A Shaky Foundation
Many speculate that Justice League will cause some heads to roll over at Warner Bros. There have yet to be any victims of the film’s lack of success. If anything, DC Films knew this was going to happen. But how can that be? Well, it’s simply this: they saw Justice League long before fans did. Recent rumors indicate that Zack Snyder was not in WB’s good graces after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But that film arrived only a year and a half before Justice League. So what were they to do?
Well, what they ended up doing was releasing a film that may cost the studio $50-100 million dollars in revenue. But more than that it’s costing them fans. But the one thing that no one can argue is that every DC superhero looks the part. Starting with Henry Cavill, every character reveal has been objectively awesome. Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman drew tons of outrage, but that all changed when they released the first photo of him in character. After the first trailer, people were already lauding him as the best live-action Batman of all time. But it all went downhill from there.
So, just what can DC Films and Warner Bros. do to get this Universe back on track?
The first and easiest answer is simply to get back to basics.
The Superheroes Fans Want
The only saving grace for the DCEU, other than Wonder Woman and parts of Man of Steel, has been the superheroes. Fans have loved almost everyone one of these devoted actor’s portrayal of their favorite cape. Everyone knows that the event film that brought the team together was a bad idea. Now, go back to individual characters and their franchises. Give Ezra Miller The Flash film he deserves. More than anything, give Henry Cavill the founding superhero of this Universe the Superman film he deserves. His brief presence in Justice League was the best part of the film. It’s time he stars in the hopeful and truthful sequel the fans want to see him in.
The Characters Fans Don’t Want
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was more than problematic for the studio, but the heroes’ performances were always praised. In fact, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman didn’t get much screen-time but she was widely considered the highlight of the film. Then, the following release was…Suicide Squad. The third film in the DCEU wasn’t a sequel to its first, or the introduction of another one of their classic heroes. It was the introduction of their anti-heroes.Were fans clamoring for villainous protagonists? Kinda. The movie was a decent hit commercially, but failed with fans and audiences. But DC was desperately looking for something to distance themselves from Marvel. They knew that the MCU was weak in the villains department, so they would double down on their own.
One of everyone’s problems with Justice League is that the film was rushed too, because DC Films obviously wanted their Avengers in theaters as quickly as possible. With recent rumors leading many to believe it was done for the sake of executive bonuses. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t matter; whether or not Suicide Squad was good ultimately didn’t matter. What matters is that DC wasted an entire film that didn’t build to Justice League albeit it had the small clip with Batman and Amanda Waller. And thankfully, Wonder Woman didn’t build to Justice League either. None of those films introduced characters that would be important in Justice League.
The Stories Fans Want
Wonder Woman was a step in the right direction. At the time that most studios and creatives thought audiences were fed up with origin stories, DC went and gave us the most successful one of all time. It was also a wonderful film. But it’s because it took the character seriously, and pitting her morals against her true enemies. This wasn’t a juxtaposition of a superhero’s importance to the world around him. This wasn’t about how many people would hate someone just trying to do some good. Wonder Woman was about a superheroine discovering herself in a dark and terrible world. Diana was a beacon of light in a world obsessed with war. Superman should be the same.
The Stories Fans Don’t Want
The second film in the DCEU pitted its two greatest characters against each other. At first, it seemed like an interesting idea. Kevin Feige has even admitted that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the reason for Captain America: Civil War. Well, people still have arguments as to which hero was right in the latter film. People still complain about how miserable both of their favorite heroes were in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Also, unlike Civil War neither of the DC heroes had a sympathetic side. Instead of arguing about which hero was right most people spent time arguing over which hero was more stupid.
DC has most of the greatest stories in comic book history on their shelves. Most people argue that it’s Marvel that lacks significant graphic novels from which to draw storylines. That’s true, but look what they did with Age of Ultron, Winter Soldier, and Civil War. All stories adapted directly from the comics. If DC spent more time giving talented filmmakers a chance to interpret their greatest stories they would sore to new heights. Instead, they focused on delivering the greatest team in comics before anyone ever wanted to see them.
The Films Fans Want
It’s not that no one wanted to see Justice League, it’s that not enough people wanted to see it. Because it was, arguably, one of the most rushed blockbusters in modern history. What should have been the biggest comic book film in DC history came out only a year and a half after the same creative team released their predecessor. Not only that, but the studio was busy releasing two other blockbusters in that time with Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. This wasn’t the well-oiled machine that Marvel Studios had created. Every film was independent of one another. Neither David Ayer nor Patty Jenkins’ films did anything to set up Justice League. Audiences noticed.
The Film Fans Didn’t Want
Justice League opened to less than any other DCEU film before it. Chances are it could become it’s lowest-grossing film as well, unless it manages to cross Man of Steel. Let’s hope this is a lesson learned. But, let’s not forget that this was also the best year for the DCEU. Wonder Woman was one of the most successful superhero films of all time. It was a critical darling, and may even be up for Oscar contention for its incredible director, Patty Jenkins. Fans wanted to see that character so they showed up. Chances are they’ll show up in droves for the sequel.
Every bit of news regarding Matt Reeves’ The Batman is dissected and analyzed. Fans are dying to see what the maestro behind Let Me In, Cloverfield and Dawn/War of the Planet of the Apes has planned for the character. Fans want to hear about progress on a Superman sequel; they want to hear when Ezra Miller is going to speed his way into theaters. One day audiences will want to see these heroes bound together against a worldwide threat. But first, they simply want to see the heroes be themselves.
Geoff Johns has had quite a few promotions in the last couple years. Many believe that he had a large part to play in the success of Wonder Woman, but then don’t attribute any of Justice League’s failure to him. What many fans hope is that Johns will become the equivalent of Kevin Feige. Feige is a deeply invested creative with an exciting vision and enough power to make that happen. Johns has the ability to be that creative. Actually, he’s one of the greatest comic book writers out there. If given the chance Johns will give fans the perfect version of their favorite heroes.
But what is clear is that DC Films has had no clear vision. They invested heavily in Zack Snyder due to his approval by Christopher Nolan. Most fans would agree that wasn’t the best decision, considering The Batman’s Matt Reeves was among the final contenders. Snyder has always been uniquely gifted with visuals but he isn’t the best screenwriter.
Since DC announced Aquaman would be the only film released in 2018 fans wondered what that could mean. It was nice to hear they were focusing on delivering quality entertainment instead of rushing their way into success. But now the passing of time has revealed they most likely knew what Justice League was going to cost them. It will now be a year before we see Aquaman in theaters. Three Marvel Cinematic Universe films will release in that time.
However, Warner Bros. and DC Films are using the time to ensure the best stories are told by the best people for the job. Because fans eagerly await the next DC release so long as DC stops worrying about release dates.