Welcome to the DC Weekly, where every week we cover DC news, TV show reactions, and random speculation.
This week, Iâ€™m taking a break from news-lets and recaps to discuss the upcoming DC Extended Universe. For those unfamiliar, that’s the self-appointed name Warner Bros has given DC’s shared universe.
Yes, itâ€™s a universe that hasnâ€™t quite gotten off the ground yet, but after all the news, magazine covers, and stories weâ€™ve had a chance to check out in recent months, weâ€™re starting to get a good feel on what to expect. Sort of.
Zack Snyder has even gone on the record with We Got This Covered to say that â€œBatman v Supermanâ€ would be â€œmore grounded in reality than any of the other ones. Itâ€™s a comic book movie, yes, but itâ€™s very, very grounded.â€
While thatâ€™s a great line for Snyder to feed us, I do question if this is quite the case considering what weâ€™ve seen so far. Itâ€™s understandable that Snyder was only talking about â€œBatman v Superman,â€ but I imagine theyâ€™d be going for a same type of feel for the universe as a whole.
With â€œSuicide Squad,â€ which has a premise thatâ€™s decidedly more â€œgroundedâ€ in nature than â€œBatman v Superman,â€ it seems that director David Ayer is happy to put a comic book aesthetic front and center. It does make one wonder: just what kind of world are we getting out of the DC Extended Universe?
Because weâ€™re human, we inherently love throwing things into categories, but itâ€™s not always so easy.
The â€œDark Knight Trilogyâ€ definitely went for the realistic and dark style of storytelling, and so far, the MCU seems to go for a healthy mix of realistic and comic booky, all brought together with a lighthearted tone. So far, however, the DCEU doesnâ€™t really fit as cleanly as most comic book movies in the past have.
Again, itâ€™s a bit difficult to tell at this point, given that we havenâ€™t really seen any of the upcoming movies, but we can give it our best shot, given what we know so far.
I feel like weâ€™ve never had a visual style like this before. While people may not have liked Zack Snyder removing Supermanâ€™s Underoos in â€œMan of Steel,â€ the character himself looked like he was pulled straight from a comic book panel.
This trend continues in â€œBatman v Supermanâ€ with the two Batsuits, lifted directly from Frank Millerâ€™s â€œThe Dark Knight Returns,â€ complete with a super fat Bat symbol. Ben Affleck is absolutely ripped, with this mammoth body even dwarfing Supermanâ€™s. Everything about the look screams comic book, and the same can be said about the Bat armor.
Now letâ€™s take a look at the Joker and Harley Quinn from â€œSuicide Squad.â€ Make no mistake, these guys do not look like they belong in the real world (unless youâ€™re taking notes from something like Kiss). Take a look at one of the Empire images of the Joker.
A friend of mine, who has always been a die-hard Batman fan, shot me a random text in response to the photo:
â€œHe looks really f**king stupid. Like if one of the zombies from the Walking Dead bit Vanilla Ice.â€
An apt comparison, albeit an irrational knee-jerk reaction. But if we compare Letoâ€™s Joker to, say, Ledgerâ€™s Joker, itâ€™s clear that itâ€™s night in day, because one is grounded in reality, and one is essentially an amalgamation of the many comic book iterations of the character. Something about it feels â€œoffâ€ to audiences, and it may be because it feels false to have something â€œcartoonyâ€ in a world thatâ€™s being labeled as â€œgrounded.â€ The series â€œGothamâ€ seems to have similar issues in finding its tonal and visual identity, though in a different fashion. Their particular problem seems to be that the content is clashing with the over-the-top acting andgoofy one-offs, whereas â€œSuicide Squadâ€ looks to be having more of a visual crisis than a tonal one.
All the same, this trend towards the comic book aesthetic makes a lot of sense. After the travesty that was â€œBatman and Robin,â€ itâ€™s natural that the reaction would be a well-grounded â€œBatman Begins.â€ However, a decade or so has passed since that film, and in that time, Marvel has had great success, and comic books have become mainstream in their appeal. Nowadays, itâ€™s okay for the characters to look like they jumped off the page.
But will the unique look of the universe clash with the tone?
Tone and Characters
While the visual style is definitely comic booky, the struggles that the characters go through do, in fact, seem to be relatively grounded. As Snyder said, even though itâ€™s over-the-top, itâ€™s still relatively grounded in real-life circumstance, which is an approach theyâ€™re committing to, for better or worse.
While â€œMan of Steelâ€ had a lot of crazy action in its third act, we were mostly dealing with the realistic angst of an oppressed god for the majority of the flick. This time around, with â€œBvS,â€ I expect weâ€™ll get more of the sameâ€”not angst, but dealing with the realistic and believable fallout of finding out that there is indeed a god among us.
The visuals may look like they were ripped out of a comic book, but theyâ€™ll be dealing with the very real and relatable emotions of their characters. At this point, itâ€™s debatable if thatâ€™s a good approach, as many fans donâ€™t want Superman to be relatable. They want him to be Superman. Will DC be so wrapped up in making the characters relatable that theyâ€™ll lose what makes them appealing to an audience? But that’s not to say this approach won’t work for all characters. Making them relatable will be especially important for “Suicide Squad,” a film with a squad of villains and anti-heroes.
Director David Ayer made a recent comment in Empire Magazine about how a movie like “Suicide Squad” will be different from what we usually get in comic book movies.
â€œYou know, all these movies are about defeating the evil alien robot from f***ing Planet X, before it destroys the world with its ticking clock. And who the f*** cares? But you do this story about struggle and isolation and people who have been s*** on that suddenly get thrown this lifelineâ€¦ thatâ€™s not so bad. I like to think of this [Suicide Squad] as the Comic Book Movie 2.0.â€
These two factors result in a shared universe with a visual aesthetic to appeal to fans of the comic book, and a sensibility to fit a more mainstream audience.
So what do fans think so far?
Well, right now it seems to be a mixed bag. Some love how Batman looks, hated how â€œMan of Steelâ€ played out, love how â€œSuicide Squadâ€ looks, and hate everything about Jared Letoâ€™s Joker.
I know how much folks love to declare things a hit or miss right off the bat, but in all honesty, Iâ€™d reserve judgment until after â€œBatman v Supermanâ€ at the very least, and if you can stomach drawing conclusions for just a bit longer, Iâ€™d wait until after â€œSuicide Squad.â€ Itâ€™s hard to react to a series of pictures out of context.
Anyone remember those laughable Quicksilver cover shoots we saw for Empire before â€œX-Men: Days of Future Pastâ€ came out? Yeah, donâ€™t we all look like morons in retrospect.
What are your thoughts on what we know about the DCEU so far? Do you agree with what Iâ€™ve outlined here, or do you see these films as being different than I described? If so, what do you expect to see? I know what Iâ€™ve mentioned here isnâ€™t incredibly comprehensive, but I hope it to be a catalyst for further discussion.
Let us know all your thoughts down below!