So far, Warner Bros.’ film entries in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) have come up a bit short of expectations, with both critics and audiences alike disappointed in the studio’s most recent offerings, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
After these movies were critically panned and audiences were less than thrilled, fans and those involved in the filmmaking process were quick to defend the respective films citing that they wasn’t made for critics. An easy argument to make, especially when films like these get completely railroaded by critics. To be fair, the two did make a decent amount of cash at the box office, but they both also saw huge drops in their respective second week — Batman v Superman fell 69% in its second week, just a few percentage points more than Suicide Squad‘s 67%.
The reason why I bring up percentage points is that it measures how much good or bad word of mouth travels. If it’s good, it will see a fairly decent drop, but if it’s as bad as critics say it is, it will show, and did it ever show for Suicide Squad. With staggering numbers like that, it is easy to see why the DCEU is earning a reputation for having poor films. But at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that bad reputation will hold up in the future, and that’s why we should continue to hope that the DCEU will come out with something good.
Even as a fan of Marvel and someone who grew up reading Marvel Comics, I did find myself entertained by what DC had to offer on film — the two Tim Burton’s Batman movies and The Dark Knight Trilogy, the first two Superman films, heck even Superman Returns had me excited about DC. And while Man of Steel didn’t impress me, I was hopeful that the Easter Eggs that Zack Snyder had peppered in were going to lead to much better things. Certainly, the energy at every Hall H event at San Diego Comic-Con said that we should be excited for Batman v Superman or at least hope that Suicide Squad would correct the mistakes of the past. Yet, those two films failed to do their jobs; add to that the recent open, albeit anonymous, letter written to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, it is easy to see why some people would be worried about the upcoming Wonder Woman.
It’s hard to argue against the idea that Suicide Squad‘s marketing was a huge misdirect or a different film than what we were promised. But when you think about it, the way that every scene looks like a trailer, I’d say we were given exactly what we were shown teased — just a bunch of trailers stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster. The film was jumbled, incoherent, and a tonal mess. But it probably would not have been, if a trailer-cutting company hasn’t reportedly assisted in the editing process. So instead of a promising story about criminals going on suicidal black ops mission, we got an ensemble of one-dimensional characters whose motivations are zeroed out thanks in part to some horrible decisions made by characters in the film and missing scenes that were simply cut out of the film. If it is true that Suicide Squad needs at minimum $750 million to break even, I could see it getting there at a death-crawling pace.
So after two recent missteps, how many more chances are we supposed to give to the DCEU in hopes that they will see the error of their ways? I’m not exactly the right guy to hand out that kind of advice, but I can see that WB is definitely trying to do some course correction. This year alone we saw that the studio brought in Geoff Johns and Jon Berg to act as the “Kevin Feige” (President of Marvel Studios) of the DCEU. Wonder Woman has Patty Jenkins as director. Jenkins is best known for writing and directing Monster, a film which yielded Charlize Theron an Oscar for Best Actress, and a few episodes of Entourage and Arrested Development. James Wan, the director who helped launch the SAW franchise and has been behind a couple of WB’s horror hits like The Conjuring films and Lights Out, is behind the lens for Aquaman. Let’s not forget that the more experienced Rick Famuyiwa, the director behind Dope, is helming The Flash. And then there is Chris Terrio, who helped improve Batman v Superman‘s script with the assistance of Ben Affleck; Terrio helped write Justice League, which also has Affleck on board as executive producer. Speaking of Affleck, did we forget to mention that he is writing his standalone Batman film with Johns, and will be directing the film as well? Wan also spoke highly of Johns’ work on Aquaman, which serves as an inspiration to the development of that script.
There are a few issues with the aforementioned anonymous open letter that stated that the DCEU Hall H panels at Comic-Con were rushed and boring. I was in attendance for those panels, and I can tell you for a fact that it wasn’t boring. Or maybe I was just sitting in the wrong section, because when I gazed front and back, all I could see and hear was cheering. Yes, you can argue that it’s normal to experience that in Hall H, but as someone who doesn’t even like attending Hall H events, there was plenty of excitement in the air, and based on the energy everyone was giving off, it seemed like WB was finally taking the DCEU in the right direction.
The letter, which states that Wonder Woman is “a mess,” fails to point out that the film is still ten months away from release. It’s hard to judge a film that early on. Also, there are critics and fans arguing that Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad was the worst incarnation of the character so far, yet I’d argue that it’s unfair to judge a character based on the ever-so-brief appearance he makes in the film — a role the actor claims was supposed to be much more substantial and that he filmed enough footage to make an entire Joker movie. Leto was fine with what he was given, and I can only imagine that it’d seem a lot better when viewed with some of those cut scenes.
Still, Johns and Berg were brought in before they could do anything that would have impacted Suicide Squad in a sense that it would have improved the film’s narrative and pacing quality. However, the letter doesn’t even mention their current involvement in the DCEU or the fact that Johns had a hand in the script for Wonder Woman. This just reinforces the idea that the letter was written long before and the only thing the author added was more anger and frustration. None of the positives changes that WB has done were addressed. So while the letter may sound like it was penned by insider, all the letter does is rant about the missteps that the studio has taken, and not once does it even bother to mention the great directors that have been hired or the fact that Johns is president of DC Entertainment while still retaining his position as Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics. So not only is WB bringing in the right filmmakers, but they are also bringing in people who are involved with the comics these movies are based on, people who know more about comics than anyone else.
Contrary to the reviews we’ve given to the last two DCEU films, we don’t want to see the DCEU fail. There is a place for two shared superhero universes to work. But for WB, they haven’t given critics (or even some members of the general audience) enough so far to believe that they could succeed either. And while some may say that people have had it out for DCEU films since the beginning and making accusations that critics are being paid by Disney to dislike anything from the DCEU, that isn’t the case at all. (At least not for me — I haven’t seen any $$$ from the Mouse). If Wonder Woman is as good as Jenkins says it is, then you can be sure I’ll write a positive review.
So yes, Wonder Woman is going to have to be great to make us have faith in the future of DCEU films. Despite the disheartening rumor that it is a mess, I get the feeling that its way too early to brand the film as such. There’s only been one trailer. And if the rumors are true, there are still other films to look forward to. Where Wonder Woman adds gender diversity to the DCEU by giving us one of the first female standalone superhero films, The Flash‘s solo feature will provide the shared-universe a much-needed levity, as we have seen in both his cameo in Suicide Squad and the Justice League trailer. Of course, if those films fail, well, we can at least take comfort in knowing that the DCEU films are consistently “a mess.”