Since Man of Steel was released in 2013 DC has attempted to follow Marvel’s lead and build their own cinematic universe using their own massive cache of iconic characters. Following up The Avengers is no small feat, especially considering that The Avengers is the highest grossing superhero film and that it had 4 film’s leading up to it, (not counting the Incredible Hulk since Universal produced it rather than Marvel but that’s a whole other story.)
Man of Steel was met with mixed reception, most of it negative. Critics were harsh on the film, generally commenting on it’s overly dark tone and robotic characters. Audiences didn’t have the opposite reaction but the general consensus was that it was far from being able to stand up to the Avengers. This reflects it’s current user ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes where it sits at a 7.1 and a 75% respectfully. Director, Zach Synder’s cinematic world got off to a rough start but DC powered through the negativity and seemingly promised that all the problems would be solved with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Long story short they weren’t.
As everyone who watched Batman v Superman can agree, it solved all of nothing, sitting at a 6.8 on IMDB and a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes’ user ratings. It arguably dug the franchise deeper by way of a convoluted storyline full of characters with no heart. DC reacted to the negative review of Man of Steel by trying to insert humour into Batman v Superman.
They didn’t fail on all accounts but it felt like it was trying to compensate without really getting to the core of the problem. The real problem of Batman v Superman is complicated and deeper than it has any right to be. It seems to be a blend of studio intervention, Synder’s lack of understanding of what makes a superhero world fun and interesting, and lastly poor filmmaking. The final product of Batman v Superman ended up being a film that couldn’t stand on it’s own without a lot more added footage.
After two poorly reviewed films in a row, surely DC has a good idea of where they went wrong and their next film should be able to hold it’s own against the Avengers, right?
So very wrong.
Entering the ring, Suicide Squad, the most highly anticipated DC film, with the lowest user reviews out of the three. Sitting at a hefty 6.6 on IMDB and a 66% on Rotten tomatoes it is on par with Batman v Superman if not lower. Suicide Squad seemed to have everything going for it, a solid cast, a respected director, and a whole lot of positive buzz. It even went so far as to mirror part of what made Guardians of the Galaxy successful, playing with a nostalgic soundtrack and a unique colouring palette.
How could it have gone so poorly?
DC tried to build Suicide Squad into the same universe as the past two films, relying on the style of filming and the same way of telling a story. Despite the fact that the crew was completely different from Batman v Superman, it still had a studio which monitored every step of the process. The studio tried to force Suicide Squad to resemble the past two films, which as you can recall, were far from perfect. DC has trapped themselves in a corner by placing Man of Steel as the foundation. They seem to be following the same structure in their films which is, an overcrowd story with several storylines that could be picked up in the future, weak writing, and a desire to take itself seriously.All this being said, there is plenty that DC is doing right, their biggest problem is that they are trying to rush to the point where Marvel is at.
A reboot of the universe would be difficult to sell but could be done off the back of the now pre-production solo Batman film. A reboot would allow DC to reinvent how their characters are represented on screen and tell more unique stories that don’t all seem to have the same structure. They don’t necessarily have to do a full reboot either, they could look at the new Justice League film and create a new style, much like Marvel did with Avengers to Guardians of the Galaxy. With the new Justice League film a year away, it is too late to do any large changes to it, but DC really should be looking at other options rather than just powering forward with their outdated original plan.
Maybe fully scraping the universe that they’ve built over the past three years is too expensive or doesn’t make sense to the heads at DC but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that we deserve better.
I, like many other will go see whatever film DC put’s out next because the characters are too interesting for me to ignore but if DC doesn’t fix the core problems of their universe, the only tickets they are going to sell is to diehard comic book fans.
If the trend we’ve seen so far is any indication though, Justice League will be a tough sell to an already skeptical audience.