Big Changes Coming For DC & The DCEU

This past week Discovery officially took over Warner Bros. and its properties including DC Comics and DC Entertainment. After doing so, the company (rebranded as WB Discovery) announced they were radically overhauling DC Entertainment and its superheroes, specifically their films and TV shows including those of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Even though there have been very successful DCEU efforts like Aquaman and Peacemaker, other releases did not exactly hit the high bar when it came to box office sales or critical/fan reception (Wonder Woman 1984). The goal of the restructuring is to make the DCEU genuinely competitive with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

This would mean that a head honcho would be hired to oversee the production of DCEU films and TV shows in the same manner that Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, does with the MCU. This also implies that the DC films and TV shows will be more coherent and less disjointed, while some once-prominent properties will get more attention. In fact, WB Discovery stated that Warner Bros. allowed top tier properties like Superman “languish” to the detriment of the DCEU and DC.

The Snyderverse and Stalled Efforts

Frankly, the coming changes are a much needed shot in the arm for DC and the DCEU, which has lacked a strong visionary leader. Previous leaders like Walter Hamada, Geoff Johns and Zack Snyder proved to be unable to present a clear direction for their films. Only Snyder came the closest to presenting a vision that was coherent. Unfortunately, Snyder is also a film director and when his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did not impress critics and fans, and Justice League failed to reach the success of The Avengers, he was ushered out of the door by Warner Bros. and the DCEU that he helped create basically fell apart. Part of the problem with Zack Snyder being in charge with the DCEU (or the Snyderverse as some fans called the early films) is that although Snyder is a gifted director, what was needed to oversee the films was a producer in the mold of Kevin Feige. A producer is tasked with the production of films or TV shows and brings a guided vision to entire productions. Directors are focused on individual films first and bring their own stamp to what they film. It is not possible given a director’s schedule to expect him or her to oversee the vision of several films at once.

Even before Snyder’s exit, projects were stalled after big announcements, while conflict occured with many actors and filmmakers. Directors and writers joined and left projects. Then there were the casting headaches Warner Bros. faced from the fact that Henry Cavill, cast as Superman in the Snyderverse, was for all purposes, dismissed to the outlandish and criminal behavior of Ezra Miller, whose film The Flash has not even come out yet. Then there is the fact that The Flash was in perpetual development hell for the longest time as directors and writers exited the film left and right. Now, there are rumors that Miller will be fired from his role and in his situation it would be easy. Since The Flash deals with the title hero time traveling and alternate universes, just reshoot the ending to replace Miller with a new actor. Even Grant Gustin from the TV version of The Flash would be a better choice, although that casting may be too confusing for some.

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The Batman Is A Powerful, Gritty Look At The Dark Knight

The latest live-action incarnation of DC Comics’ most popular superhero, The Batman, was eagerly awaited by fans and for good reason. Director Matt Reeves promised his version of Batman would actually used his detective skills like in the comics and his film would be more of a gritty crime noir piece. For the most part, Reeves succeeded and delivered one of the most powerful Batman films of all time.

Taking elements from the film Se7en and the comic book mini-series Batman: The Long Halloween, The Batman takes place during the second year of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s (Robert Pattinson) war on crime. As the film starts, a terrifying serial killer called the Riddler (Paul Dano) is killing the rich elite of Gotham City and exposing their dark secrets. This includes crooked politicians and police officers alike. Batman and his only ally in the police department, Detective James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), work together to capture the Riddler by solving his enigmatic clues before he claims his next victim.

Batman’s detective work leads him to the seedy, underworld empire of crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and the criminal elements working for him, such as Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrel echoing Robert DeNiro in a fat suit) and Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz who redefines sultriness with her version of Catwoman). Their interactions expose many secrets about Gotham, including uncomfortable revelations about Bruce Wayne’s parents. At the same time, Batman starts questioning his vengeance-fueled crusade to rid crime from Gotham as he realizes the Riddler’s macabre vendetta is a dark mirror to his cause.

Unlike previous Batman films, The Batman is more grounded and gritty. Believe it or not, it feels even more realistic than the Christopher Nolan films. Gotham itself is shown to be a bleak and dreary locale without redemption and Matt Reeves revels in exposing it to the audience. Almost all the characters have dark elements in their souls and are tremendously conflicted. Batman most of all, who is at his core, a tragic figure. He is clearly emotionally damaged by the murder of his parents…thankfully this film did not bother to show us yet another version of his origin. Instead, it focuses on the aftermath of their deaths as Bruce has to learn to move past the idea of vengeance and find a more noble vision within himself.

Seeing Batman portrayed as a quiet and intimidating vigilante at odds with the police and displaying his cunning intelligence as he solves riddles was a novel approach and harken back to Batman’s Golden Age crime story roots. Pattinson does a fine job as the determined Caped Crusader and the gaunt Bruce Wayne. Unlike other versions, this Bruce Wayne is a true social recluse who has not yet adopted the outward identity of a charming billionaire playboy and it was an interesting take on the character.

The other actors were also striking in their roles, with Kravitz, Dano and Wright standing out. Dano’s horrifying take of the Riddler is truly chilling and rivals the best portrayals of the Joker. Speaking of the Joker, there is an unnecessary cameo of the Joker in the film which was distracting. We did not need to see the character and his appearance demonstrated one of the film’s weakness.

As powerful as it was, The Batman was bit too long in length, being nearly three hours long. Matt Reeves could have easily trimmed off fifteen or twenty minutes because the film dwelled too long on the intricate subplots of various villains and the corrupt elements of Gotham’s elites. Honestly, the material with the Riddler more than held up the film and those side stories were not needed. It was obvious these elements were put in to set up future films.

Regardless, from the excellent acting to the beautifully haunting cinematography to the thrilling fight scenes, The Batman is quite a neo noir achievement. It is not for everyone, especially younger children and those seeking a light-hearted superhero romp. But The Batman is one of those few films that makes you want to see again and again to discover something new with each viewing.

José Soto

Twilight Of The Arrowverse

The Flash, the flagship TV show of the Arrowverse, has been renewed for a ninth season. “YAWN”

Legends of Tomorrow might be renewed for an eighth season, but being the TV show airs on The CW, its renewal is likely. No surprise, if it is renewed.

Batwoman…er, is this thing still on?

To be serious, the Arrowverse has seen better days. That was back when Arrow was in its early seasons and The Flash was considered one of the best superhero TV shows. But now, the interconnected TV shows based on DC superheroes are considered outdated, some of them have had problematic productions and there is little excitement over them.

Yes, Superman & Lois is a great superhero TV show and is part of the Arrowverse, but even that show seems embarassed to be associated with the Arrowverse. Nearly all of its episodes do not have any references to the larger Arrowverse. One notable episode that guest-starred the Arrowverse mainstay, John Diggle (David Ramsey), only annoyed fans of Superman & Lois because the show is very well done with superior writing, acting and special effects.

These Arrowverse TV shows are masterminded by Greg Berlanti. He is also behind better received, non-Arrowverse shows like Titans, Stargirl and Doom Patrol, so he can produce quality TV shows and the early days of the Arrowverse confirm this. However, the proper Arrowverse is creatively running on fumes and, aside from Superman & Lois, need to be put out to pasture. At least Arrow quit while it was more or less ahead in its seventh season when its star Stephen Amell decided to leave the show. Even at that point, Arrow had seen a decline in quality, although its final season was generally well done.

The issue of TV shows that go on for too long is a common one with most TV shows on The CW, which is now up for sale by its owners WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS. If and when the sale goes through and, particularly if WarnerMedia is spunoff by its owners AT&T, the future of the Arrowverse is dim.

So, we could be looking at the twilight of the Arrowverse.

This will generate collective yawns from most viewers and fans who have moved on from the Arrowverse. It is a shame because at one point, the Arrowverse TV shows were some of the best and most engaging superhero fare on TV. Honestly, when Arrow debuted on October 12, 2012 and spawned other TV shows, it was an exciting time since they were the only game in town. During that time, as Marvel Entertainment dominated the box office, DC ruled the airwaves. But eventually the competition caught up and surpassed the Arrowverse. Not just Marvel, but even DC, as edgier and better produced shows like Doom Patrol, and now Peacemaker, captured our attention.

The problem with the Arrowverse is that they are quickly churned out, have limited budgets and it shows. Most of the shows feel the same. They usually have the main character/superhero who has some back up team providing support, which is odd since the comic book counterparts operated by themselves or with little support. This team consists of some annoying computer or tech nerd who talks too much, a grounded, more mature, mentor, the love interest who has nothing to do and winds up becoming an integral part of the team for no reason, and a young protege superhero who tries to follow in the hero’s footsteps. The villains are hit or miss and often badly overacted. When the villain does connect that foe then becomes overused by the shows’ tired writers.

Also, the average Arrowverse show dwells too much on vapid romantic sub plots that are good sleep tonics for anyone who is not a lovesick teenager. Being that the shows on The CW are geared towards younger viewers, this helps explain the worn out formula and emphasis on romance with the Arrowverse TV shows.

Another flaw is that the Arrowverse shows have too many episodes per season, which betrays its outdated model. Try to name a show currently airing or streaming with over 20 episodes in a season. Good luck with that. The point is that by churning out so many shows in a limited time period it is difficult to produce quality episodes. This amounts to lots of filler episodes that can be skipped. What’s worse is that the main story arc for a season meanders on and is unfocused.

With all these flaws it is hard to deny the Arrowverse has outlived its shelf life. The Arrowverse is clearly in a twilight phase of its existence and it’s sad to observe. The Arrowverse helped set the mode for a modern, interrelated TV universe where characters would casually appear in any given show. This TV universe deserves to be commended for its contribution to the geeky arts even as it is in its final moments.

The Latest Crazy Internet Rumor: Disney Buying DC

Well, it did not take long for the wild rumors and speculation to begin once it was announced last week that Discovery, Inc. and WarnerMedia. were merging into one company called WarnerDiscovery. The wildest rumor has it that allegedly the Walt Disney Company is going to buy WarnerMedia’s DC Comics or Warner Bros. Being that Disney already owns Marvel Comics this would mean that both comic book companies can be merged into one.

Think about that for a moment.

If this was somehow true, this would be the most shattering development for comic books and related media since comic books were created nearly a century ago. Of course, fans know that DC Comics and Marvel Comics are the two biggest comic book companies with legendary superheroes and other characters. The fact that the two giants are natural rivals adds fuel to rumor fire about the possibility of this merger.

Think of the team up and crossover events. “Crisis on Infinity Secret Wars” or some other overpriced and over-printed epic spanning hundreds of issues per month with spinoff titles and one-shots cluttering comic book shelves in stores. It would blow out recent events like Dark Knights: Death Metal and King in Black in the shear scope. Imagine trying to buy all the tie-ins for that event!

This could spillover into games, books, and yes, films and TV shows. Thought Avengers: Endgame or The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths were epic? Guess again and imagine a live-action version of the last, great DC/Marvel crossover, JLA/Avengers or the 1990s’ DC vs. Marvel that pitted the Hulk against Superman or Captain America fighting Batman! Imagine further and think of the possibility of Robert Downey, Jr. sharing the silver screen as Iron Man alongside Christian Bale as Batman. Or Henry Cavill’s Superman meeting Chris Evans’ Captain America.

Let’s come back to Earth now and face reality because it is doubtful any of this will happen. Sure, it is possible, but to date there are not any credible, confirmed sources to back up this claim.

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The Last Hurrah For The Snyderverse

As much as fans of the DC films were thrilled over the release of the Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max, many others lamented over the news that it will be the last hurrah for the Snyderverse.

The so-called Snyderverse of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has always had a rocky existence ever since the release of its first film, Man of Steel. Most of the films in the DCEU received mixed reception and box office results. After the original cut of Justice League did not perform well in theaters the film studio, Warner Bros., began to pull back on the concept of a shared cinematic universe.

At first, many thought this was a good idea as the films Shazam!, Aquaman, Birds of Prey (or the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and Wonder Woman 1984 largely were standalone films without direct connections to the DCEU. However, that standalone nature also leads to problems such as the lack of continuity or coordination for other films. The best example of this is Wonder Woman 1984. In that film, which takes place well before the proper DCEU, you see the world undergoing massive events from the machinations of Maxwell Lord such as a third World War, huge walls appearing in the Middle East and mass deaths and destruction. Yet, even though these calamaties are undone, the collective memories of them still appeared to remain and was never referenced once in other films.

Then of course there is Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The way the film plays out contrasts severely with the original version of the film. In fact, Warner Bros. has come out and said Zack Snyder’s Justice League for better or worse is to be considered a “cul-de-sac”, a one-off or for a live-action Elseworlds. For non-DC fans that is an imprint of DC Comics that take place in alternate realities. That’s all well in good and Warner Bros. should continue pursuing more Elseworlds stories such as what they did with Joker and with next year’s The Batman. They should also pursue Justice League Mortal by George Miller or even Joss Whedon’s Justice League and give the director the chance to correct the fake upper lip travesty!

However, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was very well received and with the way it ended, the film left fans wanting more. Of course, it does not help that the ending of the film clearly set up future films and spinoffs. For Aquaman that is fine since his solo film did take place after Justice League, but for Superman. Well, Warner Bros. cannot get its act together and put out a proper Man of Steel sequel. Instead, they hired J.J. Abrams to reboot the character.

Now there are outcries not just for the DCEU but for the Snyderverse established in the new version of Justice League. People want to know what was going on with Batman’s Knightmare vision which featured him teamed up with the Joker. Was Lois Lane pregnant for certain? What is the future for Wonder Woman (her films take place in the past)? Snyder himself said he would love to continue these films but relations between him and Warner Bros. are not exactly great now.

Even if Warner Bros. relented and agreed to more films set in this alternate DCEU there are the logistical hurdles of reuniting the cast. Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg, one of the pivotal characters in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, has had a bad falling out with the film studio. Ben Affleck left the role of Batman after creative differences in the direction of the next Batman film. Instead we are getting another standalone Batman film that features the Caped Crusader as a younger man. And Warner Bros. and Superman actor, Henry Cavill, cannot seem to agree on a venue for him to return. So this is most likely the last hurrah for the Snyderverse. To transition away from the Snydervere an idea would be to have the Flash solo film use its rumored Flashpoint storyline to reboot the DCEU. It makes the most sense. Still it is nice to hope against hope that we have not seen the last of the Snyderverse.