Let's Talk About The Current Predicament Facing The DCEU

– by LRM
"The New DCEU: Now With 100% More Optimistic Superman"

"The New DCEU: Now With 100% More Optimistic Superman"

Something I touched on in last week's LOS FANBOYS Podcast is the way that the current state of the DCEU is such that we won't really see what we're dealing with until 2018. In this editorial, I'll expand on that a bit. 

Also, for those of you that were following my OVERALL EXPLORATION OF THE DCEU, the reason I have yet to publish the capper to that series is simple: Every time I sit down to write the fourth and final installment- which brings us into the present day- it feels like there's a new twist in the DCEU landscape. It's tough to report on something, and to form a definitive conclusion, on something that is seemingly still so fluid. By the end of this week, I hope to finally finish it. 

So, let's speak briefly about the current state of things, and why DC fans should be cautiously optimistic about the DCEU.

Shortly after the release of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, the proverbial s%*t hit the fan over at WB/DC. I don't need to reiterate the fallout from that film, as that's all well-trod territory at this point. All we need to keep in mind from that situation earlier this year is that there were major shakeups behind-the-scenes at DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. essentially shifted away from the Zack Snyder Era and moved into the Geoff Johns Era, making the longtime DC Comics writer the President and Chief Creative Officer. 

Geoff Johns

Geoff Johns

Immediately, things started shifting. From SUICIDE SQUAD's playful marketing campaign, to the onslaught of San Diego Comic-Con materials, which depicted a lighter, funnier, more adventurous DCEU, we could see the changes. Johns went around talking about optimism, and the official synopsis for JUSTICE LEAGUE stood in very stark contrast to the darker, more deconstructive themes of the first two films in the DCEU. 

I already covered why Johns may be EXACTLY WHAT THE DCEU NEEDS. But now let's get to why we won't really see what the Johns version of the DCEU looks like for a couple more years.

Remember: When WB/DC announced its ambitious slate of DC films, many of those projects went directly into production. Instead of waiting to see if BATMAN V SUPERMAN would be received better than MAN OF STEEL was and then figuring out exactly how to please its rabid fanbase, they pushed ahead with SUICIDE SQUAD and WONDER WOMAN. This means that both of those films would, essentially, be holdovers from the Snyder Era because, during their inception, he was the one calling the shots for the DCEU. 

When BvS came out and did what it did, Warner Bros quickly saw that Snyder's vision wasn't going to allow the DCEU to become the Golden Goose franchise that the studio wanted it to be. This had an immediate impact on SUICIDE SQUAD, with lots of stuff being cut, reshoots reshaping the film, and things like Jared Leto's twisted take on the character getting somewhat neutered for the theatrical cut, in favor of a more playful, crowd-pleasing movie.

The results were a bit of a Frankenstein monster. The film was spanked by critics, and was given a so-so response by fans. Based on the power of the DC brand, it's made a ton of money, which is great for Warner Bros, but it's pretty clear that people think they've yet to produce an unadulterated hit. SUICIDE SQUAD is described as a step in the right direction, but still tonally a mess and- at times- incoherent. 

But what can we expect, really? Things are in a state of flux!

SUICIDE SQUAD's production primarily took place pre-BvS, so there was really only so much they could do. 

Even WONDER WOMAN was filming before BvS came out, based on a script written before fans and critics could let the studio know how they felt about the studio's vision. This isn't to say that WONDER WOMAN will be bad. It had a dynamite SDCC trailer, and- aside from a letter ALLEGEDLY WRITTEN BY A FORMER WB EMPLOYEE- we haven't heard anything negative about the film. Heck, it's even based on one of the few universally-praised elements from BvS: Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman.

But, still, we have to keep in mind that the film is a holdover from the previous regime.

Ezra Miller had a lot of tongues wagging positively during recent JUSTICE LEAGUE set visits, and in this sequence from the SDCC trailer for the film.

Ezra Miller had a lot of tongues wagging positively during recent JUSTICE LEAGUE set visits, and in this sequence from the SDCC trailer for the film.

Even JUSTICE LEAGUE, which began filming mere weeks after DAWN OF JUSTICE came out, can only be reactionary with its changes. A couple of weeks aren't nearly enough time to alter the tone, script, and/or plot of a film- especially when you consider that, in large part, the movie comes from the same minds that gave us BvS, Snyder and writer Chris Terrio. 

This means that we'll have to wait until THE FLASH comes out in 2018 to really see what a Geoff Johns DCEU movie will look like. The Rick Famuyiwa-directed film will be the first entry in this universe that will be almost entirely produced (including pre and post) under the watchful eye of Geoff Johns. 

That's what makes the current landscape so fascinating. On the one hand, we know that WB/DC has heard us and are trying to evolve the DCEU into a less divisive beast, but we also know that it's going to take a while before we can get our first real taste of what it's going to become. Meanwhile, we're still expected to come out in droves for WONDER WOMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE next year. 

We should be optimistic, I think. If this year's two entries are any indication, the power of the DC brand is such that- even if the movies are subpar- Warner Bros will still make enough money to justify continuing. This means that we'll actually get to see the next phase happen. If BvS and SS had actually flopped, then we'd likely never see what else WB/DC has promised us. So if that holds true, 2017's offerings will continue to make bank and pave the way for the new DCEU in 2018.

The question becomes: Can fans continue to be patient as WB/DC tinkers with its creative output for another year and a half? If WONDER WOMAN is received similarly to SUICIDE SQUAD and BATMAN V SUPERMAN, but somehow doesn't make the kind of money those movies made, how will Warner Bros proceed? Warner Bros continues to be as confident as ever, of course, since THE FLASH will start filming months before WW comes out. But how long can they keep this up?

Also, from a PR perspective, how will Warner Bros continue to handle the backlash against its films? It's strange for them to push Johns out there as "the man" and "the face" of the DCEU, while a series of films (SS, WW, JL) he had very little to do with are out there making waves for the company for the foreseeable future. I've already seen people say stuff like "Johns and the DCEU are 0-3 so far," to which I always want to say, "None of this has really been Johns yet!"

A very unique, very peculiar situation indeed.

At this point, all I can say is that everyone should take a deep breath and look towards the future. I think the DCEU is going to be great someday. Between THE FLASH, starring the talented scene-stealer Ezra Miller, a James Wan-directed AQUAMAN, a Johns-infused MAN OF STEEL sequel, and Ben Affleck's THE BATMAN, I think the DCEU's best days lie ahead. It's just a shame we have to wait until March 16, 2018 when THE FLASH arrives, to see it begin. 

But that's just me. 

What do you think? 

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