The DC Comics Extended Universe (or DCEU) has had its share of bad news in recent memory. Last year, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice split the DC fan base and was generally maligned by critics, pulling a miniscule 27 per cent on rottentomatoes.com. Later that year, Suicide Squad didn’t fare much better with critics, gaining a 26 per cent rating on the tomato meter. While both films made hundreds of millions of dollars, they weren’t universally beloved as Warner Brothers had hoped, or as applauded as their rival Marvel Studios’ films. Adding to these series of unfortunate events, the Flash movie has gone through two directors already and is even getting a page one script rewrite. And now this.
Ben Affleck, one of the few things in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice that both fans and critics adored, has pulled out of the Batman solo film’s director’s chair.
This has led to a predictable internet frenzy over the state of things with the DCEU and Warner Brothers. Adding to this confusion and fan disappointment, while on Jimmy Kimmel Live Affleck said he was directing the solo film titled The Batman. And now, he’s pulled himself out as director.
But have faith DC fans. All might not be as bleak as it appears.
As of today, Ben Affleck is still in the Bat-suit. While the direction of The Batman will go to someone else, Affleck will be not only dawning the cowl, but co-writing and producing the film. Having a multiple Academy Award winner drop out of directing is a big blow to both fans and the film. Let’s be clear, that isn’t good news. Affleck is a top tier director with movies like Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo to his credit. But he hasn’t thrown in the towel on the whole project. Fans who enjoyed his grizzled, burnt out portrayal of the Dark Knight will still get an entire film to watch him in the near future.
For now at least.
Affleck not juggling four jobs on set might work out to The Batman’s benefit. Being the writer, director, lead actor and producer might have negatively affected the movie. Tackling all these roles would be a tremendous burden on anyone. Having someone else come in to direct is a smart move. This will be their sole responsibility and whoever lands in the director's seat might also have a different and unique take on what The Batman is thus far.
And many directors are out there who could bring home a great Batman solo movie. There is Matt Reeves, who has come to prominence with the critical and box office success Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. David Fincher would also have an interesting and dark take on the Caped Crusader. From Se7en to Gone Girl, Fincher has always brought thought provoking and shadowy tales to the big screen. How about George Miller? Coming off the heels of the unbelievable Mad Max: Fury Road, he would not only clearly exploit the visuals in The Batman, but he also has a connection to DC and Warner Brothers. Years back, he was set to direct a Justice League movie, having gone far enough to cast the movie until it was eventually pulled.
Batman is the jewel in the DCEU crown. It will garner much attention from a multitude of directors, all more than happy and willing to take on the mantle of the bat.
Time for a reality check—the DCEU is not Marvel, and this isn’t a bad thing.
Marvel Studios have without a doubt created the most successful comic book movie franchise. Their movies are loved by fans and critics alike, and make a killing at the box office. It appears that those helming the DCEU are comparing franchises—and they shouldn’t.
First, the DCEU has been playing catch up from the beginning. Marvel Studios was first out of the gate with an interconnected universe and began with individual films (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) which then gave us the superhero team-up film for the ages: The Avengers. The DCEU rebooted Superman in Man of Steel, then packed the next Superman film with Batman and introduced Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. It feels like there was an element of catch up from the DCEU. Audiences of Marvel movies had the benefit of getting to really know members of The Avengers before they teamed up. Later in 2017, Warner Brothers will release Justice League, the DC equivalent of the superhero team movie.
If you are playing some catch-up, you don’t need to expect the same results as Marvel. DCEU films make money. They many not hit some heights as Marvel movies but they are lucrative. As well, they have their own style. This may not be as universally applauded as Marvel movies, but it doesn’t have to. If they are wanting to replicate Marvel’s formula, that seems out of reach.
Let it go DCEU.
Marvel is Marvel. DC is DC. It’s time for DC to embrace what it is and stop tinkering with the product trying to get closer to the ever elusive Marvel-sized formula for success.
DC isn’t the lesser of the comic book siblings. It houses two of the most recognizable superheroes the world over in Batman and Superman. This year alone, Wonder Woman will make her big screen debut. As mentioned before, Justice League is coming. Aquaman is moving forward with director James Wan, and the DCEU will have signed the most bankable star the world over in the Rock, who is playing Black Adam in a future film.
So fans of the DCEU, it’s still not time to panic and jump ship. Not yet anyway. There are still many things the DCEU can do right. And if they aren’t like Marvel movies, well, they don’t have to be. Marvel movies have a formula that works for them. It’s time for the DCEU to find a formula that is truly unique; stop tinkering and run with it.