The DC Comics Extended Universe got off to a rocky start following the Christopher Nolan era of Batman films. DC and Warner Bros. laid out the plans for a cinematic world, starting with 2013’s Man Of Steel. It was a dark take on Superman, one that drew criticism among some and praise among others, but it allowed the studio and publisher a jumping-off point. Since then, there have been three additional films in the DCEU franchise: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. These will be followed up by Justice League this year and Aquaman next, with a handful of others on the docket for the future.
But the films are hit and miss, and for every great takedown from Batman there’s a wonky line delivery from Lex Luthor or a gag taken too far by Jared Leto’s The Joker. But so far, we’ve been willing to give the film universe the benefit of the doubt. In some ways, the films help to enhance the source material fans all know and love. But in others, fans can’t help but feel a little disrespected by the creative freedom. Here are eight ways the DCEU has butchered the comics, and seven times it helped make them better.
15. BUTCHERED: THE JOKER
When it was announced that Jared Leto would play The Joker, many fans were cautiously optimistic. Leto was fresh off winning an Oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club, and many were excited to see how he would play the character. Then, the production and promotional images were released, and people were upset. The Joker was a far cry from many of his previous incarnations, and while Leto’s Joker drew plenty from different iterations , none had the word “Damaged” tattooed across their forehead.
Leto’s depiction of the Joker felt like an overestimation, where Leto’s talent felt misused while attempting to distance the character from Heath Ledger’s unmatched portrayal. His motivation felt flawed, and the film suffered because it felt like they just wanted to toss Joker in there, despite him not playing an integral role — other than to wipe Harley Quinn’s character development in the third act of the film.
14. BETTER: THE MYSTERY BEHIND DARKSEID
It’s hard to look at the DCEU’s main baddie, the impending Darkseid, and not think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thanos. However, in its teases so far, it looks like Darkseid’s arrival might be a hell of a lot scarier than the Mad Titan’s to Earth. Much of this mystery comes from the Knightmare sequence from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, where we see a post-apocalyptically-suited Batman tied up by a now-evil Superman.
For plenty of moviegoers, this felt disjointed and plainly weird. But for those that know about parademons and the coming of Darkseid, this was icing on the cake. Then, of course, we’re left with the giant Omega symbol in the sand, Flash’s warnings to Bruce and a hard look at Mother Boxes. Needless to say, something big is coming, and we’re excited.
13. BUTCHERED: THE DEATH OF PA KENT
For all that Man Of Steel seemed to do right, there was something awful that followed. The death of Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent wasn’t earned by the film, and while the motivation of Kent was to protect his son from the prying eyes of the world, we can’t help but feel like things could have happened differently. How? Well, let’s just say Superman could have swooped in, picked up Pa, and swooped out before anyone was the wiser. After all, there is an actual tornado happening in front of them.
Pa Kent’s death in the comics (however and whenever that happens) feels earned, and it serves as motivation for Superman, not only to be a hero, but to be a good person and champion of the people. It gives him humility, something we found hard to accept in a film where we learn Superman’s other father also died.
12. BETTER: PERRY WHITE
Though his appearances in both Man Of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were small, Lawrence Fishburne brought the heat with his portrayal of Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet. His take was modernized, realistic and relatable, something the comics counterpart of Perry doesn’t quite perfect. Fishburne’s character feels less like a caricature of what people think a newspaper editor is like, and more like what an actual newspaper editor is like.
Honestly? We would have been fine with a Superman film that was equal parts assignments from the Planet and fights with some legacy bad guys. Pulling out all the stops with Zod made a lot of these smaller characters feel non-important. And don’t even get us started on Jimmy Olsen in BvS. Oof.
11. BUTCHERED: THE SUICIDE SQUAD
Suicide Squad had a lot going for it, but it ultimately fell under its own weight as a summer blockbuster. What could have been a grounded crime story centering around the core of the group (and their bouts with The Joker and his gang) became a fight for humanity’s survival that was seemingly under wraps, despite the obviously public display of super power-ing.
While characters like Deadshot, Amanda Waller and Harley Quinn felt believable and developed, others like Killer Croc, Rick Flagg, Katana and El Diablo felt like one-offs, meant for one-liners and quick, cool shots in the film. It didn’t help that it was hard to keep track of them as Enchantress threatened total annihilation. It also didn’t help that only a few of the characters had lengthy introductions.
10. BETTER: THE FLASH AS YOUNG AND INEXPERIENCED
While we really haven’t seen all that much of Ezra Miller’s The Flash yet, what we have seen is a great sign of what’s to come. While different than most comic depictions of Barry Allen, Miller’s Flash seems to take a lot of inspiration from Wally West and his time with both the Titans and the Justice League. West is inexperienced at first but ends up becoming one of the heaviest hitters in the DC Universe, not to mention arguable faster than Barry Allen.
That aside, Miller is playing Allen, but that offers viewers a unique take on the character that sets him apart from the brute strength and speed of some of his League colleagues. And while it may be awhile before we see a comics-accurate friendship between Barry and whoever plays Hal Jordan, at least we have the quick wit, naivety and speed of Miller.
9. BUTCHERED: LOIS LANE
Let’s get one thing straight: Lois Lane’s comics counterpart is fierce and is usually as integral to Superman’s stories as he is, standing on her own two feet as a powerful woman that shouldn’t be messed with. And while Amy Adams is a phenomenal actor, her depiction of Lois Lane feels like a far cry from the Lane of the comics.
Aside from being Superman’s love interest in the films, Lane has served as a side character in a number of events, where she either has to be saved by Superman or another hero, or she’s off doing something that could be done by said other heroes, like retrieving a Kryptonian spear from the water she just threw away. It’s a disservice to the strength of Lois Lane, and we’re hoping things look up in future films.
8. BETTER: DEADSHOT AND HARLEY QUINN
Though Suicide Squad has its fair share of issues, the depictions of Deadshot and Harley Quinn are the least of the film’s worries. Will Smith’s take on Deadshot might feel like a talent grab, but it actually adds a solid amount of depth to a character that’s often faceless in the comics (at least until recently). Smith’s take on the character gives Deadshot heart, and he’s only one-upped by Margot Robbie’s stellar portrayal of Harley Quinn.
Robbie takes the New 52 incarnation of the character and amps it up, absolutely inhabiting Harley Quinn and her mannerisms. While there are plenty of issues to be had with her ties to the plot and relationship with The Joker, Robbie helped to carry a film that desperately needed it, one that made fans who knew little of the character want to go out and buy a book.
7. BUTCHERED: LEX LUTHOR
In many ways, Jesse Eisenberg’s role as Lex Luthor was a better portrayal of The Joker than Jared Leto’s. Unfortunately, that was the problem. Fans of the comics version of Lex will know him as obsessive, sure, but not crazy. Lex is wildly intelligent, incredibly confident and awfully suave. His obsession with Superman leads him to do some crazy experiments, but usually those involve robotic suits or Bizarro clones (and not ones made from dead Zod’s DNA).
Eisenberg’s Lex felt unhinged, shaky and unbelievable. His motivations were that of a serial killer and sociopath, not of a man with way too much time, money and knowledge on his hands. Even down to the greasy hair did it feel like a Joker impression. And with Eisenberg’s talent, here’s hoping we get a more comics-accurate take next time.
6. BETTER: SUPERMAN’S POWER
One major thing the DCEU has gotten right is showing Superman’s power, whether it’s flight, super strength, speed or heat vision. Going as far back as the first main trailer for Man of Steel, we see Superman take off into the sky and break the sound barrier. It’s something we never really think about when watching superhero movies, but this attention to detail helps bring across just how fast he can move.
And this goes for the destruction of Metropolis in that film as well. Superman’s fight with Zod and the other Kryptonians is brutal, and each punch or tackle plays out like a live-action Dragon Ball Z film (you know, if there was a good one of those.) This is taken further as Superman fights Doomsday in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
5. BUTCHERED: SUPERMAN KILLS ZOD
Superman is a beacon of hope and life. So, you could color us surprised when he snapped General Zod’s neck at the climax of 2013’s Man Of Steel, leaving the Superman official body count at one. However, it’s enormously out of character for Superman to kill anyone, let alone one of his villains and one of the last surviving members of his race. What’s even weirder is that the Phantom Zone was totally established by that point, and he could have just sent Zod there.
It’s a moral line in the sand that’s now broken, despite some comics incarnations of Superman turning evil after killing (see: Injustice: Gods Among Us) and others straight up showing Superman’s distaste for killing (see: all other Superman stories). For the first film in a multi-film cinematic universe, this was a hard pill to swallow.
4. BETTER: BATMAN’S MONETARY PROWESS
Love him or hate him, Ben Affleck’s depiction of Bruce Wayne is pretty spot on. In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice we get a great look at what its like to be Wayne in his daily life, attending parties in fancy clothes with fancy cars, skillfully weaving a brand new Jeep through a destructing Metropolis and much, much more. But what we also get is this monetary impact on Wayne’s career as Batman.
If you thought Christian Bale’s Batman had wild gadgets, well take a seat. Affleck’s Batman is going all out with tech, from gadgets to the new suped-up Batmobile. Oh, and there’s also a Batplane, which is probably one of the coolest reveals. Hopefully the solo Batman film will take a closer look at just how much Wayne has to manage all of this double-life nonsense.
3. BUTCHERED: BATMAN KILLS PEOPLE
While never truly explicit, Ben Affleck’s Batman is implied to have killed people before and during the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Much like Superman, the comics counterpart of Batman, at least canonically, is a “no exceptions” kind of guy when it comes to killing people, even if that means letting his rogues run free and kill even more people.
What makes this choice even weirder is that the events of “Death in the Family” seem to have already taken place. So, for a Batman who has already lost a Robin to The Joker to kill random goons but not his biggest, baddest enemy is an awful oversight. Of course, now that Batman has found a new lease on life, this might not be a worry any longer.
2. BETTER: WONDER WOMAN
Everything about the film adaptation of Wonder Woman screams master class. From Gal Gadot’s incredible performance as Diana Prince, to her supporting characters like Antiope and Steve Trevor eating screen time, we can’t help but wish the comics would continue to follow suit from the film’s lead. We will say that Greg Rucka’s return to the character is a heck of a good start, though.
The film also made clear Diana’s purpose and motivations, allowing her character to grow on screen and remain hopeful for humanity, despite the horrors she witnesses them achieve firsthand throughout World War I. As the shining jewel of the DCEU so far, we can only hope Justice League and its follow-up films take everything learned from Wonder Woman and multiply it.
1. BUTCHERED: THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN
Everything about the death of Superman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice felt out of place and unearned, much like Pa Kent before him. From the grotesque creation and utilization of Doomsday, to the use of the Kryptonian spear, Superman’s death feels like it was for nothing more than shock factor. After all, we’d really only spent one entire film with this character, and his death didn’t mean nearly as much as it could have.
To make matter worse, the film’s final scene serves as a quick backpedal, promising that Superman will be back. That, combined with promotional verbiage for Justice League proving that, yeah, Henry Cavill will be back as Superman and in the film, made it all feel like a fever dream. “The Death of Superman” is one of the character’s most important moments, and the DCEU squandered it.
Did we miss any good or awful DCEU moments? Let us know in the comments below!
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