The DC Extended Universe Movies Have Been (Mostly) Fine
The future will be telling.
With the recent release of Wonder Woman, it appears as if the public as a whole is warming up to the DC Extended Universe. Here we have a film that has not only embraced and beautifully demonstrated an empowering female character, but it has also seemingly started a restoration; it is the first movie so far in the DCEU that is critically acclaimed while also creating a sense of awe, and more importantly intrigue, in the minds of the consumers. The financial success has always been there for them, but that's always been despite the reviews, not because of them. The creative individuals behind Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have just not been able to get the momentum going.
It's true that movie-goers have become accustomed to the quality of Marvel movies. There have been a few underwhelming ones since the original Iron Man came out (and many before), but you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who wouldn't give credit to how Kevin Feige as steered the ship since 2008. We have possibly the most consistently good universe unfolding right before our eyes, and no amount of superhero fatigue can erase that. This doesn't apply to me because I welcome all the popular and deep cut heroes into my cinematic experience, but I can understand why others may feel like they're drowning.
Let's subtract the business aspect from this equation and focus on what should matter to people without any horse in the race: why is it that Marvel can constantly produce high quality entertainment multiple times a year while DC struggles? This statement is obviously subjective, just like most of this article, but DC doesn't have an issue. With the exception of Suicide Squad, which deserves the vitriol that is spewed at it, the rest of the films have been great and unique when placed among the uniformity of the MCU. That is not a slight at Marvel because they have been described as a factory that churns out fantastic blockbusters... a declaration that I wholeheartedly agree with.
What I like most about what the Snyderverse accomplished with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman is that they were incredibly dark, with the latter being oppressively so. It feels as if there is something at stake, which the MCU movies have a hard time accomplishing. For as competently crafted as they are, it never feels as if the heroes of a Marvel movie are in any kind of believable danger. Things explode, people get hurt, the Hulk smashes, but where is the sense of fear like perhaps they won't swoop in and save the day? Where are the compelling villains? It's hard to deny that they're thrilling, but the variety of what DC has done so far is a nice change of pace. If every film followed the Synderverse formula there would be an obvious disconnect, even for me, but the existence of Marvel and what they're doing only aids my positive opinion on what DC is doing... and vice versa.
That's not to say that they are flawless because that would be a lie. There is certainly validity to some of the criticism that people have, but there is also some substance to what the defense says as well. For the sake of the length of this article, I won't mention every point, but I will use a few examples to make my case.
Batman and Superman bonding because their mothers have the same name is inherently silly, but it's a tiny bit in a large movie; it was a breakdown in writing, showcasing a laziness that shouldn't be forgiven, but it lasts such a brief amount of time that it's forgettable.
Another fault that people find concerning these two is that Batman indiscriminately kills and Superman breaks Zods' neck. Fair point, but what I deduced from the age of Batman is that he's older and more cynical, which makes him more accepting of the idea that he may need to murder some people to stop crime. A common dilemma he faces in comics is that his one rule actually makes him an accomplice rather than a protector. In the case of Superman, he was coming into his own and clearly tried to avoid what he ended up doing. A reoccurring complaint is that both of these go against the core of their character, but is it so difficult to imagine that a) it's just a different take and b) they will get to what is generally expected of them eventually? Remember, while Superman may not be the beacon of hope that he's described as yet, he flirts with the idea. What makes it interesting is that he's legitimately dealing with humans and their own prejudices; what would happen if a God appeared in our world? Exactly what is happening in these movies so far. In terms of Batman, this is possibly the best Dark Knight we've seen because while I adore Nolan's trilogy, this is the first time that Batman is legitimately terrifying. For so long he has been painted as a scary figure, and a lot of the media about him reflects that to some degree, but the violence that Batfleck inflicts was actually a little uncomfortable in the best way possible.
Which brings me to the next point: they are cramming too much in, trying to play catch-up. I acknowledge that, especially in regards to Dawn of Justice because there was a lot going on. There are definitely parts that could have been cut out, such as the death of Superman. Or, if you were going to bring that iconic moment to the big screen, you could have not teased that he was coming back. With that said, people are quick to chastise the DCEU for packing in everything, but refuse to tolerate the logic that maybe there is character growth going on during these movies. There are teases for the sequels and things that don't make sense now, and admittedly there is some fan service going on. With respect to the former, let them tell their stories because they are still cohesive standalones, and in regards to the latter, who is it hurting? It's just a little fun on the side, something to tingle comic book fans.
I have a hard time fathoming that these are jumbled up messes because everything made sense to me. The dents that I see in the writing are generally inoffensive, but the part that gets to me is that if you stop applying your own biases towards it and try to understand the internal logic, a lot of the obstacles are figments of imagination and expectations. We are so stubborn and unwilling to receive different viewpoints in our everyday life that we apply those same customs to art.
However, I'll extend an olive branch because I know I'm generalizing. It's perfectly fine to want a certain thing and be disappointed when you don't get it; that is your right as a customer and a human being. If the seriousness and lack of jokes irks you that is fine, what doesn't work for you doesn't work for you. After all, this is merely a defense piece, an alternate angle to chew on.
I'm incredibly pleased that Wonder Woman is so beloved, for many reasons but partially because I have a strong affection for the direction the DCEU was going in. I don't want Marvel clones, I want DC to have their own identity. Since this is not a Wonder Woman review I'll omit details about why it's so good, but it is curious how the most Marvel movie of the bunch is also the most alluring to so many people. It's a nice balance between what we have grown accustomed to with Marvel and what DC is bringing to the table.
I've spent a lot of time contemplating the reasons why the characters act the way they do since it's so controversial. There's a very real possibility that my defense becomes undone once Justice League hits and it becomes clear that I've given the writers too much freedom. Maybe the characters don't expand in the ways I've predicted, but that's the joy in these kinds of articles, so I look forward to what comes next.