Why the DC Extended Universe Imploded

Bad Planning.

There it is, that’s the answer. See you in the next article everyone!

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Alright, alright, let’s be fair and elaborate, because there’s certainly a lot more depth to it than that.

In case you’re out of the loop, DC’s most recent movie that was set in their extended cinematic universe – Justice League, is officially a box office bomb; that means that the movie’s total gross during its runtime in cinemas couldn’t even hit the breakeven point. Somehow, against all common logic, the official, big screen adaptation of THE Justice League has actually made its distributor Warner Bros. Pictures LOSE MONEY. An estimated loss above 60 million dollars in fact.

Now how can this be; you ask yourself. This film was the talk of the town in 2017 with promotional material everywhere, how could it have failed? Well, as with anything of this scale, there’s definitely more to it than meets the eye.

Let’s begin with the basics of any good long-term investment: the foundation. All the way back in 2008, Marvel Studios kicked off their cinematic universe with the premier of Iron Man and it was a hit. The simple yet charming and utterly entertaining flick may not have been much food for thought, but it was a great balance between being a crowd-pleaser and a comic book geek’s dream. Over the next four years, Marvel would release individual movies featuring the Hulk, Thor and Captain America before culminating in the first Avengers movie in 2012.

Make no mistake, back then this was a huge deal. Never had something like this been pulled off before successfully; The Incredible Hulk’s post-credit scene featuring Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark was the first ever hint at this shared universe and it set the pop culture world ablaze with speculation and excitement.

Since then, Marvel has only continued to churn out movie after movie set in this universe. While there were some rather weak ones like Thor: The Dark World, general consensus is that Marvel usually delivers something fun for mostly everyone to enjoy. Their foundations are solid and as a result, this universe and its characters feel real with very easy to follow timelines and events.

DC however, only began their foray into the shared universe field in 2013 with Man of Steel. Now at this point there were certainly those already calling DC a frantic copycat of Marvel. While sort of true, that’s just business, and honestly everyone was willing to give DC a shot because after all, they had some great characters of their own. The problem is Marvel had already completed their first “arc” by the time Man of Steel came out; everything from Iron Man to The Avengers had set THE standard and like it or not, DC had to either match it or top the bar.

Man of Steel did neither of those things.

Though it earned well at the box office, Man of Steel was a movie of polarizing reviews. While many wouldn’t consider it a bad movie, it certainly wasn’t that good either. Movie critics and longtime fans of the boy scout in blue had much to say about this new Superman flick; terrible editing, pretentious symbolism, boring characters, odd motivations, insane collateral damage, you get the idea. It certainly was a lukewarm start for the DCEU but hey, Marvel’s Incredible Hulk wasn’t that hot either and people just let that go; there’s always a next time for success right?

Sure there was. But where Marvel continued to build their foundations movie by movie, brick by brick before the first collaborative hype-bomb, DC jumped straight into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice… with a Batman no one had been introduced to before.

To me, this… was where things truly began to go downhill.

See Man of Steel may have been a wet blanket but the world it built had potential, it could’ve gone anywhere and things could’ve been done to breathe life into this extended universe’s still beating heart. Dawn of Justice showed us that said heart now has cancer and it’s one of those inoperable kinds. Dawn of Justice introduced a dark world with a darker Batman fighting against a dark Superman and everything’s dark except for Luthor who’s now some weird Joker knock-off. The world takes itself super seriously but unlike the Nolan Batman films, still has ridiculous plot elements with nonsensical character motivations and contrivances.

The DCEU, by its second movie, was confused, pretentious and had ironically become LESS realistic than its goofy Marvel counterpart. The downward spiral would only continue from here, with Wonder Woman seen as the only solid DCEU movie and Suicide Squad seen as the worst. Despite the faults of Dawn of Justice, DC repeated its mistakes in Justice League; introducing the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg into the mix who are characters we’ve also never met in this new universe. To longtime DC loyalists, these new imaginings were nothing like their comic book counterparts; and to the general public, well… no one really cared or knew who anyone beside Batman or Superman were.

In their senseless need to catch up to Marvel, in their desperate need to ride on the superhero hype train to make the most money; Warner Bros. Pictures had rushed their projects, neutered their directors’ creativity and had confused their target audience. Unlike Disney-Marvel who plans every, single one of their films with specific dates and gives their creators time to well… create, DC seems to only focus on one thing – fast money, with no understanding of how to invest and bide their time.

The result is as you’ve seen, with its far-reaching effects spreading to even DC’s future movies. The standalone Flash movie is constantly changing directors, Aquaman is releasing at the end of 2018 with little to no fanfare and tons of titles are stated to be in development with no further details or word on a release date. Names from the DC comics such as Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Black Adam and Nightwing among many others have all been thrown around with nothing to show for it. Remember that Batman movie and two Joker movies stated to be in development? Yeah no one knows much about that back-and-forth nonsense either.

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow its empire and raise its skyscraper of success above the clouds, the DC Universe keeps trying to build its house, only for something to collapse because no one bothered to make sure the cement was dry before starting on the next floor. While it may not matter much to some, this has really disappointed me because I KNOW DC has great stories. Have you seen their animated stuff?! It’s really, REALLY good! Well, 80% of the time anyway but still!

Here’s hoping DC eventually restructures and learns. Marvel’s monopoly over this shared universe success will definitely spell trouble for us all in the future and that’ll be terrible for everyone involved. I mean their movies are already starting to be called formulaic and bland. With the two companies having lined up their plans up until 2020, we can only wait and see where this clash of corporations goes.

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