What DC is Doing Right

wonderwoman This week, Warner Bros., the conglomerate that owns DC Comics, the publishers of everyone’s favorite giant rat, announced ten new movies in the prospective bag over the next five years:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Suicide Squad (2016) Wonder Woman (2017) Justice League Part One (2017) The Flash (2018) Aquaman (2018) Shazam (2019) Justice League Part Two (2019) Cyborg (2020) Green Lantern (2020)

To no one’s surprise, there are some pretty expected titles up there. We have Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice, which is a weird name, and of course the Zack Snyder-helmed Justice League. There were, however, some cool surprises, though. Movies like Wonder Woman, Flash, and Cyborg. And some I don’t get, like Suicide Squad. I mean, seriously, why follow your big Batman and Superman film with Suicide Squad? It makes no sense. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Fox’s Gotham, and how the show was representative of DC not understanding their audience. And I was very tempted to write about that again, especially in light of these announcements. Let’s face it: It’s a great list, and I’m excited about some of the movies, but it’s evident that they don’t have much of a cohesive plan at the moment. It kind of looks like they’re just throwing a ton of different things at the wall to see what sticks. What? Marvel just made a ka-billion dollars on their movie about a C-List team of outlaws? Do we have anything like that? Suicide Squad? Sure. Close enough. I didn’t want to write about that, though. Not too much. Often times, I grow tired of lobbing criticism onto the Internet to join with the other bunches of negativity floating around. Instead, I want to lob some praise DC’s direction. Cautious praise, of course, because I’ve been burned before (**Cough Cough** Green Lantern **Cough Cough**), but praise none-the-less. Here’s a list of four things I think DC is doing well in their current onslaught of films with washed-out colors.

1. Diversity

Let’s start with an easy one. Marvel’s got some great movies, but let’s face it. They’re all led by white males, and that’s unfortunate. Especially, because they have such amazing female and POC characters they could lead with. Who wouldn’t want to see a Falcon film starring Anthony Mackie?? And, hell, we’ve been clamoring for a Black Widow film for ages, ever since she started kicking butt all over Iron Man’s films. With DC’s list, we at least have an attempt at diversity. Wonder Woman is getting her own film, which is awesome. And Cyborg as well. And, hell, there’s something to be said for the fact that Aquaman, a very white male in the comic books, will be played by Jason Momoa, a man of native Hawaiian descent. Even the weirdly selected Suicide Squad has the potential to feature Amanda Waller as one of its lead characters, and that is awesome. While they may have missed the bus on superhero cinematic universes, they at least have a chance to beat Marvel to this punch.

2. Maintaining Control

One of the big missteps that Marvel made in the early years of their films was not maintaining control of some of their flagship characters. I understand that this modern renaissance of mainstream superhero films is mostly due to the success of those earlier films, like X-Men and Spider-Man, but it’s sure a shame we most likely won’t see Wolverine or Spider-Man in any upcoming MCU films. To be fair, there was that rumor a few weeks ago that Marvel was negotiating with Fox to regain the rights to Spider-Man, but that was never confirmed, and with Sony planning multiple web-slinging films, I doubt they’re going to loan him out. For better or worse, however, DC has maintained control of the film rights to all of its characters. Of course, this is because they’re owned by a media conglomerate, which also makes films, but that’s beside the point. They’re throwing caution to the wind, at the moment, and spraying and praying, and it stands to reason that they’re going to hit the right note at some point. And when they do, they’ll have access to their entire roster of identifiable characters, and that’s a good thing.

3. Build-Up

Man-Of-SteelFull disclosure. I haven’t yet watched Man of Steel. I know, I know. How can I write about DC’s cinematic universe, when I haven’t even seen its flagship film? I don’t have a good answer to that question. What I do know, however, is that regardless of what I think of that film – and I will watch it soon – I love the idea of their build-up. Superman is probably the most identifiable comic book character in the history of the medium. He is a pop-culture icon, and even people who have never, ever, ever read a comic book know who Superman is. When VH1 composed their list of top-200 pop culture icons, Superman was number 2, second only to Oprah Winfrey. He was the only superhero to crack the top 100, and if you discount characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, whose comic book appearances are tangential to their rise to notoriety, Superman is one of only four other comic book characters to crack the list. The others? Spider-Man at #151, Batman at #158, and Wonder Woman at #176. By building their cinematic universe on a foundation of Superman, DC made a good call. And, of course, you’ll notice the other two DC characters on the list. I don’t think it’s any surprise that aside from Suicide Squad, DC is featuring the “Trinity” heavily in their films leading up to Justice League: Part One. DC has a power-house of strong, identifiable, iconic characters, and using those to build-up their cinematic universe is a smart move. Of course, without good films to back them up, this may all be a moot point, but I don’t care. It’s my list, not yours.

4. Green Lantern

The last Green Lantern film was terrible. There’s no doubt about that. What should have been a cinematic treat for the eyes became a film that was largely unwatchable, despite having an incredibly likeable star in Ryan Reynolds. It would be very easy for DC to write that film off as the fault of the character, but instead, they are moving forward with another GL film, and I love that. It shows a company that is willing to learn from its mistakes and adjust its playbook. Do I have hopes for the new Green Lantern film? Not even a little, especially in light of DC’s apparent “no-joke” policy. GL is a character that needs imagination and charisma, and I don’t think DC’s weird washed-out color thing is a good idea for a character like this. But, I love that they’re trying. Maybe with the whole diversity thing, they’ll go whole hog and run with a Jon Stewart-led Green Lantern film. Maybe. -- BatmanI don’t want to give the impression that they’re doing things perfectly. I’ve seen the stills of “Sad Batman” and the terrible looking Batmobile. I like the promotional shot of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, high-heels aside, but I question if DC and Warner Bros. will understand how to make a good WW film. After all, they avoided a WW solo movie for a long time, saying that it was too “tricky.” I can understand and know all of that, but still be pleased with some of the stuff I see in their recent announcement. I think it’s important that we praise the things we like just as much as we complain about the things we don’t. Positive reinforcement can be a great thing, and if I think people on the Internet spent a little more time working on that, we might see a lot of positive changes when our favorite hobby leaves our closets and ventures out into the real world. I might just be a hopeless optimist, though. What do you think? Leave a comment below and join the discussion!
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Christopher David Lawton

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