Rather than writing just another review for Justice League, I’ve decided to voice my opinion on how DC can turn their cinematic universe around. I’m sure plenty of movie goers out there are thinking, “but Justice League was good and it made 96 million opening weekend… Doesn’t that mean the DCEU is doing just fine?…” Sadly, no. After accounting for the movie budget and advertising, Warner Bros. may lose upwards of $100 million when all is said and done. If the DCEU is going to continue, they need to start turning some serious profit. This article will contain spoilers for nearly every DCEU movie released so far, so read at your own risk.
Quick Thoughts Justice League
I set my expectations fairly low for this film and I was still disappointed. Justice League had the impossible task of introducing 3 new heroes, perform a resurrection, introduce a new villain, form a cohesive story and oh ya, do it all in under 2 hours. For all it had to accomplish, the film did the best it could. With Zach Snyder having to step away due to family tragedy, Joss Whedon stepping in with reshoots and Warner Bros. mandating a short run time, Justice League had some major hurdles. With two directors, the films tone was all over the place. Some parts were far to serious and others were filled with far too many throw away jokes. I found myself thinking, “wow that was bad” multiple times during the film which completely removed me from the movie going experience.
Even with it’s flaws, Justice League had some incredible moments. Jason Momoa killed it as Aquaman and seemed genuinely thrilled to be in the film. Ray Fisher may not have had any shining moment, but his portrayal reminded me of Cyborg from Teen Titans… Not the awful abomination that is Teen Titans Go… I appreciated the subtle “Boo ya” comment near the end of the film, gotta love nostalgia. Now I really enjoy Ezra Miller’s work, but his Flash was hit and miss for me. Some scenes were so strong and funny, and other times the writing just seemed to miss the mark. Steppenwolf was… a villain. That Green Lantern cameo though was INCREDIBLE! It was such a good tease for what might come in the future. Overall, the film had some fun moments, but lacked cohesion and substance. Now that this is out of the way, lets get to how I think the DCEU can turn things around.
Choose Exciting Source Material
I am not afraid to say I am a huge fan of Marvel. I grew up on Spider-Man and the X-Men cartoons, what do you expect? With that being said however, DC comics have better stories and graphic novels. For quite some time now, DC has dominated Marvel when it comes to writing exciting new stories. With so much great source material, DC has all it needs to pump out incredible films. Up to this point, it has been clear that studio executives have been pushing for the DCEU to play catch up with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. By rushing their universe, DC has made some films that are alright, rather than pumping out hits. What Marvel excels at is taking bits and pieces of their most popular comic runs and molding them into fun, action packed thrillers. I don’t say this to make it sound like DC needs to copy Marvel’s method, but they do need to use the iconic material at their disposal that fans are chomping at the bit to see.
The DCEU has shown signs of leaning on fan favorite material as Ezra Miller’s solo Flash film is currently titled Flashpoint. Flashpoint is a masterpiece written by Geoff Johns. I won’t get into the story, but you seriously need to go read it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s essentially an Elseworld or “what if?” comic that is cannon. All I’ll say is I pray we get to see a vicious Jeffrey Dean Morgan and an insane Lauren Cohan… Go read this story! Batman V Superman alluded to the death of Jason Todd, so why not make the next Batman film the Red Hood story arc?! Bring in Green Lantern already so we can jump into the Blackest Night storyline. Superman is back so why not throw him up against Wraith from the Unchained run? These are just a few absolutely fantastic runs that DC has at their disposal. I personally think Marvel and DC should be making one shot films so we can see some weird and exciting stories like Red Son Superman or Batman: Two Faces where you find out Bruce Wayne and the Joker have a lot more in common than you thought. Basically, DC needs to use their big guns!
Pick a Tone
I am all for a serious take on superheroes. Batman and the gang deal with some seriously dark stuff, but the DCEU hasn’t quite found their sweet spot when it comes to tone. They received a lot of complaints about it being too serious after Batman V Superman, but then I feel like they overcorrected for Justice League by throwing in unnecessary jokes that did not land most of the time. Wonder Woman has been the only DCEU film so far that felt like the tone was well balanced and consistent. Decide on what tone and feel the movie needs based on the material and stick to it. Inconsistent films always lead to mixed reviews. The directorial talent is there, but there seems to bee too many cooks in the kitchen…
Warner Bros. Needs to Back Off
Warner Bros. not only set a time limit for the film, but clearly had their hands in what was to be included in the film. The studio has a clear vision for where they would like the universe to go, but they won’t get there if they force the journey. They need to trust in the directors they choose and allow the creative minds behind DC’s greatest graphic novels to form dynamic and entertaining film going experiences. Who cares if DC doesn’t have the major team-ups like Marvel?! Ben Affleck is an excitingly brutal Batman that would do just fine in a solo film. And for all the Batfleck haters out there, here’s some food for thought. Christian Bale’s Batman voice was just awful. Lets be real, the only thing that made the Dark Knight trilogy good were the villains and cinematography. I understand the love for Keaton because come on, it’s Michael Keaton, but he was no Bruce Wayne I’ve ever read in comics. The moment Jack Nicholson’s Joker entered his home, the “psycho” Keaton pretended to be was in no way shape or form Bruce Wayne. Affleck does a good portrayal of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, but in reality Kevin Conroy IS the Batman, case closed… Sorry… Rant over, back to fixing the DCEU!
Develop Quality Villains
If you stayed for the end credit scene, you know that there appears to be an Injustice League of sorts starting to form. DC’s endless supply of villains raises some serious potential for Hero/Villain encounters with real stakes. Deathstroke’s design looked immaculate and I can not wait to see him go one on one with Batman… or even possibly the Red Hood??? I’m ready to see DC’s heroes go up against something that is not an endless army of faceless villains. I’m over it. The villains are there, allow their characters to develop and then give us an epic showdown. It seems like getting villains right is the hardest thing to do in any superhero franchise, but it the DCEU can nail it, they will dominate at the box office… And please redesign Jared Leto’s Joker… he can act, but man his Joker looked awful. I can take the giant smile tattoo on his hand, but the rest can go.
So just to wrap things up, DC needs to pick from fan favorite material that the audience actually wants to see, stick with a tone, have studio execs back off so writers and directors can make a coherent film and capitalize on the villains that make DC heroes look so good. The foundation for the DCEU has been placed, now let it build at a steady pace so that it doesn’t all come crumbling down. Just an added note, rumors are that Affleck is looking to make a graceful exit from the universe and there are plenty of routes that would be amazing. Introduce Nightwing and have Dick Grayson take up the mantle for a while. Have Azrael step up or even Damien Wayne come out of the woodwork. Bottom line is the DCEU has all the potential in the world, they just need to find the right balance between what they want and what the fans want to see.