Superhero Roundtable Discussions is a new series here on GamingIlluminaughty.com where writers will come together to discuss superhero/comic book movies. If you missed our previous discussion on Avengers: Age of Ultron, click HERE. Today’s discussion will be covering our thoughts and opinions on the future of DC’s budding Cinematic Universe.
Malaiko: First off let me start by saying it’s great to be back for another edition of Superhero Roundtable Discussions. I’ve really grown to enjoy these in depth discussions and I hope our readers have enjoyed them as well. Now, I feel like in the previous two installments of this collab we’ve focused a lot on Marvel’s cinematic universe and not so much on the DC Cinematic Universe. As such, I figured we’d begin by talking about the DC Cinematic Universe.
I’m gonna start off on a positive note here. I love that DC’s first slate of movies, their “Phase 1” if you will, will feature the big screen debuts of several new heroes and villains. For far too long DC movies essentially consisted of only Superman and Batman. Sure they’ve had movies featuring other heroes but honestly they weren’t any good, Catwoman and Green Lantern being prime examples. DC has a comic universe just as diverse as Marvel does and it baffled me that they would only focus on Batman and Superman when they have so many characters at their disposal they could be using to make some quality films and kill it at the box office. Now finally we’ll be seeing the likes of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam and Flash appear on the big screen. I’m eagerly anticipating seeing Jason Mamoa kick ass as Aquaman; his casting is perfect in my opinion. Also, despite believing Gal Gadot to be miscast I am also looking forward to the Wonder Woman film. She’s one of my favorite characters and this is a character whose movie is long overdue. DC is really trying to expand their cinematic universe and bring to the table characters that are very different from the heroes we’ve been seeing in the Marvel movies. They have a chance here to establish a very interesting universe different from that of Marvel’s, which would benefit us superhero fans and average movie goers because both companies have a very different tone to their comics and movies so it would prevent us the consumers from getting oversaturated with the same type of superhero movie every year.
Now onto to the not so positive note. DC has waited so long to begin establishing a cinematic universe that now Marvel is completely dominating the superhero movie market. Everything Marvel has put out has been a commercial success, so much so that the Marvel logo is enough now to draw audiences to theaters even to see a movie of characters they aren’t really familiar with or don’t know at all like the Guardians of the Galaxy film proved last year. My biggest concern is that DC is trying so hard to play catch up at this point that they’re rushing trying to bring their cinematic universe into fruition. Let’s look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for instance. It’s gonna take long enough of movie time to re-establish Batman into a new universe, but they’re also planning on introducing Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Lex Luthor and Cyborg. With the exception of Cyborg, you’re introducing 4 big central figures in the DC Universe in only 2 hours of screen time. That’s a lot of time that’s not going to be focused on Superman, time that could be used to lay the groundwork for the story is instead going to be used introducing characters. The reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so successful is because the studio took the time to establish each character individually, they didn’t cram everyone into one movie and say “Here you go, that’ll work.” They properly introduced every character so by the time the first Avengers film debuted the audience knew who every single one of those heroes were. I truly believe the DC Universe can be something great but they have to take their time and not rush things, if they do it’s just going to be a clusterfuck of characters being introduced in the same movie and it’s gonna be all flair and style and no substance.
But I’ve rambled on long enough. What are your thoughts on the DC Cinematic Universe?
Austin Manchester: You’re absolutely right on all accounts. For too long Warner Bros. has simply focused on churning out Superman film after Superman film and Batman film after Batman film. They never thought of adapting their other properties for film, and when they did, they delivered crappy Catwoman and Green Lantern films (and, in the process, completely wasted Ryan Reynolds, who is, so far, killing it as Deadpool). Where Marvel had the moxie to see their vision to fruition — making hundreds of millions off of unknown, often obscure characters (GOTG) — Warner Bros. has simply decided to throw everything at audiences early on, hoping it all sticks. When it comes to DC’s Cinematic Universe (if it can even be called that at this point!), basically Warner Bros. decided that instead of laying the groundwork gradually and building into an Avengers-style team up, they will introduce all their characters in just a few films leading up to Justice League Part One (Part One!!!) and then giving Flash, Green Lantern, and Cyborg solo films. I mean, they’re giving the Suicide Squad a film before Wonder Woman!
And on the topic of Wonder Woman, while I don’t think Gal Gadot looks as physically imposing as Wonder Woman should be, I’ll reserve judgement on the casting seeing as how we have no idea how she will be portraying the character. However, like you said, her inclusion in Dawn of Justice is making the film just way too crowded. It’s one thing to not give Man of Steel a proper sequel (very disappointing to me because MOS is one of my favorite superhero movies — YEAH I SAID IT) and instead let it get taken over by Batman, but to also use it as a springboard to launch other characters is just too ridiculous. Introducing Wonder Woman is one thing but throwing in Aquaman too makes it, like you said, a clusterfuck.
What you said at the end there really caught my eye — that these DC films will be “all flair and style and no substance.” This is often a criticism of Zack Snyder’s films and I want to avoid discussing his previous filmography too much and instead focus on his appointment as, basically, the head of DC’s Cinematic Universe, a role akin to Kevin Feige’s in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Feige has been with Marvel Studios since it started its journey and has had his hands in producing every Marvel film, ensuring they all lead into one another and the studio’s larger vision. He and the studio selected Joss Whedon to direct the first two Avengers because he had previous experience in storytelling and balancing a large cast due to his previous television work, namely Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Where is Snyder’s previous experience? The reception to his previous works have been mostly mixed, with the general consensus being that his films are “all flair and style and no substance,” as you said. I just don’t think Snyder has the vision or experience that Feige and Whedon do (or did, in Whedon’s case) and I worry that Warner Bros. is going to screw everything up because they don’t have someone with the passion for this Cinematic Universe that Feige does for the MCU.
Malaiko: I totally agree with everything you said. And I think you made a really good point when talking about Kevin Feige’s vision of the Marvel Universe. That’s what I think the DC Cinematic Universe needs more than anything, is someone with a clear vision for the characters and the world they’re trying to establish. I don’t think that Zack Snyder is a bad director. I think when it comes to style and flair he’s one of the best directors out there. But his movies have been lacking in substance, and for Warner Bros. to task him with creating and guiding this massive universe is a huge mistake in my opinion. Let Snyder handle one franchise, I think he did a decent enough job on Man of Steel but I definitely would make him carry the weight of establishing a universe, he doesn’t have enough depth for that.
I’m glad you mentioned Suicide Squad. That’s the movie I am most worried about in DC’s movie slate. People look at the star studded cast and assume it’s gonna be great and that there’s no way the movie can fail. I’m sorry but this movie has so many red flags I’ll honestly be surprised if it doesn’t turn out to be a mess. First of all, your average movie goer will have no idea who the Suicide Squad is, so that means they won’t be watching the film because of the characters, they will be watching because of the big names attached to the project. The film will have to introduce each and every single one of these characters and there lies problem number one — there’s too many damn characters in the movie! You mean to tell me you’re gonna introduce a team comprised of nine villains, give us a good enough backstory on each of those characters, plus introduce the Joker into the film? There’s no way everyone is going to get the screen time they need/deserve to properly introduce these characters. The story is most likely going to focus on Deadshot, Harley Quinn and the Joker. Everyone else will probably just be side characters, hanging out in the background most of the time while Will Smith and Margot Robbie take center stage for most, if not all, of the movie. I’ll be surprised if characters like Katana, Slipknot and Enchantress get more than 20-30 minutes of screen time. Furthermore, why do all their costumes look like cheap cosplay outfits? Seriously, I’ve seen better costumes from regular folks at Comic-Con.
My biggest problem with this film (so far), however, is the Joker’s appearance. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking when they decided to give the Joker messed up teeth and all those tattoos, and not only that but the tattoos are horrible. A chest tattoo that says “HAHAHAHA” and a forehead tattoo that says “Damaged.” Seriously? The thing about the Joker is that he himself doesn’t think he’s crazy, even in his comics history the character rarely states that he’s crazy or insane. Sure, his actions prove otherwise but to himself he’s not crazy, everyone else is for not seeing the world the way he does. Having a tattoo that says “Damaged” implies that he knows/thinks he’s crazy and that’s out of character for him.
DC making a movie about a supervillain team is just them trying to mirror the success Marvel had with Guardians of the Galaxy. Most people didn’t know who those characters were but it ended up being a commercial and financial success.
Manchester: I didn’t fully realize how many villains were going to be in Suicide Squad until you said nine. Nine! Holy crap! That’s how many Avengers were in Age of Ultron and that film had several leading up to it that already introduced the characters and made audiences acquainted with them. Suicide Squad will have no such build up and, correct me if I’m wrong, but out of this Suicide Squad, only Joker has appeared on film before. Let’s just look through some of the roster real quick — Rick Flagg Captain Boomerang, Slipknot, El Diablo. Who cares about any of these characters? Who legitimately wants to see them on screen? Those that go to see this are going to be die-hard comic book enthusiasts (like yourself) and people who just want to see Will Smith act in a good movie (and these people will be holding out hope this will be good). I honestly don’t care about anything in this film outside of the Harley Quinn/Joker relationship and Will Smith. Yes, just Will Smith — I don’t care who he’s playing, just that he’s in a movie!
I really hope, as the film continues shooting, that the characters have costume changes and they go away from the second-rate cosplay. I think the best look for Harley Quinn would be akin to her Arkham City look or at least something that is inspired by her classic appearance. Killer Croc’s makeup doesn’t look too bad and I’m glad they’re going with practical makeup/effects. Any costume for Will Smith would be better than the one they have — it looks like he’s ready to go out on a four wheeler, not assassinate people. Just about everybody looks rather boring.
And the Joker — oh, lord, the Joker! Just basing off his appearance I’m… worried. He looks like a cheap gangster and kinda like The Mask from the 90’s Jim Carrey flick. His teeth and eyes look gross and the tattoos! Like you excellently covered, the tattoos are a break from character and are a weird direction to go in. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t the “Damaged” tattoo. However, just like with Wonder Woman, I don’t want to get too down on this film or its characters until a trailer drops. I love Jared Leto as an actor and musician and Will Smith will always be one of my favorite actors, so Suicide Squad does hold some promise.
Malaiko: I love Will Smith, and Margot Robbie has proved to be a very talented actress, she has had stellar performances in pretty much every movie she’s been in so far and I thoroughly enjoyed her dynamic with Will Smith in this year’s film Focus. I’m hoping their characters in Suicide Squad will have a lot of screen time together because I think the movie will need that dynamic to help it succeed.
I’m not saying this movie will for sure be crap. I believe that the sheer amount of star power and talent will make this at least a movie worth watching. However, there have been numerous red flags raised that are cause for concern and I don’t think it’s right to just give this movie a free pass. As fans we should demand the best and call movie studios out when they put out less than stellar projects. Because with the enormous budgets these movies have, and with fans being as vocal as they are nowadays it should be unacceptable to put out a movie that’s not good. Fans would rather wait a long time for a good movie, then have a superhero movie be put out every year and that movie turning out to be a disappointment.
I want the DC Cinematic Universe to be good, I want it to be good enough to stand on equal footing with the MCU and at this point the early evidence doesn’t seem to show they’re heading in the right direction. They’ve certainly made some progress and I commend them for that, but they definitely shouldn’t try to rush this cinematic universe because it took Marvel 5 years and 5 movies to get to the point where an Avengers film made sense. DC is pumping out the Justice League film in less time and less amount of movies than Marvel did. Cramming most of their main members isn’t the way to go, I think that’s a move that’s definitely going to end up hurting them down the line.
Manchester: Damn, you tore into this flick and it ain’t even out yet! But you raised excellent points and I do think DC’s Cinematic Universe is off to a rocky start, but with the massive appeal of their characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) and the sheer amount of star power they have (Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams) these films will be at the very least financially successful. I mean, Batman v Superman will probably make damn near a billion bucks based on the title alone. The question remains to be seen as to whether or not they’ll be artistically and creatively successful.
I already went over at length how much I’m looking forward to Aquaman in our first discussion, so what DC film are you looking forward to the most?
Malaiko: Yeah I don’t think anyone should doubt how successful these movies are going to be, regardless of whether or not they’re any good. DC has some of the most recognizable heroes in the world so by name alone these movies are gonna kill it at the box office year after year.
The movie I’m looking forward to the most is the Shazam! movie. They still don’t know who will play the titular character but they already added some major star power by putting Dwayne Johnson in the movie. I think he will be a perfect Black Adam — he has that physicality needed and sufficient acting chops to pull the character off. I’m really curious as to who they’re going to select to go up against him. To me, this movie will (or should) have a very different tone from the other movies in the DC cinematic universe because it’s the story of a kid who gains extraordinary power. Despite turning into an adult whenever he transforms, he’s still a kid at heart so this could be the perfect lighthearted film that will bring kids and their families to go see it. Not every movie in the DCU needs to be dark and brooding. Honestly, the only one who should be brooding is Batman, not everyone should have that tone because that tone doesn’t really fit most of their characters. I’m really curious to see how DC tackles Shazam.
Manchester: I had never even heard of Shazam until I started playing Injustice: Gods Among Us and I just found him to be the silliest character. My buddies and I would always break out in laughter whenever Shazam would yell “SHAZAM!” during matches. This endeared me to the character and, even though I know very little about him, I’m optimistically looking forward to the film. I mean, how can a film not succeed when it stars The Rock?
What you said about the tone is very important — with the kid protagonist being able to turn into a superhero whenever he yells “SHAZAM!”, this film definitely does not need a dark tone. It, and The Flash, should be humorous and light-hearted, but seeing as how this is DC, and because Snyder will probably have a hand in the movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the Shazam film into a dark and serious affair, which would surely waste the talents of Dwayne Johnson.
I think this is just about coming to a close. Concluding thoughts?
Malaiko: Yeah I really hope they find directors for both Shazam and The Flash who are able to bring that balance of comedy and action to those franchises and not just try to imitate Snyder’s tone for those movies because that would be a huge mistake. I had honestly forgotten about the Flash movie, interesting that they picked Ezra Miller but he’s a talented actor so I’m optimistic about him playing the character.
Summing it up, I just want to say that I think DC has the characters and the potential to compete with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. What they can’t do, however, is rush things. Take your time with the characters, properly introduce both the heroes and the villains and do these characters justice. If they do things right there is no doubt in my mind that these movies will be loved by fans and movie goers alike, as well as make a lot of money at the box office. Right now they’re trying to do too much too soon and it’s a problem. Just take it one movie at a time.
Manchester: While they should be slowing things down and spending the time to build this universe, Warner Bros. is instead chasing after the money and sloppily imitating Marvel in an attempt to cash in on the current superhero craze. They’re trying too hard to emulate their competitor (kind of like how Sony tried with Spider-Man) instead of focusing on doing their own thing.
But like I said, I love Man of Steel and that alone gives me hope for DC’s future, along with the incredible casting that they have done. Hopefully they’ll pull it off and in five or so years we’ll be debating which cinematic universe is better — Marvel or DC.
Malaiko: Agreed! I’m looking forward to the day where we can debate which movie universe is better. Like you said I’m hopeful for the future of DC’s Cinematic Universe, but I’m somewhat cautious and concerned for it the way things are going. But it’s still too early to make any final judgement so we’ll have to remain optimistic and see. Who knows, they may surprise us in a good way.
Once again Austin, thanks for having me here for another edition of Superhero Roundtable Discussions, I love doing these and I hope the fans love it too. Much love to everyone reading this, and for all the interest and support you continuously show our articles, it is noticed and greatly appreciated. Peace and blessings y’all.
And that concludes this Superhero Roundtable Discussion! Be on the lookout for more and if you have any suggestions for topics, make sure to drop a comment below! We thank you for reading!
Austin is in his final year at the University of Florida studying English. He enjoys binge watching on Shark Tank, winning the Mortal Kombat, and occasionally stepping in for Batman when necessary.