The DC Universe is broken. Superman is lost. Black Adam stayed in the red. Cyborg has beensilenced. Wonder Woman has vanished into thin air. And the Flash has gotten into so much troublethat DC wishes he'd just run his way into an entirely new timeline. But there's still hope for the future, myfriends. And the key to solving all of it? Cartoons.
Hello Internet! Welcome to Film Theory, the show that wantsyou to subscribe faster than the Flash. Bet you can't do it and write your favoritesuperhero down in the comments in less than 3 seconds. Three, two. Wait, you did it? Dang, you are faster than a speeding bullet. Well done. Now, it might be difficult to remember, butthere was a time not too long ago when DC.
Was the top dog when it came to superheromovies. Remember The Dark Knight trilogy? Those movies made over $2.4 billion at thebox office. One of them was so good that when it wasn'tnominated for best picture at the Oscars, the Academy literally changed their rulesto avoid anything like that ever happening again. But in the following years… Yeah… Yeah. Not so much. The DCEU, which officially started with Manof Steel ten years ago, has been an absolute mess.
And that's not meant to be a judgment callor measure of quality. I mean, just as a point of fact, right nowthere are three different Batmen and two separate Jokers running around at the same time, andthat's just the tip of the iceberg. Since the DCEU started, it's been a nightmareof hiring, firing and rehiring multiple directors for the same project. Actors being let go brought back again, onlyto be let go again. There's been public fallout over bad behaviorby studio executives, constant cameos and teases for films that will never happen whilecompletely finished movies are just outright canceled. Meanwhile, you got star actors dealing withfelony allegations popping up like the worst.
Game of whack a mole ever. And the only thing that's dropped furtherthan the quality of some of these things is WB's stock price, which got so low that itwas basically sold for spare parts to the guy who runs the Discovery Channel. Gotta be honest here your loyal theorists,as someone who grew up loving DC’s heroes more than Marvel's, it's been really heartbreakingto see this. But now there's new hope. Warner Brothers has brought on James Gunn,writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, to shepherdtheir movies back to financial and critical success.
And, while he certainly has a long path aheadof him to get the DC Universe back to where it needs to be. I think he can do it, provided he followsmy advice today. That's right, loyal theorists. Today I plan to give this new master of theUniverse a five point guide on how to make a successful DC cinematic franchise. And I'm not just pulling this from anywhere. I have proof that these steps will work. So put on your super suits and kiss your Martha'sgoodbye.
Let's save ourselves a franchise, shall we? Hey there theorists, future MatPat here, forthe second Film Theory in a row go figure. So literally, just a couple of hours ago,as I write this, James Gunn came out and did a big presentation talking about DC's futureplans, announcing ten new projects for Gods and Monsters, the so-called first chapterof their big DC reboot. Mind you, this is a couple of days after wewrote and recorded this and got the audio out to our editors. James Gunn's announcement kinda came out ofnowhere. Usually they preface this sort of stuff ortry to time it around big industry events,.
But nope, this was him just dropping a bigol’ promotional bomb in the middle of everyone. So what I'm going to be doing now is layingout my advice exactly as it was written, not changing the script at all. But then at the end of each section, I'm goingto pop back in to assess how Gunn seems to be handling things going forward. Does it look like he's taking our advice? Is he ignoring it and doing his own thing,or is he falling into the mistakes of his predecessors? Let's just jump back into the theory and findout. Step number one, take care of your heavy hitters,both in terms of characters as well as the.
Talent behind them. In pop culture, DC’s characters have a prettystrong brand identity. Most people know who Superman, Batman, WonderWoman, Aquaman and the Flash are. Heck, even Green Lantern. So at least to start, your focus needs tobe on revitalizing most of the core cast with strong movies or series. It’s not to say that I don't think a Cyborgor a Black Adam or a Birds of Prey can work on screen. But why would people go to see those if youcan't even get Superman right?.
Right now, DC needs to rebuild the audience'strust. They need to let them know that they're deliveringfun, high quality movies consistently with all the name brands that we know and love. Then and only then will people start to comeout for the second stringers. I mean, case in point, just look at Marvelphase one. You got to do your Captain Americas and Thor'sjustice before anyone gives the talking tree and sassy rabbit a chance. The Marvel brand can carry smaller charactersnow. All that said, the other side of the coinis after you've done a few of your core characters justice.
If a creative comes along and has an amazingpitch for something more obscure, run with it. You may end up making C-list characters likeAnimal Man or the Doom Patrol into household names. And we know that DC is capable of this. Look no further than Shazam. It had a great story with a likable tone anda strong cast, and now you're seeing him enter the cultural zeitgeist more and more. Even more obscure; before The Suicide Squad,no one had ever heard of a Peacemaker. But now he's played by a world famous wrestlerand has his own popular TV show. My mom has heard of Peacemaker.
Again, Marvel has routinely done this whenthey didn't have the rights to their biggest names like Spider-Man or the X-Men. They looked at their second stringers. The core Avengers cast used to be the guysthat cameoed in the Spider-Man cartoons. Now they're all huge franchises of their ownright. And I don't just mean Iron Man and CaptainAmerica here either. They've turned the Scarlet Witch, Shang-Chi,Moon Knight and the Guardians of the Galaxy into brands that are big enough to carry theirown films, TV shows and theme park rides. Kevin Feige has gone on record saying thatwhen they're deciding which characters to.
Adapt, it doesn't matter how famous or popularthe character is in the comics, only that there's great potential for a movie. Story should always come first. All right. Future MatPat with the assessment. So how's Gunn handling things? Well, it kind of remains to be seen. Though there was a big focus on projects likethe new iterations of the core cast with Superman Legacy and the Brave and the Bold.
There was also a surprisingly large amountof obscure stuff thrown in the mix. Swamp Thing? Booster Gold? Still, I think Gunn understands that theyneed to get their heavy hitters right, he told Deadline in one of the interviews, Quote. “One of our strategies is that we take ourDiamond characters – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman – and we use that to help prop up othercharacters that people don't know.” And thus we get ourselves Creature Commandos. So in theory, IN SUPERHERO THEORY! he seemsto get it, But we'll see how things pan out.
Which leads me to my next piece of advice;Number two: trust the source material. The fans love these characters and they haveloved these characters for decades. There's a reason for that, and it's your jobto understand why. What is the core value of that character tothe audience? And then once you understand what that is,do not change it. There are so many recent examples of peopleusing IP without any sort of respect for the source material. Isn't that right, Velma? For instance, Superman, the symbol of truth,justice and the American way.
Should not be destroying whole city blocksor snapping necks in a gritty drama. Or if he is, that needs to be the point. That is the dramatic struggle. That's the conflict that the movie has toexplore throughout its runtime. The character who is determined to be purelygood, is suddenly forced into positions where he has to question his own ethical line. That? that is an interesting movie. It's the superhero version of the trolleyproblem. Dig into that because it plays into what peoplelove about Superman.
His unironic, unspoiled sense of pure goodnessand hope. Don't just leave it as some sort of footnoteto happen at the end of the film. If you want an example of what not to do,take a look at Netflix's The Witcher. It started out great with Henry Cavill, abeloved actor and fan of the material stepping in to play the title character. But things quickly devolved as the creativesstarted changing parts of the Witcher mythos, to the point that rumors started swirlingthat the writers hated their source material. That right there is what we call a big redflag. And the fan reviews for both Season two andthe spinoff Blood Origins reflect that.
Is it any wonder that Henry Cavill bowed outof the franchise that he loved so he could go work on a Warhammer adaptation? He even released a public statement saying,(mis)quote, “I promise to respect this IP that we love. I promise to bring you something familiar.” Not a good look for the creative team overat The Witcher, huh? In short, audiences aren't dumb. They can tell when something's made with agenuine love for the IP. So if you find out that your writer staffcan't be bothered to pick up and read some.
Comic books, then just stop what you're doing. Stop it right there and find a project thatthey are excited about or, you know, scrap the whole team and get someone who actuallywants the project. You know, a character that has some ridiculouslore? Sonic the Hedgehog, But both Sonic movieshave embraced that video game weirdness to deliver movies that are in the top ten highestgrossing for the year. They respected the source material. Speaking of that Sonic lore, by the way, ifyou're interested in just how crazy Sonic lore gets and how the newest game's releasebreaks all of it.
We just released a Game Theory about thatvery topic. Link is in the top right corner of the screen. Make sure you watch that one after we're donesolving the DCEU’s problems. Future MatPat back again, happy to say thatI think Gunn nails this point. The new Superman project seems to be borrowingfrom more hopeful stories, the Brave and the Bold is bringing more of Batman’s very popularfamily of characters onto the screen, and embracing stranger parts of the obscure IPthey’re adapting, Awesome. Even that Supergirl movie is adapting a reallynew, really weird story that fans and critics loved, borrowing more from stuff like JohnCarter than Smallville.
On paper, everything here is looking great,which makes a lot of sense. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who madea talking racoon, alien tree, and Polka-Dot Man work on film. If there was any one of these 5 points thathe was going to knock out of the park, it was going to be this one. Now back to the advice. Point number three and this is a bit of acorollary to what we just talked about. If a character doesn't fit a tone, don't forcethem into a movie with that tone. Basically, you don't want to try to ram aSuperman shaped block through a Batman shaped.
Hole, despite both of them being superheroes,the types of stories they tell aren't anywhere close to the same Something I don't thinka lot of people understand about Marvel's output is that they aren't superhero movies. They're movies with superheroes in them. Sure. And they do have consistent factors. But “superhero” isn't the genre. Instead, Marvel looks at their charactersand then writes stories about them in genres that make sense. To really explain what I mean.
Let's just take a look at three of the franchisesCaptain America, Ant-Man and Spider-Man. All three of these series have Marvel's trademarkquippy humor, costume design, art, direction, all that jazz. But the types of stories they're telling areall very different. Winter Soldier and Civil War are politicalthrillers making commentary on serious social issues. Both Ant-Man films are heist movies, featuringScott Lang breaking into somewhere highly secure to either steal something or rescuesomeone. And both of these franchises are way differentfrom the Spider-Man movies, which are all Gen-Z, John Hughes, coming-of-age films.
The stakes are different, the structures aredifferent, the genres are different. So how does that apply to DC? Well, Batman's historically done this well. The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy are crimethrillers. Matt Reeves’s the Batman leaned into thenoir elements of a detective story. Both of them were dark and gritty and rightfullyso. But the problem begins when you start to layerthat tone across a whole franchise. Wonder Woman? Shazam?.
Superman? They're not gritty characters, so trying tolayer them into gritty stories is going to create tonal conflict. This was arguably one of the biggest issueswith the early phases of the DCEU. Zack Snyder's aesthetic was being appliedlike a filter over everything. The genre of those early movies was “Superhero/comic-book”and nothing really more. But if you look at the movies in the franchisethat worked the best: Shazam! Wonder Woman, Aquaman and THE Suicide Squad,they weren't afraid to break from the mold and carve out their own tone.
Wonder Woman (the good one) was part periodwar film, part mythological epic. Aquaman borrowed a lot from old school adventuremovies like Indiana Jones and The Mummy, and audiences loved both of those. Ocean Man movie has drum playing octopus? Awesome! Kids superhero movie has YouTube humor? Perfect! Talking shark movie has giant alien starfishenemy? Cool!.
Just because everyone in the DCEU shares thecollective world, it doesn't mean that everyone's part in that world needs to share the sametone. You need to look at the characters that you'reworking with and then make movies around them, not force them into the movies that you'retrying to make. So make an upbeat Superman action film witha journalistic subplot, make a space cop action drama with the Green Lantern, just give themall room to breathe and do their own thing. Future Matpat review time: DC’s approachto this one seems perfect. Not only are they letting stuff like the Batmanand Joker sit in their own worlds with their own tone, they’re also carrying over theonly parts of the DCEU that people loved;.
Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and The SuicideSquad. Plus they are very clearly embracing differenttones in the new adaptations that they’re bringing to the table. They even had the same idea for that “TrueDetective in Space” version of Green Lantern we just pitched right there. Great minds thinking alike, huh James? Piece of advice number four, And this is abig one: Take your time. Take your time making the movies good. Duh.
But also, more importantly, take your timeannouncing what you're working on. That way you can see what works, what audiencesreact positively to, and what you need to work on behind the scenes if something doesn'tpan out. All without publicly embarrassing everyoneinvolved. Seems obvious, right? You would think. But a lot of studios make this mistake. See, the MCU had this weird marketing strategyfor a film franchise when it was still young. They'd have Kevin Feige come out at ComicConand announce the entire next 3 to 5 years.
Of movies all at once. At the time when they were still growing theirbrand, it worked really well for them. It got fans excited, which built up hype. But this taught the other studios the wronglessons. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie and sothey tried their best to start the next MCU ASAP. Universal might just be the best, worst exampleof this that I can think of with their attempted reboot of their classic monster movies underthe Dark Universe banner back in the mid 2010s. They announced half a dozen movies mappedout with a deep mythology's worth of lore.
They cast Hollywood superstars like Tom Cruise,Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie. They even released a star studded cast photoof the major players all in one place. So you knew that they were serious about it. Fun fact, by the way, none of those actorswere actually in the same room for this photoshoot. They were just Photoshopped together. Anyway, the one thing that Universal didn'tdo in all of this? Make sure the movies that launched the franchisewere actually worth watching. Dracula Untold was a moderate financial success,but was eviscerated by critics and fans. And The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise?.
It did even worse. The most memorable thing about that moviewas the trailer they mistakenly uploaded without any audio. Yep. That was a real trailer uploaded by a realmajor movie studio. All in all, even with the exciting IP andawesome star power they had lined up, Universal did not take their time building up this IP,and as a result, people looked at the Dark Universe and said:I'm not interested in that, at all. DC did the exact same thing. In 2014.
They announced ten movies for their new universe,spearheaded by Zack Snyder, ranging from Wonder Woman and Aquaman to Shazam! and Cyborg. Some were as far away as six years. The only problem with this, they didn't actuallywait to see how people liked the first couple of movies. Cue the internal executives Scramble studiointerference, replacing directors, shifting schedules, delays, cancellations and publicembarrassment. All of them were self-inflicted wounds thatwere totally avoidable. Warner Brothers didn't need to go out andannounce ten movies. They could have just gone with three or four,seen how people liked the first stab at things.
And then privately changed plans in the backgroundwhen it became clear that audiences weren't clicking with the DCEU. This is the one that makes future MatPat alittle worried. I'm skeptical about the fact that so manyprojects just got announced this week, another ten in total, which is just like that initialwave of DCEU announcements. That being said, I suppose they're not completelystarting from scratch here. They are bringing what worked from the DCEUover into this new universe, so at least they're starting on a positive note. Plus, I also found this quote where Gunn saidthat they're willing to delay movies if the.
Scripts aren't 100% ready. Now, I would hope that this would normallybe the default in Hollywood, but looking at blockbusters over the last decade, clearlynot. But I wouldn't be getting too far ahead ofmyself because piece of advice number five: Don't have a long term plan. I’m not kidding. Don't meticulously plan out the new universe. So you know exactly what's supposed to happenand when. I know it sounds counterproductive, but Ipromise that you'll regret doing this.
By having so much of your franchise laid out. You don't give yourself room to maneuver. If something changes, if a new character popsup that you want to insert into the franchise or a writer comes along to offer you a greatstory that otherwise doesn't fit. Again, you can learn from Marvel here. And the big example I'm going to point tois Captain America Civil War. This was a huge movie for the franchise. Basically Avengers 2.5, featuring the culminationof a ton of stories and setting up a ton of others for the future.
From the outside looking in, it might haveseemed like they planned the whole thing from the start, but they didn't. Civil War wasn't even the original pitch. The writers wanted to adapt a different CaptainAmerica story called MadBomb, but Feige didn't think that it went big enough. So things pivoted to Civil War. And even then there were multiple versionsof Civil War floating around with and without Spider-Man. Since Marvel was busy negotiating over thecharacter with Sony, and if they hadn't come.
To an agreement there? Ant-Man would have switched sides to becomeTeam Iron Man, thereby changing his entire character arc in all the future movies. But Marvel just decided to go with the flowand did what worked in the moment. Now, that's not to say that you shouldn'thave a vague idea of what to do or where your story is going. You 100% should, so you can build to it. Marvel did exactly that in Hulk and Iron Man1, teasing the Avengers initiative because they knew that eventually they were goingto have a crossover.
They just didn't have what was going to happenin The Avengers laid out. And then the Avengers movie itself teasedThanos, because again, Marvel knew that eventually they'd want him to be a big bad, but writingout how exactly they were going to get their beat for beat? That's no bueno. Seriously, did you know that for a while nobodyat Marvel had decided where the Infinity Stones were? Or even what was and wasn't an Infinitystone. True story. According to tweets from James Gunn himself,when they first shot Guardians of the Galaxy, the Infinity Stone in the movie was Red, thecolor of the reality stone.
But in post it had to be changed to the PurplePower stone because Marvel had decided after the fact that the red one would be comingfrom Thor the Dark Worlds aether. Heck! They didn't even know why Thanos wanted the Stones to kill half the universe until they sat down to write the script for InfinityWar. I mean, if you need any more proof of theirlack of a plan, they featured the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin's vault as early as phaseone. But plans changed… And it was retconned, which, when you thinkabout it, is kind of funny because this then is a fake of a gauntlet that hadn't even beenbuilt yet.
But you know what? I don't hate it because we got a better moviefranchise out of it. Final future MatPat review: I'm not too worriedthere. Even though they did talk about plans to havecharacters appear in multiple projects, Gunn didn't come out and announce a giant crossoverevent that everything's leading up to. It seems like they're just going to go withthe flow for now, which I think is the smart option. That said, there is still one final big thingthat I want to point out to Gunn here. So that is a lot of advice. But here's the biggest twist of them all.
DC already has the perfect blueprint to modelparts of this new cinematic universe from, and it's followed basically all of this advice. It was called the DC Animated Universe. If you grew up with DC in the nineties andaughts, you definitely recognize this franchise. It's where a lot of the iconic modern portrayalsof DC characters originated. Kevin Conroy's Batman, Mark Hamill's Joker. Those were these versions of Batman and Jokerbefore they made their way into the animated films and Arkham video games. So how does the DCAU follow my advice?.
Let's go point by point. Firstly, yes, they knew that the heavy hitterswere important. They started this universe out with Batmanand then they grew into a Superman show before they had the two of them team up in JusticeLeague. But what else did they do? Well, an awesome new character named Staticcame along in the comics and they jumped at the chance to adapt him with a creative teamthat were excited to tell his stories. And when the really weird but really coolidea for a cyberpunk Batman spin off came along? They made Batman Beyond.
They also let less important characters shinein the Justice League shows. Seriously. Hawkgirl, The Question, Etrigan the Demon,all minor characters that had leading roles, episodes, even entire story arcs devoted tothem. Not only that, but they adapted these charactersin ways that didn't pigeonhole them into tones that didn't fit. They let Batman have a darker, more noir tone. Superman was more upbeat and sci fi, StaticShock didn't feel the same as Batman Beyond, which also didn't feel the same as JusticeLeague.
Fourthly, they took their time building theworld. Batman The Animated Series, was first releasedin 1993. Superman didn't get his spin off until 1996,and Justice League didn't come along until 2001. And finally, though DCAU head honcho BruceTimm might have had ideas on where to take the universes story the creators didn't planbeyond what seasons and shows had already been greenlit. They didn't go into Batman in the early nineties,mapping out where their Justice League spin off in 2005 was going to take them.
Listen, DC James, you guys have a golden opportunityhere to take some of the most beloved characters and IP in the world and make something reallymeaningful. It won't be easy, but exactly how to do itis right in front of you. All you need to do is follow my advice. And just go watch some great old cartoons. In the meantime, though, if you want to seemy last piece of advice that I gave to DC that they chose not to follow, check out mytheory on how they should have used the Snyder cut to fix the DCEU timeline. Or if you want to see what Batman villainDC should have set up with The Batman.
Check out my theory about Hush and the Joker. Don't forget to subscribe for more superherotheories coming your way soon. And as always, remember, it's all just a theory. A FILM THEORY! Aaaaaaaaaand cut.
3 thoughts on “Movie Conception: Dear DC, I Mounted Your Universe… AGAIN! (DC Universe)”
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