This was not how things were supposed to turn out for Warner Bros. and DC. Justice League, the culmination of the studio’s version of their own shared cinematic universe, is not getting the reception they were expecting. The film’s main selling point was the fact that it featured the long-awaited teamup of DC Comics’ greatest superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. However, its opening weekend take was only $94 million, the lowest for any film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It’s being ravaged by critics and it’s not drawing in the numbers it should be. Now, Justice League’s weak performance brings up a very important question, where does the DCEU go from here?
DCEU’s Uncertain Status
It is foolish to think plans for the DCEU will continue as if anything is wrong. Something has to change. Surely, Warner Bros. executives are taking a long, hard look at their superhero franchise and determining how viable it is. Expect announced films to be canceled, new personnel, and other radical changes to the DCEU, including a reboot.
The DCEU will not suddenly go away. Right now, Aquaman has finished filming and is slated for next year. Then a sequel for the successful Wonder Woman will certainly be made given Wonder Woman is the DCEU’s biggest hit. A Shazam film is also slated to begin filming next year to join the Wonder Woman sequel for release in 2019.
After that things get murky. There will be a Batman solo film directed by Matt Reeves, but that has been mired in controversy. Originally, Ben Affleck was to direct and star in The Batman, but the actor/director has had a falling out with Warner Bros. and first it was announced that he would only star in The Batman. That began the Internet rumblings that he would vacate the role, which is too bad since he is quite good as Batman. Adding fuel to the fire are Affleck’s recent statements suggesting that he is ready to move on from the role. At this point, it may be easier for DC and Warner Bros. to set the film apart from the DCEU.
To date, there aren’t any solid plans to give Superman a sequel to Man of Steel and it’s unknown if it will ever happen. Henry Cavill, who portrays Superman, is contracted for one more film and it is possible that Warner Bros. and DC may just have him appear in someone else’s film before recasting the role. It is a shame because Cavill, like Affleck, has done an excellent job in portraying the superhero, but it is not the end of the world. As we saw with Spider-Man it is fairly easy to replace actors, though overall, it is regrettable that we may never see a full evolution of Superman into a beacon of hope as shown in the end of Justice League.
Other projects with uncertain fates include Batgirl, Gotham City Sirens, Green Lantern Corps, Cyborg and a Suicide Squad sequel. Given the problems Warner Bros. has had with its core superheroes it may be best to put those projects on hold so they can right their cinematic ship.
A Flashpoint To The Future
On a related note, a Flash solo film has been stuck in development hell for years as writers and directors join then leave the project. Most recently, the film is supposed to be an adaptation of the Flashpoint mini-series where the Flash time travels and resets the DC Universe. Using this storyline would give Warner Bros. a convenient way of rebooting the DCEU, but the story, with its alternate takes on characters and situations, sounds expensive and may go over the heads of casual viewers. It would be easier for the film studio to just do a hard reboot without any explanation. This has worked in the past for other franchises, and the one instance where time travel was used to reboot a franchise was Star Trek and it left fans with a bad taste.
One option for the studio is to repeat what happened with Wonder Woman. The solo film was set in the past and largely apart from the DCEU. Reportedly, the sequel will also take place in the past and this example could be a way to ease out of the DCEU. The same thing can be done with Aquaman and Shazam; remove references to the DCEU and focus on the characters. That is why Wonder Woman succeeded. Concentrate on solo films with little to no references to a larger universe and let the shared universe grow organically.
Ever since we all got the bombshell that Ben Affleck was stepping down as director for the new Batman film, the Internet geek community has been stirring up clicks over who should take over as director for The Batman (the current rumor being that is the title of the film). The choices being offered up ranged from the inspired to the WTF territory–supposedly there is an online petition to get Warner Bros./DC Studios to hire Zack Snyder to do it. Yes, the one chiefly responsible for bringing about the woes for DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Thankfully, the film company already has a short list of potential directors and we should hear who will do it soon. But before that happens let’s speculate over who would be a good fit to direct the next Batman solo film.
The director with the distinctive and dark visual touch has been attached to potential Batman films for some time. Before Christopher Nolan revitalized the Dark Knight, Aronofsky was a serious contender to revamp Batman with a live-action adaptation of Batman: Year One after the Batman & Robin debacle. Now that he has more bang to his name thanks to high-profile films like Black Swan, he will bring a level of heft that a Zack Snyder cannot provide.
Anyone who has seen the acclaimed first season of True Detective, which was directed by Fukunaga, will recognize the brilliance of hiring him the helm The Batman. He certainly will add an atmospheric and crime-centered touch to the film and he is an up and coming talent to watch.
If Jenkins is able to pull off a top-tier superhero film with Wonder Woman as some early buzz has it, then she should be rewarded with a chance to helm a film starring DC’s most popular superhero. Then again, other buzz has it that Wonder Woman is a mess so we won’t know until this summer if Jenkins is up to snuff, but most likely Warner Bros. will have tapped The Batman director already.
The brilliant, award-winning director who won rave reviews for his job at directing Skyfall, is a good, solid contender. He will certainly bring much needed gravitas to the DCEU and has shown the capability of reviving a struggling franchise as he did with James Bond, which needed a boost after Quantum of Solace.
After the triumph of the adrenaline-fueled masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller is a natural to take on the Caped Crusader. As we all know he was supposed to direct a Justice League film that featured Armie Hammer as Batman (currently rumored to be taking over the role if Ben Affleck does indeed leave the DCEU altogether). Miller is certainly an inspired choice for The Batman because he will add much-needed excitement and drama to the film on the level that Affleck would have done.
Supposedly he is the frontrunner to take over for Ben Affleck and his selection would surely calm everyone’s nerves. Currently, he is putting his finishing touches in this summer’s War For the Planet of the Apes and his work on the Apes films has been stellar. Able to bring to the table, films that are exciting, terrifying and thought provoking (see Cloverfield and Let Me In), Reeves will certainly gives us a memorable Batman film.
Out of all the directors on this list, Vaughn is probably the best suited for a Batman film. His filmography shows a healthy respect and admiration for comic book adaptations starting with Kick-Ass, and continuing with X-Men: First Class and the popular Kingsmen: The Secret Service and its upcoming sequel. To get an idea of how he would direct Ben Affleck, see Kick-Ass which featured an excellent Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy, a Batman-esque superhero and was one of that film’s highlights.
Honestly, Joss Whedon has the pedigree to helm a big-budget superhero film. He will bring much needed levity, briskness and verve to the too-murky DCEU as he has demonstrated with his Avengers films. More importantly, he is available and his energies should be recharged at this point to tackle the Dark Knight. Who knows maybe if it works out he can take on another Justice League film, he has shown the capability of directing superhero team films and it will be a coup for Warner Bros.
There are many other contenders out there, though some like Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton are not going to return to a Batman film. Others like Kevin Smith, Guillermo Del Toro or Snyder may delight fans but are not realistic prospects. Any of the ones listed above are excellent candidates who will provide a confident and professional job of directing the next Batman film. And if they’re not chosen then they should be seriously considered for other films in the DCEU.
After waiting impatiently for many years, DC Comics fans at last get their own version of a superhero cinematic universe with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) actually began with 2013’s Man of Steel, which focused on DC’s first superhero Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), but it featured Easter eggs that referenced a larger DC universe. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the first real DCEU film that explores this cinematic universe. And director Zack Snyder picked a huge event for this DCEU film: the first meeting between DC’s titans Superman and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). But the big question is–is it good? After all, there had been much anticipation about the film for over a year, but then rumors started surfacing last month that Warner Bros. was supposedly nervous about the film based on reactions from early screenings.
The reaction from critics has been harsh and further added to the worries that the film would kill off the DCEU before it could take off. Well, in my opinion these early reviews do the film something of an injustice (no pun intended). Batman v Superman is a good precursor to the much anticipated Justice League and does have excellent fight scenes between the two heroes. The buildup to the battle is effective in showing the lives of both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. Wayne is an older, bitter crime fighter who has seen his share of death and destruction, especially in the excellent prologue scene where he witnesses Superman’s fight with General Zod (Michael Shannon) from the earlier Man of Steel movie. The experience of seeing so many of his employees dying in the chaos cements his suspicion and fear of Superman as a menace to the whole world.
Clark Kent for his part is seen as struggling with the concept of being a god to many people and a devil to others, including the scheming Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who manipulates both Batman and Superman into a deadly battle for his own twisted sense of order. This whole concept of gods and monsters and our reaction to them is a key element of the film and is what drives our main characters. Scenes with Clark having heart to heart conversations with both Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and his mother Martha Kent (Diane Lane) about who he is are shown in contrast to Bruce Wayne’s attempts to come to terms with his life as a crime fighter and feeling of not having accomplished much in his life.
In regards to laying the ground work for future films, we see Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who is a mysterious presence for much of the film until her big appearance near the final battle with DC super villain Doomsday. Her appearance in an old photo from World War I obviously sets up her forthcoming film and she does well playing the Amazonian warrior. We also see intriguing cameos of Justice League members Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller). All of which should increase the anticipation of the actual DC equivalent to Marvel’s The Avengers.
The issue I have with the film is that all of this exposition and world building do take a while to get through and it does take time to finally get to the long awaited fight between Superman and Batman. As for the fight itself, it is well choreographed and brutal, but it is short and is not really the climax of the movie. I think maybe this is a problem of the marketing and title of the film. Dawn of Justice is a good description, but calling it Batman v Superman and having trailers show almost nothing but fight scenes can give someone the wrong impression of what the film is. It is not wall to wall action with Batman and Superman beating each other senseless. It is instead a continuation of the universe established in Man Of Steel and an exploration of what would happen if these otherworldly beings suddenly showed up on our world. Some reviews will state that this is all a bore, but I found a lot of these ideas interesting. However, the pacing of the film does suffer a bit when the second hour sets in and you want Batman and Superman to finally confront each other.
In terms of the cast, Ben Affleck is effective at showing a world-weary Bruce Wayne who is still traumatized by his parents death and also a brutal and aggressive Batman. His attempts to acquire kryptonite and later rescue of Martha Kent show a visceral fighting technique and willingness to go far to achieve his goals. Although, his depiction of apparently killing some enemies is not really consistent with the character and will be controversial. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is very good as his faithful but skeptical servant Alfred. Henry Cavill does a fine job showing his conflict with trying to be a good reporter and find out who Batman is, while at the same time being the world’s saviour and dealing with everyone’s increasing suspicions of him. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a mixed bag. He does well showing Luthor’s obsession with Superman and desire to destroy him. But his manic way of behaving is at odds with the character’s earlier interpretations of being calm, cool and in control of everything. Gal Gadot does much with her limited screen time as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and is already an audience favorite.
Overall, I do like this film and am looking forward to more DCEU films like Suicide Squad and Justice League. Some of the criticisms it has gotten are valid but this is in no way a bad movie like some critics are saying. I just think it was not marketed properly and does take too much time to get to the advertised fight. However, seeing the DC trinity in action was a thrill and I hope to see more standalone films for these three characters to further explore their interesting backgrounds. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does the job of introducing all of the DC universe’s main characters and should satisfy fans who have waited a long time to see them come alive on the big screen.