I love Marvel and the Marvel cinematic universe. Getting to see all of the comic book characters I grew up with come to the big screen in such a way is a dream I never thought I’d see realized when I was a kid. My wife enjoys the films as well, and we’ve dressed up together for Halloween, and she’s wonderfully tolerant of my Hot Toys collection. Along with Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s something I look forward to sharing with our two boys when they’re old enough.
However, despite what the prevailing archetypes would suggest, loving Marvel does not automatically predispose me to “hating” DC. In the same way that I own both a PS4 and an XBox One, because I love games I see no reason to pick a side. As far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of room for superhero movies from Marvel and DC to exist side by side; in no situation do I see one unable to get made/watched because of the other. They do not preclude eachother, so in my opinion as a comic book fan, the more movies the better. I’m only gaining entertainment if both Marvel and DC are doing well.
I’m explaining this so that I hope you understand that at no point was I rooting for the DC cinematic universe to fail. I never went into one of those movies hoping it would be bad. And honestly, I don’t think I would call any of them bad. However, I wouldn’t call any of them good, either. And certainly not great.
When Man of Steel came out, I enjoyed it for the most part. Some of it seemed a little thin, and little jumbled, and a little rushed. But really, I did not have as big of a problem with the ending as some people did. In fact, it wasn’t until afterwards, reading all of the complaints, that I really gave it much thought. So yeah, Superman being involved in so much destruction and death was a little contrary to what we expect from the character, but I think as I watched it was thinking to myself “Well, this is a brand new Superman. He’s just started doing this hero thing publicly, and he’s fighting a Kryptonian who doesn’t give a shit. He’s happy to destroy the planet. Maybe Superman doesn’t have as much of a choice about where/how this fight goes down. In the heat of battle, does he really even have time to think about it?”
When Batman vs Superman was revealed, it was clear they were going to directly address the ending of Man of Steel, and I was very optimistic. If BvS was able to frame the ending of MoS as the very event that defines Superman’s values going forward, if it was what made him look back and say “No, never again. I have to be better than that, more careful than that.” then it would be justified. They would show us the Superman we expected being created, and formed by his experiences, as opposed to being infallible from the get-go.
I was disappointed when BvS came out and started getting torn apart in reviews. By the time my wife and I went to go see it, I was not excited. I was determined to see it and form my own opinion, but my expectations had been lowered. Maybe the lowered expectations helped me enjoy the film, for what it was, but I did not walk out of the theater thinking “I need to see that again!” It was a heavy movie, with lots of problems. I won’t rehash them, because most of us have seen the movie/read the reviews, and I agree with a lot of what they said. So again, not a terrible movie (and the extended edition did improve it a little), but I wouldn’t call it a good film.
Which brings us to Suicide Squad, which according to reports is a mess because of Warner Bros.’ kneejerk reaction to the BvS response. If insiders are to be believed, they rushed in to reshoot/meddle with Ayers’ original vision, and so the movie we got has an identity crisis; two different movies that have been spliced together and at no point becomes anything other than mediocre and inconsistent. It is neither dark and edgy enough to be dangerous/fresh, nor as fun and wild as the trailers led us to believe.
The big problem here is that we’re three movies in to DC’s cinematic universe now, and the main takeaway everyone has after each one is “Well, the next one is going to be the one that rights the ship.” So after BvS came out, Suicide Squad was hailed as the movie that was going to finally give the DCCU some momentum, and now it’s “Well, Wonder Woman looks like it will be good, so that will be the one.”
But that’s getting pretty old pretty quick. Warner Bros. can’t just keep promising “we’ll fix everything in the next film” because each one of these very public stumbles is damaging the DC cinematic brand and excitement in these movies as a whole.
And while they still make money at the box office, they’re not making as much as they would if the word of mouth was positive, and I expect each middling release will affect the next film to some degree. If the DCCU starts becoming both a critical and a financial disappointment, it’s going to disappear. I feel this is evidenced by Warner Bros.’ announcement this week, amidst all the bad press surrounding Suicide Squad, that there will be a sequel to the Harry Potter Universe film ‘Fantastic Beasts’. Almost, if not an attempted distraction, as if to say “Hey, at least we still have Harry Potter! You guys like Harry Potter, right?!”