George Chrysostomou on The CW’s Arrowverse and the DCEU…
It’s no secret that The CW is continuously killing it in terms of faithful and fun adaptations of famous DC characters. Whilst the shows are not everyone’s cup of tea, for those who stick with them it is clear that a lot of effort has gone into building a comprehensive universe that feels both consistently fresh and appropriately fleshed out. The jewel in the crown for these four Arrowverse series – Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Supegrirl – is the crossover episodes, which bring all of the TV series characters together in thrilling and suspenseful tales that are both adventurous and character driven. Some have even gone as far to claim that the last crossover episode, Crisis on Earth X, was the better version of the Justice League, relying on the writer’s saviour – the multiverse – to pit many of Earth’s heroes against the Nazi regime.
Given the impending debut of Ruby Rose’s Batwoman, who may also be receiving her own show soon, and with the return of The CW’s Superman to this year’s crossover episode, it is evident that The CW has put together a shared universe that is not only fantastic, but easily surpasses what Warner Bros. and DC Films has achieved on the big screen. How has The CW achieved what the movies never have then? Well I have a few theories as to how everything went so well for these small screen tales.
It has often been noted that the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been largely down to the perfection of the casting across all of its titles; casting director Sarah Halley Finn is often credited with being the secret weapon to the Marvel movies. The CW TV shows have also put a lot of time and effort into their casting choices, picking a variety of actors in sometimes unexpected but brilliant ways, to add another dimension to the beloved characters. Whilst the DCEU has often come in for criticism over some of its casting decisions, the small screen version of this world never quite experiences those same problems. Indeed, it is hard to imagine anyone else being as good a Flash as Grant Gustin and there’s something about Melissa Benoist that captures the gleeful spirit of the Girl of Steel. Some may say that Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow is too dark and grungy but this is a writing rather than casting choice. Even the small screen Superman is better cast than the big screen in my opinion, with Tyler Hoechlin immediately capturing the symbol of hope in his performance. Casting matters and The CW have done this tremendously.
Of course, another thing on the side of the TV shows is time. The small screen has always had the privilege of extra time to play with. So many more contact hours with fans means so many more opportunities to truly resonate with people. Not only this, but more time means more chances to flesh out a world that already feels huge, aided by returning villains, obscure comic characters and guest appearances that are great throwbacks to old TV shows or even old episodes. The CW has the luxury of throwing lots of things at the wall and seeing what sticks, with every moment adding to the array of different paths that the universe could next be taken in. For the DCEU, one mishap and its back to the drawing board as the rest of the movie lineup remains in limbo, never sure of what step to take next.
I mentioned this earlier, but the multiverse really is the savoir for the showrunners of these series. The multiverse is a perfect writing tool to keep the Arrowverse really fresh and exciting. Any deaths are of course never going to last, with alternate versions of the characters likely to pop up soon. Actors can return at any time, or other shows can be written in to this larger universe, much like how Supergirl was originally added to the lineup and as I suspect Black Lightning and maybe even some of the streaming service shows will be in the future. The unpredictability that comes from this universe captures the essence of the comics. Just as you’re getting bored of Captain Cold, Citizen Cold arrives to take his place. If Black Canary just isn’t working, how about Black Siren. The movies are nowhere close to this level of storytelling, barely setting up the basic elements that make up the DC Universe.
There’s no other way to say it. The main reason these shows work is not because they’re dark and gritty, much like the movies. It’s because they’re fun and cheesy. They tow the line so well between compelling drama and moments of sheer ridiculousness and hilarity, much like their source material. You’ll likely never see The Trickster or Red Tornado on the big screen, but they work so well when pitted against The CW characters. When there needs to be a more serious tone however these shows can deliver, as seemingly is the case in the upcoming season of Arrow. But for comic accurate, compelling fun, there is no better place to experience DC characters than through The CW’s TV shows. This world has a long way to go yet and will hopefully continue for many years as series fade away and new waves of heroes take their place.
What are your thoughts on The CW’s shows and the DCUE?Leave your thoughts in the comments section below…