The big story behind the alleged success of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (I’m still waiting to see if this film has legs after a couple of weeks) is the huge divide between critics and audiences — specifically those DC fans most invested in the DC Cinematic Universe.
Some claim that the bashing of Batman v Superman comes down to a vendetta that respected film critics have against director Zack Snyder or comic book movies. Some tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists even claim that the low Rotten Tomatoes rating is due to Marvel bribing the heck out of movie reviewers. Are people overthinking the quality of Batman v Superman? Are we foolish for expecting a comic book blockbuster to be well-edited, with both dazzling special effects and a story that makes sense?
Based on the rabid accusations of staunch DC fans desperate for a cinematic universe no matter what and the utter failure of certain petitions to remove Zack Snyder’s hand from around the throat of the DCCU, I can only draw one conclusion: DC movie fans have no interest in quality films. That, and their indifference to DC and Warner Bros.’s lazy, lackluster attempt to compete with Marvel will ultimately doom the entire franchise.
Batman v Superman Has Passed The $500 Million Mark Worldwide In Just 5 Days! pic.twitter.com/N75FMeAK3V— DC Extended Universe (@DC_Extended) March 31, 2016
To put things in perspective for the paranoid, let’s call Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a “DC Phase 1” movie, the first movie in the phase. No, I’m not going to count Man of Steel, as that was a standalone Superman movie reboot with no attempt to tie it to any upcoming movies. Don’t confuse Easter eggs with universe building.
Batman v Superman would then be to the DC Cinematic Universe what Iron Man is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in MCU Phase 1. Why Iron Man and not The Avengers? Well, because Marvel’s Phase 1 ended with their characters coming together; it didn’t start that way.
DC is working in reverse. Batman v Superman will be followed by Suicide Squad (the dark horse I expect to be the one to knock it out of the park), then Wonder Woman, and then Justice League Part 1.
Three of their upcoming movies are ensembles with one standalone film that won’t take place in the modern world. How is that not concerning?
The logical order for a DC universe would have been to begin with Man of Steel. The “Bruce Wayne running through Metropolis scene” could have the place of that hilariously forced Zod-killing scene. With a nod to the upcoming rivalry, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice could have just been Batman v Superman, focusing solely on that storyline — and maybe with a formidable Lex Luthor pulling the strings in a more subtle and convincing way. Not buying that shoe-horned “son of” garbage to justify the blatant miscasting of Jesse Eisenberg. A better actor could have (and should have) been used.
The appearance of Wonder Woman should have been a secret. She should have come out of nowhere to save the day, a move that would have had a far greater impact. From there, DC should have opted for a standalone Batman movie (explaining the apparent death of Robin), with the Suicide Squad film as a follow-up. We should then have gotten a Wonder Woman film that would have properly introduced the character and letting hers be the movie that led us into Dawn of Justice. The Dawn of Justice film could have been a story about these iconic characters emerging to fight a common enemy and then realizing the world needs them together as a team.
Wow, does that sound like a coherent Phase 1 for DC? I think it does. Six movies — the actual equivalent of the time and energy Marvel invested in getting their cinematic universe off the ground. DC and Warner Bros. have no excuses for why within the past few years they failed to follow a winning blueprint that would have given their fans a well-thought-out, solid foundation for a formidable and competitive movie universe.
Actually, I think they do have a rather simple excuse to fall back on: Their fans don’t care about planning or quality and will gladly throw their money at short-term gains without considering long-term consequences.
It will probably be a few months — and no doubt after the release of the inevitably superior Captain America: Civil War and Suicide Squad films — that we get some begrudging admittance of over-eagerness and willingness to admit that Batman v Superman was either mediocre or just not that good. By then, it will be too late. You can’t unring a bell, and you can’t reverse your complicity in lowered standards and inadequate universe building.
Twentieth Century Fox and Sony have already learned that lesson the hard way. After the utter failure of Fantastic Four, Fox found success with Deadpool after it let go and trusted the knowledgeable fans of the source material. Sony is now leaning on rival Marvel Studios to revive its Spider-Man property.
Warner Bros. has nowhere to turn if their DC Cinematic Universe fumbles horribly. The lack of coherency in Batman v Superman suggests they’re content to put all of their eggs in Snyder’s basket with no questions asked. The success of the movie suggests that DC fans will let them do so. Should tastes waiver and moviegoers who aren’t married to the myth of a flawless DCU spend their money elsewhere, DC/Warner Bros. is screwed.
Marvel movies are great as-is. They don't need to change their whole marketing campaign because BvS did well. pic.twitter.com/odZwSib6n2— Ed Boon (@noobde) March 29, 2016
Marvel, contrary to what some think, will not be impacted by anything that happens with DC. This is probably one of the stupidest arguments I’ve ever heard. Were they impacted by the terrible Fantastic Four? How about X-Men: The Last Stand? As we’re learning, just because a movie is based on popular comic characters doesn’t guarantee people will watch it. Marvel had to survive flops and underperforming films while learning this for themselves, as have other studios that own their properties. The obsession over how DC compares to Marvel is largely one-sided from my observation, and the energy is misdirected is a way that’s hardly menacing to anyone except dedicated DC fans.
Sadly, should things crumble for the DC Cinematic Universe, disappointed DC fans should look no further than themselves and their low standards following their mindless worship of Batman v Superman.
[Image via Warner Bros.]