Have Some Faith: The DCEU & Justice League
Yes, yes, we've heard it all before. "DC is playing catch-up." "Zack Snyder is a hack." "Warner Bros. has zero clue what they're doing." Well, I'm here to at least try and change the minds of those with that mindset. You might not like what you've seen from the DC Extended Universe, and that's fine, as Warner Bros. and DC clearly have a vision for what they're doing. It might not be a vision that you personally agree with, but if box office numbers are to be believed, audiences are still going to these films in droves. But why should you care? Why am I trying to sway the opinion one of the hardest bases to convince? Because I believe in the DCEU, minor issues aside.
It's been said that the one thing that Warner Bros. and DC have perfected are their trailers. This was proven right off the bat back in late 2012 with the release of the first teaser for Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which featured striking images and Russell Crowe narration taken straight from Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. The teaser not only continued the feel of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, but it showed that Snyder wasn't going to tone down his style even when dealing with one of the most popular comic book characters in history. Upon release however, Man of Steel garnered middling reactions from fans and critics alike. Many disliked the dark and dour tone that was used to portray one of the most hopeful DC Comics characters, while others just didn't care for Snyder's take on Superman. Personally, I feel a lot of the blame should be laid at the feet of David S. Goyer, noted hater of nerds everywhere. Goyer hasn't been shy when it comes to ridiculing the fans of comic books and his disdain came through with the screenplay.
Luckily, there were numerous highlights in Man of Steel, a film that I'm a fan of. Outside of Christopher Reeve, Henry Cavill is my favorite of the onscreen Supermen. He brings a down-home quality to Clark Kent that I really attach to, and with his performance as Superman, an alien not sure of his place on Earth, there's conflict that's evident whenever he dons the cape. Also of note is Michael Shannon, chewing the most scenery of his career as the villainous General Zod. Clearly having a field day with the material, his Zod is almost Pacino-esque, screaming at every given opportunity with a fuse so short you can almost see it. Snyder also brought his signature visual to style the picture, with the gorgeous imagery and inventive camerawork that's become his signature. Man of Steel may have abundant issues, but in the end, it's a thrilling entryway into the current DCEU.
Zack Snyder would please his fans yet again in 2016 with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film I spent an entire podcast defending. Taking what worked in Man of Steel and adding in a dash of Watchmen (still his best film), he continued his streak of stellar adaptations, as did Warner Bros.. In a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the status quo, with its constant winking to the audience, BvS came as a welcomed palette cleanser. Whereas those films are stake-free, cookie cutter affairs, BvS offered thought provoking allegories, real stakes, and fresh looks at classic characters. This is mostly in thanks to Chris Terrio, Oscar winning screenwriter of Argo, as he was tasked with rewriting a script previously tackled by the aforementioned Goyer.
Other than a few hiccups here and there, BvS pleased me in ways that few superhero films have. Having Batman and Superman on the same screen is something that many have wanted in a movie since they were young. Add in a capable Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and the DC Trinity was complete. Sure, they were fighting a giant CGI monster, as is the case with most comic book films, but the action here was thrilling. The Ultimate Cut really did a lot to alleviate the issues that were apparent in the theatrical version, but naysayers didn't give it a chance. Honestly, it's hard to blame them, as The Ultimate Cut's three hour runtime can be daunting to someone who wasn't convinced the first time around. That said, if you give it a chance, there's a lot to love there, and more of the classic take that fans enjoy.
Which brings us to David Ayer's Suicide Squad which is a movie that certainly happened and the less said about it the better.
Which brings us to 2017 where Warner Bros. are finally going to give comic book fans two films that they've been wanting for decades. This June will see the release of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, which will be an origin story for Diana of Themyscira. The trailers, as per Warner Bros. habit, have been phenomenal so far. They show a lighter tone and slick action that's no doubt because of Geoff Johns having a more hands on approach to the DCEU after BvS and Suicide Squad. Geoff Johns' impact on DC Comics cannot be understated, having made his name by reinventing numerous heroes in their arsenal. He turned Green Lantern, Aquaman, and The Flash, from almost laughable characters into actual threats and gave them all rich personalities and arcs that hold true to this day.
Johns knows what makes a great comic book, so it only makes sense that he would take a strong hand in Wonder Woman and November's Justice League. The filmmakers respect him and his decisions which is evident by the new tone these pictures seem to be taking on. The trailer for Justice League was everything I had hoped it to be. From the one-liners, to the action, to Aquaman riding the Batmobile like it's the General Lee about to jump a gorge, Justice League looks like a blast and a half and Johns' fingerprints are all over it. Of course it's still a Snyder film, and it will have all of the elements that make his pictures what they are, but it also shows a glimmer of something different. A more hopeful tone that I'm sure will be just as divisive as the last few films in the DCEU.
In the end it's best to just put your concerns aside and have some faith in Geoff Johns and his vision for this franchise. Read any of his comics and you'll see that the man is up to snuff when it comes to superheroes and I have hope that Justice League will at least get some people on board with Warner Bros. crazy plan. If anything, I hope to run into at least some of you at the theater come this November.