What’s DC’s Biggest Weakness on the Big Screen?

dccomicslogoWhat is the single biggest weakness in DC’s cinematic efforts?

Honest question, open for discussion, feel free to chime in below! πŸ˜‰

I do, of course, have my own theory. It’s a very young theory of mine… in fact, it just barely hit me, and inspired this post. πŸ™‚

To be clear, I am, of course, talking about the DC Extended Universe, the movies, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, etc. I love most of what they’ve got going on TV right now. πŸ™‚

I’ve made no secret that I think DC and Warner’s approach to a cinematic universe has some pretty severe flaws, but it only dawned on me, just now, what the real problem is! Or, at least, what it might be, if my theory is correct.

To get straight to the point: I realized that every DC movie lately has been an attempt at another Dark Knight. They don’t seem to understand how much variety there is to be found among superheroes and in the movies they make about them. ThereΒ are, I was thinking, many shades between the “kids movies,” like they used to make and “gritty, jarring, and dark.” And that’s when it hit me.

DC’s biggest weakness is their long-standing use of the cookie-cutter approach.

Here’s what I mean, with a quick comparison of the other major producers of superhero/comic book movies:

Marvel Happy Dance.

Marvel Happy Dance.

Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of the MCU. And I’ve briefly discussed possible weak spots for Marvel to address in their efforts. Those are a bit more subtle and varied, I think. Oh, wait, that’s an increasingly-accurate descriptor of the MCU, isn’t it? Varied. Phase One emphasized the variety of the superheroes coming together inΒ Avengers; Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy were not all the same movie; Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones are all different from each other, all expanding the MCU further and further into a true, organic, varied universe, appealing to a wide range of audiences. That’s their big strength, isn’t it? To draw in everyone, somehow, sometime?

Meanwhile, Fox’s big weakness is how they just don’t seem to have any real, coherent plan for their X-Men universe as a whole. But they can still make some fun, enjoyable movies, loosely related to each other. Considering the upcoming release of Deadpool, I’d say it’s pretty clear that they’re open to trying new things.

Sony merely botched their attempt at turning Spider-Man into its own cinematic universe, but they’ve since adapted, partnering with Marvel for Spidey’s movies and working to start a brand new universe with Valiant Comics.

All three of DC’s biggest competitors are pushing boundaries, trying new things. Fox and Sony may be a little behind the curve on this, but that’s still what they’re doing, and so their work has more appeal for any random person in the audience.

But DC isn’t.

Or, at least, not that I can see. They had success with Batman Begins and Dark Knight, so it makes sense to try and repeat that, to a degree. But they seem to be approaching their DCEU as if trying to bake an entire batch of “Dark Knight” cookies simultaneously. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are just two examples. Suicide Squad, ironically, seems to have the most humor, based on the trailers (which feels really backwards, ya know?), but it definitely has the grit and darkness and intensity. Heck, from what I’ve heard, they’re setting Wonder Woman during World War I to really capture her anti-war sentiments by, in effect, trying to make her story more jarring and dark and bloody. They’re actually trying to make the same thing over and over again.

Cookie cutter approach.

How did this happen?

"How could this have happened?!"

“How could this have happened?!”

…well, unfortunately, it’s nothing new. More like it’s been DC’s M.O. for a few decades now.

DC was once the king of superhero movies, ever since they made the original Superman and Batman movies. Which, fine movies, but largely meant for little kids. And that became what live-action superhero movies were: for little kids. And just like that, they stopped pushing. They had found their first cookie cutter and they used it, over and over again.

As they were so successful, and for so long, why bother trying anything else?

It worked until X-Men and Spider-Man proved that superhero movies could be more than “just for kids.” So DC made Batman Begins and Dark Knight, to push ahead again, yet they were still making their “for kids” superhero movies, most of which were terrible and flopped. The old cookie cutter wasn’t working right anymore. However, although they found a new cookie cutter to use, they still reverted to using a cookie cutter!

That seems to be all they’ve ever done, and they’ve never stopped! They haven’t learned about trying new things! They have not learned about taking risks. Or creating variety within the library of their work!

Everyone else is experimenting with new things, new shapes, new recipes, new everything, but when has DC ever done that? Even before the MCU pushed the genre forward again, as Spidey and the X-Men once did, DC had already fallen behind Fox and Sony. That is why they’re a step behind everyone now, trying desperately to catch up: because they’re holding on, not to a single thing, but to the cookie cutter approach as a whole.

In competing with the MCU, and all the others, DC seems to think they can just make more cookies with their newest cutter, and that will take care of things.

That is not a very sound business approach, ya know?

So, what do you y’all think? Am I right? Wrong? A little of both?

What do you think is DC’s biggest weakness on the big screen?

Because it's wrong.

Just keep it civil! πŸ˜‰

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23 Responses to What’s DC’s Biggest Weakness on the Big Screen?

  1. IAmDonovan says:

    My opinions on the DCCU are all half baked as I’ve only seen the three Batman movies (side note: what is the first Superman movie I should watch?) but I’ve found that DC likes things dark and gritty, but not necessarily captivating. I love humor, which is why GOTG and Avengers really appeal to me, but I also enjoyed Daredevil and, more to the point, Jessica Jones, both of which had really dark tones. While DD had some humor, JJ had very, very little, but I was still captivated. The characters were developed and the plot was interesting. With Batman, because his story is so overdone and familiar almost, I was bored seeing it all. Yes, the Joker was really cool, but he wasn’t as fascinating as Kilgrave. All the other characters in Batman had little roles that were either somewhat unexplained or just not cool enough.
    As I just said, I haven’t even seen any Superman movies or TV shows, but I’m already tired of Superman and Batman. DC needs to change it up, and I hope Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman are the changes they need, but I also hope the movies are more intense and in-depth.
    Again, I’m not fully qualified to comment on DC as a whole, but so far, I’m not impressed in the film category.

    Liked by 1 person

    • swanpride says:

      I actually thought that Jessica Jones was funnier (when it wasn’t downright disturbing, naturally). It was a very dark humour, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Heh, I think my favorite moment has to be when she did that fake “you’ve won” phone call.

        Like

      • swanpride says:

        I loved when she pretended to know this one secretary while sitting on the loo.

        Also: “Self-respect. Get some.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Technically, she was pretending to be this minor celebrity that the secretary really liked, but yeah, that was great.
        Also: “It’s called whiskey.”

        Like

      • swanpride says:

        I thought that this was some sort of sophomore connection…she pretended to be someone she knew in passing in the past from some sort of team thingy….

        Like

      • Merlin says:

        (goes to double-check this… and returns, humbled) Ah. You’re right! I totally misinterpreted that one! I thought I’d heard the secretary say she was a fan or something. :p

        Like

      • IAmDonovan says:

        Really? Jessica’s wit and irregular sarcasm was refreshing, but it didn’t hold a candle to Foggy Nelson’s personality and his bromance with Matt!

        Liked by 1 person

      • swanpride says:

        I thought that Foggy was kind of annoying until he was included in the secret.

        Like

      • IAmDonovan says:

        To each their own! I personally loved Foggy and loved how he made the dark show less dark!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Whaaat? Foggy annoying? When he sings in the office, then his reaction when Karen makes her presence known, and then takes Karen around town, makes her feel safe again? And when he demolishes that blonde ex-girlfriend lawyer in the lobby? I thought he was rather charming and capable, in his own way! πŸ™‚

        Like

      • swanpride says:

        Yeah, those were great scenes, but not exactly funny ones. I perceived the one with Karen as sweet and the one with Marcy (great character btw) as fistpump moment. But his so called humour didn’t really hit with me, and that was most of his role in the beginning, goofing around.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Eh, as Donovan says, to each, their own! πŸ™‚ Absolutely love Foggy and Matt, though! πŸ˜‰

        Like

      • swanpride says:

        Yeah…but my favourite characters were actually Claire, Urich, Wesley and Marcy…sigh…the second season will feel empty…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Well, I haven’t heard anything, but it would make some sense to see Claire and Marcy again, at least. Wesley, not so much… unless we’re visiting Karen’s nightmares or Fisk’s memories. But yeah, Wesley was a cool villain, and ya gotta love Urich. πŸ™‚

        Perhaps Elektra and the Punisher will be able to fill things up a bit! I’m excited to see those two! πŸ˜€

        Like

  2. swanpride says:

    That is exactly what I have said for years. You can see it everywhere, not just in the movies. For one, they keep reverting back to Batman. Perhaps because Batman is the most human of their characters and therefore connects the best to the audience with his vast gallery of interesting side-characters, but by focussing on him so much everyone else has become second fiddle…well, actually third fiddle, Superman is the second fiddle, he turns up whenever a Batman concept is particularly successful with his own version of what was already done.

    You have the same problem with the CW-verse. It is all great if you like exactly that kind of storytelling. But if you are not into love-triangles and melodrama, you are fast looking for something else, only to discover that “something else” means Gotham. It doesn’t matter that Arrow is darker and Flash has a brighter colour scheme, the kind of stories they tell tend to be similiar. One can’t even say any longer that Arrow is more grounded, because “grounded” went right out of the window when Arrow started to bring the death back to life.

    Concerning Batman vs. Superman, well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwleKgkc8Ys

    The ironic thing is, despite the MCU being so varied, I rarely encounter a piece I don’t like. Whatever they do, they always aim high, so even if they fail, it is at least an interesting failure. But DC is never aiming high, they always go for the safe option.

    Though, to be fair, the one time they didn’t take the safe option and let Superman kill Zod, they experienced a backlash (I still think it is more about how it was done than that it was done).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merlin says:

      It’s exactly as you say. Marvel being so varied means, among other things, that they’re not content to just copy, paste, and print. The drive to try new things, to improve and do great, is the opposite of the stagnation of complacency.

      And yes, it very much is how it was done. I think that was the first time I’ve ever heard of Superman, while he was rational and in control of himself, deliberately killing someone. And as it was right at the end of this titanic battle that doubtless left a lot of people dead, it kind of felt cheap, I think. They had this monumental moment, and gave it the momentary significance of putting a quarter in a vending machine. …or perhaps pounding an uncooperative vending machine.

      Like

      • swanpride says:

        The problem is that you barely see the people on the ground. Well, there are the few characters we already know and a few soldiers, but otherwise it is kind of empty. In The Avengers you see people, including children, fleeing from the carnage and in the end there is the scene on the TV scenes of people lighting candles for the victims.
        Both movies remind me a little bit of 9/11, but while the Avengers focusses on the people in question, Man of Steel focusses on the destruction. The people become an afterthought. And that’s what is so grating. And that is exactly why this trailer scene with Batman staring at the tower which falls apart, the little girl in his arms, is such a hit, because it brings the humanity back into the scenario.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Merlin says:

        Ooooh, I hadn’t even thought of that! Batman challenging Superman like this suddenly makes SO much more sense! …well, sort of, as I think about it, since, if Batman sees the people on the ground so well, he could probably appreciate Superman running around to save people caught in disasters. Aaaand they’ve lost me again.

        Like

  3. masterleiaofasgard says:

    Reblogged this on Excelsior! and commented:
    I heartily agree with this. It’s a real shame, because DC has some awesome superheroes and villains – if they tried a bit harder, they could easily be on the same level as Marvel.

    Liked by 1 person

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