It’s official. While there are sure to be plenty more reviews to come (Rotten Tomatoes has only aggregated 183 so far), it’s clear that Birds of Prey is a critical success. As of this writing, it is at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is officially “Certified Fresh.” This puts it in plenty of enviable comic book company, including the likes of some of the most beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
This also marks the fifth positively-rated film from DC ever since Man of Steel came out in 2013. That’s five solid films in seven years. So, this begs the question: is it time for fans to stop ringing the doom bell for these DC movies already?
DC’s Rocky Start
Yeah, we know they were late to the shared universe game. So far behind, in fact, that they felt the need to “rush” to the proto-Justice League team-up in their second film, Batman v Superman. Now, I may love the extended cut of that film, but there’s no doubt that it wasn’t the best start to the shared universe. It was clear that they were trying to replicate Marvel’s success, only to find failure.
I give them kudos for at least trying something a tad different with the villain-led Suicide Squad, but I guess you could argue they were trying too hard to capture that Guardians of the Galaxy magic there. And with Justice League, they even brought on The Avengers’ Joss Whedon to help finish the project after Zack Snyder had to step away.
The only glimmer of hope in this universe at the time was Wonder Woman, which took a character-centric approach. Fittingly enough, it was also the first film so far to have genuine hope built into its message and theme.
So, in spite of this one success, fans were still reticent to call a DC movie “good,” and it’s a perspective that continues on today. But times have changed.
The Turn of the Tide
As I mentioned above, Wonder Woman was that glimmer of hope, but that glimmer exploded into cold hard cash when Aquaman hit theaters. It may only be rated at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it was a fun time that ultimately cracked $1 billion at the box office, which is no small feat.
What followed was Shazam!, a fun, heartwarming kid-friendly romp that took advantage of the wish-fulfillment nature of the character. It eschewed the more mature tone in most DC films and just had a great time with the premise.
And, of course, we can’t forget Joker. It may not be part of the DC Extended Universe, but it’s still a DC film. Also, it continues a great trend: focusing on character first and world-connectivity second (or, in this case, last). The film has been nominated for eleven Oscars and is the most profitable DC film to date.
Finally, we make it back to Birds of Prey, the latest film in the DC pantheon.
We’re at this point where the number of good movies outweighs the bad. Furthermore, we’ve had four positively-received films in a row. With that in mind, is it time to start re-thinking the narrative that DC is somehow “behind” Marvel? In fact, is it time to re-think the idea that DC is even competing with Marvel?
A New, Character-Centric Multiverse Approach
While DC may have started off the Extended Universe, it’s clear that connectivity has become a secondary goal of theirs, at best. Joker isn’t even in the DCEU, Birds of Prey is rated R, which automatically makes it kind of a weird outlier in the PG-13-laden set of films that have hit so far. The studio seems set on doing one thing: making movies that fit the characters.
This is also epitomized by the upcoming The Batman. From what we know, this will be in its own universe set in some ‘80s-esque era. While there may be some standard loose connections to the current DCEU, I doubt it’ll go out of its way to make them known.
And then you have the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. I didn’t give it much credence at the time, but between the Tim Burton’s Batman appearance, the appearance of the Titans, and the appearance of Ezra Miller’s Flash, it’s clear that DC is all-in on this multiverse angle. Everything is connected, but not really.
In one section of the multiverse, Batman may have started out as a young Ben Affleck, but in another, he could have started out as a young Robert Pattinson. DC doesn’t need to connect the dots. And if they want to merge universes, all they have to do is have some universe-hopping shenanigans and they’re good.
What we have here is something uniquely DC on the screen, and it’s something fans have been wanting to see for years.
Not A Zero-Sum Game
What’s become all the more clear is that this isn’t a zero-sum game. In order for Marvel to win, DC doesn’t have to fail. This is epitomized by the likes of James Gunn, who is working both on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and The Suicide Squad.
There is plenty of room in the superhero sandbox. What is key is for the studios to truly let their characters shine and be themselves. Do that, and an audience will come.
What do you think? Are you happy to see DC finally finding its footing? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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SOURCE: Rotten Tomatoes