San Diego Comic Con finished up for the year recently, and once again there was a slew of trailers, including one for this fall’s Justice League. Truth be told, it wasn’t a bad trailer, though a trailer is just an advertisement that ideally would make the biggest pile of crap look as good as possible.
But the talk around the Gabbing Geek home office seems to be that in all likelihood Justice League is going to suck, probably as much as Batsoup. One Geek went so far as to express disdain for any DC film property save Wonder Woman as it is already too late to save this cinematic universe.
But is it?
Admittedly, I might be in the minority here, but I have some hope in some of the future movies DC is trying to put out. Not all of them, mind you. The Flash sounds like it’s going to be a pure disaster if they’re doing a first outing with Flashpoint before they even do much with the Flash to begin with, and that’s not considering whether or not Ezra Miller is right for the part of any superhero. The TV series is actually pretty good, and having two simultaneous Barry Allens is just weird.
But let’s take a look at the DCEU’s main competition: the MCU. Sure, the MCU has been, for the most part, much better than the DCEU. Batsoup and Suicide Squad were terrible movies for very different reasons. Zach Snyder can make some fantastic visuals, but he’s not much for actual scene work. The characters lacked motivation or anything relevant to making us care about anyone in that entire movie. Why was Superman so mopey? Apparently, it may be because he was feeling guilty about all the death and destruction he couldn’t quite prevent at the end of Man of Steel, and since the script really didn’t elaborate on that or other ideas like Batman realizing Superman had a mother too and was only someone trying to do his best stayed his hand and not just because of the stupid “MARTHA” thing…well, if that sort of stuff was meant to work, it needed to be a wee bit more explicit somehow. Otherwise, we’re left with just having to figure it out from Henry Cavil’s facial expressions.
And then there was Suicide Squad, a movie that was blatantly rushed into production with heavy studio interference. Sure, there may have been a bright spot here and there, but it was just here and there.
But consider this: Batsoup and Suicide Squad were only the second and third DCEU movies after Man of Steel. What did the MCU have at that point? Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2. Now, both Hulk and Iron Man 2 are better movies than either Batsoup or Suicide Squad, but neither of those films could have possibly predicted the offbeat success of Guardians of the Galaxy or the tense espionage story that is Winter Soldier. Were we willing to write off The Avengers after Iron Man 2?
And here’s the other thing…Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman was a damn good movie, on par with if not outright better than most MCU movies. Director Patty Jenkins, who was originally slated to direct Thor: The Dark World before she quit over studio interference, had plenty of time to make her movie, with what was probably minimal studio interference, and had a much better script than any DCEU movie to date. If she would have quit the MCU over studio interference, she would have done it again for DC/Warner Brothers. So, she must have had some freedom.
Now factor in what looks like some givens: Jenkins will almost certainly be back for the Wonder Woman sequel. Matt Reeves, who has directed some fantastic Planet of the Apes movies, is working with his longtime scriptwriter to get something he described as a crime noir film…you know, a Batman movie where Batman is being more detective than ninja fighter-guy.
That’s actually a potentially interesting look at Batman, one that hasn’t really been done on screen before, unless you count something like Mask of the Phantasm. Sure, the rumor mill was going that Ben Affleck wanted out as Batman, and I can see where that’s coming from. Affleck spent a lot of time rehabilitating his image in Hollywood, refashioning himself as a fairly talented director and someone who doesn’t want to be stuck in a bunch of crappy movies again. That there was no real basis for those rumors doesn’t seem to matter so much as people expected him to quit. Maybe he will yet. But he hasn’t so far, that much is certain.
And that’s not getting into Joss Whedon developing a potential Batgirl flick, or that, yes, I think James Wan could give us a good Aquaman movie. There’s a certain freedom with Aquaman if you think about it: he’s not as recognizable as, say, Batman or Superman, so that means the studio might be less inclined to mess with whatever Wan is trying to do. For all I know, that was one of the reasons Wonder Woman turned out as well as it did.
Here’s what it comes down to: the MCU to date is a much better cinematic universe, and they have their own model. The DCEU might just be more of a shared universe where some of the parts are better than others, but each has a more unique look, so maybe moviegoers will follow specific movie series and not just go for anything with the company logo on it.
So, basically, the DCEU could still be a fun time at the movies, but it might be more specific movies, and not the universe as a whole. That’s fine. That’s actually how real comic books work if you think about it. Some books are just better than others. You can’t have the same art team on every title from a specific company. Only diehard fans with too much money on their hands buy every book that comes out of DC or Marvel. Let creative people do their own thing and see what comes out. Not everything needs a housestyle. It might make the DCEU worth our time.
Or it could continue to be an epic disaster aside from all things Wonder Woman. We’ll just have to wait and see.