After the last Justice League movie in 2017, I think it is fair to say that the Detective Comics Extended Universe (DCEU) was left dead in the water. Over the last five years there have been talks of a hard reboot and a soft reboot for the characters of these movies however with Warner Brothers finally looking like they are getting their act together and with a new CEO, David Zaslav, at the helm the future of our beloved superheroes is now beginning to look brighter than ever, or is it?
Reorganising at the top
This year in April it was announced that Warner Brothers would be merging with Discovery Plus to create a whole new company called Warner Brothers Discovery. Very quickly after this it was announced David Zaslav would be Warner Brothers Discovery’s new CEO and one of his first tasks was to try and get control of the DCEU and try and steer it in some sort of direction.
Up until that point the DCEU had looked completely lost, lacking an identity and with no real idea of what they were trying to do DC’s attempts at creating their own interconnecting cinematic universe in order to rival Marvel’s had gone horribly wrong. The DCEU started brightly with the first Superman movie in seven years, Man of Steel, with Henry Cavill in the lead role, although the movie was well received by critics and fans it was evident that there was still something off. DC had decided to represent a darker grittier version of their pride and joy. Superman, who is meant to be a symbol of hope for all humanity, barely cracks a smile throughout the movie, and even though the film did portray Superman as a much-rounded character it just felt like DC was trying to mess with something that they didn’t need to.
Then came Ben
In 2014 when it was announced there would be a Batman VS Superman movie fans were over the moon, finally, we were going to see two of the most iconic superheroes of all time face off on the big screen. Henry Cavill would reprise his role as Superman while Ben Affleck would play Batman, with such a big movie you would have thought DC and Warner Brothers would have made sure that they got this right, however, what we were left with was a mess of a movie that didn’t really know what it was trying to be. By this point the only DC character we had been introduced to in the DCEU was Superman and all of a sudden in one movie we got thrown 5 new characters for us to digest. Ben Affleck played a middle-aged Batman who had become cynical due to his efforts in being the caped crusader. This straight away rang alarm bells as you had an ageing Batman going up against a young Superman, this didn’t make sense. Every time you see Batman and Superman together whether that be in the comic books or on the silver screen they are always represented as being roughly the same age so to see the two superheroes in this movie with such a big age gap between them straight away got my back up. Firstly it wasn’t accurate and secondly, it was clear by the title of the movie, ‘Dawn of Justice’, that this film was going to lead into a Justice League movie so the question had to be asked why would an ageing cynical Batman that has clearly become a recluse want to be part of a superhero team? This is a fundamental question that the movie fails to answer and just sort of expects its audience to go along with it for the sake of it. Other characters included Ézra Miller’s The Flash, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, whos comments regarding the Israeli army and praising them for their illegal occupation of Palestine just days before the films’ release left some fans threatening to boycott the movie. These characters weren’t given any backstories and were just thrown into our faces. There were also other issues with the movie, like how they killed off Superman after only appearing in two movies with hardly any character development at all. This should have been a big moment in the DCEU and should have left audiences in tears like the way Marvel did when they killed off Ironman at the end of Avengers Endgame. The difference was Ironman had appeared in three solo movies, one Captain America movie and three Avengers movies before we even got to Endgame. He had a whole character arc behind him and we had all fallen in love with him, whereas Superman only had one solo movie behind him at this point, audiences hadn’t fallen in love with him because we barely knew him, and then to kill him off in the manner that they did, didn’t have the same wow moment that he should have had.
So we went into the Justice League movie knowing full well that Superman will probably regenerate and come back to life at some point in the film but we still weren’t sure what this movie will be like, fans were holding out hope more than expectation and sadly they were let down. Justice League had a complicated journey to get to the cinema, Zack Snyder was originally appointed to direct the movie and he actually filmed the full movie in his image, however, a falling out with the studio in the editing process meant that Joss Whedon had to come on board for the post-production work and this led to a number of reshoots. The finished product was an absolute sham. With Superman’s dodgy top lip due to the fact that they had to reshoot scenes with Henry Cavill while he was also filming for the Mission Impossible movie whereby his character had a mustache which left Warner Brothers having to do a very dodgy CGI job on removing the mustache, along with the fact that Ben Affleck’s Batman uses a semi-automatic machine gun which goes against everything that Batman stands for and left me screaming in the middle of the cinema with outrage, these were just a few of the problems the movie had overall. Combine that with the fact we had little to no background stories of any of the new superheroes as well as the fact that there was no character development at all in the film which left the movie being slated by fans and critics alike and at that point it looked like the DCEU was dead and buried.
The Snyder cut
With fans outraged by the final product of the Justice League movie an online petiton was set up in order to get Zack Snyder’s version of the film released. In 2020 fans finally got their wish as a new version of the Justice League was released on the streaming service HBO Max, the film that was dubbed the ‘Snyder cut’ was in line with the original film Zack Snyder wanted to release. Now I know a lot of people have been raving about the ‘Snyder cut’ but to be quite honest I didn’t really see how it was much better than the original movie. Yes, there was a bit more in terms of character development and we got a bit more of the backstories of the new characters but apart from that the film still felt like it was trying to run before it could walk. The major issue that the DCEU had at that point was we were thrown straight into a Justice League movie without any real backstories of any of the superheroes, yes, Superman got his own solo movie and so did Wonder Women but apart from that there was no other character development, Batman got a movie that he had to share with Superman and we got absolutely no backstory into Bruce Wayne at all. and then there is Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg, we got a little bit of backstory into Cyborg and The Flash but it still wasn’t enough and as for Aquaman he was just thrown in at the deep end, pardon the pun. What DC needed to do was give all the characters their own solo movie maybe even a couple solo movies each before they went into a Justice League film. They needed to take a page out of Marvel’s book rather than being so focused on trying to catch up with their comic book rivals because all that did is put them further behind.
Getting their act together
It’s taken almost two years for Warner Brothers to actually decide what they want to do with the DCEU, there were talks originally of completely rebooting the universe and starting again. Personally, this would have been my preferred option as I just felt that the DCEU was in such a mess it just needed to be ripped up, thrown in the bin, and start again. However, with the new CEO of Warner Brothers Discovery, David Zaslav now at the helm of the company he seems to want to do a soft reboot whereby they keep the same actors and they carry on in with a similar mold but take the time to develop the DCEU over many years and multiple movies.
What does the future hold?
We know that Zaslav has a 10-year plan whereby he wants to develop these characters and expand the DCEU. We finally have positive news about Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck coming back to reprise their roles as Superman and Batman respectively after rumors they would be leaving the DCEU, even though nothing has been confirmed in writing it definitely looks like the two actors are coming back. We are expecting a cameo of appearance from Henry Cavill’s Superman in the new Black Adam movie and we also know Ben Affleck will be appearing as Bruce Wayne in the new Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom film. But really the future of the DCEU hinges on the success of The Flash movie and how that film winds up ending. We know that initially The Flash was meant to reset the timeline of the DCEU giving them a chance to completely reboot the universe, however, Zaslav is against this idea and has his own vision of what he wants the DCEU to look like.
Could a soft reboot work?
Quite simply this new strategy has to work, DC is too far behind Marvel for it not to work. Personally, I still have my doubts, I just don’t think carrying on in the same vane is the right idea as I think too much damage has already been done. Zaslav is going to have to pull off the miracle of all miracles if he wants to get the DCEU back to a place where it is rivaling Marvel, but that is not to say it can’t be done, what they need is some really good story writers that are able to plan where they want the universe to go and every movie that is written needs to tie into the overall story arc. Character development is key and it’s something that up till now the DCEU has lacked, DC needs to take their time, develop these characters and enable us to fall in love with them that way when there is a major twist it’s actually greeted with an emotional response from fans rather than viewing it just on a surface level.
DC has got many superheroes that are close to my heart on a personal level, I absolutely love Batman, and to say I am a fanatic would be an understatement. I love Superman as well, although not as much as my sister, the point is we want DC to do these characters justice on the big screen and we are all rooting for them. However, whether they can actually breathe new life into the DCEU is a question that remains to be seen. Personally, I would love them to get it right however given DC’s recent track record I can’t say that I am holding my breath. Only time will tell.