The DCCU: Warner Bros. Needs To Go Their Own Way Author: Bill "Jett" Ramey (Follow @BATMANONFILM)
March 7, 2015
Apparently, we’re experiencing a superhero movie tsunami and it’s a bad thing. Then there’s a film like the boring and pretentious BIRDMAN which, not so subtly, piles on that notion and chastises Hollywood for producing mindless drivel like comic book films.
I don’t buy it – the more comic book films the better I say – and neither does Warner Bros. And that’s a good thing because the studio is about to unleash an onslaught of DC-based films beginning on March 25, 2016 with BATMAN v SUPERMAN.
Of course, Marvel leads the pack when it comes to a shared cinematic superhero universe and has created an immensely popular brand which started back in 2008 with IRON MAN. Despite the fact that Warner Bros. produced arguably (but not arguable, really) the most successful comic book trilogy of films – Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” – it’s clear that Marvel Films is the current leader of the comic book movie genre. Now, the fine folks in Burbank are attempting to catch up.
Fortunately for Warner Bros., they own Superman and Batman. The former is the first comic book superhero – the granddaddy of them all. And the latter is, well, the most popular comic book superhero of them all. Both are American and pop culture icons, recognizable in any country on Earth. Hell, I’d say that if there was a Mt. Rushmore of comic book superheroes, three of its faces would belong to DC characters: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (Marvel’s Spider-Man is #4). So if WB’s plan is to catch Marvel in the superhero cinema race, they certainly have the horses to do it.
But let’s be clear here, OK? While Warners should certainly attempt to emulate Marvel’s great success, they should not try to copy their blueprint. In other words, other than the shared cinematic universe, WB needs to do their own thing their own way. Just as the DC and Marvel comic book universes are inherently different, one would expect the same for their cinematic counterparts.
Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Historically, Marvel Comics was created on the idea of a shared universe. Basically, New York City was the center of it and Marvel superheroes consistently mixed and mingled amongst each other.
On the other hand, DC was founded on characters that existed, primarily, within their own universes. Heck, it wasn’t until 1952 that Batman and Superman (13 and 14 years after their creation, respectively) “met” in the pages of SUPERMAN #76 (though they didn't team-up regularly until 1954 starting with WORLD'S FINEST #71). Furthermore, it wasn’t until 1960 that DC’s Justice League – consisting of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman – was formed in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28.
SUPERMAN #26 (1952) & THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #78 (1960)
I asked Michael Uslan – the Godfather of the modern day comic book film and producer of the Batman film series – about the core differences between DC and Marvel.
“In its most basic concept, Marvel had one
unified vision for a universe by one writer/editor
vs. eight fiefdoms at DC led by eight editors who built castle walls
and moats around ‘their’ characters and chosen writers and artists.”
Indeed. The comic history of both DC and Marvel is the very reason that the DCCU will differ quite a bit from the MCU - and it should.
“The worlds of DC are very different [than Marvel],” says Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara, via VARIETY.COM. “[DC characters are] steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”
Now I wouldn't say that comic book-wise, DC is "steeped in realism." What's realistic about space cops with energy rings that can do anything; a shape-shifting, ancient Martian who works as a police detective; or, a dude who lives under water, yet insists on wearing an orange sweater and green tights?
There's NOTHING realistic about that...OR a billionaire who dresses up like a giant black bat and kicks the shit out of bad guys! BUT, a creative filmmaker can in fact make the unbelievable believable, all the while remaining true to the spirit and soul of these characters.
The legacy of Chris Nolan and "heightened realsim" apparently will live on when it comes to DC on film's future, no?
Per Mr. Tsujihara, we now know what to expect from the DCCU: comic book films that are (relatively) realistic and edgy. If you’re looking for an example, I’d point to Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL. Since 2013’s Superman on film reboot is the first film of the DC Cinematic Universe, and Zack Snyder is – for all intents and purposes – the “guru” of the DCCU, then it’s probably safe to assume that the DC films that follow will adopt the same overall tone as the cornerstone film – even if they’re written and directed by someone else.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the studio is going to be churning them out in cookie cutter fashion. It seems to me that while Mr. Snyder’s influence on these movies is significant, Warner Bros. is going after talented filmmakers for the solo films (David Ayer and SUICIDE SQUAD for example) and for the most part, letting them do their thing.
When it comes to “realism,” let’s keep in mind that we’re still talking about costumed characters with extraordinary powers (sans Batman, of course) fighting evil. However, I’m thinking that these future DCCU films will handle this aspect the same way the aforementioned MAN OF STEEL did. MOS was a “first contact” movie, right? A first contact movie in a world that was, well, ours. Consequently, I’m of the belief that WONDER WOMAN in 2017 and both THE FLASH and AQUAMAN in 2018 will follow suit. The latter three, of course, are not aliens like Superman, but are “metahumans.” Thus, Earth’s reaction would be about the same if a superwoman, a guy who runs really, really fast, and a dude who talks to fish all showed up and said, Hi, here we are!”
It’s going to be interesting to see how Zack Snyder and company interprets these characters with a realistic spin. Will Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman actually be half deity? Will Jason Momoa’s Aquaman really live under the water and command sea creatures? Or could they be given a “realistic” interpretation from comic to film as I suspect and Mr. Tsujihara has insinuated? It’s quite – and likely – possible. Want more proof other than my speculation and Tsujihara’s hint? Margot Robbie, who is playing Harley Quinn in SUICIDE SQUAD, said that that film is more like THE DARK KNIGHT (“hyper realism”) than Marvel’s THE AVENGERS ("comic booky" to the core).
The bottom line is that superhero cinema is here to stay. Hell, there have been movies/serials based on comic books since the 1940s! Comic book movies are as much a legitimate form of "art" as dramas or independent artsy films - no matter what any snobbish filmmaker or hipster might say. In fact, Warner Bros. is beginning their cinematic comic book universe right in the middle of what many, including yours truly, consider to be the “Golden Age of Comic Book Films.” Warner’s endeavor will be a success...as long as they go their own way. Remember, while both are based on the adventures of superheroes in tights, masks, cowls and capes, the universes of Marvel and DC are as different as night and day. The powers that be in Burbank seemingly get that and are planning to do their own unique thing...in a realistic and edgy way, of course. - Bill "Jett" Ramey
A life-long Batman fan, Bill "Jett" Ramey
is the founder of BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM.
He likes Elvis, Rock-N-Roll,
The University of Texas, cold beer,
Dallas Cowboys Football, and of course...
He resides in the GREAT state of TEXAS with his lovely wife, three kids, and two Boston Terriers.