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FEATURE: Why the DC Films Were Destined to Fail

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece about the Future of the DC films. After seeing what a mess Justice League seems to be at the box office, and what happened before and after the film’s release, I think it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Why the DC Films were destined to fail. To get a complete understanding of what’s happening with The DC Extended Universe, we’re going to have to do some research.

We can trace things back all the way to 2011 with the release of Green Lantern: this was Warner Bros. first attempt at a Cinematic Universe. They tried their best to copy Marvel. The film is more light-hearted than the Batman films release at the time. It had a post-credit scene. Amanda Waller played a role and everything. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. After that, they tried again with Man of Steel in 2013. This time they went in the opposite direction. The movie was more in line with The Dark Knight trilogy, which wrapped up just a year prior. It was darker than the Marvel films. It asked the question: What if Superman did exist? The film was met with mixed reaction, but it did much better than Green Lantern, so they pressed on.

They were planning a sequel to Man of Steel, and it sounded awesome. It was going to feature more classic villains, and even have a Batman tease. Eventually, that lead to the creation of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. How they went from Batman making a cameo to him leading the film is beyond me. Still, Warner Bros. went all in on BvS. They also announced a vast schedule going up to 2020. Remember When The Batman (directed by Ben Affleck) was going to come out next year? How about Justice League Part II? Ring any bells? Warner Bros. jumped the gun. They screened Batman v. Superman for the people who worked on the film and gave it a standing ovation. First off, of course, they applauded, they made it! They thought it was going to make them a billion dollars. Secondly, I’m sure this rough cut was a version of the Ultimate Editon, not the one released in theaters. They let Snyder do what he wanted, but then cut it to shreds. So the backlash to BvS stunned the studio. Who would have thought that it wouldn’t be well received? It’s not like the film changed what people didn’t like about Man of Steel; or that you doubled down on a director that made you a movie that [once again] was mixed at best. This lead to a considerable shift in the WB handled the DC films.

After the disaster that was Batman v Superman, they went straight into production on Justice League. But before we get to that lets talk about Suicide Squad. We find out that they changed David Ayer’s cut of the film to match the trailers. The movie was apparently much darker than the trailers lead us to believe. Resulting in the Academy Award Winning mess. After 2016, things started to change. Suddenly, there was no Justice League Part II, and Ben Affleck steps down as director of The Batman. The Flash, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps were off the schedule. WB had to make a change, and that’s just what they did.

The main criticism of the DCEU is that it was joyless and hopeless. It’s not a fun place. WB had to work in a hurry to change their plans. They didn’t delay production on Justice League. Instead, they hijacked Snyder’s project. Geoff Johns and Jon Berg were suddenly in the driver’s seat. Trying to change an entire universe in less than a year. Ben Affleck once said that: Just by their nature, these films can’t be as funny or as quick and as glib as Marvel movies. Now they’re trying to make the movies just that. Johns has continually talked about how DC is about hope, humor, heart, and heroics. Berg even said that he and Johns pushed Snyder and writer Chris Terrio to get their faster saying: We accelerated the story to get to the hope and optimism a little faster. Now, I’m not blaming Johns and Berg here, but WB felt the need to change things. Instead of taking a break and evaluating the situation, they proceeded as planned. Leading to a Zack Snyder film that feels like a Joss Whedon film, and not even a good one.

That’s how we ended up where we are. Justice League isn’t a bad movie. I even gave it a positive review, but it could’ve, should’ve been so much more. The reason these films continue to have problems is that Warner Bros. keeps messing it up. They ruined Snyder’s cut of Batman v Superman, and they ruined Ayer’s cut of Suicide Squad, they took Justice League from Snyder and made Whedon try to fix a movie that was practically done. They changed Man of Steel 2 and decided to go the quickest way possible to Justice League. People keep saying the DC Films need their own Kevin Feige. They need someone to take control of these DC movies. Maybe those guys are Johns and Berg; I don’t know. One thing is for sure; these films won’t get any better until the studio stops meddling with what the directors [the people they hired] are doing.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Things seem to be going smoothly with Aquaman and Shazam. Wonder Woman was loved by millions. If they take it easy and not try to “copy” or be “different” from Marvel things will be fine. Fans just want good films. Light, dark, funny, serious, we don’t care. Whatever the outcome, just be DC.

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