Will Batman vs Superman save or destroy the DC Extended Universe?
I am cautiously optimistic about Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Most likely I will see it in a theater a couple of weeks after it is released (I’m that old guy who gets annoyed by stupid people in large groups so I rarely see a movie when it premieres). But even though I want to see it (and am REALLY looking forward to Suicide Squad) I am not feeling this DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Why?
It seems rushed
Maybe the way Marvel created their shared universe wouldn’t work for DC. Maybe not, but kicking off the DCEU with the Big Three feels like a bad choice. It’s too much pressure for a film introducing 2 of the 3 tent pole characters for the brand. If it doesn’t meet expectations (and I’d be surprised if those expectations are under $1B worldwide) then it puts the entire DCEU on a fast track to irrelevance. Marvel’s approach may have been forced by the fact that all of their A list characters had been farmed out during the bankruptcy, but much smarter men than me have said the best way to achieve success is to find someone who is successful and copy what they did. Would anyone have been THAT bothered by DC starting off with Martian Manhunter? I say no. Plus, if Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can’t knock it WAY out of the park what chance does Aquaman have? What about Flash?
Which brings me to my next point:
Disconnect from TV
No one but the biggest mark for Marvel, and possibly Jeph Loeb, would say that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is anything but a quagmire of wasted potential. But Agent Carter is an underappreciated delight, Daredevil all but shut down Netflix’s servers for a weekend, and Jessica Jones was a critical AND commercial darling. Also, ALL of those shows are interconnected, thus when they do Luke Cage’s and Danny Rand’s I predict that they will be as well. They have been affected by what happened in the movies and they affect what happens in future movies. It’s part of what makes the Marvel Extended Universe (MEU) so appealing. Now look at DC. They have a good show in Supergirl, a great show in The Flash, and then they have Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. All of these shows are connected as part of the DC TV Extended Universe, and if there were no plans to make movies with any of these characters that would be awesome. But there’s going to be a Flash movie in 2018 and Grant Gustin will not be Barry Allen. Now before you say “Multiverse” I have two things to say. 1) Does DC have a multiverse now? I know they did, then they didn’t, then they did again, then they turned the universe off and back on again to install updates and now I have no idea what is happening there. 2) The Flash TV show HAS established parallel worlds with Earth-1 and Earth-2, but Barry Allen looks like Barry Allen on both Earths. So does Iris West, Eobard Thawne and everyone else we’ve seen. This means that there has to be an Earth where no one looks like who they are on all of the other Earths, which kind of negates that whole “parallel” thing. Finally, there’s one other thing bothering me.
The DCEU looks REALLY depressing
There have been plenty of “one step from the abyss” moments in the MEU, but when you think of the Marvel movies those are not the first thing you think of. You think of Tony Stark making a joke or Thor throwing his coffee cup down and demanding a second cup. You think of Steve Rogers getting that reference on the Helicarrier while Tony calls someone out for playing Galaga. Age of Ultron was the closest we’ve seen to the kind of overreaching darkness we’ve seen in Man of Steel and the trailers for BvS, and by then we’d already developed relationships with these versions of these characters (and AOU was basically following the Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back formula of the middle movie being the darkest timeline. Evil Abed approves). Following AOU with Ant-Man as a coda on Phase II helped a great deal, giving fans a dose of fun after all of the darkness from Iron Man 3, Winter Soldier, and The Dark World before AOU. Meanwhile, in Man of Steel, Superman killed Zod (and that raised a CRAPSTORM of controversy), and except for some gallows humor I’m not seeing a lot of light and fuzzy from BvS OR Suicide Squad. We have to hope that The Flash movie will bring us some relief (I have every part of my body that can be crossed in the hopes that we get some Ted Kord before too long. I have no hopes of getting Booster Gold, more’s the pity). I’m not seeing much humor in Aquaman, but that could be because the guy playing Aquaman is a Dothraki and you don’t associate the Dothraki with yukking it up). Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I am not chomping at the bit to go be depressed by a bunch of super heroes over and over again.
So yeah, I’ll go see BvS. But I’m way more ambivalent about it than I thought I would be and that cannot be a good sign for DC.