The DCEU Is Probably Dead (But At Least They Tried)
In its nearly 10 years of existence, the DCEU has never seemed to advance anything coherently or significantly.
With the shelves of bat girlHBO Max on the way out and a new DC Studio, the writing on the wall is clear: the DCEU is dead.
So what happened? How did a cinematic universe that seemed like an easy hit on paper with some of the most iconic fictional characters fall apart along the way?
To point fingers and go into detail about everything that went wrong would require a full novel. The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has basically shattered the industry. Everyone wanted success and epic crossovers without putting in the work.
In the past, when something became popular in entertainment, competitors would try to emulate it to capitalize on a trend; it was generally a singular thing and not a series of interconnected films.
In pursuit of a rival cinematic universe, no one would devote Marvel Studios’ immaculate time and development.
What was wrong with the DCEU?
Warner Bros.’ DC’s IP is probably the only franchise where it made more sense for them to be a Cinematic Universe than something like Star Wars or Dark Universe Failure. DC has a nearly endless roster of characters and 80 years of stories to pull from.
It just seems that once they got started, they could never figure it all out, whether it was overambition, overcommitment, polarizing films, blatant studio mismanagement and businesses and toxicity.
When the pressure was on them to succeed, they could never rise to the occasion.
Movies that made a lot of money like Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and suicide squad were polarizing and were the trio of movies that launched the universe. It’s not a great look when a studio wants an audience to buy into a new franchise, but doesn’t quite start with something that audiences and critics alike appreciate.
Justice League was a movie that desperately needed to work, but it just didn’t. How can a studio hope to keep audiences engaged if it can’t make a successful superhero ensemble film that was supposed to be an easy win.
For smells and fails, they have to be given credit for daring to compete head-to-head with the Marvel titan while trying to be different along the way.
Steel man had the confidence to modernize Superman in extreme ways that fans loved or hated.
batman versus superman is deeply polarizing, but the fact that it took itself hyper seriously, deconstructing two of the most iconic heroes takes courage from all parties to make it happen.
They gave fans two villain ensemble films in suicide squad and The Suicide Squad which gave the colorful villains time to shine.
wonder woman and Aquaman are probably the two DCEU darlings that have made money and won over audiences.
Aquaman being that hit came out of nowhere, but it delivered some epic thrills with a fun-loving Jason Momoa at the center of it all. Hopefully the sequel can recapture some of that magic.
Wonder Woman 1984 couldn’t make it on the level of the first and that essentially undid all the goodwill the 2017 film gained. However, no one can take away how wonder woman absolutely possessed that summer. A female-led hit blockbuster with an epic mix of Greek mythology, World War I and romantic comedy sensibilities for a truly stunning comic book movie.
Birds of prey played a diverse female ensemble paying homage to the films of Tarantino and John Wick. Nothing like it exists, but unfortunately not many people have seen it in the cinema.
Shazam! captured the fulfillment of the childish wish to want to be a hero that few movies have quite done.
Although the franchise couldn’t achieve a consistent pace, it remained interesting and took wild turns that its competitors wouldn’t dare to take. Many swings didn’t land in the set, but the ones that really resonated.
What future for the DCEU?
Whatever happens, DC movies will most certainly look and feel different in the immediate future once they make it past their next slate. It’s really a pity that bat girl will not see the light of day. A film starring a Latin actress as the iconic Barbara Gordon could have been a winning moment.
There is also the flash dilemma with its extremely complicated lead actor. There were rumors that this movie was going to be the start of a new timeline that erases a lot of stuff from canon. It looks like everything this movie is going to do could be canceled (or shelved) before it comes out so it doesn’t conflict with what they have planned.
Ultimately, the DCEU as a whole was a mixed bag that fell short of expectations for many reasons. It will be interesting to see how these films are viewed and whether they are re-evaluated or seen as an aberration. If the movies of 2023 are truly the end of this franchise, it will be 10 years of hit-and-miss comic book movies, with some brilliant moments in between.