Food for Thought: How DC Can Fix Their Cinematic Universe

In this editorial series, we will be taking a popular story in the world of movie news and really analyze it. We'll talk in depth about the pros and cons of the story and really get our hands dirty. Now, these topics will be more than a casting choice or something we can easily write an article about otherwise; these will feature more grey topics and highly opinionated discussions. So, without further ado, let's get started!

In this installment, we will talk about how to fix the DC Cinematic Universe.

A couple weeks ago, Suicide Squad was released, which was met with very mixed reviews. I didn't care for the movie really at all (you can read my full review here). But DC has yet to release a movie that truly pleases everyone. While I really liked Man of Steel, not everyone did. And Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was mixed as well. While Marvel has continuously put out film after film that are universally loved, DC's movies tend to struggle to please. After yet another mixed bag, people are wondering if Suicide Squad has sunk the DC Cinematic Universe. In my eyes, it hasn't. But it has hurt it. You can read my full thoughts on this here. But DC really does need a course correction. So here are my three steps to how DC can fix their cinematic universe. 

#1 Stop Playing Catch-Up

Back in 2013 when DC released the first film in their new DC Cinematic Universe, Marvel was releasing their seventh and eighth movie. Marvel had separately introduced each of their main characters in solo films, and then brought them together for The Avengers, which made $1.5 billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Iron Man 3 came out the following year, in 2013, and made another billion. Marvel had put its foot in the door, and then proceeded to rip it wide open. The mindset that DC needs to catch up to Marvel is understandable. Marvel is making billions upon billions, and DC's answer to that is Green Lantern. DC needed to initially catch up, but couldn't let that mindset define their game plan. DC put out Man of Steel, which re-introduced us to their most classic superhero, Superman. They set the tone for this new universe-- more serious and grounded than Marvel's whimsical stories. They set the foundation for a larger universe, but didn't let it overpower. It stayed a Superman movie, with more subtle world-building. 

But since then, DC has continued to play catch-up. Instead of making Wonder Woman or The Flash or Man of Steel 2 their next film, they put out Batman v. Superman. They immediately jumped to the team-up movie, and expected it to make a billion dollars at the box office. Batman v. Superman was a reactionary move, and wasn't the next natural progression of the story. It was DC trying to play catch up. Next was Suicide Squad, which was DC's answer to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. But while Marvel had nine prior excellent films to earn them the right to make that film, DC had two mixed films. DC's main problem is that they are jumping the gun to play catch up. They need to focus on making their own films at a slower pace. Don't jump to the team-up movie. Don't jump to the oddball film. Marvel was slow and meticulous, and earned their right to make these movies. If DC keeps playing in Marvel's shadow, that's where they'll always be.

#2 Take It Slow

Going hand-in-hand with my last point, DC is rushing their films in order to catch up. They aren't taking the time to fully develop their stories and flesh out their characters because they want to bang these movies out. There is pressure to catch up to Marvel, but that pressure is what is ruining the DC Cinematic Universe right now. They need to stop for a second and develop the foundation of their universe. Instead of making every move reactionary to what Marvel is doing, then need to plan out what they want to do, and then do it. Instead of "Avengers made a billion, so let's do Batman v. Superman" and "Guardians of the Galaxy was a success, so let's do Suicide Squad.", DC should be figuring out what works best for their universe. And they need to take it slow. Don't do one movie then do the team up. Do Man of Steel. Do a solo Batman movie. Do Man of Steel 2. Do Wonder Woman. Then maybe do Batman v. Superman. Marvel didn't build its empire in two or three films. It took many movies before they hit their stride.  

Another problem for DC is that they don't have their Kevin Feige. Over at Marvel, Feige works as a producer and an overseer of the entire universe. He knows how all the pieces fall together, and can watch over each project. DC does not have that person. For a while it looked like it would be Zack Snyder, but it's since gone away from him. It shouldn't be a director anyways. But now it seems that Geoff Johns has taken over that role. He may not be an experienced film producer, but he knows comic books, so that's a start. Johns may turn out to be their Feige, but I think they still need a producer on board who knows the industry, and can help Johns keep track of their rapidly expanding universe. Regardless of who does it, DC needs their Feige, and the movies have shown they are weaker without that kind of leader. 

#3 Don't Be Afraid to be Different

Man of Steel followed in the footsteps of The Dark Knight Trilogy and gave us an uber-dark, gritty Superman movie. It was grounded in reality (as much as a Superman movie can be), and set itself apart from Marvel's tone. Batman v. Superman continued this darkness in tone, but took it a little bit too far. You can have a serious movie, but you still need it to be fun and entertaining. Batman v. Superman just didn't have that fun. DC heard that and panicked by cramming a bunch of popular songs into Suicide Squad, trying to inject artificial fun into the film. The result was a mess. The fun has to be inherent in the film. Sure, Suicide Squad had some good jokes, but forcing songs into the film to try to lighten the tone doesn't do anything.

Suicide Squad is the result of DC panicking that they need to be more like Marvel. Should DC's films be fun? Yes, absolutely. But if it's not a light-hearted film from the get-go, don't try to make it one in post-production. The best way DC can differentiate itself from Marvel is by taking on a darker, more serious tone, like Man of Steel. These movies can be serious while also being fun and engaging. DC should pick its tone and stick with it, and don't panic and try to change your film in post. It's okay for DC to be different from Marvel, and really the only way the DC Cinematic Universe is going to survive is if it is different.

DC has a ton of movies coming out. Is it a little rushed to be banging out this many films? Yes, but that's what they're doing. But going forward, after Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, they have to make some structural changes in order to fix their cinematic universe. Other than my main points above, they really need to secure their own Kevin Feige, a producer who can manage all the projects. I really hope that Geoff Johns works out to be that person, because that role is pivotal to DC's success. But to reiterate my points, by stopping playing catch-up, taking it slow, and not being afraid to be different, DC can help ensure that their cinematic universe will succeed, and can compete with Marvel at the box office. 

What do you think? Do you agree with my points? How do you think DC should fix their cinematic universe? Have you seen Suicide Squad yet? Did you like it? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Written by: Nate 
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