Back in 2013, a little film was released into theaters that kickstarted years and years of debate, millions of video essays, and a cinematic universe. That film is Man of Steel and that universe is The DC Extended Universe, or whatever it’s called these days. After Man of Steel, the universe gave us Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and most recently, Shazam!.
As a DC comics fan, it pains me every time I think about this wasted opportunity of a universe. While the rival company thrives, pumping out critically acclaimed superhero adventures left and right, the DCEU couldn’t even get it right on the first outing before they leapt headfirst into a team up film just so they could catch up to Marvel. I want, so badly, to love this universe. It’s full of characters who I’ve grown up with all my life, yet I can’t say I feel that way about a single movie in this universe..not one, and I’m not alone.
While the DCEU has garnered itself a rabid fanbase, the general consensus is that most of these films are simply bad. While those fans will tell you critics just hate everything, that’s just a biased justification. First off, Wonder Woman and Shazam! both received critical acclaim, and Aquaman even received a fresh rating. Secondly, whether you love all the movies or not, there’s no denying the majority of criticisms that have been leveled at this universe.
One thing I do like about the DCEU, is that quality aside, every movie feels completely different from the others. That’s because one thing Warner Brothers has done right is allow the directors they hire to make a movie in their vision, for better or worse.
Then, after some backlash, they still let directors make something of their own, but they would then destroy it in the editing bay if need be. This mix of unique voices and studio interference makes it difficult to pinpoint the general problems of this universe, but there are a few noticeable constants!
The most important thing to get right with a superhero movie is the lead character. The reason the MCU is so successful is because they’ve crafted a legion of loveable heroes who we can identify with. That’s what keeps fans coming back and what keeps them invested. You can have terrible action scenes and some cringy dialouge, but as long as you get the hero right, those problems fade away.
The DCEU made the mistake of assuming everyone was already acquainted with these versions of the characters instead of building audience familiarity through solo films. I feel like I know nothing about this universe’s Superman and yet he’s already died once. Take the time to define these characters for a new generation, give us a reason to come back for THIS Batman and not just Batman in general, because no brand can go on like that.
The Third Act
Almost every modern superhero movie falls victim to this, but the entire DCEU is one of the worst offenders. No matter how good the first two acts are, these movies always devolve into an overlong CGI blur of punches and explosions. Just because 20 buildings are blown up doesn’t mean these fights have high stakes or possess any interesting qualities.
A way that DC can one up Marvel is improving the endings. The end of a movie is the most important part as it’s the freshest thing in a viewer’s mind when they leave the theater. If we consistently leave the theater with a muddy CGI induced headache, we’re not going to want to come back for more.
There’s nothing wrong with a final showdown, but there is something wrong when that’s the worst part of the movie. Make these fights rooted in character dynamics and emotional stakes, only then will we care about the outcome. Also, some unique choreography and settings wouldn’t hurt.
The World Building
The most obvious reason that every MCU movie makes a decent amount of money is because they’ve capitalized on the idea that every movie matters. They did such a nice job of planning how each film would feed into one another, making every movie feel like it’s part of one entity.
The DCEU movies are all over the place timeline wise, which makes it very confusing on the audience. Many heroes and villians have careers spanning years that we haven’t even seen half of. Making it so all the characters of the universe already have a history is uninviting. If you want fans to have a connection with this universe, you need to let them in at ground level.
Let this universe connect and weave around them instead of skipping that part and cutting to relationships we don’t understand and histories we’ve never learned. It’s like if Avengers: Endgame was Marvel’s third movie.
While the DCEU could attempt to just keep trying to succeed with this current universe, I think that’d be a mistake. They messed up the foundation of the universe and no matter what they achieve from this point on, it’ll never have the same connection or appeal the MCU has. The audience needs to grow and learn with these characters and be with them through their experiences, not just hear it all in expository dialouge.
Stop making spin-off movies that will just confuse people and stop pushing out random movies that have no connection to the overall universe. Reboot. Announce the end of the DCEU as we know it and start from scratch. Let everyone forget about the mistakes and the mess ups, destroy any trace of that old world and show the world a universe of DC movies that anyone can love.
What you’re probably thinking now is that I have no right to claim the DCEU is a mess and that they should just reboot. I couldn’t do it any better right? Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to make a cinematic universe, but I do have the ability to lay out my plans for an ideal phase one of a rebooted DC universe. This will be a universe that would actually have a chance at competing with the MCU.
If you still hate me after this, okay, but you can’t say I didn’t try.
Batman is unarguably one of the most popular characters in all of fiction and is the most successful DC character in cinema. It makes sense to start the universe at the literal ground level with the most popular character that the fans want to see. It guarantees a successful start to the universe.
This movie should be a detective mystery that examines the mental state of Batman and challenges him intellectually. A villian like The Riddler would fit nicely here. The darker tone that the DCEU has utilized actually fits Batman and thus would help set this apart from Marvel entries.
Attach someone like Lynne Ramsay to direct this and you’d start your universe with a female helmed picture. The only female filmaker who’s touched the MCU (so far) was a co-director on Captain Marvel.
Don’t try to set up any connections until maybe the end credit scene, if at all. Maybe Alfred reviewing footage of a blue and red blur saving people?
This is DC’s chance to redeem themselves for what they did with Superman’s character in Man of Steel and BVS. Superman is supposed to be the heart of this universe, the guy who just wants to make the world a better place. He’s like Captain America. He sees the best in people and although he’s an alien, he’ s the most human member of the Justice League.
He’s someone we all aspire to be and that’s what makes him interesting. This movie should show us Superman’s morals and how he affects the people around him. Have the villian be Lex Luthor, someone that believes Superman is what the Snyder films claimed he was. Lex is arguably one of the most iconic villains and fans would love to see DC correct the bizarre version of the character that we got in BVS.
Superman proving Luthor wrong would be a one two punch of erasing the DCEU and defeating his foe.
The end credits could be Lex Luthor attempting to summon an alien force that could defeat Superman.
I know what you’re thinking, “DCEU Wonder Woman is awesome!” While I can’t disagree with that, this is a complete reboot and the entire trinity should be set up before a Justice League film. Gal Gadot was the shining star of the DCEU, this will be the most crucial casting of all.
Replacing a beloved actress is a daunting task, especially with said actresses’ performances still fresh in audiences minds. I would suggest Elizabeth Debicki of Widows. She’s relatively unkown so her role in Wonder Woman could be a defining one and she has the acting chops and grace to pull it off.
Watching Diana face off against a female villian in the Cheetah would make this movie stand out from the previous incarnation.
The end credits could be Diana getting a message from the Gods telling her that something terrible is coming to Earth.
Before we go crazy and epic, things should check back in with where they started. This movie could be more connected with the universe, as Batman is grappling with the fact he lives in a world of super powered beings. How can he, a man, realistically compare to goddesses and aliens? This struggle is what makes Batman inspiring as he isn’t afraid to stand up to unfathomable odds.
A villian like Bane would fit here, someone that tests Batman’s strength while not being a mindless buffoon. This unfair matchup would also help Batman realize he can’t do things alone.
With Bane being a member of the League of Assassins, he would have an army at his disposal. These stakes would force Batman to call in a certain Kryptonian in the third act. Talk about an ending that will stick with you and one that also confirms that it’s all connected.
The end credits could be Batman and Superman agreeing to heal each other in times of peril.
Green Lantern Corps-
The MCU didn’t expand its world to the reaches of space until its’ second phase. This DCU could do it in its first phase. Establishing the fact that there’s an entire universe out there would expand storytelling oppurtunities ten fold.
We already got Hal Jordan as Green Lantern in a movie most don’t want to remember and while we don’t need to be rid of him completely, Jon Stewart should be the main character here. He’ll have to learn to think outside of the box to save the world from intergalactic threats while also figuring out how to be a lantern.
A young star like John Boyega off the Star Wars movies could draw in a crowd. The cast could be made up of so many diverse names all being united under one common goal, to protect the universe.
The end credits would be John Stewart heading to Earth to protect it from an incoming alien threat.
The threat that is coming to Earth, after being summoned by Luthor, is Braniac. His deal is that he shrinks planets. To make him more than just a one dimensional villian, he will be shrinking planets because he wants to examine them and see what makes them work. He’s doing this because his planet was torn apart when he was a child. He wants to make the perfect planet where everyone lives in peace.
He sends his robot legion to the planet to prepare it for shrinking. An attack of this scale causes Batman and Superman to contact one another. Wonder Woman joins in because she was preparing for this threat after the message. John Stewart then arrives as he has been following Braniac.
To make this team feel more whole, there’s some characters that could be introduced easily within the confines of one movie. Martian Manhunter can come for revenge as the soul survivor of Braniac’s previous shrinking. Hawkgirl could even be introduced as another survivor of a shrinking.
There you have it, a Justice League movie that feels earned and rewards the viewers for sticking around this long. This would be the end of phase one, the possibilities are endless from here on out.
I love DC comics and I want them to succeed, but I want, and so should all of you, for them to do it right. Agree or disagree, this is how I think the DCEU could thrive. This is how I believe it could become just as big as any other franchise out there.