This past week the news involving the two big superhero film universes perfectly illustrated their states. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) it seems clear that they can do no wrong. This is based solely on the astronomic success of its latest film Black Panther. Meanwhile, over at the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), the woes continues with the latest news that Joss Whedon is no longer involved with a proposed Batgirl film.
So why are the states of both cinematic universes so vastly different? Both have popular superheroes and their films have tremendous talent creating the films. But why is the MCU so popular while the DCEU is looking more and more like the JV squad? Well, it’s not easy to pinpoint the success and failures of both universes but there are some factors. Let’s go over them.
One advantage Marvel Studios and the MCU had over Warner Bros. and DC was simply a head start. The MCU began in earnest ten years ago with Iron Man. That film featured a well known, but not very popular, superhero. Marvel Studios did not have the luxury of having their early films star Marvel Comics’ headliners like Spider-Man and the X-Men. With this handicap, Marvel Studios was forced to focus on the character of Iron Man and it worked. But that was not all, at the end of the film, there was the famous Nick Fury tease that signaled the existence in the film of a larger universe. This excited fans and set the groundwork for a viable cinematic universe.
Each film in the MCU has organic (usually) references to other Marvel properties that helped create excitement for future films even if the current one was a disappointment. It also helped that each film in the MCU is distinctly different (for the most part) from the other. They ranged from standard science-based superhero yarns (the Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk), political thrillers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), period pieces (Captain America: The First Avenger), Star Wars-like space adventures (Guardians of the Galaxy), quirky, comical heist capers (Ant-Man), supernatural tales (Doctor Strange), stories set in fantastic locations (the Thor films), cultural milestones (Black Panther), and good ol’ superhero epics (the Avengers films). By being so versatile the MCU never seems to run out steam or stories to tell. Granted, the films have their faults like subpar villains, which are just dark versions of the main heroes, but the focus on character and stories made the MCU so successful.
There is also one other important factor that the MCU has and that is Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios and the filmmaking version of Phil Jackson. He masterfully and carefully guided each film to tremendous success. His vision for the MCU and ability to carry it out is a big reason for the upbeat state of the MCU. Will they falter? Of course, in fact, the MCU has had some genuine stinkers like Iron Man 2, but it has been able to quickly recover. Right now, Marvel is on a hot streak that has been going on for several years now and the future looks terrific with upcoming and hotly awaited films like Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel and of course a sequel to Black Panther. Hopefully this streak will last for years to come.
Alright people, especially you DC fans, breath a sigh of relief. The new film Wonder Woman is actually a rollicking great movie. Most fans know by now that Warner Bros./DC Studios’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU) had very public lately starting with last year and their weak cinematic entries Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Many DC fans are in a state of near revolt at how badly the film studio have handled its superhero properties with the last good entry being 2013’s Man of Steel. After the embarrassing behind-the-scenes mishaps, everyone was looking to Wonder Woman to help right the ship for the DCEU. The only problem was that many doubted this new film could do that.
Well, those naysayers have been proven wrong. Wonder Woman is exactly what the DCEU and its fans need right now. Of course, it is not a perfect film. There are issues with pacing in the first half and the film overdoes the slo-mo shots, but on the whole, Wonder Woman is a fun and exciting jolt for moviegoers this summer season.
Taking the best elements from Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, Wonder Woman takes those films’ fish-out-of-water scenario and period setting to create a joyous and unique adventure. Gal Gadot plays the title character of Diana, a super-powerful Amazonian princess raised on a mythical and secluded island populated by warrior women. One day a man washes up on its shores and it’s Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a Word War I soldier who introduces Diana to the outside world. Both characters go through the funny fish-out-of-water tropes, first with Steve on the island and later with Diana in war-torn Europe.
While these moments were amusing, the film kicks into high-octane and colorful action pieces midway through the film when Diana aka Wonder Woman fights in the war and never lets up. By that point, the action takes over and the film is a stunt and CG fest, but it’s not mindless. The filmmakers wisely gave us time to know the characters so that by the time Wonder Woman is racing through battlefields and taking out German soldiers audiences are fully engaged with her. Not to take away credit from the filmmakers, but Gadot deserves so much acclaim for pulling off this role. In many ways, the casting for Wonder Woman was more critical than other heroes like Batman or Superman. That is because in a field so crowded with male-led superhero films, the character had to grab us from the get-go and Gadot does that quite well. Now she joins the ranks of Christopher Reeve, Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey, Jr. as iconic actors believably portraying superheroes.
As mentioned before, the film has its issues. The villains are merely serviceable and this seems to be a common problem with recent superhero films that place so much focus on the main heroes. Zack Snyder’s influence is felt with the overuse of slo-mo shots, but the action and settings go beyond Snyder. For a DCEU film, Wonder Woman is much more colorful, vibrant and uplifting. But Snyder does deserve praise for seeing something in Gadot when he filmed Batman v Superman and she obviously was one of that film’s highlights. Warner Bros. should also be lauded for believing enough in the character to let her headline her own film.
Wonder Woman could not have come at a better time for the DCEU and everyone. Director Patty Jenkins has delivered a fresh and exciting superhero film and has helped restore confidence in the DCEU. It has some ways to go, but at least the bleeding has stopped thanks to Wonder Woman. Seriously, Marvel Studios made a huge mistake in letting her walk off Thor: The Dark World. Her cinematic eye, which is so evident in Wonder Woman, would have made the Thor sequel much more memorable than the standard muscle fest it turned out to be. Do not be surprised if this film’s success will mean that Wonder Woman, the character, will rightfully take her place among the headliners in the DCEU.
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.