Samuel Brace on the DC Bad Movie Myth…
There is a lie that is being perpetuated, a myth if you will, a myth tinged with vitriol that DC makes bad movies, exclusively bad movies, and that the new DC Extended Universe needs to save both them and their reputation. Time and time again it is being said that Batman v Superman NEEDS to be great because of the films that have come before it, that this is almost a last chance saloon for Batman and crew. This quite frankly makes no sense. Batman v Superman needs to be great — whatever you decide that means — because it needs to compete with a market that is saturated by competitors. That’s just how it is. It has nothing to do with a history of bad content. When it comes to this particular falsehood that has been created, the proof is in the pudding. If you look back at the DC movies of recent and not so recent years, there are of course some less than desirable entries, but there are also some really excellent movies and even some great ones.
People’s memories are short. The phrase “what have you done for me recently” is a pertinent one to this discussion. So let’s put aside for a moment that truly excellent movies like Batman (1989) and Batman Returns even exist. Let’s move forward in time and look only at the films at the forefront of our memory banks. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy couldn’t be a finer example of why this myth is a fallacy. What Nolan achieved with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, was nothing short of monumental. These movies made Batman relevant again, these movies became sources of ire for every current superhero and potential superhero franchise. What Nolan produced with this trilogy were not just great superhero films but great FILMS in general. These movies were not just critically praised; they were adored by fans as well. They were so successful in every aspect that it soon became apparent that copying the style of these films would only lead to unfavourable comparisons, comparisons that no other superhero movie could win. The only other option would to be jump completely to the other end of the spectrum, to get as far away from any comparable claims as possible. So if this DC bad movie myth is something that is demonstrable, it certainly isn’t referring to these particular movies, movies that claim three out of the last seven spaces in DC’s (not vertigo’s) recent slate.
Before we bury the myth completely, let’s throw a bone to those that are desperately clutching at any straws available to grab. Superman Returns and Green Lantern are two films that came out in the last nine years that weren’t exactly successful. Both of these movies had problems and have quickly become forgotten. These were not good movies. Superman Returns was superior to Green Lantern but that is not exactly saying much. You would struggle to provide any substantial case for either of these films. So there you go, two of the last seven movies were poor. But that’s where it stops, and I think you’ll agree that such a small number doesn’t necessitate such a myth being perpetuated. So on we go.
Watchmen. How about that film? I almost feel disinclined to include this movie here, even though it’s a DC title, as by being an alternate universe tale it feels so disconnected to the world of Superman and The Flash, but anyway, let’s talk about it, but mind, this will be short. Watchmen, released in 2009, wasn’t a classic in movie making, but it was an incredibly entertaining ride with a visual fidelity that impressed and treated its audience. This was a cool movie. It was damn cool, and it might not be up there with Nolan’s films but it’s certainly a lot higher on the list than the last two movies we discussed. Watchmen was an excellent movie, one that is incredibly re-watchable. Its style is irrefutable. Whatever you may think about the film when put alongside the comic/graphic novel from which it was based, a quality product that was worth the price of admission was produced. So if Watchmen isn’t a bad movie, then what is causing this obviously unsubstantiated claim to live on? If my math is correct, we only have one more movie to go. But I am sure that was a terrible movie. Oh wait…
That movie is of course the latest in DC’s offerings, the movie that has now begun the new connected universe of its films. Man of Steel. This was a movie that piggybacked ever so slightly of Nolan’s infamy, coming off his then complete Batman trilogy. Now, it’s safe to assume that this is the movie most will point at in order to substantiate the fallacy, to add some weight and authenticity to this myth of DC’s bad movies. But I am sorry, those people, while allowed of course to not like the movie — it’s not my favourite by any stretch — would just be wrong by saying that this is a bad movie. Man of Steel is NOT a bad movie. Is it a great movie? No, absolutely not. But it is a million miles away from being a BAD one. The problem most had with Zack Snyder’s Superman flick was that it wasn’t what people expected from a Superman movie. The apparent gripe was that it was a different take on the character (a heinous crime I know) and that it didn’t live up to the hype that was surrounding it. In the end it was a victim of its own trailer — which was truly fantastic — and suffered from the fact that even with Nolan attached as producer, it wasn’t up to the level of his Batman films. Now that is a true statement. There is no denying that. But I am sorry to tell you that Man of Steel is a good movie. Again, not great, pretty forgettable, but Jesus, it’s not terrible. This is a competently made movie that if it had arrived directly after Superman Returns it would have been heralded and praised. It could have been better, there are plot holes that could have been filled, pacing that could have been tightened, but let’s cut it some slack, there are many a worse film to be watched. And if you really hated it that much, you wouldn’t go and see BvS, you would vote with your wallet if you really thought it was THAT bad, but let’s be real, none of you are going to do that.
So Man of Steel isn’t a bad movie. Okay, that means two out of the last seven were poor titles. That isn’t that bad is it? So it’s safe to say that a spiel purporting such a percentage doesn’t equate to DC making exclusively bad movies. The success of Marvel in recent years surely has something to do with this myth being spread, that’s natural, they have been flourishing while DC have been sleeping. But let’s not label the cause of Batman v Superman‘s pressure based on a lie that the films preceding it were on the whole bad movies. It’s just not true. None of this is to say that BvS will be a great movie. It could suck, that’s entirely possible, but there is no company that needs saving here. DC needs this to work because of the pressure they put on themselves with such an expansive and hasty slate of connected movies. They will live and die on their own sword, not because their filmography is in such dire straits that a classic film in 2016 is demanded.