DC Comics and Warner Bros. have had a strange year trying to get their DC Extended Universe established. Both of the studio's big tentpole films (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) were meant to serve as launchpads to full DCEU experience - and yet both landed awkwardly in some strange middle ground of debatable box office returns and intensely divisive reactions amongst critics and fans. Big questions like "Who is to blame for the DCEU's problems?" get tossed around the interwebs daily, but are they questions that need to be asked at all?
It's clear there are people who do not like the films already released in the DCEU saga (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad) or the direction the films are taking with the likes of Zack Snyder's Justice League, Wonder Woman or the solo character films that come after. But opinion is just opinion; and here are 5 Reasons Why the DCEU is Working, and could end up being dominant and cohesive shared universe movie saga.
It Makes Bigger Headlines
I can tell you from the ground floor as someone who has been reporting on both the Marvel and DC shared universe as they've developed: DC makes bigger headlines than Marvel. I was there when Chris Evans won the long casting search for Captain America, or Chris Hemsworth won the role of Thor; they were big deal headlines, yes, but they were nowhere near the scope of when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, or Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. The divide is even wider when it comes to villains: No villain Marvel has cast touches announcements like Jared Leto playing Joker or Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor. Trailer releases put things in solid numbers, with the last few years at San Diego Comic-Con proving in indisputable viewer stats that DC movie trailers get more exposure than Marvel's.
Granted, the big reactions to DCEU movie announcements, castings, or promotional materials like photos and trailers aren't all positive - not even close. But here's the thing: bad or good, the reactions cumulatively demonstrate one thing: how intensely interested and attached people (on a mainstream level) are to these DC Comics characters and their world. The fact that intrigue is still this high after three supposed "missteps" or "failures" suggests that the brand and its characters are nowhere near as damaged as some may suggest.prevnext
It's Established an Edgier Alternative
Marvel Studios established a clear brand strategy, making their films somewhat light-hearted action/adventure romps that are pleasing to both fans and critics. Nowadays, Marvel movies are released to slightly varying degrees of praise, make and expected level of money (half a billion at least) and pass through theatrical release with few waves. It's a reliable machine, but does threaten to get a little boring in the long run.
Thanks to Zack Snyder immediately going "full edgy" with his tinkering and re-imagining of DC's core heroes - and David Ayer following suit with the villains of Suicide Squad - the DCEU has established itself as a place where the rules get broken, and not everything is as "Disneyfied" as the squeaky-clean MCU.
That's why those internet flame wars will never die down, or the DCEU defender articles will never go away (see: this article). Long after people stopped caring about Iron Man 3's shenanigans, they're still arguing for and against Man of Steel; that says the DCEU is like punk rock: the financial returns may lower than a pop-culture formula, but the loyalty and love is exponentially more intense.prevnext
Cult-Status Double Dip
A lot of people see DC and Warner Bros.' internal conflict (between creative vision and studio mandates) as signs of a troubled (even doomed) shared universe franchise, but strangely enough, it's a chaos that has benefit. While the theatrical releases of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have all been plagued by harsh criticism, they've also achieved a sort of cult-status amongst the fans that embrace them, prompting strong home video and merchandising sales that show how far the DCEU brand reaches beyond the silver screen.
It's gotten even stronger as items like the R-rated Batman v Superman: The Ultimate Edition give DCEU die-hards even more of a cult-status edge to contrast Marvel's friendly demeanour. With BvS:UE still making strong sales (and headlines), DC/WB has pulled off another trick: getting people to double-dip for a movie initially deemed "a failure." If Suicide Squad puts out a special edition release with, say, all those Joker deleted scenes woven back in, then the DCEU will have made double-dip revisions an official part of their brand, with all the cult-status street cred that goes along with them.prevnext
Heroe$ & Villain$
As of writing this, Suicide Squad has just crossed the $500 million mark at the worldwide box office. At a nearly $200 million budget, it's not a slam-dunk win like, say, Captain America: Civil War, but at three weeks at the top of the domestic box office (and overwhelmingly positive viewer ratings), Suicide Squad is far from the prophesied disaster that would die quickly on bad word mouth.
With Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, the DCEU has now proven that it can make lucrative franchises out of its stable of heroes and villains. The automatically doubles the potential for spinoff franchises, crossover "event films," and branding success. Look around this Halloween; you'll see just as many Superman or Batman costumes as Iron Man or Captain America ones - but how many Suicide Squad costumes will you see in comparison to Thanos or Baron Zemo or Ronan the Accuser costumes? Yeah, not much of a comparison to speak of, there.
Until Spider-Man: Homecoming leads us back to a Sinister Six movie, or a Thunderbolts movie gets off the ground, the DCEU will have the early lead in developing all sides of its character catalog into successful film franchises.prevnext
Better Woven Saga
The truth of the matter is that cinematic shared universe world-building is always going to be somewhat clunky, given that a movie is supposed to be a standalone story while shared universes work in episodic chapters. But there has been a noted difference in how DC and Marvel have gone about it.0comments
The MCU phased 1 thread connects were superficial and arguably weak: post-credit "Avengers" name drops before anyone knew such scenes existed; characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow get half introduction while wedged in some one else's solo film, etc. The MCU has gotten a lot smarter about weaving its many many threads together (see: Captain America: Civil War), but it had a rough start.
The DCEU, on the other hand, took a standalone film (Man of Steel) and managed to drop enough Easter eggs seamlessly into the mix to create a universe where Batman and Lex Luthor not only already exist offscreen, but are directly impacted by Man of Steel's events. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad both grew organically out of both narrative developments in the preceding films, while not afraid to break the plane of fantasy to speak back to the issues in those films, as raised by viewers (like the destruction of Metropolis). That interactivity and forward-thinking right from the start will inevitably make the DCEU a long-term investment that could come back to pay off in a much more fulfilling way than the MCU.prev