The DCEU 2013-2023?

It was not supposed to be like this. For decades, DC Comics’ characters ruled the box office and airwaves, especially with Batman, thanks to the backing of their parent company Warner Bros. That all changed starting in 2008 when Marvel Studios successfully launched their interconnected series of films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which soon overtook DC and Warner Bros. in terms of critical and fan reception and economic success. Warner Bros. did put up a fight and launched their own version of interconnected films, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), with the release of Man of Steel in 2013.

That film, featuring a new, updated version of Superman, had mixed reactions. Some applauded the grounded, grittier take of Superman, while others complained about the dark tone of the film and its over-stylized look thanks to director Zack Snyder. Still, thanks in part to Henry Cavill’s performance as Superman/Clark Kent, the film was the sound basis for an interconnected film universe featuring DC characters, which continued with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. At last, Warner Bros. had a true counterpart to the DCEU because the second DCEU film greatly expanded its cinematic world as it not only introduced the DCEU version of Batman, but Wonder Woman, and other members of the Justice League superhero team.

But as we all know, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a negative reaction thanks to its uneven and convoluted storyline and the DCEU never quite recovered with its sophmore film. The DCEU had an uneven track record with its filmography. For every critical and commercial success like Wonder Woman and Aquaman there were failures like Justice League and the Suicide Squad films. The film universe was inconsistent with its tone and output, meanwhile, the MCU churned out hit after hit without any legitimate competition.

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What made matters worse for the DCEU was the fact that Warner Bros. seemed to give up on the DCEU by delaying long-announced films, including a solo followup to Man of Steel. This last issue drove Cavill away from the role as the film studio made announcements about new versions of Superman, which never materialized. Instead of focusing on the DCEU, Warner Bros. turned its attention to projects outside of the DCEU like Joker and The Batman, as well as TV shows that were not connected to the DCEU.

Many of these projects were successful, but they did not do anything for the DCEU. Fans asked for DCEU films featuring Superman and the other DC heavy hitters, but instead Warner Bros. greenlit films featuring lesser known characters like Black Adam, Blue Beetle and the Wonder Twins.

Then there were issues with the pandemic, which delayed film productions and forced Warner Bros. to debut films like Wonder Woman 1984 on their streaming platform, HBO Max. In fact, the parent company of the film studio, AT&T decided to forego or deemphasize film releases in favor of premiering films on HBO Max. This led to diminished financial returns for DCEU properties like The Suicide Squad.

Another sign that implied that the film studio had given up on the DCEU were rumors that the long-delayed DCEU film, The Flash, would be used to reboot the DCEU with new actors. Evidence for this lies with the fact that Michael Keaton is reprising his role as Batman in The Flash. Meanwhile the DCEU version of Batman, played by Ben Affleck and Superman, would be wiped out of existence thanks to the Flash and time travel hijinks. But that was nothing compared to the big changes instituted by new owners.

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The MCU Returns To Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con made a huge return this weekend after a couple of years of inactivity thanks to the pandemic. Demonstrating that life in geekdom was returning to normal were all the presentations by and appearances of countless companies and individuals for the genre properties we love.

The big news this weekend at Comic-Con was the bigger-than-exptected splash made by Marvel Studios about their upcoming properties. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige appeared in Hall H of the convention and made several exciting announcements, which included the revelation that Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will end this year with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. By the way, the presentation for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was quite emotional given the loss of Chadwick Boseman. However, the trailer released for the film was exciting with the reveal of Namor the Submariner and the Atlanteans.

Phase Five of the MCU starts next year with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania on February 17, 2023, and concludes on July 26, 2024 with Thunderbolts (Marvel’s version of the Suicide Squad). Other films and TV shows, which will stream on Disney+, during Phase Five include Secret Invasion (spring 2023), Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3 (May 5, 2023, and by the way the leaked images of a baby Rocket Raccoon were adorable!), The Marvels (July 28, 2023), Echo (summer 2023), Ironheart (fall 2023), Blade (November 3, 2023), Agatha: Coven of Chaos (winter 2023), Captain America: New World Order (May 3, 2024), and Daredevil: Born Again (spring 2024). The last two entries were the most exciting announcements as the fourth Captain America will feature Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who takes up the mantle of Captain America, while the new Daredevil TV series will have Charlie Cox resuming the title role he originated in the Netflix series. Fans have been teased about Daredevil with Matt Murdock’s appearance in last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, and even more enticed by his quick cameo in the latest trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The She-Hulk series looks like fun, even though some of the CG still looks sketchy.

However, Feige was not finished. He announced the most important Phase Six MCU films, and the sixth phase will begin with Fantastic Four on November 8, 2024 and continue on and conclude with two Avengers films! Avengers: The Kang Dynasty on May 2, 2025 and Avengers: Secret Wars on November 7, 2025.

Of course, there are significant gaps in the release schedule for unannounced projects, which could go to future Spider-Man films or something to do with the X-Men. Keep in mind, that despite all the buzz going into Comic-Con there was not an official announcement that Deadpool would join the MCU and not a word was mentioned about possible followups to successful Phase Four properties like Doctor Strange or Shang-Chi. But more information will be revealed in the September 10, 2022 D23 Expo. Perhaps the cast and director of Fantastic Four will be announced by then or it will be revealed that the Russo Brothers will direct the new Avengers films.

When it comes to Spider-Man, aside from some details on the upcoming animated series Spider-Man: Freshman Year (which won’t take place in the MCU), there weren’t any annoucements by Sony Pictures, who owns the film rights to Spider-Man, about the future of the MCU Spider-Man. However, given the mammoth success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, a fourth MCU Spider-Man is inevitable, as are the future hot garbage Sony is filming like Kraven, El Muerto, and Madame Web.

Surely, there were other huge announcements at Comic-Con that did not deal with Marvel or the MCU, but they paled compared to Marvel Studios. It should be noted that Marvel Studios’ rival, Warner Bros. Discovery had a presentation about their DC film properties, which turned out to be a bit of a dud hampered with controversy. One of the big rumors going into Comic-Con was that Henry Cavill would appear or there would be an announcement that the actor would return to play Superman in either Black Adam or an upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film. But the actor was a no show, which melted the internet as furious fans lamented about this and the fact that the only involvement director Zack Snyder will have with DC properties will be an appearance in the animated show Teen Titans Go! The only revelations made about the DCEU were two trailers for Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. But nothing about upcoming DCEU projects like Blue Beetle and The Flash. It’s a shame because both DCEU trailers were very well done. Perhaps if Warner Bros. Discovery puts out another DC Fandome with more and substantial announcements then all will be forgiven, but to date there is not any information about a DC Fandome for this year.

Getting back to Marvel Studios and the MCU, the announcements were expected, but a pleasant surprise when they were officially announced. What was unexpected was that the early films of Phase Five were anticipated to be part of Phase Four, which seems to have ended prematurely. This could be because of the mixed reaction to Phase Four and a decision could have been made to end it soon in order to give fans a sense of starting over with more alluring and crowdpleasing films and TV shows in the next phase. So, even though Phase Four of the MCU turned out to be a mixed bag, fans can put that behind and look forward to what awaits with Phase Five, Six and beyond.

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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Peacemaker Joyfully Revels In Violence And Silliness

Peacemaker is the first TV show set in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and streams on HBO Max. It’s also a spinoff of The Suicide Squad and follows the further adventures of the idealogically fanatic superhero Peacemaker/Chris Smith (John Cena), who was rightly left for dead at the end of the film.

After been rescued and hospitalized by the U.S. government group A.R.G.U.S., as seen in the post-credis scene of The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker is recruited by that group’s black ops team to fight alien creatures who inhabit host human bodies and are called Butterflies because of the way the aliens appear.

The black ops team is made up of an eclectic group of goofy or over-the-top violent characters including the deadly and tough A.R.G.U.S. agent Emilia Harcourt (Jennifer Holland), John Economos (Steve Agee), an insecure tactical support agent, Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks), a new A.R.G.U.S. recruit who becomes good friends with Chris, and their exasperated mercenary leader Clemson Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji). An unofficial recruit is Adrian Chase aka the costumed Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), an overeager sociopath who looks up to Peacemaker and fashions himself as Peacemaker’s best friend. But that is actually Peacemaker’s pet bald eagle, Eagly.

As the group carry on their mission to eliminate the Butterflies, they learn a lot about each other and gradually earn each other’s trust, respect and even friendship. The one person who is most affected by the experience is Chris himself who begins to question his extreme jingoistic view of life and even becomes likeable.

In The Suicide Squad, the Peacemaker was a real jerk, a total D-Bag, and when he was supposedly killed off, hardly anyone mourned him unlike the other characters. But the TV show went to great lengths to humanize him and it paid off. Yes, he is still a jerk who is too cocky, but we learn that beneathe that false bravado hides a wound psyche and the emotional center of Peacemaker.

The TV show is written by James Gunn, who also directed most of the episodes. Much of the success of the show is due to the film director who reinvented the Suicide Squad and presented a possible new direction for the DCEU. As always, Gunn demonstrates his twisted filmmaking skills thanks to his well-written characters and fast-moving scripts, which keeps surprising viewers. All the actors are especially good in this show and bring an extra dimension to their characters. Cena was the best surprise with his role because of the way he is able to show different levels to his character.

As is James Gunn’s forte, Peacemaker excels at its level of cheekiness, graphic violence, and its overall raunchy nature. This is certainly not a show for the kids to watch, but DCEU fans will love the jokes, Easter eggs, and stylized action. There are a few cameos by DCEU characters that actually work and add to the show’s enjoyment. Fans of hair and glam metal bands will love the soundtrack which is peppered generously with many songs. The standout song used in Peacemaker is, naturally, Wig Wam’s “Do You Wanna Taste It” and it fits so well with the show’s hysterical dance number in the opening credits.

Be patient with the first episode or two as Peacemaker settles in and establishes the characters and situations. While it and the main character may be off-putting, by the second or third episode, viewers will get wrapped up and engaged with the bizarre and irreverant nature of the show as the characters are actually changed by their adventures.

After dealing with the inane Arrowverse, Peacemaker comes at the right time as the DCEU now thankfully is represented in the TV medium and it can herald a new era for DC-based TV shows.

Getting Over Recasting Gripes

Recasting roles for films and TV shows has gone on ever since the first roll of film was developed over a century ago. This included many iconic characters like James Bond, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes. This is a normal thing and widely accepted among filmgoers and TV viewers, but lately there has been so much griping over the recasting and potential recasting of several superhero roles in upcoming films and TV shows. This especially goes for Superman, Batman, and the Black Panther, but there is no need to fret over this.

The most obvious reason for the uneasiness is that many fans are devoted to a certain interpretation and portrayal of the character and cannot move on after an actor leaves that role. They behave like it is the endo of the world and focus on the negative.

It’s funny but most of these fans have very short memories. For example, there is the current issue with Henry Cavill being replaced as Superman in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films. Before Cavill was cast, Brandon Routh played the role in Superman Returns and many fans complained about Routh not being allowed to continue the role for Man of Steel and wondered why was he replaced by Cavill. Now, given the mess the DCEU is in, and the clear disdain Warner Bros. has for the current version of Superman and the director that cast the role and set the tone for the DECU (Zack Snyder), it is a certainty that Henry Cavill will be replaced. In TV, Superman is currently played by Tyler Hoechlin in Superman & Lois, and he is receiving wide acclaim for his portrayal of the Man of Steel. So, fans have to face facts, Henry Cavill is not the only person who is allowed to play Superman. There are many capable characters who could pull it off as Hoechlin is now showing and this has gone on for decades. Many thought it was impossible to recast Superman after Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance in his films, yet it was done. To be blunt it had to be done given that Reeve passed away years ago.

Then there is the casting of Batman in the upcoming films, The Batman and The Flash. Originally, the character was played in the DCEU by Ben Affleck, but before that the Caped Crusader was portrayed by Christian Bale and before that by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney. In another case of short memories, Bale was considered the best actor to play Batman and when Affleck’s casting was announced for the next Batman film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was widely panned. But guess what? Affleck shocked many people with how good he was in the role. Many now claim that at least in that film, Ben Aflleck gave the best interpretation of the superhero.

Sadly, one calamity after another hobbled the DCEU, which is now rumored to be rebooted in The Flash and will likely remove Cavill and Affleck. But, Batman has been played numerous times by different actors who added their own unique interpretations to the brooding superhero which can be enjoyed in different ways. In a few weeks, we’ll see the latest take of the Dark Knight as Robert Pattinson has his turn in The Batman.

In similar situation, the role of Black Panther/T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) might have to be recast in the future and this is creating controversy. The originator of the role, Chadwick Boseman, passed away and Marvel Studios hastily announced that the role would not be recast in honor of Boseman. While this decision is commendable, it put Marvel Studios in a bind. Given the mammoth success of Black Panther, a sequel was inevitable and one is underway, but without the character. The details are under wraps but supposedly another character will assume the title of the Black Panther. This is a sound plot choice but needless. The role of T’Challa could have easily been recast and there plenty of actors who could pull it off. It has happened in the MCU when Mark Ruffalo took over for Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/the Hulk and Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes/War Machine. The MCU did not collapse, people adjusted to the changes and everything went well. So, why not just recast T’Challa? On top of that, the sequel film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is going through a production hell with countless halts and difficulties. The film studio probably regrets not recasting the role and continuing T’Challa’s adventures.

Spider-Man fans also underwent their own bout of negativity when the role was recast twice after Tobey Maguire left the role. At first many complained about Andrew Garfield as the replacement Spider-Man/Peter Parker. He was too Emo, too broody, too much of a wiseguy. Still, he won over many fans who lamented him being replaced by Tom Holland when Spider-Man joined the MCU; and people fell in love with Holland’s version of Spider-Man. Yet, Andrew Garfield earned his redemption in his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home. After people could easily compare the three actors together, a consensus is emerging that Garfield is the best Spider-Man, which is fueling talk of him returning to the role.

This development gets to the heart of the gripe. With the other actors mentioned, they never got to do their farewell performance or do a proper goodbye. This gave the impression of lost opportunity and wondering if these actors had more time or a better film then their time doing the role would have been viewed as being more successful. That may be but at least they left a positive impression and a film legacy that can be repeatedly enjoyed.