Welcome back to the discussion about Universe Building. This is the second part, if you missed the first you can find it here: Universe Building- Marvel & it’s MCU. In it, I discussed the ‘birth’ of the film universe and how Marvel established a solid, coherent Universe across 4 years beginning with Iron Man and ending it’s first phase with the Avengers.
In 2013, the Man of Steel crashed landed on our planet (arguably, metaphorically and physically) and so began the early life of the DC Cinematic Universe. In this, there are fewer easter eggs than the Marvel counter-part, Iron Man, and it feels like this was more of a reboot with an aim to see where they could take it. And I don’t blame DC for looking at the MCU and wanting something similar to that.
As a disclaimer, I am a massive Marvel fan, but I am not adverse to DC by any means. It has a darker, more grounded tone and strives to focus on a more mature audience with morality and heroism being reasonably blurred. DC also boasts a great roster of characters, and some of my favourites come from DC, namely The Flash, Batman and Nightwing. On top of my favourites, they have the iconic Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League. They are also complimented by an incredibly strong and diverse Rogue Gallery, with the Joker being the most iconic super-villain of all time in my opinion which was greatly developed by both Jack Nicolson in the early years and recently by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Even Mark Hamill’s voice performance in the Arkham Games and a variety of TV shows has become iconic.. The DC Universe is a strong, enjoyable and resilient comic universe with tonnes of potential…
…But, and there is always a but, I think DC have had a misstep at the start of their fledgling universe, and I will explain why. Please remember that the below is purely my opinion.
The sequel to Man of Steel was entitled, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. From this we know that Batman is being introduced, and the ‘Dawn of Justice’ alludes to the beginnings of the Justice League. This seems largely, positive from an opportunity point of view, however in practicality I believe it fell short. To begin with, we are introduced to Superman, an alien who has powers that exceeds that of anyone else on the planet. The threat comes from those around him and that he cares about, rather than the threat of his demise. I am not saying he is not a relatable character like Iron Man as Superman has a cinematic history while Iron Man did not, however as an entry level hero he automatically strips the threat away from the Universe unless you introduce other aliens. As a result, Zod turns up and the DCCU is already a Universal Universe as opposed to the MCU that took a few films to build to this scope.
Fast forward to Batman v Superman and you are introduced to Batfleck/Batman who is ‘more’ relatable in a Tony Stark kind of way, however he is already troubled and broken. You see his origin story (Martha and Thomas Wayne getting murdered… again) however the Robin storyline is not discussed yet clearly takes a toll on him. Although it is a good allusion to the Batman solo film, it is frustrating that we have no clear idea yet when we get a resolution to this, making his attitude a little mysterious. Him, and others within the DCCU are rightfully apprehensive of Superman’s power and he sets out to stop him. The set up for the climax however, Lex Luther’s incredibly improbable plan aside, sees Batman very out classed here in the Doomsday fight. The fight is practically Batman fleeing while Superman and Wonder Woman fight the monster. Oh yes, Wonder Woman is also in this film with very little character development and reasoning apart from to push the story closer to the Justice League. This is also supported by Batman’s involvement in finding the files of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. They feel like forced easter eggs that point towards the Justice League rather than the subtle slow build of Marvel. Consequently, BvS becomes cluttered a lot more than the Avengers does, as the Avengers has already established it’s characters. BvS tries to tie in origin stories, lore and plot points in one film. Batman serves as the S.H.I.E.L.D of DC to draw the heroes together however he doesn’t have the same scale as S.H.I.E.L.D. Again, it feels more forced, with his appearances within Suicide Squad to act as the ‘common foe’ but also apprehensive ally of Amanda Waller.
To support this, Suicide Squad, DC’s answer in a way to Guardians of the Galaxy, had a lot of potential but again suffered with an overcrowding of backstories meaning some of the characters, and the villain, to feel quite empty. Guardians however saw a massive success at the Box Office, with a smaller ensemble of characters but with much more character development. Suicide Squad focused a lot on the Joker unnecessarily, put Harley and Deadshot first and everyone else last when actually some of the more interesting characters, such as Croc, got very little screen time in my opinion.
The way Marvel built up their Avengers, into Phase 2 and 3 over a period of years, while DC’s Justice League makes me feel like DC are playing catch up at the loss of some quality stories and ironically, not doing the film justice….
In my opinion, DC don’t need to play catch up either. Marvel’s long game has paid off as they can now deal with fringe characters (such as the Guardians of the Galaxy at the time) or more complex, abstract heroes (like Dr Strange) freely while keeping the Universe rolling. DC would benefit from establishing the origin stories first as that free’s up more narrative time in the big crossover films. There is no rush. Most superhero fans will see both the films if a Marvel and DC film was released at the same time, I know I would. Even non-Superhero fans probably would. But it would mean that DC have the ability to establish their characters better to build to a more rounded Justice League. We should see the Wonder Woman (2017), The Flash (2018), Aquaman (2018) and Cyborg (2020) films before the Justice League film (2017) in my opinion.
Thank you for reading again. Apologies if it sounds like I am slating the DCCU, I am not, I am merely disappointed in what I feel is a rushed attempt to emulate the MCU. To counter that, the next blog on Universe Building will be released on Monday 16th and will deal with the Marvel v DC TV shows and I promise you that DC come out better (spoilers!)
Please leave a comment below with what you think and let me know! You can also share this with your friends if you enjoyed it!