Samuel Brace on the news that Warner Bros. is planning a slate of non-DC Extended Universe superhero movies…
Are you cheering?
DC seems to be giving off the impression that the DCEU is not forevermore. That their attempted emulation of all that Marvel has achieved with their own cinematic universe might come to an end sooner than we would have thought. We’ve heard this past week that a Joker origins move is being worked on, one outside the DCEU, starring a new actor, not Jared Leto, as the famed villain. While the idea for this particular film sounds like a loser, the attempt to perhaps manoeuvre away from shared universes is one that should be welcomed with great applause.
The cinematic universe experiment has been largely a fun one, a unique endeavour that has produced some wonderful moments and implemented radical change in the movie space. When Marvel were first enacting their slate of interconnected movies and characters, it was incredibly exciting. But now, in 2017, it’s time for the experiment to die. It’s time we moved on. The MCU, no doubt, has some legs left in it; they can ride that horse for a while yet. But there is no doubt its shine is wearing off, and that the issues systemic to its very being are more apparent than ever.
As far as DC goes, they have found a mixed bag with their efforts so far, and if they are indeed looking into a different, more traditional movie making approach post Justice League, that would be a smart move indeed. Shared universes and mega franchises aren’t necessary for box office success, and they certainly don’t equal critical success. One-off, standalone films not only make it easier for excellent films to be made, but can generate substantial revenue if the ingredients come together.
Is anyone under the impression that a Dark Knight-esque Batman movie, that doesn’t lead into ten connected other films, wouldn’t kill at the box office? Of course it would. Make good movies about exciting and interesting topics and you are likely to find success. This is why Matt Reeves’ venture with his The Batman movie is so exciting, and dare I say refreshing. The recent hoopla about the film being outside the DCEU entirely may have been overblown, but if The Batman is just an effort to tell the best Batman story possible, without, as Reeves has stated, servicing myriad other future movies, this is great cause for excitement.
Reeves is a talented filmmaker, and seems to have the determination to make the film he wants to make. And it looks as if DC/WB are keen to let him do so. This is wonderful news. A Batman film doesn’t need Superman to make it successful, it doesn’t need any other superhero to make it successful, either commercially or critically. There is such a vast playground to utilise here; there is no need for pinching toys from another box.
The proposed Joker origins movie, as mentioned, isn’t particularly enticing, mainly because the Joker doesn’t need an origins story, but, that being said, if the film is of premium quality, if it’s just an excellent film regardless of its comic book genre, then that would be a resounding victory. It’s not the film they should make, but if they can conjure something that works… well, good for them. WB are in the business of making movies, preferably great movies, and if they are realising they need to unshackle themselves from shared universes in order to do so, they are certainly on the right track, and should be commended.
Is DC going to blow up their shared universe right away? Unlikely, there’s not much evidence for that. But should Justice League not produce the results they are hoping for, if it’s savaged critically or doesn’t achieve their financial hopes (that seems unlikely) perhaps they will consider a different, more liberating future for themselves. The path seems like it’s already being paved, the recent news and rumblings do indeed point to perhaps not concrete plans for unconnected films but at least a safety net should all go wrong.
I mean, what’s wrong with Wonder Woman having her own series of films, without worrying about where she fits in the world? What’s wrong with a great Superman film now and then – one-off stories that tell fascinating tales of his exploits that don’t necessarily connect with each other? What’s wrong with crafting a new Batman trilogy, an epic story that’s perhaps too big for one two hour movie, but one that doesn’t require a decade of hopping from one property to the next in order to tell it? Can’t we just make good movies? Can’t we just tell a story without thinking about how The Flash can be teased?
People still like superhero movies, that probably won’t last forever but this particular corner of the industry would be well served by changing course a little, not waiting for fruit to rot but throwing it out before it does. Fortune favours the bold, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if DC were just that. Wouldn’t it be grand if they just said, “Hey, Marvel, you can have your MCU, we’re just gonna make great films, films that live and breathe on their own, films that are better than yours.”