Blog: Anthony digs deeper into the State of the DCEU – DC Comic Book Movies

The Story Geeks blogger Anthony Holdier responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – the DC Cinematic Universe. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

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What is the best DC film?

This one’s actually pretty easy for me, because I’ve only really enjoyed one entry in the DCEU (that’s right, fanpeople, this one’s going to be rough!). Wonder Woman deserves all of the praise that it gets; not just because it was ground-breaking or inspiring (though it was), but I found it to be an objectively good movie (with some glaring missteps, like the villain, nevertheless). Gal Gadot embodied Diana in a way that felt honest to the character and I loved how Patty Jenkins was able to contrast Diana’s naive strength with Steve’s hapless worldliness (the moment she saves him in the alley / homage to Supes saving Lois was brilliant). And, I don’t mean to be effusive, but the ‘No Man’s Land’ sequence was breathtaking, for me at least (and, I know, many others).

What was the most disappointing DC film?

Ahhh, this one’s a trick. On one hand, I’d be tempted to say Justice League  because of the promise that was built up beforehand, but I think that everyone had already garnered enough skepticism (both from previous contributions to the series and the unexpected shakeup with directors) to be unsurprised by the lackluster result. Then again, I might say Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because I was really excited for that movie (and even wrote a chapter in a published book that is now slightly embarrassing in its ebullient anticipation, given what we actually received in theaters); I agree that this one gets unfairly trashed and isn’t as bad as some say, but it still was significantly disappointing.

But that’s not what I’m going to say: process of elimination (since Aquaman isn’t on the table yet) means that I’m going to have to say Man of Steel – and, yes, it’s all because of how the Zod fight ended. For 80% of that movie, I was in love with what Snyder was doing with Superman – I’m all for playing up the “Supes = Jesus” angle and highlighting his struggle to find his place among less-than-perfect humanity. But, if that’s the route you’re going to go, you CAN’T (in my opinion) turn Jesus into a killer. Come at me in the comments if you disagree (it won’t be the first time this debate erupts for The Story Geeks), but there were plenty of other ways that the Man of Steel could have wrapped that fight up (in fact, the way that Batman took Supes to task for the Battle of Metropolis was one of my favorite things about BvS).

What’s that? Suicide Squad? Never heard of it.

Who had the best character arc?

This one’s tough because it’s hard to think of many examples of real character arcs to this point…

I’ll agree with the rest of the crew and say ‘Batman,’ mainly because I really can’t think of another character arc worth mentioning: Diana didn’t have one, Superman’s was…not great (in that it was extremely inconsistent), the crew in Suicide Squad really didn’t change much either….and we haven’t seen enough of Flash, Cyborg, or Aquaman to really make a judgment call. So, that leaves us with Batman: I genuinely liked Ben Affleck as Batman (so much so that I intentionally reject the ‘Batfleck’ title – unless we want to give cutesy nicknames to all of them…..actually, that’d be kind of fun – Baleman? The Caped Cloonsader? what do you think?). But, yeah, speaking as someone who will always go to bat for the Bat (especially in any “BvS” debate), I really liked the grizzled take on Batman (he was, by far, my favorite part of Justice League) and I really hope to see his character arc developed more.

What is the best character adaptation?

Part of me is tempted to say “The Flash,” but we really haven’t seen enough of him yet to make a fair statement there (but, in general, I really like his attitude, even if some of his lines fell horribly flat). So, at this point, I’d have to say Wonder Woman, I suppose. I’ve already explained some of my issues with Superman and praised the new Batman, but – in Justice League in particular – Batman seemed far from the stoic Dark Knight I love from the books. Gadot managed to capture Diana’s strength as much as her heart and I’m excited that she’s planning on sticking around for at least one more go with the character.

Are you excited for the new Wonder Woman and Joker movies?

Definitely yes to the first….possibly yes to the second – as in, I’m not against the idea, but I do kind of keep forgetting that it exists. As soon as I heard that Jenkins and Gadot were on board to return, then I was sold on the sequel (with the severe hope that they can give us a villain worthy of squaring off against Wonder Woman). Regarding Joker – the test footage looks good; Phoenix is certainly capable of pulling off a deranged character; this could be good. But, kind of like Venom, I’m not really interested in the villain as much as I am the hero (or, in this case, anti-hero WHICH IS WHAT BATMAN IS, DARYL!), but Venom turned out better than expected, so perhaps this could too. I’m willing to give it a shot.

What other potential/proposed DC films are you most excited for?

After seeing the trailer, I’m actually more excited for Shazam! than I thought I would be, but I think that’s more because I get a kick out of Zachary Levi – and I like that they don’t appear to even be trying to make this one feel “gritty.” Of the other movies announced, the one I am most excited about is Green Lantern Corps (or whatever it ends up being called) because the Green Lanterns are some of my favorite things in the DC canon. Ryan Reynolds has apologized for the character’s last trot around the circuit and I think my heart is just about ready to (possibly) be broken again (but hopefully not).

Do you think the DCEU is unfairly criticized? Or is that valid?

In the sense that fandoms, in general, are too toxic today, yes, the DCEU definitely suffers from ridiculous nonsense: Affleck’s made some dumb movies, but he’s not a bad actor and he makes a solid Batman who I’d actually like to see again; Wonder Woman is far more than just some “SJW”-bait, but is a rich movie that has the strongest mythological feel of anything the studio has produced yet; Justice League suffered primarily from the fact that it had two directors – I firmly believe that if Snyder could have finished it or Whedon could have started from scratch, then everyone would have enjoyed either result (especially if it were the former). C’est la vie.

That said, there is much that is rotten in the state of Denmark – or, as it were, Metropolis. I’ve said since BvS was released that DC is doing things backwards; whereas there biggest competitor took time to develop each blockbuster character before smooshing them all together in one feature film, DC has gone for the faster cash grab by starting with the team-ups and working in reverse from there. It was really hard to care about the relationships in Justice League because, in a real sense, they don’t exist yet (internally to the movie or externally with the audience) – and there definitely wasn’t enough time in that plot-heavy vehicle to introduce much in the way of character development. DC has yet to really figure out villains of note (Lex Luthor was notoriously off-kilter in this regard) – but, to be fair, Marvel often suffers from a similar critique. And I think the cinematic universe’s general belief that “dark = realistic” is…completely mistaken, particularly for the practical deities that populate the DC pantheon.

So, yes, the DCEU deserves fair criticism, but that does not mean I’ll ever support the rabid hounds attacking people’s social media accounts or protesting outside DC’s headquarters; if media criticism is going to remain properly critical (and not fall into something more akin to abuse), then it needs to remain somewhat removed from that sort of irrational nonsense.