With the word coming out that Ben Affleck will not be directing The Batman, the future of the Caped Crusader is in doubt. The entire DC Cinematic Universe, actually. There’s a school of thought that Affleck dropping out may be a domino falling in what will ultimately lead to the film not existing at all. That development would create a large hole in the center of the entire plan, as Batman is the sun the other characters all revolve around from a brand perspective. While the overall success of what DC and Warner Bros. have done so far is a gray area, the one film garnering universal excitement was Affleck’s Batman movie. The actor spun the news towards allowing him to focus on playing the part but it’s hard not to feel a detachment brewing. So does this mean we’re seeing the beginning of the end for DC’s Extended Universe?
The Value of Momentum
Momentum has become a key factor in making a shared cinematic universe work. Even when Marvel slightly stumbles every once in awhile, they still know how to move their collective story forward in a way that keeps people interested. DC hasn’t been able to create that kind of energy for several reasons, but now they have something horrible keeping them from recovering from this problem: public perception.
Audiences have not received the first three DC Extended Universe films well. Even though the box office may tell you otherwise, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad have not caught on in the same way Marvel’s movies have. And now that there is a “three strikes, you’re out!” narrative cultivated around the Extended Universe, it’s poisoning DC’s upcoming slate of films. Wonder Woman has little to no hype surrounding it, and that’s a shame. The movie may or may not be good but what it’s accomplishing – the first major blockbuster film built around a female superhero – is not being lauded enough thanks to the disastrous perception people have of the Extended Universe films.
The upcoming Justice League movie is another example. The idea that a Justice League film is happening this year should be landmark. We should be seeing articles and videos and fan fervor like we saw when The Avengers was going to hit. And you know what? Things are dead quiet. FOR A JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE. DC’s inability to get out of their own way and let the characters and world sell themselves has killed any real propulsion these movies could generate.
And now, Ben Affleck’s departure from directing The Batman makes it sound like even the people behind the camera are starting to realize that this train is coming to a full stop. As someone who is a dyed-in-the-wool DC fan, that’s damn depressing. But at this point, maybe the best move is waiting for the next cinematic versions of these characters. Because nothing is getting me excited for what’s coming, except maybe Gotham City Sirens. You gotta stay hopeful about something. [Drew Dietsch]
The Importance of Character Development
Warner Bros. has tons of amazing characters at its disposal. Unfortunately, many of these characters are flat, basic portrayals of their comic book counterparts. Over the course of the various films, there is almost no character development. Superman is just kind of a stoic jerk. Batman is a watered-down version of Frank Miller's embittered Dark Knight. It feels like someone who only read a synopsis of these characters wrote the scripts.
It would almost be forgivable if this lack of characterization wasn't so boring. No one grows or changes, not even in Suicide Squad, where the bad guys are supposed to team up and become kinda good. Instead, we're treated to repeated reminders that they're villains, sometimes even through direct dialogue. The screenwriters clearly never learned the "show, don't tell" rule of good storytelling.
Superman kills tons of innocents by accident. Batman kills villains on purpose, which is completely out of character. Compared to our "heroes", the villains fall completely flat. Then again, who needs villains with heroes as awful as the ones in the DC Extended Universe. [Danielle Ryan]
A Flawed Template
At this point, the DCEU has all the cards stacked against it. Audiences are burnt out, and it shows. With 2016's poor performance taking a back-to-back double hit with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Nobody cares about those movies, and their champions are all apologists and insiders.
Seeing the same frame repeated with different characters involved has worn thin for audiences. We are sick of the deadly sky beam finale, and original creativity seems all but absent. The template is obvious. These movies have a clear outline, but now, after years of overuse, the flavor has grown stale.
Fans need to have fun with the Extended Universe. Batman used to be exhilarating, not irritating and predictable. We want to feel like anything could happen at any moment. Sure we're familiar with the same old characters, but that doesn't mean the Joker couldn't do something we've never seen before. Break the mold and start over. We want to enjoy this again. [Andrew Hawkins]
Tone, Tone, Tone
Batman has always been dark. That's his thing; he is the Dark Knight after all. And his tendency to be moody and morose has really struck a nerve with film and comic fans. After years of Adam West's bright, cheerful Bats, fans were ready for the polar opposite.
One of the great things about Batman and Superman's relationship is their contrast. They both seek justice but in two extremely different ways. Superman is light, hopeful and optimistic whereas Batman is dark, dour, and sees the worst in society. They fight on the same team and remain close allies, but their worldview is starkly different.
Zack Snyder doesn't see it that way. As proven in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Snyder feels like both Batman and Superman should be grumpy, pessimistic heroes. The film devolves into a game of who can look more upset. It doesn't capture the original spirit of the characters and, more importantly, it makes for supremely boring cinema.
Superman can have his doubts and fears and anger, that's fine. But there must always be a contrast between him and the Caped Crusader. It feels redundant and downright silly to see both Batman and Superman fly around the DCEU as big grumps. Their alternate approaches to crime fighting allow audiences to project their own feelings and ideas about right and wrong. If they're both essentially saying and doing the same things, it's like a double dose of Batman. Quite frankly, that's boring.
Moving forward, Snyder and his team should respect the years of tradition and showcase the differences between Batman and Superman. One is always dark while the other is always light. One should appeal to our more violent and troubled instincts while the other shows us a better way. They aren't the exact same. They may be brothers in arms, but they shouldn't be twins. [Brandon Marcus]
The Future of the DC Extended Universe
Right now, the future of the DCEU is uncertain. If Wonder Woman doesn't connect, it'll be a truly uphill battle for Aquaman, Flash, and whatever else is in the queue. The Batman is a huge cog and here's hoping that Affleck is a man of his word and chooses the perfect director to replace him for the project.