Director Zack Snyder's departure from the DC Extended Universe was met with heavy division, since many fans enjoyed his grim post-Watchmen take on superheroes,and his overall violent take on characters like Batman and Superman. While these fans formed the basis of the group that's still persistent about seeing the #SynderCut of Justice League. Critics, however, felt he lost the essence of warmth and inspiration, which the Marvel Cinematic Universe was making heavy strides in and succeeding at the box office where Warner Bros. failed as seen with Justice League.
This caused the studio to relook the approach to superhero films, with Aquaman and Shazam! embarking on approach of levity and embrace a sense of fun and adventure. But while Snyder's dark vision failed, there are a few reasons why the DCU streaming service's Titans is winning fans and critics alike by using almost the same formula.
Firstly, Man of Steel and Snyder's other DC films were reintroducing new versions of the Trinity to fans. While more fans may have tolerated things Superman into a neck-snapping killer or the Dark Knight into a bitter, brutal vigilante in later sequels, they were jarring characterizations with no emotional build-up.
Titans, though, frames that world up from the get-go and never built up expectations for chipper, bright stories like Man of Steel's trailers did. The Titnas trailer had Robin dropping f-bombs from the star, and established that he was going through anger issues due to Bruce Wayne's absence in his life and the Titans family splintered due to tragedy.
This works out well for a show with 10 episodes or so to fully explain and dig into why folks are sleeping with each other, angry towards former teammates or harbor resentment to the point they want to kill. Simply put, Titans has the screen time to explain all this while the DCEU is compacted into two or three hour movies at best. While some of the heroes of Titans are world-famous, they're still not the cultural icons that Batman and Superman are. Since Titans was always explicit about it explicitness, Snyder's films attracted a wide range of viewers, including families who were probably looking for the MCU's all-inclusive vibe.
Since some of its heroes like Hawk and Dove are truly obscure to non-comics readers, Titans does have more leeway to tackle mature content as these characters are still obscure, so the writers can subvert and tinker with various stories or develop totally new arcs.
With the right cast, the length of a season and the patience to explain everyone's motivations, the show easily takes advantage of all these things and crafts a sense of empathy, sympathy and relatabity. What makes it more digestible is at that point, we know we're immersed in an alternate universe, not the main one where Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck's Worlds Finest were meant to sell action figures.
From the get-go, Titans paints this dystopian Elseworlds, and it's why no one flinches when Jason harms cops, Robin almost kills criminals or Batman murders the Joker. Whether it's a real world scenario or a dreamscape, all bets are off because the show has made us understand that these heroes and villains can do what they want, whenever they desire. Such smart universe-building takes time, and the Snyder films just rushed into his plot beats way too quickly without laying the foundation.
Many of the same things can be said or Doom Patrol as well, which suggests that the DC Universe shows have the template for dark vigilantism down, maybe even better than the Arrowverse shows. Had the DCEU given us some solo films, character studies and a bit more nuance, we could have understood its bleak turns. However, as things stand, Snyder exhibited no patience with audiences who wanted to at least see a more familiar take on the classic heroes. Titans doesn't do this because it knows there's nothing classic about its unconventional roster, and there's no real expectation for them to be paragons of virtue like Batman and Superman.
Streaming now on DC Universe, Titans Season 2 stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson, Anna Diop as Kory Anders, Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth, Ryan Potter as Garfield Logan, Curran Walters as Jason Todd and Conor Leslie as Donna Troy, with Minka Kelly as Dawn Granger, Alan Ritchson as Hank Hall, Joshua Orpin as Superboy, Chelsea Zhang as Rose Wilson, Chella Man as Jericho, Drew Van Acker as Aqualad, Esai Morales as Deathstroke and Iain Glen as Bruce Wayne. The show's second season is now available for streaming.