I’ve been reading a lot of articles and watching videos on how much Warner Bros is gambling on the success of Wonder Woman. It’s a good time to reflect on the state so far of the DCEU so far. Now it doesn’t matter what kind of comics fan who are, Marvel, DC, manga, everyone has to admit that DC has some of the most iconic superheroes in the world. They have deep generational ties to the world. It’s actually surprising how they even managed to bungle such iconic heroes.
For those that don’t believe it. Just look at the sheer number of Superman shields you see people from all over the world wearing. I guarantee it’s far more than just here in America, though admittedly we think of him as ours. Marvel has usurped DC for years with the MCU but those of us with longer memories can remember that no one cared about the Avengers for years outside of hardcore Marvel fans.
So I’m not going to lie I was a huge Zack Snyder fan early on. I love the Dawn of the Dead remake. 300 I challenge any male alive to watch that film for the first time and not get pumped. It harkened back to the days of the 80s action movies with paper thin plots and lots of fight scenes. I can see why the studio gave him the reigns of Superman considering Singer’s Superman Returns was a snooze compared to the action packed Man of Steel.
However I think their mistake was giving him creative control of the DCEU. This has somewhat been rectified recently with his diminished role following the critical slashing and fan rejection of Batman v Superman. His influence however will continue on the universe as a whole. Now we scoff at this now but to be fair his films crushed Brian Singer’s lackluster Superman Returns at the box office.
Allowing him to dictate the universe was a mistake however. He wasn’t exactly a box office darling. His visual style, while unique, doesn’t always translate to commercial or critical success. Just have a look at Watchmen or Sucker Punch for examples.
He is in charge of Justice League. I’m actually hopeful based on the lighter tone in the trailers. However I don’t think he has a problem of tone exactly. DC has some pretty dark animated movies that do very well. It’s more on the way he chooses to tell stories.
He seems to favor heavy action over character driven narratives. Which can be fine if you have a decent script, however that’s not exactly what he has shown us thus far. He seems to be fine meshing together a bunch of different comics that are very different and just focusing on the action parts of them. Also I’m not sure whose idea it was to combine the Death of Superman with The Dark Knight Returns and sprinkle in Infinite Crisis with the Flash popping in and out of time but they should be fired. All of those should have got separate movies.
Now I know people are hating on Henry Cavill for his portrayal of Superman. Honestly it’s not the guy’s fault. He can be quite charming and likable. Just watch the Tudors and you’ll see a different, more charming Cavill who actually laughs and smiles. It’s too bad Snyder chose to have him lose all that natural charisma the guy seems to have. If you want further proof check out all the photos of him dressing up as Superman and smiling with kids in children’s hospitals. Look at those photos and tell me that guy isn’t Superman. It’s just too bad we never got to meet a charming, funny, and likable Superman.
Look we all know the man is a God. He is constantly called that in both the animated movies and the DCEU. However his best comics and animated movies highlight how despite all he can do, he can’t save everyone. Now think about that moment in Superman Returns (try not to cringe and just admit it was not all bad) when he lifts Lois up. We hear for the first time what Superman hears. He hears the world crying out for help, for him to save them. It must eat him up inside to know that despite all his gifts he can never save them all.
It was fine for him to struggle to be a hero in Man of Steel. That was an origin story. It’s common for hero’s to reject their call to arms at first. It’s part of the classic hero’s journey. It still works to this day. However focusing two films in a row on it was just jarring.
Batman v Superman should have been the third film. We should have got a Man of Steel 2 beforehand. It honestly does not matter what it would be about. All it needed to do was make us love Superman. You can’t just make a hero fall before we love him. We end up feeling conflicted and that’s not even addressing the “Martha” moment (We’ll skip that here. It’s been done to death and we all know it was ridiculous).
Honestly the DCEU can be salvaged. We can even endure Zack Snyder if we must. Maybe someone bring him a complete script this time? Also perhaps whoever penned the scripts should look into a basic hero’s journey. You can find the stuff online. Keep the story simple and make us like the hero or at least not feel ambivalent towards bad things happening to him.
It’s really not that these films were bombs. They have all made money. It’s just that these are not the heroes we know and love. Even casual fans want a hero they can love over a dark and gritty hero. Except for Batman but that’s only because that’s Batman’s thing.