Few films in recent memory have proven to be as divisive as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and despite the film’s relatively underwhelming box office (compared to Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War), it remains the lynchpin for DC and Warner Bros.’ upcoming slate of superhero tentpoles.
While the Patty Jenkins-directed Wonder Woman suggests that the franchise might be getting stronger with each release, the DCEU still has a sizable distance to travel in order to establish the fan goodwill and track record of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At this stage, it’s difficult to say how the DC team will pan out in the long run, since there have been only a few movies released thus far.
Here are a few potential problems that DC should address going forward.
1. Lack of a consistent tone throughout
In Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Snyder established a downbeat tone largely set by his dour, conflicted version of Superman. However, with gleefully over-the-top characters like Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and more laid-back heroes like the Flash (Ezra Miller) on the way, the DCEU will need to establish a consistent tone. This tone will need to be present throughout each individual film and will be central in the creation of a shared universe in which all the various characters coexist.
Think of how Marvel managed to sell moviegoers on the earnest Captain America and the arrogant Iron Man as individuals before perfectly meshing the two together in The Avengers. Fingers crossed that Justice League can pull off the same for its marquee heroes.
2. Rushed introductions to characters
Although Warner Bros. plans to spin each Justice League character into solo movies, it remains unclear whether each of these will be origin stories or simply take place after the team is established. In the latter case, the DCEU runs the risk of introducing too many new characters that casual moviegoers are not intimately familiar with. This lack of sufficient development could hinder interest in a character’s solo film and rob the epic team-up of some of its impact.
Take, for example, the way that the overstuffed Batman v Superman shoehorned Wonder Woman into a story centered on the two title characters. After decades of waiting for their own films, these characters deserved proper big-screen introductions.
3. Bombast and imagery over story focus
Perhaps the most popular issue moviegoers and critics have with the DCEU films to date is the emphasis on explosions and other computer generated mayhem rather than a more nuanced approach to storytelling. Both of Snyder’s Superman films struggled to balance their stories against a desire for widespread destruction and shots that faithfully create visual callbacks to famous comic book images.
As cool as it was to see the trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman team up, the fact remains that the entire third act of Batman v Superman feels like an excuse to facilitate that short-lived and sadly underwhelming team-up.
4. Choosing convoluted plots over complex characters
Speaking of story problems, the DCEU needs to recognize that fans come to these films to spend time with their beloved characters, not to endure a labored attempt to be dazzled with convoluted narrative threads. Batman v Superman was far more guilty of this than Man of Steel. It was to the point that one must sit through the film’s supplemental three-hour “Ultimate Edition” in order to begin making sense of the various disconnected plot threads and Lex Luthor’s absurdly far-fetched scheme to pit the heroes against each other.
Our suggestion? Create richer characters and put them first. They’ll dictate the intricacies of the story. It shouldn’t be the other way around.
5. Absence of a singular creative vision
Since most of what we’ve seen thus far from the DCEU is Snyder’s vision, it’s a bit early to gauge how the franchise as a whole will hang together. Still, it needs a figurehead with the big-picture vision much like Kevin Feige’s role with Marvel. This will keep the universe unified with one continuous, multifaceted tale.
Geoff Johns looks like he’s being positioned as a key figure to do just that, and we are confident that — with a focused group of creative minds behind it — the DCEU can overcome the stigma it has received from some moviegoers and give the competition a run for its money.
Additional updates by Nathanael Arnold
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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