DC Films tried hard. They sank millions of dollars into Justice League, hoping the movie would follow in the successful footsteps of the critically-acclaimed Wonder Woman. It didn’t work out that way. The movie took in a decent chunk of change ($219,000,000 and counting) but didn’t reach the heights of The Avengers or Wonder Woman. Critics were also unimpressed, giving it a depressing 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. Worst of all, no one talks about it anymore. The movie only released a month ago, but it’s as if it never even happened.
As we pointed out in a previous article, a lot was riding on Justice League. DC hoped the movie would bring their cinematic universe together and propel it into its next phase. But what happens now that it’s failed? How can they salvage, regroup, rebuild, and move forward? We have a few ideas.
Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated
DC Films attempted to follow the Avengers’ blueprint and create a massive cinematic universe. One that threaded together characters, plots, and locations throughout its various films. It was an innovative, creative choice that has paid off in spades for Marvel. Unfortunately, DC’s attempt didn’t work nearly as well. With DC, it felt forced and, frankly, like a poor imitation of Marvel.
Remember how The Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg were introduced as plot devices in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice? They are supposed to be iconic heroes, but this rushed, painfully forced introduction treats them like third-rate do-gooders — especially when compared to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. DC was in such a rush to release Justice League that it didn’t give these characters adequate time to develop in films of their own. Instead, they threw them together and figured they’d focus on character development later.
To be successful (i.e. recover from Justice League), DC and Warner Bros must leave their foolhardy desire to mimic Marvel behind. Instead of forcing all their films together, DC needs to cut the ties that bind them and let each movie stand on its own. That means no shoe-horning in other characters or laying the groundwork for crossovers and sequels. There was nothing organic about the way DC smashed these characters together, and it was mostly to their detriment. Stand-alone films worked for decades before Marvel; they’ll surely work again.
Change the Mood
Perhaps it’s because so much of the DCEU revolves around Batman, but these movies have been so dang dark. Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice — all of these films have been, as the kids say, “grimdark.” They have surely lightened up a little (Justice League even had jokes if you can believe it), but the movies almost suffocate you with their heaviness.
Batman always has been and will be the dark knight. However, the wonderful thing about the DC canon is that the other characters have vibrantly different personalities. Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman are all wildly contrastive in many ways. In future films, DC needs to embrace their differences and move away from Zack Snyder’s vision of a depressingly dark world. DC movies have revolved around Batman’s success for decades now, but it’s time to part with that darkness.
The good news is that there were flashes (no pun intended) of charming promise in Justice League. Flashes that suggest DC will be moving in this direction in the future. The Flash made some great, relatable jokes, Aquaman was a rugged, rough-around-the-edges, hard-drinking unorthodox hero, Superman became much more optimistic, and Wonder Woman was strong, powerful, and inspiring. These are encouraging developments which bode well for the path ahead. With Snyder stepping away from the DCEU, and filmmakers like Patty Jenkins and Joss Whedon stepping up, it appears the shackles of gloom will soon be lifted.
Hire the Right Talent
Speaking of filmmakers, DC needs to invest in some interesting, diverse directors as they push forward. This goes hand in hand with lightening things up and letting each hero show off their unique personality. If DC is smart, it will employ filmmakers with different styles and visions. Take note, DC! Make unexpected choices, take risks, get people talking like you did with Wonder Woman. If fans wanted all DC films to feel like Zack Snyder productions, they would have loved Justice League. They have grown tired and want something different from someone new.
This is how DC can win back its fans. What better way to grab peoples’ attention than making interesting directorial choices? It would show us that they’re serious about making strong, plot-driven, out-of-the-box movies that break the typical superhero movie mold. It’s time for DC to shake things up. They’ve hit a rough patch, but there is smooth sailing ahead. All they need to do is dust themselves off, straighten their cape, and fly right.