How To Save the (DC) World

Posted: August 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

Much to the chagrin of DC fanboys everywhere (fanboy, noun: someone who loves their fandom so much that they are unable to find any fault with it, even if everyone else in the world does), the DC Extended Universe is shattering.

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It’s been a long road for DC on the big screen. Man of Steel laid decent groundwork, but Batman v Superman ended up being one of the most disappointing films of all time, as well as one of the worst written. Freaked out by the critical drubbing BvS was taking, Warner Brothers, Suicide Squad squandered a good cast by rushing production on the film and handing it over to poor editors to try to bring some humor into a dark universe. They ignored the fact that the script, story, and CGI were trash. Wonder Woman offered a glimmer of hope, and the first critically acclaimed film DC had ever made that didn’t star Batman or Superman, leading to the speculation that perhaps good things were ahead, especially with a bevy of new films (Batgirl, Nightwing, Gotham City Sirens).

Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be the case. The first card to fall was the scrapping of Ben Affleck’s script and director’s chair from the next Batman solo film. Next was the announcement that there would be a Flashpoint film, which is completely about readjusting timelines. Then there were the Justice League reshoots. Joss Whedon took over and they were extensive. Apparently not learning anything from the Suicide Squad debacle, a significant amount of time was focused on making Cyborg’s character arc lighter in tone, as it was deemed too dark. Now this is speculation, but my guess is that the ENTIRE film was too dark. You can’t lighten up Batman, Wonder Woman has never been very comic, Aquaman needs to be serious to get past his cheesy history, and Flash is already goofy. The only one malleable enough to change tone is Cyborg. Whedon also has apparently completely redone Zack Snyder’s original ending. Snyder’s version left things open for another film. Whedon’s does not pave those tracks.

This week, it was revealed that Jared Leto and Margot Robbie will reprise their roles in a new Joker and Harley Quinn film AND that director Todd Phillips is currently working on a separate Joker film which will NOT star Leto. This was followed by news that Matt Reeve’s The Batman will not be in continuity, which suggests that Ben Affleck will not be playing the caped crusader. (UPDATE: Reeve’s clarified today that The Batman will be in the DCEU. However, there is still no confirmation that Affleck will appear).

Things certainly look out of hand at Warner Brothers. Fortunately for them, there’s a way to get out of this mess. It looks something like this:

#1) Abandon Ship!

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A common, yet unwise, factor for businesses is familiarity. They stick with something/someone because they have invested a lot of time with it, spent a lot of money, etc. Of course, how you obtained something should have little to no effect on if you should keep it going. DC is currently being stretched way too thin. Instead of trying to solve their storytelling issues, they are doubling down. Right now, only Justice League and Aquaman are actively filming. Draw the line in the sand after Aquaman’s solo film. Hit pause on everything else.

 

 

#2) Flashpoint

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DC Comics has a tendency to reboot their universe every few years, which is usually annoying, but it benefits them here. In their “Flashpoint” series, the Flash has to deal with the consequences of a shattered timeline that has resulted in some pretty significant changes to certain characters, leading them to darker, savager lives. That sounds remarkably like what Zack Snyder did in the DCEU. A brooding Superman, a murdering Batman, a jaded Wonder Woman (not talking about the Patty Jenkins film here), and a Lex Luthor that is more Joker/Riddler than actual Lex. Aquaman is scheduled for release next year, so set Flashpoint for 2019 as a soft reboot, getting rid of the bad stuff and moving forward. As an aside, they can set Flashpoint somewhere between Wonder Woman and Man of Steel. So we get to keep the great movie, which of course takes place in World War I while scrapping the rest. X-Men: Days of Future Past already did something similar and it basically worked. The Flash can reset the timeline in the DCEU and we can all move forward.

#3) Stop Trying to Catch Marvel

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There’s honestly no competition. The MCU’s worst film, Thor: The Dark World, was better received than the DCEU’s best, Man of Steel, until Wonder Woman came along. Marvel’s ready to start Phase 4, DC is staggering around Phase 1. And you don’t need to compete. If you do your job right, you don’t need to worry about Marvel. People will see your films and theirs.

#4) Hire New Blood to Tell Better Stories

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The main reason Marvel’s been so successful is that they have hired fans. Ed Norton, ScarJo, Mark Ruffalo, James Gunn, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Scott Derrickson, Joss Whedon, and many more of those involved in writing and acting in the MCU, are comic book nerds. They don’t insist on deconstructing characters. They stick to the roots.

There’s no need to hire folks just because they are Hollywood stalwarts. Do they love the characters and can they tell a story? That’s about it. Get some new blood involved. Jack Nicholson once said that every time he and a director disagreed about something, he would do what the director wanted. That way he knew he wouldn’t be repeating himself from one film to the next. Marvel lets the creative team come to them with ideas, not the other way around. That’s what works.

#5) Make Great Films with Lesser Known Characters

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“Phase 1” of a soft reboot should start with giving the major characters a rest. Ant-ManGuardians of the Galaxy, Hellboy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World all proved that people will go see good films, even if they don’t involve the biggest names. Heck, Marvel Studios didn’t even have the rights to their A-Listers (Spider-Man & the X-Men) when they started out.

The Shazam! film is a fun place to start, as long as they stick with the classic version and not the New 52. Since Wonder Woman gets to stay in continuity, Wonder Woman 2 can proceed and she can carry the DC world for a bit. A police procedural with Martian Manhunter, the adventures of the Doom Patrol, a tragedy with Deadman, the classic James Robinson Starman run, or the Golden Age Justice Society would just be a few neat ideas.

 

 

 

#6) A Slow Burn

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Once the groundwork is established, then bring in the big guns, but slowly. They don’t need to meet too soon. A cool thing about DC is that their heroes are often very city-centric. Keep Flash, Batman, and others in their respective cities. Keep them contained. Make the Justice League a last resort, maybe even borrow from the Batman Incorporated mentality where its really a international or national presence of heroes working solo, only calling for backup when need be. And don’t worry about comparisons to the Avengers. They are bound to come regardless of what happens.

This whole reset will take years, but that’s fine. Right now, DC seems in a rush. They need something lucrative. But take the time and do it right and it will be. Look how much money the DCEU films have made so far. They only stand to make more if they are done correctly.

 

 

 

 

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