Honest question, open for discussion, feel free to chime in below! 😉
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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. There 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:
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 in 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?
…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?