While Marvel (and their corporate overlords at Disney) continue to stroke long balls over the fence from the wheelhouse at the movie theater, Warner Bros. continues to struggle with the DC cinematic universe. No, we’re not talking about financial struggles, because even though it under-performed, Batman v Superman still pulled in a sizable amount of dough. After all, we’re well aware that people will always have a look-see, and fill theater seats, regardless of how poor the offering might be (we’re looking at you, Green Lantern). But if the team at Warner Bros is tired of taking pot shots from former leads (see: Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool), perhaps they should take the suck out of their films. For 10 years, they set the standard for comic book movies with Christopher Nolan and his Batman trilogy. Now they’re closer to becoming the joke of the industry. Here are a few ways we thought of how to fix DC’s ongoing problem with their films.
8. Offer Consistency Through All Films
When it comes to the DC movie universe, where are we now? A few years beyond The Dark Knight Rises, in the dregs of the Zack Snyder era that includes a pair of lackluster Superman films, while preparing for the introduction of the Justice League, as well as a standalone Batman film written by the guy playing Batman, and of course, Wonder Woman. Will any of them deliver something up to the standard set by Christopher Nolan? Would it be too much to ask that we at least get a consistent timeline, similar to what was offered in the Nolan trilogy? Regardless of how you feel about Chris Nolan, from a film-making perspective, his efforts are unparalleled. Marvel fanboys and girls may argue to their hearts’ contentment, but CG paint will never compare to the practical FX of Nolan’s works. DC needs to get their writers in the same mix, or at least meeting together, on all the upcoming features. For example, Ben Affleck is now writing an “original story” for his Batman movie. Will it be harmonious with the other films that are coming up? Get it all working together, DC.
7. Ditch Zack Snyder
This sounds cold-blooded, but it’s not a personal knock on Zack Snyder. Obviously, the guy has hustled to achieve what he has, but there is something missing in his direction. It really comes down to a case of style over substance, one which you can see play out in every movie he has ever directed. Fans of 300 were lured by a look they hadn’t yet seen, but is that enough to throw a guy up onto a pedestal? If that’s the case, why not grab M. Night Shyamalan to direct Wonder Woman? After all, he had a unique style, once. Any way you look at it, Zack Snyder has to go. Even after bringing in the mentoring of Christopher Nolan, he was unable to execute something with as much soul as Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Man of Steel was “meh” at best, and Batman v Superman was disappointing for many reasons. And now he’s directing both Justice League films? Yes, we understand how contracts work, but at this point, DC should just buy him out and move on.
6. Kick Ben Affleck To The Curb
This is another ice pick to the back, and we’ll admit that unlike Snyder, this one is a little bit personal. Ben Affleck has more talent in his pinkie finger than most people have in their entire bodies, but what is up with the colossal douche factor? How is this guy not getting it? Can he write and direct? Yes, without a doubt. But will he try too hard as he feels the pressure of “got to make everyone love me again” bearing down on his shoulders? We can’t help but feel like that could be the case. Perhaps he will prove this writer wrong (here’s hoping he does, because a great Batman film would be just what the doctor ordered), but Warner Bros. and DC should start thinking ahead if another Batman film goes awry. After all, remember what happened the last time someone nearly killed the franchise? Yes, Joel Schumacher, we’re looking at you. The really sad thing is, Christopher Nolan could probably be convinced to make another Batman movie, and release it to greater success. Why is WB/DC settling for Affleck?
5. Stop Making This Look So Hard
Continuing in the same vein as our previous entry, why does it seem like DC is making this whole thing seem so hard? Realistically, this should be effortless. Thanks to the existence of years of classic comic books, all of the stories are there, DC simply needs to decide on what tone they’d like to set, and build a screenplay around them. Instead, DC are trying way too hard to come up with new twists that nobody asked for, and the results speak for themselves. Every movie doesn’t necessitate an attempt to reinvent the wheel. Oh, and no more 2.5 hour Batman v Superman-type movies without first earning our trust as an audience and developing a desire to see a really long movie, because we’re already attached to the characters. If ridiculously long and drawn-out films are the way DC is going, why not lure Michael Bay from his Transformers deal at Paramount, and let him start applying his over-glossing philosophy to Superman? We said it before, the stories are already there, the movies just need to tell them. We don’t want to live in the past, but when a standard has been set, as it has with the comics, it needs to be met, and the current run of DC movies is not coming close.
4. Offer a Story That Engages an Audience
Action sequences are cool, and a superhero movie without great action sequences is like apple pie without the a la mode. However, it seems like the DC movies are built around the idea of various action sequences and “fights” between characters, rather than an engaging plot that leads to the scenes, and that isn’t going to cut it. This is the biggest problem with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Watching those movies, it seems as if a story is built around “how are we going to allow him/them to do battle?” instead of having a plot that naturally allows those battles to occur. And if it’s that obvious to an audience member, then it had to have been for the writer. Now, we hope the writers aren’t approaching the story with this in mind, but it’s impossible to remove it from the mindset, given what we’ve seen on screen so far. Superheroes aren’t just about action, they’re more about reaction to a villain or nemesis, creating a plot that draws us into the world. When making their next batch of movies, DC needs to start with a plot, and build action scenes from there.
3. We Can’t Empathize With Superman
This has long been the challenge of developing and delivering a great Superman film, and the debate rages on regarding how many times this has actually been done successfully. Some would say only Richard Donner accomplished this feat in 1978, because he gave us all the goods. When considering the overarching story line of Superman, we can see that this was the definitive film in terms of allowing people to understand and empathize with the nigh-invincible Kryptonian. Batman is easy, he’s a man with a particular set of skills and unlimited financial resources. But Superman? Making an alien from another planet with superhuman powers who can’t be hurt by conventional means sympathetic isn’t easy. Maybe the character will work better in the Justice League movie, but Superman’s very existence is problematic to any plot. When he was written, it was in an age where it was easier for readers to suspend their disbelief. Back then, you at least had kryptonite, which is supposed to be the only thing that can adversely affect him physically, and gave him weaknesses that made for interesting plots. But these days, that gimmick is tired, and the rules surrounding it aren’t always followed. Frankly, we’re not sure there’s an easy solution, but making Superman more human is one necessary step to improving those movies.
2. Build a Better DC World
We should take our hats off to WB and DC for trying, at least. After all, they’re trying to build out the world of the Justice League at an incredibly fast pace. How they’ll pull off The Flash in feature film fashion (if they even manage to do so, given the current production troubles) will be intriguing, but we digress. We know these movies are made to generate revenue, and not just by getting people into theater seats. They also need to sell toys, video games, clothing and any number of other merchandising ideas. But what if it becomes about more than just that? Not to beat the Christopher Nolan topic like a dead horse, but maybe that should be the standard for Warner Bros. and DC. For the Nolan trilogy, the movies weren’t only created to get people into the seats, but also attempted to advance the art and science of film-making, and draw people into the world of Batman more than ever. Merchandising will never go away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make actually great movies while you’re at it.
1. Stop Trying To Compete With Marvel
At this point, DC simply isn’t going to compete with the quantity of offerings presented by the combined forces Mickey Mouse and Marvel. It’s just not going to happen anytime soon. The Avengers franchise, and the solo/collaborative movie efforts of the characters within, reigns supreme over the comic book movie landscape. The Marvel movies are good quality films, but they’re still lacking, often pushing the boundaries of style over substance. Where DC could (and should) distance itself from Marvel, and the foundation they should build their films upon, is the idea of quality above all else. Movies that begin with great stories, and finish with tireless execution of a singular goal. DC needs to ask questions like “Will this hold up 25 years from now, or will people laugh at it like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace?” DC can’t afford to make bad movies if they want to survive in this arena. It can’t be stated enough, a standard was set, now they need to do everything they can to meet, and exceed, that standard.