The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) hasn’t been as well-received as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been. In all fairness, the MCU (and Marvel Studios on the whole) took time and developed a thorough plan for rolling out movies in phases, whereas the DCEU adopted a more gung-ho approach. That said, Zack Snyder, as chief helmer of Warner Bros.’ vision for DC movies, made it clear the studio would do things its own way and not stick to any formula. That, however, came with a lot of risks and as a result, instability crept in and we got quite a few controversies.
Some we could ignore, some were easy to survive, and a few needed quite a bit of corrective action. However, there were some cases where it seemed the DCEU would implode and be destroyed just after it got off the ground. From casting issues, to directors jumping off the ship, to the entire universe trying to find its voice, look and feel, problems plagued the world Snyder created. Geoff Johns has moved more into the film side to amend these issues but with so many, we decided to look at 15 of the biggest controversies that endangered the DCEU.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for all DCEU movies!
15. THE BATFLECK DILEMMA
Fans were divided when Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman, but his cynical and bitter take on the character eventually worked out in Batman vs. Superman. It felt like a Frank Miller Batman and ended with him taking a heroic turn for Justice League. However, plans for Affleck to also direct a solo film on the Dark Knight in the DCEU fell through and his future was thrown into question.
Will he stay or will he go? This question persists to this very day with Matt Reeves coming on to direct. Affleck’s original script with Deathstroke was tossed out and rumors emerged that Warner Bros. wanted to focus on an Elseworlds Batman instead. Even Ben’s brother Casey poured fuel on the fire, leading to a public relations clean-up that, to this day, still has us guessing if he will indeed stay on.
14. ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE EXIT
Zack Snyder exited the post-production of Justice League, leaving Joss Whedon to step in to finish the film. Whedon, known for his lighter take on the first two Avengers movies, also did reshoots and was rumored to have changed Snyder’s ending. Then came Justice League footage that showed a lot of jokes and hinted at a drastic shift in tone.
DCEU loyalists then started to voice concerns that Whedon was breaking Snyder’s vision and trying to make a movie like those in the MCU. Warner Bros. assured fans this wasn’t the case (even though they wanted a slightly tonal shift), but with Whedon lined up for Batgirl, diehards felt he was given too much power, way too fast. They were clearly worried Whedon would move quickly to purge the DCEU of its signature style.
13. NO DIRECTOR FOR FLASHPOINT
The Flash has been in developmental hell for quite some time. Now labelled as Flashpoint, rumors have it that Warner Bros. is waiting to see how Justice League does before pressing forth with Ezra Miller as the Scarlet Speedster. Phil Lord and Chris Miller were once attached to the early version but they went to do the Han Solo film, which made room for Seth Grahame-Smith.
He left and Rick Famuyiwa came in, only to also leave due to creative differences. With no director attached and the studio not even certain on a direction, fans were wondering if this film would see the light of day. Robert Zemeckis was touted as a future director but it seems that the DCEU might not be willing to risk the movie after such a tumultuous history. Only time, or box office receipts, will tell it seems.
12. SUPERMAN KILLING ZOD
In 2013, Zack Snyder kicked off the DCEU with Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent. The movie focused on him learning about his heritage while scouring the world to find his true purpose. It was similar to DC stories such as Superman: Earth One and Superman: Birthright, painting Clark as a kind-hearted nomad. And as the film’s title implied, it wasn’t a Superman story but one about a learning hero.
This led to a showdown with a fleet of invading Kryptonians, which eventually built to Superman snapping Zod’s neck to save a family. There was intense outrage as many believed Snyder broke the principles of the character, as Superman isn’t a killer. This macabre take on the hero, along with Snyder’s bleak story, led to a lot of criticism of the DCEU and its overall tone as a universe lacking true heroism.
11. A SCRAWNY SHAZAM!
Zachary Levi is popular with geeks thanks to his nerdy role in Chuck and also as Fandral in the Thor franchise. His geeky disposition pleasantly connects with fans a lot but this was tested after the recent announcement that he signed on to play Shazam! The internet, or at least the comic book movie segment, then went into a hot debate over if he was buff enough for the role.
Fans argued that he was too small and needed to bulk up, but Levi himself took the high road, clearly focusing on the task at hand. He didn’t care who called him scrawny, because he knew he was going to be hitting the gym hard to play the hero that Billy Batson changes into via magic. This incident reminded us how entitled and aggressive some fans can be.
10. RUSHING BATMAN V. SUPERMAN
Zack Snyder really went into overdrive just when it seemed that the DCEU was out the gates. Man of Steel barely primed us for Batman vs. Superman two years later, leaving a lot of us scratching our heads as to why he rushed the clash of these DC titans. We didn’t have a full-fledged Superman yet and there wasn’t even any backstory on Batman, so there would be a lot to pack into this film.
And that’s exactly what Snyder did. He gave us a lot to take in and went totally against the MCU setup of doing solo films first. He even threw Wonder Woman and Doomsday into the fray to help flesh out why Batman hated Superman and vice versa. It was a gamble and the DCEU barely walked away, extending its morose, gritty tone even further. It seems patience isn’t a virtue for Snyder.
9. EISENBERG’S KOOKY LUTHOR
Zack Snyder wanted a Lex Luthor for a new generation and so actor Jesse Eisenberg gave us a kooky genius that felt more like a start-up whiz kid similar to his performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. It was vastly different from the Lex we got from Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey and Michael Rosenbaum over the years, as seen in the disquieting scene wherein he forced a piece of candy in a man’s mouth in BvS.
It was disturbing and more or less summed up the idiosyncrasies of this new-age Lex. A lot of fans didn’t appreciate it though and lashed out over his lack of intimidation, seen only at the end when he kidnapped Martha Kent. Eisenberg’s depiction was inconsistent, further evidenced when he was imprisoned, coming off like a total lunatic, leaving fans wondering just who the real Lex was.
8. MATT REEVES & THE BATMAN
Matt Reeves took over the director’s chair from Ben Affleck for the first solo film for the Batman in the DCEU and immediately threw things into chaos. The script was tossed, Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke was booted despite fans already seeing him in test footage, and Reeves’ obscure statements if his Batman was indeed part of the DCEU left us in disarray.
We were confused because at times, it sounded like he was doing an Elseworlds Batman, and it didn’t help that every other week Affleck was rumored to be leaving the cowl behind. Reeves has sent so many mixed signals that it actually wouldn’t surprise us if this film ends up with a revolving door of directors like The Flash. We’re hoping he and Affleck get on the same page, especially on the heels of Justice League.
7. THE VILLAINOUS FINALES
The DCEU has a slightly better handle on its villains than the MCU but that doesn’t mean it’s all that great. In fact, many critics feel they’re more style than substance and usually lead to a CGI smash-up at the end, in true Zack Snyder fashion. We saw this with Doomsday in BvS where it seemed Snyder suddenly woke up and realized he needed a monster in the film. It also happened in Suicide Squad where the Enchantress and Incubus took on Waller’s team in a special effects brawl.
Even in the critically acclaimed Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins threw Ares at us in a rushed climax that felt very Snyder-ish and which barely fit with the movie’s tone. Finales are meant to be big but they need to feel organic as well. The DCEU is yet to strike this balance, but hopefully it can pull off some successes with Steppenwolf and the Parademons.
6. THE ELSEWORLDS SYNDROME
Warner Bros. stunned fans by indicating it would be interested in doing Elseworld stories based on characters in a universe outside the DCEU. Batman was one of the properties mentioned for an alternative spin, as well as Superman: Red Son, with the Kryptonian raised by the Soviets as written by Mark Millar. Jared Leto didn’t take too kindly though to a Joker one, especially as fans didn’t receive his Suicide Squad version that well.
This was a divisive topic for fans because many felt that WB should fix what it had first before venturing out into the multiverse. Others believed that Elseworlds would allow producers to recalibrate the success of Wonder Woman and borrow from the MCU to finally nail DC’s movies without being shackled down by Zack Snyder’s universe. We’re still waiting to see this progress but rest assured it will keep polarizing moviegoers.
5. JUMPING THE SHARK
Rushing to do Elseworlds isn’t the first time the DCEU has jumped the shark on its movie slate. Producers did so by announcing a bunch of films with only a few actually being pushed into production. Batgirl is in the works and Nightwing is apparently off the ground, but fans are still wondering what’s going on with Gotham City Sirens, the Harley Quinn spinoff and of course, the ever-lingering Justice League Dark movie.
The DCEU loves to throw numbers out and hope something sticks, but the plan never seems organized and streamlined, which is a major strength of rival, Marvel Studios. Shazam! is finally progressing as well but we’re still in the dark as to what Black Adam will be doing in his own pocket of the DCEU, not to mention the rumored Green Lantern Corps movie. Seriously, wait until something is concrete before announcing it.
4. CASTING RISKS
The DCEU was torn when Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman. On top of her size and accent, her performances in the Fast and Furious franchise also didn’t inspire confidence, and even Patty Jenkins admitted she wouldn’t have cast her. Thankfully we dodged that bullet and Zack Snyder’s first pick turned out great.
From initial reactions to Justice League, it seems the other risks are 50/50 with critics taking to Jason Momoa’s cavalier spin on Aquaman, but not liking Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. Momoa had Hollywood pedigree, though, through Game of Thrones and Conan the Barbarian, but Fisher was an obscure face that left fans wondering if he could live up to Cyborg’s history. Recently, critics called him a weak point in Justice League, so hopefully, the DCEU survives like it did when Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill were cast.
3. A MURDEROUS BATMAN
Ben Affleck’s Batman in BvS was very angry and super-violent. He was beating perps to a pulp, even branding them as a scare tactic, which is what caught Superman’s eye. Sure, the action sequences were way better than what Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton did, but Snyder’s Batman was into guns and he killed some enemies along the way with his brutality.
The thing is, the movie was so fast-paced, you wouldn’t have realized it. You can’t even give him the benefit of the doubt because rather than take Alfred’s advice and at least talk to Superman, Batman went after him like a bully in the school-yard. The Kryptonite spear he made and the fact he almost killed the Man of Steel shows that his past really sent Batman down a dark rabbit hole. It left a lot of us wondering where his light and sense of justice went.
2. RUSHING THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
Rushing to do this ensemble film, especially after struggling to properly use a large cast in BvS, definitely threw some fans off the DCEU train. Many were calling for Zack Snyder’s axing because it meant that he had to deal with Superman’s resurrection, Batman’s face turn and bringing never-before-seen heroes into the mix. That’s a lot, especially when you factor in the story of Steppenwolf, Darkseid and the Mother Boxes.
Fans were livid about Snyder’s treatment thus fat, and felt justified in calling for a new director. These cynics wanted fleshed-out heroes before they became a united League, especially as ensemble storytelling clearly wasn’t a DCEU strength at that point. With Justice League garnering satisfactory reviews so far, the jury’s still out, but some critics did say that things came together too rapidly in the shortest DCEU film to date.
1. THE BLEAK TONE
Zack Snyder’s vision for the DCEU was definitely unique: bleaker and definitely lacking color. He wanted to flip the superhero trope and make them gods, but realistic ones. In doing so, it stood in stark contrast to the warm, family-friendly feel of the MCU and comic fans really took the DCEU to task for its gritty outlook and ultra violence.
A lot of fans wanted more hope, which course correction finally yielded in Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. The look and feel was brighter, the oversaturated visual aesthetic Snyder used was gone and we even got humor, all of which we can see were added to Justice League. Warner Bros. even made sure the latter would be shorter at two hours to help break away from the mold of old, as Geoff Johns wants more light and inspiration to win back the fans DC lost.
Let us know in the comments which DCEU controversy almost destroyed things for you!
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