biggest properties for years. They have been successful with the production and release of Batman and Superman movies as stand-alone movies, at least the first few films in each respective series. They did this without really using the stories from the comic books in a way that fans may have really desired. This stands as a testament to how awesome both Batman and Superman really are.
The DCEU could have picked a storyline that was a multi-movie arc and told it across different character franchises. This is the formula that the comics follow which encourages readers to purchase multiple comic books and invest themselves in more than just their favorite characters. They could have chosen a singular major story and made a bunch of movies that held fans interest for years.
Instead, they did Batman V Superman. They took two awesome stories, The Death of Superman and The Dark Knight Returns and mashed them up into one movie. This was a good move financially in the short run, quench the fan’s thirst for great stories and big battles, but in the long run it was a failure. Hardcore fans were disappointed in what felt like major disrespect for the source material in the name of profits.
DC Cinematic Crossover
When Man of Steel was released, the idea of weaving a cinematic universe similar to that of Marvel’s was not the focus or even a seed that was planted within that movie. Instead, it was yet another Superman reboot, with a darker tone and a more developed backstory on Krypton than what we had previously been given. This movie was received well by fans but only rated a score of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare that to Iron Man, which did set up a cinematic universe with a teaser at the end, which scored 93% and had the support of the fans.
Three years later, we were given Batman V Superman. This movie was ambitious. It took a lot of risks that have been criticized by fans and critics alike. Henry Cavill reprised his role as Superman and debuted Ben Affleck as an older, worn out Batman. The idea of doing a crossover movie with two of DC’s biggest heroes was a way of starting the crossover universe, shoehorning the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg in with brief cameos. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was given a more major role and her character was developed rather well, considering the small amount of screen time given to her.
After the poor performance of Batman V Superman, a Suicide Squad movie was made. This felt like a really bad choice, like it was just done to help introduce more villains without releasing a handful of movies that would focus more on individual character arcs.
Then, the one shining light in the DCEU was released. We were given one of the best female superhero movies ever made in the form of Wonder Woman. Even this movie couldn’t escape criticism, though. It was very well-made and had the upbeat vibe that we needed as fans. But, the movie suffered due to comparisons to Captain America: The First Avenger. It may have been unfair, but it happened.
Lastly, we have Justice League which rushed the introduction of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. None of these characters received a well-developed backstory and none were really shown to do anything heroic. Their heroics were implied and it was also assumed that the audience knows these characters well enough to not have to develop them before shoving them together as an ensemble movie. Superman was like an afterthought in the movie. The acting by the Amazons in the scene on Themyscira was terrible and Steppenwolf was a one-dimensional villain. Not even Joss Whedon coming in to finish the movie could save it.
Good Intentions Gone Bad
I know that Warner Bros wanted to give the fans something to be proud of. There are a lot of fans that will defend the DCEU and all of its flaws no matter what, and I can understand their conviction, but I do not agree. I love these DC properties too much to look past the flaws that have ruined the movie viewing experience for me.
It was a deliberate decision to make the DCEU a bit more edgy, more moody and less comedic than the MCU. This was done to avoid the eventual comparison of their success being due to following Marvel’s blueprint. The same thought process was applied to how the movies were planned out. They deliberately pushed for an ensemble movie before the character’s solo films. The problem with this is that we are not given enough back story to care enough about the movie universe version of these characters.
The biggest problem was trying to tell too large of a story in a short amount of time, effectively playing catch up with the MCU in one movie and then trying to broaden a bit in the next two movies. As a big fan of Superman and Batman, I would have been happy to have had a Batman solo movie with a Superman cameo, instead of Batman V Superman. The Flash has too many good villains in his rogues gallery to have been shoehorned into two movies. Cyborg and Aquaman are not that awesome and could have been part of a team up movie with either Superman or Batman, thus allowing a solid introduction without having a full movie to themselves, much like how Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man 2.
Major Actors Out
It is no secret, both Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are out of the DCEU. Ben Affleck has been under scrutiny since Batman V Superman because of the controversial nature of his casting. He has never been universally loved and a lot of fans were divided on their support for him in the role. I think that he did a good job as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, but the decision to cast him as an older Batman as opposed to a relatively young Superman (at least in experience, not necessarily age), was a poor one. Then the rumors of behind the scenes drama concerning directorial duties and script writing for his solo movie, The Batman surfaced. It was only a matter of time before he would be replaced.
Henry Cavill, on the other hand, was generally well-liked by fans and the studio. He did a good job portraying the blue boy scout with the scripts he was given. It was a mistake to make him so moody and doubtful of his ability for good, but that was what was written. He was ousted due to scheduling conflicts and other contractual obligations. From what I’ve read, it seems to me that he was probably given an ultimatum that he could not fulfill and then he chose to follow his career path as he wanted, not as dictated. If this is the case, good for him. It is a bit sad, though. I was looking forward to seeing him portray a sunnier Superman, smiling more and giving the cheesy Superman bits of advice. He was supposed to balance Batman’s brooding. Maybe Warner Bros will fix this in future installments of the DCEU.
What Kind of Future Does DCEU Have?
In my opinion, the DCEU is done. Yeah, they have a Shazaam and Aquaman movie already finished and slated for release. So what. They are planning a Supergirl movie instead of more Superman movies. This is not a going to satisfy fans. Don’t misunderstand me, I would love a Supergirl movie, but using the potential release of one as a way to quell the fans desire for a true Man of Steel sequel is the wrong move.
Considering that the two biggest actors in the DCEU are out and that with the exception of Wonder Woman, the movies have not been received very well, the DCEU would do well to finish what they have already invested in and end it there. They need to regroup and plan their universe in a way that makes it work for the fans. If the fans can be truly satisfied then the commercial success will follow.