The DC Universe Finally Has Its Footing Again
2020 is without a doubt a rough year for many people, but not for DC fans. Last weekend, Warner Bros. Entertainment and DC Comics held an online convention called DC FanDome, an event that was meant to take the place of DC’s appearance at San Diego Comic Con this summer but unfortunately was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This turn of events wasn’t going to stop WarnerMedia, DC’s parent company, from revealing its exciting lineup of upcoming DC projects. Based on everything that was either shown fully or announced for the first time, it seems that DC has finally found its footing again. However, it wasn’t always like this.
DC’s first major success came with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, a grandiose yet grounded set of films focusing on Batman. While it was critically acclaimed, it didn’t last for long as the final movie in this trilogy came out the same year that Marvel Studios released The Avengers, in 2012. At this point in time, Marvel was fully acquired by Disney and had officially laid the groundwork for a massive cinematic universe consisting of many interweaving stories and characters. Grossing over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, The Avengers was a massive success, and this was only the beginning for Marvel’s domination at the movie theaters. Nearly every subsequent Marvel movie following The Avengers had racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, and it staked its claim as being the superior comic-based film company.
DC had felt intimidated by Marvel’s success. They were going to have to come up with something just as big in scale to at least meet the expectations set up by Marvel. The biggest difference between the two was preparation. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, Marvel knew it was going to need an unprecedented amount of funding in order to launch its cinematic universe, the kind that only a company as big as Disney was going to be able to provide. Once Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, they finally had the properly-sized budget they were looking for in order to successfully pull off its grand project. Not only did DC not have the appropriate funding needed, but they lacked the organization and precision in carefully assembling a shared universe.
This lack of preparation shows in the beginning of the DC Extended Universe, their own set of overlapping films. 2013’s Man of Steel is nothing to write home about; while the visuals and score were tremendous, the lack of character development and awkward pacing makes this film underwhelming and even forgettable. That’s alright though, because Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is much worse. This is where DC reminded viewers that they were making a cinematic universe of their own, but upon seeing this movie, nobody hoped they would follow through on it. There are too many things to nitpick on, but the numerous plot holes and awful chemistry between Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck make this film unbearable to watch. And while Suicide Squad had a promising first impression with its reveal trailer, the final product was ultimately a presentation of style over substance despite having great performances from the cast.
Wonder Woman was when DC finally became consistent. Not only was it the first big superhero movie to have a woman as its lead star - something that Marvel had not yet accomplished - but the story was pretty decent, and both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine were very fun to watch. The action scenes were also the best in the DCEU by far; Wonder Woman’s shield slide is still jaw-dropping. This movie stood head and shoulders above its predecessors, and many fans hoped DC could keep up or even improve upon this momentum. However, both Justice League and Aquaman suffered similar problems in pacing and character development that were omnipresent in DC’s earlier movies, although their respective plots were still better.
Shazam! and Birds of Prey, DC’s most recent installments, are the best movies in the entire extended universe by far. Both of these films are wacky and humorous, but they don’t let those things get in the way of the overall story. They know when to be serious, and they don’t rush into adding anything new in order to keep a steady pace. Also, Zachary Levi and Margot Robbie absolutely nail their lead roles. These two movies brought the excitement that fans were hoping for back in 2017, and they were exactly what DC needed in order to gain momentum. And it was not going to stop there.
Last weekend’s DC FanDome showcased numerous DC-related projects, teasing fans of what to expect. For starters, the official main trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 was revealed. A sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, this movie sees the return of both Gal and Chris as well as newcomers Kristen Wiig, who plays the film’s main villain Cheetah. Pedro Pascal also makes his DC debut as Maxwell Lord, a mischievous businessman and entrepreneur who seems to be involved in creating propaganda. Given the positive reception by fans and critics of the previous film, it’s safe to say that expectations are just as high for this movie as they were for the first one. Wonder Woman 1984 is expected to hit theaters October 2.
Another big trailer shown was the controversial Zack Snyder cut for Justice League. This movie went through a tumultuous production phase; Snyder had to step away from the movie following the death of his daughter, but rather than wait for him to come back, DC and Warner Bros. hired Joss Whedon to finish production and editing. Many fans criticized Whedon’s direction in making the tone more comedic along with questionable plot directions, and they demanded that DC re-release the movie to see what it would have been like if Snyder was given complete unhinged control. With characters being shown from each hero’s respective film, it seems like the DCEU will finally have its superhero team movie that is as equally exciting and thrilling as Marvel’s Avengers movies. The Snyder cut is going to be released as four hour-long segments and will be coming exclusively to HBO Max in 2021.
There were also a few teasers for a few projects as well. Concept art was shown for a standalone Flash movie that will focus on the titular superhero travelling through time in order to change the DC Multiverse. Hey, considering their track record in the beginning, this could without a doubt be for the best. James Gunn also teased his Suicide Squad movie, announcing the return of Margot Robbie and Viola Davis as well as revealing newcomers Idris Elba, John Cena, and many more. Finally, it was revealed that Dwayne Johnson will be starring in Black Adam with the movie’s logo being debuted.
Perhaps the most talked-about reveal was the first teaser for Matt Reeves’ The Batman. The first major Batman film since The Dark Knight Rises, this movie garnered widespread attention when it was revealed that Robert Pattinson would star as Bruce Wayne. You can say what you want about him for his role in the notorious Twilight saga, but there is no denying that Pattinson has proven himself to be an outstanding actor based on his work in independent films. It will be interesting to see what he does to differentiate himself from previous versions of the famous superhero. The Batman seems like it’s going to be even darker and grittier than The Dark Knight trilogy, and considering that many other famous names like Zoë Kravitz and Colin Farrell are also starring in it, this movie left an extremely lofty first impression on fans. The movie currently has a scheduled release date of October 1, 2021.
It cannot be argued that this is the best the DC Universe has looked in well over a decade. For the first time since launching the DCEU, they are appearing to be the most consistent and exciting they’ve ever been. The big lesson to be learned here is that cinematic universes take patience and careful attention to detail in order to be successful, and fumbling around as a reaction to another studio’s success isn’t going to garner the same amount of praise. It seems now DC understands what it is they want to achieve with their own extended universe, and they will hopefully make sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes they made in the beginning. They are nothing like how they used to look back in 2013, and if they haven’t done so already, they might be able to finally prove themselves as a worthy contender to Marvel.
DC will be hosting another online event called “DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse”, scheduled for September 12.
(Cover Photo: Deadline)