Can The DC Cinematic Universe Reverse Its trend With Wonder Woman Or Will It Continue To Be Divisive Among Fans?

Mike Noyes – I’ve been pondering this for a while now. The DCCU got off to a rocky start for sure, and I think the biggest problem is that they’ve been playing catch up with the MCU. They are trying to do in a couple years what Marvel spent several building. And that is very obvious when you watch the films, especially Batman v Superman, which they crammed way too much stuff into. If they wanted to do a proper build up to a Justice League film, then they should have given us a Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg movie first. Not that a Cyborg movie sounds all that exciting.

That said early word on the Wonder Woman film has been strong which makes me very hopeful. Up until a few days ago my only hope was that it didn’t suck. Beyond salvaging the DCCU, I think its important for Wonder Woman to not only succeed financially, but to be a genuinely good film, because Hollywood execs need to see that a female led action superhero movie can be box office gold. That said, even if the WW film is great, that by no means ensures that Justice League will be a good movie. This is the first film in the DCCU not to be directed by Zack Snyder (Second, sorry, if forgot about Suicide Squad for a minute. Now I’ll got back to forgetting about it). So if it succeeds maybe Warner Bros. needs to take a look at that. I feel real bad for what him and his family are going through right now, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the DCCU will be better off without him. The DCCU still has a long way to go to prove it holds a torch to the MCU.

Mike Noyes – It’s also worth adding that if WW is as great as everyone says it is, then that sets a very high bar for Snyder’s Justice League, which I doubt will be able to reach as high. I think it’s even fair to say that once fans get a taste of a good DCCU film, they won’t stand for mediocre work anymore.

Brendan Campbell – The main issue the DCU has is that instead of doing a slow build of characters through individual movies, they jumped right into the deep end after Man of Steel, and introduced Batman, Wonder Woman, and cameos of The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.

I understand the desire to catch up with Marvel on some level, and catch the comic movie wave while it’s still going strong, but this is a wave that’s been around for a couple of decades now and it’s only been getting stronger, so there’s no reason to have rushed it.

Right off I’ll say that I really enjoyed Man of Steel. Now, I’m more of a Marvel comic book fan outside of Batman, so I’m not a die hard Superman guy and I don’t know how true to the character the film was, but I thought it was great and grounded a character who lacks appeal to me because he’s so…indestructible.

Batman Vs. Superman had flaws, but I still enjoyed it greatly, and the extended cut fixed up quite a bit. It still had some issues that hurt it overall, but I loved how they decided to make Batman a seasoned veteran in the Superhero game, instead of choosing to start close to the beginning like every other film version of the character has been.

Suicide Squad was a fun movie with spot on casting. The villain was cool, but the motives were weak and generic, as was a lot of the plot. It was the actors involved that make it so entertaining, and if its reworked properly, a sequel could be great…especially if they don’t panic and try to appeal to Guardians of the Galaxy fans by lightening the mood.

All of that said, I don’t think it would’ve hurt to have had a Flash solo movie, or an Aquaman solo movie to follow these up before we enter the Justice League. What works so well with Marvel storytelling is how seamless their cinematic universe is, with one character fitting right into another characters movie with ease because we know who these characters are, their beliefs, motives and backstories thanks to their full-length solo films, and not just a quick introduction in a team based blockbuster film. Having The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman revealed awkwardly through a zip drove with .mov files was just bizarre and was one of the major oddities in BvS that just didn’t fit.

So now we go back in time to a Wonder Woman origin of sorts. I don’t watch trailers, so I don’t know what’s happening in the movie, but I do know that it’s back during the war where Bruce Wayne found her picture taken in BvS.

Will this be the one DC movie that sees audiences all agree that it’s awesome? Well, there will always be haters, but as a whole, I think Wonder Woman is the one movie that was far enough away from the “Let’s get these movies out there and catch up!” style that the DCU started out with, and is likely the first movie that actually got the most out of the rejigging of those running the DCU behind the scenes, so I definitely think that those aspects will definitely help Wonder Woman as a movie overall.

What’ll also help it is the fact that Gal Gadot is a badass. Just like Affleck as Batman, many hated the thought of Gadot as Wonder Woman when it was announced. And as expected, once BvS was over, the best parts of it as seen by most were Affleck as Batman and Gadot as Wonder Woman…the internet just likes to complain, really.

Another thing Wonder Woman has going for it is that it’s the first comic book movie to focus on a female superhero as the star, which is great. I love strong female characters, and they don’t get much stronger than Wonder Woman!

What’s funny is that for all the hate that the DCU gets, the movies have all been hugely successful at the box-office, with many beating most Marvel films domestically. That said, it’s the overall appeal that the DCU will be looking to change, and I think Wonder Woman will definitely be the first from the studio to change the overall opinion when it comes to DCU movies coming out.

Syder will have to follow it up with Justice League in November, but again, with the negatives of the last few films being heard by the higher ups, and major DC players working closely with the DCU lately, I believe that starting with Wonder Woman, the tides have turned for the DCU moving forward, and that’s wonderful news for comic book and movie fans across the board.

Travis Leamons – It all goes back to 2008.

That was the year where Marvel launched Iron Man while Christopher Nolan unleashed The Dark Knight into cinemas, the second of his Batman trilogy that also consists of Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

Conceivably, the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) could have began in 2011 with the release of Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Its failure is why we were able to have Reynolds in a solo Deadpool movie (thank god) and Lively in a bikini for 90 minutes (The Shallows), also not a bad thing.

By the release of Zack Synder’s Man of Steel in 2013, Marvel Comics in collaboration with Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, before becoming an asset of Walt Disney, had already completed “Phase One: Avengers Assembled”, which consisted of six films. Five individual adventures (one of them a sequel) and a team movie.

      Iron Man
      The Incredible Hulk (starring Edward Norton, who was later replaced by Mark Ruffalo)
      Iron Man 2
      Thor
      Captain America: The First Avenger
      Marvel’s The Avengers

That right there tells you all you need to know.

Warner Bros. and DC Comics have been playing catch up ever sense. But instead of taking a page from Marvel’s playbook they are doing it “My Way” (more Limp Bizkit than Frank Sinatra, unfortunately) and the films have suffered overall.

I will defend Man of Steel because Snyder approaches the Superman character as someone of two worlds just trying to find his place. While the result may not be “your mom and dad’s Superman” (with property damage well into the hundreds of millions), this Superman means well, even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand him and are reluctant to call him a hero at face value.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice once again gives us Batman’s backstory in quick fashion (I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace break during a robbery that saw Bruce’s parents murdered right in front of him), adds Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and we get to see the corpse of Michael Shannon’s General Zod become Doomsday. Oh, and we are introduced to Wonder Woman and get a glimpse of the characters that would comprise the rest of the Justice League.

Whew. That’s a lot to cram into one picture. Fanboys may want to blame critics and Rotten Tomatoes for savagely panning the movie, but let’s be honest. It was ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag. Overflowing and oozing out, it was a cinematic mess. Not even Ben Affleck as Batman (easily the best big-screen version of both Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader) and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (kicking ass with a badass theme to back her up) could make it a success.

I loosely define success as it was a box-office hit. But when you have two of the most recognizable comic heroes in history (not just pop culture but in actual history) and not clear above one billion worldwide you have done something wrong.

From there we move to Suicide Squad, which was basically The Expendables but with some of DC’s rogue gallery. I respect David Ayer’s ability as a director with films like End of Watch and Fury, but the filmmaker seemed out of his element. Will Smith was charismatic as one could expect from an expert assassin named Deadshot but he was upstaged by Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Jared Leto as a poor man’s James Cagney doing The Joker didn’t jibe and Jai Courtney (aka Poor Man’s Tom Hardy) was more Captain Frisbee than Captain Boomerang.

Regardless of how critics felt, the movie was still a success in the earnings department.

Now we arrive at Wonder Woman.

This is the hero we need now more than ever. With Gal Gadot as the Amazonian warrior we are reminded why we fell in love with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal as Superman in 1978. The Vietnam War was over and we were in a state of disillusionment. In current times, the world is more volatile. People can be cruel. Heroism has its limitations.

What Wonder Woman aims to achieve is to shift the brooding and monochromatic color palate that defined Dawn of Justice and be colorful and instill hope. The change is coming that that change is in the form of a hero that brandishes a sword, a golden lasso, and is purposeful albeit reckless at times. It just so happens that the hero happens to be a woman.

Considering that the last solo comic book movie with a heroine was 2005’s Elektra starring Jennifer Garner, I think audiences are due for a reprisal. Patty Jenkins, whose only feature credit is 2003’s Monster (starring Oscar winner Charlize Theron), gives a story that is progressive and should inspire little girls to be wonder women in training, hopefully under the guidance of their mothers. Gal Gadot brings a commanding spirit of girl power to her role as Diana/Wonder Woman and the result is a movie experience that is appealing to both sexes in equal measure.

Jake Ziegler – Hopefully Wonder Woman can buck the trend of absolute garbage movies that the DCEU has been on. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive, so they’ve at least made some progress there. It will be interesting to see the box office take here. I’ve read that the DCEU team realizes that there are problems in the franchise, and have taken steps to improve the entire operation. Having Joss Whedon aboard can’t be seen as anything but positive (and he was there before Zack Snyder’s recent tragedy, which I’m certainly not making light of in any fashion). Fingers crossed, but hopefully Wonder Woman really mark the film the DCEU turned the corner with.

Travis Leamons – What I find fascinating is that with the DCEU we’ve had Zack Snyder, David Ayer, and now Patty Jenkins.

Of those three, Zack Synder has the most experience commanding comic-based properties based on the success of 300, the thought to be unfilmable Watchmen, Man of Steel, and BvS.

David Ayer has had an interesting track record, going from scribe (Training Day) to writer-director with such films as End of Watch and Fury. I thought Ayer would be a nice asset to helm Suicide Squad but the end product was a mess.

Patty Jenkins has the least amount of feature experience (her only other film is 2003’s Monster). But she has navigated the TV realm with episodes for Entourage, The Killing and Arrested Development.

Now we have James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring, Furious 7) doing Aquaman, and I believe the director of Lights Out is doing Shazam starring Dwayne Johnson.

Now look at Marvel.

Jon Favreau went from Made to Elf to Zathura to Iron Man. So you see progression as his abilities as a filmmaker.

Louis Letterier did two Transporter films and Unleashed before The Incredible Hulk.

When Kenneth Branagh got the Thor gig I bet there were a number of huh? reactions. Yet, the director’s Shakespearean background worked well considering the sibling rivalry between Thor and Loki.

I think that was the start of Marvel Studios looking at filmmakers who pitched them on what they could offer a comic-book property or seek out directors that you wouldn’t normally suspect. Then again, this also means less auteurs at the helm or a clash of egos, which is what ultimately killed Avengers: Age of Ultron. By having a workmanlike collaboration among the different projects and directors allows for shared thoughts and ideas and talent, almost like the old studio system.

Seriously, if you were to tell me that the guys who made the unfunny comedy You Me and Dupree would make two Captain America movies and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War I’d say you were joking. But that’s what is happening.

While Marvel Studios may be reigning in some filmmakers as far as narrative scope, at least they are giving guys like James Gunn, Scott Derrickson, Taika Watiti, Jon Watts, and the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck their shot at the big time.

John Cavanagh – While the studio recently announced a larger role for Geoff Johns, a writer and creator who’s work I genuinely admired and is responsible for getting me back into DC’s modern era, he’s not a studio guy. Kevin Feige is the powerhouse producer we all know today because he was forced to watch all of the bad decisions on pre-2007 Marvel projects and have next to no say on how the matters should be handled. When Marvel had their round of funding for Marvel Studios and he could actually do something where he was the man in charge, that’s the reason why the MCU works.

Back when Marvel was bankrupt and optioning off characters and properties left and right to the film studios, they lost a lot of control. Feige was there to witness the ups and downs of those choices. Look at his Wikipedia page and let the list of all the projects he got to learn right and wrong from between 2000 and 2007 settle in. It’s the type of education in the industry system that can almost make you look at what Marvel is doing now with a “well yeah, no duh” mentality regarding their success.

I don’t see that story anywhere in the narrative on the formation of a DCEU. It’s a boardroom that realized how much money they’ve been leaving on the table and started rushing out product once they had lost Nolan’s interest in the Batman property.

DC could have had this years ago if they had faith in Brandon Routh as their Superman and maybe at the risk of losing Nolan and The Dark knight, they could have been assembling an entire cinematic universe that more closely resembles the actual decades long history of these characters. I love some many corners of the DCU, but what has been put up on the screen over the past few years feels like an elseworlds story I’m forced to keep reading because there’s nothing else available. It’s like living in the darkest timeline.

I love the big blue boy scout, the brooding detective, the Amazonian princess, and the test pilot who gets to protect his sector of the universe with a sling ring. Ask anyone who tunes into the CW every week and they can tell you just how cool The Flash, Green Arrow (depending on the season), and Supergirl are in their little TV corner. For the first time in my life it feels like I can say that I’m an Aquaman fan without dreading the obvious one liners that follow. I want their chances on the big screen to all be home runs.

Man of Steel was a 2/3 to 3/4 really interesting but flawed take on the character. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was an absolute mess regardless of which cut you watch. The one outlier is Suicide Squad which while I didn’t hate was at the end of the day a muddled mess lacking a lot of key elements that turn an okay movie into a really good one. It showed potential. It showed that DC was trying to figure out what they’re doing with all of these movies. Which sounds like the case also with Wonder Woman which is getting top notch reviews all around.

Will Justice League be good, that’s anyone’s guess. There are so many moving parts involved and so many introductions that will take place that I can’t see it not be a jarring experience. It’s been said a million times over by this point, but Avengers worked because a lot of the heavy lifting involving character introductions and world building took place over five feature length chapters of the larger story unfolding still to this day.

After Marvel’s success in 2012 with Avengers, every studio has been scratching their head trying to figure out the extended universe formula. Of all the competitors out there — a number ranging somewhere around 15 competing cinematic universe — DC is the one that should be making this look easy, but they’re the ones experiencing the most backlash.

Most of the domestic audience is seemingly tired of the Transformers franchise yet we have 14 of them in the pipeline. The same problem is looming at Warner as they now have fifteen movies announced, with only three of those having a release date, one in post production, one seeing release next week, and Aquaman has officially started filming. We have heard next to nothing about all of their other projects at this point, with most having no directors or writers attached. The Batman movie, which seemed like a slam dunk of happening is currently in some type of page one rewrite situation, The Flash has turned into a revolving door of directors. Justice League Dark has also lost a director just last week. The whole endeavor lacks a sense of cohesion.

The reason Marvel is succeeding right now beyond the obvious factors (like decades of these characters already interacting in other mediums like comics and animation), is that audiences liked the idea of going to see a fun new movie that was a part of a larger narrative two or three times a year. Having said that, even audiences are at the point where I feel a lot of them are fed up waiting for Thanos to do something cool or menacing seeing as how the infinity gems have derailed quite a few of their films at this point. Their decade of continuity is reaching a breaking point with an aging audience That is hungry for resolution.

Five years after the Avengers and I think audiences are starting to feel franchise fatigue in the way they were ten years ago with the flood of trilogies after Lord of the Rings success. Studios chasing Marvel is no different than the way so many others chased Warner’s runaway success with the Harry Potter franchise, with countless attempts to flood the market with new young adult novel adaptations.

DC is deciding to get into that same game now with what can only be described as reckless abandon. A lot of the growing cinematic universes are already going to be facing an uphill battle the next few years, where they are likely going to build on teasing their next entry while leaving moviegoers with still unfinished stories. The best thing Warner Bros. and the other studios can learn from Marvel’s continued dominance at the box office is to make good movies and tell fun stories. Which it sounds like Wonder Woman is attempting to do; a good sign and an even better way to win audiences back.

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