Personal Reflections on the DC Extended Universe
- By Thami
- On 06/02/2018
- 1 comments
I’ve been a comic book culture connoisseur for many years ever since I was a kid & I can say that’s thanks one animated series called Justice League that aired on the on public TV way back in 2004 when I was 10 years old. In the same way that Dragon Ball Z introduced me to the world of anime Justice League thrust me into a universe of iconic beings of power & valor. I was instantly hooked & from that day onwards I have loved comic culture with a passion from all the different houses (DC, Marvel, Dark Horse etc.)
but the DC universe would always have my heart because it practically raised me with other their comics & shows other DC shows like Batman Beyond, The Legion of Superheroes, Batman the animated series, Young Justice along with a plethora of animated feature films like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman, Under The Red Hood, The Dark Knight Returns & The Flashpoint paradox.
Outside of the iconic Dark Knight Trilogy & the film adaptation of cult classic comic Watchmen DC universe hadn’t really many a significant imprint in the cinematic space in the way Marvel had with their X-Men universe & Marvel Cinematic universe. This is why I completely lost my mind at the prospect of my favourite comic world being brought to the big screen with a planned reboot of Superman which would also be the 1st film is an expanded DC cinematic universe. When I finally watched Man of Steel I was blown away by Zack Snyder’s re-imagination of the last son of Krypton which humanized Superman in a way that had never been done before whilst simultaneously making him relevant for the 21st century audience. I was blown away by the pristine cinematography, beautifully woven plot & character depth that was on display which really made me hopefully of the emergence of a truly iconic DC cinematic universe if this I was the sort of caliber of film that I we could expect. The DC universe felt like it was going to take the superhero genre to a new lever adult sophistication & story telling that we had not seen since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. I love the MCU (& I still do it’s a triumph for all comic book culture) but I was really rallying behind the success of the DCEU because it would bring variety & depth to a genre that was in danger of stagnation because of the hegemony of one film house that made films which never really challenged the audience or its characters.
Next up for DC came the infamous Batman vs Superman: The Dawn of Justice. I absolutely adored this film because of how it aimed to challenge the audience & the two most prolific characters in all of comic culture. BvS was a triumph of a film which not only deconstructed these two comic gods but also provided a story filled to the brim with intelligent symbolism & social commentary about human nature & the state of modern society as a whole. BvS was also something of a love letter to DC fans with all the comic book Easter eggs & references throughout the film. My heart broke however when I realized that most people didn’t connect with this misunderstood masterpiece. This disgruntlement from the public towards BvS was further fueled by unfair & often lazy critiques of the film by what I would consider to be very narrow minded film critics & bloggers. Batman vs Superman was unfairly labeled a disaster which in turn hurt the DCEU brand significantly. However frustrated I was by the reaction to this maligned movie I still believed that it would eventually be appreciated in due time after many years of introspection & that the vision of the DC cinematic universe would still be a success with future films.
The dark cloud hanging over the DCEU with the release of Suicide Squad. Billed as the 1st supervillain ensemble film my excitement for Suicide Squad was extremely palpable & I really thought we were going to get a dark neo noir crime thriller that would win over the audiences & critics alike. However when I watched this movie I left the cinema extremely disappointed as I felt that it had left a lot to be left desired. Suicide Squad was a film which had a lot of potential but never truly fulfilled it as it was quite apparent that the film was heavily altered in reaction to the backlash from BvS. Although it was a financial success & it did win an Oscar I’m not alone in thinking Suicide Squad is our least favorite film in the DCEU amongst the fandom.
Fast forward a year later & we were on the brink of getting the very first Wonder Woman film. My heart filled with joy at the thought of the greatest female super hero & one of the greatest super hero period finally getting her chance to shine in the spotlight. WW did not disappoint in any way as it provided us awesome origin tale of of Diana Princess of Thermyscira which was just as explosive & inspirational as Man of Steel. I loved how the film allowed Diana to showcase the full spectrum of womanhood from being super vulnerable & kind to being fierce & unwavering. Not only was Wonder Woman a triumph for the DC cinematic universe, being the only film to garner full critical acclaim & financial success, but it was also victory for representation as a whole for all the women of the world who finally had a hero they could truly relate to. I was convinced that on the back of the success of Wonder Woman the next film DC planned to release Justice League would be an instant success.
Finally we come to Justice League which was meant to be the flagship film of the DCEU. I couldn’t believe that my love for the DC universe was finally coming full circle & my childhood dreams would come true the first superhero team in comic book history finally making their big screen debut. This movie was probably doomed from the beginning starting with the untimely departure of Zack Snyder the man who had created the vision for the entire DC cinematic universe. Although I was deeply saddened that he would not be able to finish his dream project I understood that he had to be with his family after a terrible tragedy that befell them with the death of his daughter. I reassured myself that even though Zack was gone that the studio & the director he picked to finish putting his film together (Joss Whedon) would respect his work & give us a triumphant conclusion to his trilogy which began with Man of Steel. When I finally watched Justice League however I felt extremely conflicted. On one hand I loved it initially because on the surface this was a genuinely great film with just about everything you want in a comic book film & felt like I was watching live action episode from the animated series that made me fall in love with comics. One the other hand Justice League was a failure in the sense that it did not have any of the brilliance of the best films in the DCEU (MOS, BVS, WW) and felt like the vison of the DCEU which promised grandiosity & maturity was ultimately watered down in order to placate & pander to the very same naysayers who had slandered the DCEU for trying to be different. This was extremely hurtful considering how I like many amongst the fandom felt betrayed after defending Man of Steel & Batman Vs Superman vehemently for months because we had believed in the promise of the DCEU only for the studio to bow to the pressure once again of close minded individuals & interfere with the director’s work.
So five films in & how do I feel about the DC cinematic universe? Well so far we’ve received a very mixed bag of results ranging from truly iconic films to truly unforgettable movies that most probably should not have been made. Ultimately I feel that the DCEU has been unfairly judged against the Marvel cinematic universe who already released ten films prior to the release of Man of Steel. These unrealistic comparisons have a negative impact on the franchise because it is not given the benefit of the doubt & room to grow unlike with the MCU which had ample time to find its feet without incessant pressure from the public. This pressure has resulted in some films being altered from their original vision by the studio (Suicide Squad & Justice League in this case) in order to pander to the audience which is in my opinion the ultimate cardinal sin of cinema. One should always create films that will not only diversify the kind on movies being made in any genre but should also challenge the audience by introducing them to new narratives, perspectives, & concepts. In order for the super hero genre to survive for the next decade & avoid the dreaded “superhero fatigue” we need to move away from the factory line approach to each movie being made and allow each comic book film to have its own identity & vision so we can expose audiences to something new. This is why I still believe in the DCEU despite the setbacks & truly hope that the next five films that we can expect from the franchise will not only be consistently good but will all be genre defying by following their own path , foregoing the “cookie cutter” method of making super hero films (Side eye Marvel). With all that being said I’m looking forward to Aquaman which will swim into cinemas later this year!!