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Rambling Writer


Our job is not to give readers what they want; our job is to show them things they never imagined. --Walt Williams

More Blog Posts149

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Aug
12th
2021

The Behind-the-Scenes for the DCEU is All Over the Place · 6:18pm Aug 12th, 2021

I saw The Suicide Squad recently. It was pretty good. But it got me thinking: looked at from a film-history perspective, the DCEU is just the weirdest fucking thing. Seriously, look at it:

  • Man of Steel: Comic book movies are all the rage, alongside cinematic universes, so a film company decides to start a CU with the characters they have a license to. Their first movie revolves around a guy so moral, so straight-laced, so pure, so idealized, the phrase "Big Blue Boy Scout" is meant as a compliment and his motto is, unironically, "truth, justice, and the American way". Who do you get to direct it? A guy known for movies that are dark, testosterone-laden, or both. And for the screenplay? A guy who made a dark, gritty superhero darker and grittier. The collateral damage is off the charts, which everyone hates.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The dour director is back, although it turns out that the negative reaction to the last movie's collateral was intended. A hero with a very strict moral code against killing is now killing with aplomb. A villain whose signature look is baldness now has a full head of hair. A crucial plot point revolves around two characters sharing the same name (or, if you want to be more generous, a crucial plot point revolves around a bigot seeing the error of his ways due to a shared personal connection with the target of his hatred, which the Internet misinterprets as two characters sharing the same name). Oh, and the big franchise-leading hero? By the time the movie's over, he dead, yo.
  • Suicide Squad: Okay! Time for the big hero ensemble film! Except without any heroes. This is a villain ensemble film, with the villains' powers including stuff like "ropes" and "boomerangs" and "nigh-untouchable country-destroying magic". And dark and gritty isn't working, so the company decides to switch things up a bit. They cut the trailer to be peppy and bouncy, looking like their rival's music-driven film. The public loves it! It's decided the best thing to do is rip the movie from the director's hands and pass it to a trailer-editing company to rework the tone. The trailer house's cut is mixed with the director's cut to make some abhorrent monstrosity of bad pacing, editing, and tone. Naturally, this is the movie to win an Oscar. The team's sort-of-not-really leader is a sarcastic black super-assassin guy driven to protect his daughter who doesn't really want to lead but ends up falling into that role anyway. This last part isn't weird on its own, but remember it.
  • Wonder Woman: The first big-budget female-led superhero film in over ten years, since Elektra. Of all things, it's a World War I period piece. The director (also a woman) has only directed one other big-screen film, and that was almost fifteen years ago. The lead manages to be both a retired soldier and a model, and is mostly known for appearing in Fast and Furious movies.
  • Justice League: The dark director from the first two movies is back; unfortunately, he has to step down midway through production due to personal issues. The funny guy mostly responsible for the rival company's tone is brought in to replace him, partly to add more comedy. When it gets released, improperly-applied comedy is one of the major criticisms (among many). A large chunk of discussion about the movie centers on a mustache. Fan disquiet says the original director's vision would be so obviously better.
  • Aquaman: The next big solo film's about a guy who talks to fish (okay, comic readers and cartoon watchers know that isn't the case, but the general public doesn't). Who should direct it? The creator of the Saw movies, obviously. Well, not JUST those movies, he's done a lot of other stuff, too. It's almost all horror. Jango Fett is the hero's dad and Mary Poppins is a kaiju.
  • Shazam!: This one's about such a blatant ripoff of the first hero it's amazing they're in the same company (they weren't originally; long story). It's a silly, goofy movie about a kid who gets superpowers, so why not bring in another horror director? (He has significantly fewer movies under his belt than the last one, by the way.) And it works. Even if you include the scene where the villain throws his brother out of a skyscraper and has his father eaten alive while a septet of monsters slaughter a boardroom of executives. In the post-credits scene, the director voices a caterpillar. He's going to be a major villain later.
  • Birds of Prey: Remember the deuteragonist from the villain ensemble piece? She's getting her own movie! As another ensemble piece. An all-female ensemble piece! Written and directed by women, too! You can tell because one fighter passes another a hair tie to keep her long braids from getting in her eyes. And it's even rated R, in a genre where that rating is usually seen as kryptonite. Given its peers, it has a pretty small budget. But it still has Obi-Wan Kenobi as the villain and one of the John Wick guys to help with the action scenes. It has the "distinction" of being one of the last pre-COVID movies.
  • Wonder Woman 1984: This one's actually sane. Nothing too out-of-place, really.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League: Remember how the director of the hero ensemble piece had to step down and the movie got recut? Fans have been clamoring for a cut truer to his vision with varying levels of facetiousness. And here it is, as a way to help grow a streaming service. The original director gets seventy million dollars thrown at him (almost the entire budget of the female ensemble piece) to complete visual effects and allow reshoots. The end result is four hours long. Most people call it better than the original. One character's high point is changed from saving three random people in the original to running so fast he rewinds time to save the planet. There are no mustache issues.
  • The Suicide Squad: Remember how the villain ensemble piece tried to ape a rival movie's style? Well, the director of that movie got fired over some tweets, so he got picked up for the sequel ASAP to cut out the middleman. Even though, before superhero movies, he was mostly known for making R-rated black comedies. Good thing this one's an R-rated black comedy! The setup's the same as the last one, except some of the biggest names die less than ten minutes into the film. The team's sort-of-not-really leader is a sarcastic black super-assassin driven to protect his daughter who doesn't really want to lead but ends up falling into that role anyway. No, not the same as the last one, a different one. Who's played by a guy with a semi-major role in the rival company's films. The director's brother mocaps a weasel and Sylvester Stallone voices a shark. Also, let's just take the first movie's title and slap a The on it.

Seriously, it feels like some kind of fever dream. Is it just me?

Comments ( 6 )
  • Wonder Woman 1984: This one's actually sane. Nothing too out-of-place, really.

Y'know, except for the part where she pretty much rapes a guy being possessed by the soul of her late boyfriend.

But seriously, as much as everyone hates reboots...yeah, I wouldn't mind seeing the DC movie universe rebooted and given a fresh start. Or just forego the shared universe idea entirely. Heck, The Batman looks promising so far and it's not connected to the DCEU at all.

Just one good modern Superman movie, that's all I'm asking for, DC/Warner Bros. And if you won't do it then I'll throw myself into writing and get to the point where I can do it myself.

I’ve been calling it the “DC EWWWW” in my head for years.

Either they need to start copying the MCU for a over arching storyline or just get someone in charge who is an actual fan of the comics who can do this universe justice. No pun intended.

James Gunn may actually be a good choice once he’s done with Guardians Vol 3.

So, first off, didn't you ever wonder why a straight-laced businessman goes by a cutesy shortening of his actual given name? It's because his appearance and personality were originally the one in Dawn of Justice before a complete character retool.

Second, Man of Steel is by all accounts a decent movie on its own merits but has no business trying to pass off as a Superman movie. (In a similar vein, I like to pretend that "Thomas Wayne" was a coincidence and Batman is every bit as fictional in Joker as it is in our world.)

Several of the DC movies are good in their own right, but they're so random and disconnected that they don't link up into any sort of Universe at all.

Which is somewhat ironic, as DC actually did the cinematic universe thing before Marvel did - in cartoon form. They had an overarching continuity, multi-story character arcs, different shows with different tones but still connected, etc.

But if DC really want to do what Marvel's done, the first and most important thing that they'd have to do is stop. Stop making movies, stop making the landscape of DC stories messier. No matter what they do to it, the current generation of movies and stars are never going to become a coherent Universe. And that's a really bitter pill to swallow, because it means letting go of Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck and Jason Momoa, all of whom have become iconic embodiments of their characters.

Maybe in another decade or so they'll try that. Maybe not.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

If I hadn't lived through it, I wouldn't have believed it.

Sounds like a hot mess I still need to watch birds of prey on Redbox DVD so I can return it like a year late

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