It seems that in lieu of taking time to intricately outline their big screen comic universe, Warner Bros. is instead rushing ahead. Such conclusions are pervasive throughout the fan community and remain subjective, but concerns are genuine. Where does the DC Extended Universe go next? And has the creative trust behind it carefully crafted a way in which to get us there? At this point, we can only hope the forward momentum created by Wonder Woman is evidence of great things to come. However, in hoping for the best, what many may consider the worst also warrants examination.
No film franchise is absent of missteps and mistakes. Evidently, the same can be said of the ever-expanding DCEU. Some decisions regarding certain characters feel inconsistent or convoluted. There exists myriad plot choices that continue to puzzle fans and muddy the overall experience. Will anyone forget the extensive drama surrounding excised footage and director’s cuts for Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League? This especially will not be happening anytime soon. There is a lot of good in the DCEU, most of which rarely earns due praise. For this list, though, we’ll be taking a look at 15 of the cinematic universe’s biggest mistakes.
15 NO ARROWVERSE CONNECTION
There’s no confusion with regards to whether the DCEU and Arrowverse will cross paths. Yes, both universes can be considered as existing on different Earths in the Multiverse, but a direct connection remains unlikely. Honestly, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As evidenced by the MCU and its corresponding shows, such direct references are rarely beneficial and hardly receive the exploration they deserve.
Keeping things separate means the Arrowverse can do as it pleases story-wise. The shows aren’t beholden to what happens on film -- until character usage becomes a problem. But a lack of connective tissue means the Arrowverse’s triumphs don’t garner widespread attention. It also means the DCEU doesn’t benefit from said triumphs. Case in point, while disappointed audiences lambasted Justice League, the Arrowverse was being lauded for "Crisis on Earth-X". Surely, WB wouldn’t mind a little more critical consistency in their favor.
14 THE DCEU BECOMING BATMAN-CENTRIC
Who doesn’t love a good Batman story, especially when the Bat-family can be eloquently implemented? Undoubtedly, the Dark Knight is WB’s golden goose, their bonafide money-maker. However, we have to wonder when other DC characters will receive similar tender loving care. If the DCEU is anything to go by, that won’t happen on the big screen anytime soon. Batgirl’s getting a film. Nightwing has a solo green-lit. We’ve lost count of how many Joker and Harley Quinn projects are purportedly in development.
Consequently, at least a third of the DC film plans involve Batman-centric characters. Which would be more than fine if the film universe wasn’t meant to highlight DC’s stable of characters in its entirety. Man of Steel, which kickstarts this ambitious venture, still lacks a proper sequel. Here’s to hoping some semblance of balance is on the horizon.
13 CYBORG'S SOLO SEEMS SIDELINED
Cyborg’s standalone is one of the originally revealed features on WB’s superhero slate. Presently, every hero that’s thus far debuted has, or once had, a solo film in development. Superman and Wonder Woman received independent ventures; the latter has a sequel in the works. Aquaman opens this December. Batman and The Flash both have directors attached to their respective movies. Additionally, despite his lack of a formal introduction akin to the others, production has already begun on Shazam’s film. Yet Victor Stone awaits his chance to excel.
At this point, we’re left to question if a Cyborg film is even a step WB wants to take -- it’s evidently not a priority.
This realization, while not surprising, disappoints for a few reasons. Chief among them is that Cyborg shows promise in Justice League. His story deserves to shine on its own, independent from his fellow League members.
12 WE DON'T SEE BATMAN'S CHANGE OF HEART
Like no other, Batman perfectly personifies the flawed hero. Batman v Superman and Justice League feature touches of this; however it isn’t explored in any depth. Ben Affleck’s Batman doesn’t suffer from an absence of character development. The vigilante depicted in BvS is not the same man that closes Justice League. What’s lacking are the changes themselves; we don’t witness Batman’s traversal from point A to B.
At the end of BvS, Bruce aims to become a better hero. Superman leaves an indelible mark on him. In Justice League, he briefly wrestles with the guilt of not trusting Superman, and Diana calls him out on it. But what transpires between there and his reunion with Clark, where the vigilante stumbles on declaring he doesn’t hate the Man of Steel? He goes from callous to awkward friendliness in such a short period of time that it seems out of character.
11 MOVIE RELEASES SPREAD TOO FAR APART
Man of Steel opened in theaters during summer 2013. Its follow-up, Batman v Superman, didn’t release until March 2016. Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League releases were fairly spaced on the film slate. Yet 13 months will pass between the League’s live-action debut and Aquaman’s solo, which launches this December.
The spread between dates is inconsistent at best, ineffective at worst.
Without question, the reason for this mishap rests with films being delayed. This rings specifically true for The Flash’s solo that once shared a March 16, 2018 date with Tomb Raider. Another explanation for long droughts between releases appear predicated on overarching plans not being set in stone like audiences are accustomed to with Marvel. Has the DCEU braintrust readied an endgame? Have they outlined the journey that'll get us there? According to the release schedule, the jury is still out on these decisions and more.
10 A SECOND FILM UNIVERSE?
Joker remains at the forefront of popular culture. Just like his nemesis, WB apparently considers him a cash cow of sorts. Therefore, no one can feign surprise that a solo film for the Clown Prince is in development. What’s puzzling, however, is the film’s separation from the ongoing movie franchise. Joker’s solo, supposedly an origin story, and the DCEU will not connect. Additionally, Jared Leto won’t star in the film. So perplexing is this news that Leto says he knew nothing of the project ahead of its reveal.
In truth, it’s a fascinating initiative, allowing stories to be told outside of the main film universe’s confines. Comics have successfully done the same for decades. Trouble lies in miscommunication about what this entails moving forward. It also begs the question of why this film in particular couldn’t correspond with the DCEU. Hopefully, the reasoning isn’t as arbitrary as it initially appears.
9 CONFUSION REGARDING TV CHARACTERS
Since Arrow’s sophomore season confusion has enveloped rules concerning character usage between the TV universe and that of the films. The show’s Suicide Squad arc was discarded to make way for the blockbuster. Deathstroke becomes off-limits, returns to Arrow, and is then off-limits once again. For fans it’s frustrating. Imagine how the creatives behind the Arrowverse must feel.
Of course, The CW merely borrows DC characters for the network’s superhero programming.
This explanation remains ambiguous, but at least it’s something audiences can comprehend. Superman and especially The Flash complicate the narrative, though. Robin/Nightwing on Titans will likely complicate things further. These three characters being allowed to appear on television despite their usage on film continues to baffle. There’s probably an elaborate justification at work. Unfortunately, the truth may never come to the light.
8 PREMATURELY INTRODUCING DOOMSDAY
Doomsday is a character that cannot afford to be rushed. Developing him and his place in the world takes time, primarily because of the complexities involved in getting him right. Despite the clever General Zod plot, not much care was given to Doomsday’s DCEU debut. This is especially evident in the still derided CGI that brings the villain to life on the big screen.
Of late, concept art for Superman foe Metallo has surfaced online. Many now wonder why he wasn’t the villain instead, considering Lex Luthor’s obsession with Kryptonite. Metallo may have made for a more compelling villain with an emotional character arc -- some fans point to Wallace Keefe (the man in the wheelchair) as a fitting candidate for the part. Regardless, Doomsday’s arrival in the DCEU couldn’t be more poorly timed.
7 NEW MOVIES CONTINUOUSLY TEASED OR ANNOUNCED
During the DCEU’s infancy, Warner Bros. announced an impressive slate of films. This initiative spans nearly a decade, beginning with Man of Steel. The final film on the release schedule is set for 2020: Green Lantern Corps. Since then, more features have been added. These include solos for Nightwing, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, and Black Adam. Team-ups include Gotham City Sirens, Suicide Squad’s sequel, and Justice League Dark/Dark Universe.
Numerous films are missing from the above list, many of which aren’t confirmed to be in the works.
The chief issue is that several films from the original slate are still without so much as casting details. What’s going on with the Green Lantern and Cyborg projects? Of course, a bulk of the information made public comes courtesy of leaks. That, too, unfavorably accentuates the franchise’s underlying missteps.
6 THE DARKSEID PLOT IS ALREADY UNDERSERVED
Eventually, Darkseid will arrive to subject mankind to his rule, destroy it, or both. This has been clear since the Knightmare sequence in BvS rocked movie theaters worldwide. Now we’re left to wonder how quickly this all will occur. For 10 years, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe built up to Thanos’ arrival. He’s the boss fight at the end of a game. In contrast, the DCEU seems to position Darkseid as the main threat of what’s essentially their first Phase. Problematic is an understatement when describing this blunder.
Interestingly, this very prevalent threat will presumably disappear for the next several films. Neither he nor his guard is expected to feature in Wonder Woman’s sequel, Aquaman, or Shazam. When will room be made for Apokolips and its despot to take center stage, a hypothetical Justice League 2? Should this be the case, fingers are crossed it isn’t his sole DCEU appearance.
5 CONFUSION ABOUT WONDER WOMAN'S TIMELINE
In Batman v Superman, it’s revealed that Wonder Woman had, as a hero, left man’s world for a century. Her solo, featuring her experience in World War I, delineates why. She’d given up on humanity, and chose to let man fight its own battles. The forthcoming sequel takes place prior to BvS and will presumably have Wonder Woman protecting mankind. However, a Justice League argument between Diana and Bruce doubles down on her leaving man’s world behind. Is this an oversight, or will Wonder Woman 2 include her taking action the World’s Greatest Detective fails to unearth?
If Wonder Woman’s heroics have been kept out of the public eye, then there are innumerable ways in which to allay the confusion.
This could also further establish her brand of heroism; Wonder Woman working from the shadows is compelling. Should inconsistency continue pervading the DCEU, its numerous problems will undoubtedly increase.
4 DIRECTORS KEEP LEAVING
Sometimes, a project lead’s departure amounts to eventual success. A new perspective may be exactly what a film requires. Such decisions are understandable and can garner acclaim in hindsight. For the DCEU, however, it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Flash’s solo, which has suffered many developmental hardships, lost two directors in as many years over creative differences. In May 2016, Seth Grahame-Smith exited and by October 2017, Rick Famuyiwa had also departed.
Recently, Joss Whedon quit Batgirl’s film, citing his inability to tell the right story as a reason for his departure. But the most controversial director exit goes to Ben Affleck’s stepping down from Batman’s standalone. There was too much on his plate -- at the time, he was writing, directing, and starring in a blockbuster. Films regularly lose momentum; that the DCEU’s struggles often overshadow triumphs make its loses particularly disheartening.
3 RUMORS RUN WILD
No entertainment industry is safe from the rumor mill. Games, television, music, and film all undergo rumor-generated controversy. In under five years, Warner Bros.’ theatrical superhero franchise has experienced the worst of such controversies in recent memory. Thus far, the scuttlebutt ranges from reports of excised footage in most DCEU films to incessant claims alleging Ben Affleck may or may not be Batman for much longer.
Unfortunately, the rumors have reached a fever pitch in intensity as a preponderance of “news” related to DC movies is speculative.
Of course, the studio isn’t obligated to respond to such claims. However, it may behoove them to address some of the worrying gossip. As a consequence of the rumors and WB's ongoing silence, audiences have apparently lost faith in the franchise. Justice League’s relative underperformance at the box office is evidence of this.
2 SUPERMAN'S PREMATURE DEATH
The Man of Steel’s death in Batman v Superman receives endless analysis and ridicule. His premature death garners the most disdain. After only two films, the world’s greatest hero sacrifices himself to save humanity from an immeasurable threat. That Superman’s actions are noble is of no contention. He dies so that others may live -- a selfless sacrifice. The world’s spending a bulk of the film resenting his power accentuates the weight of his passing.
Great storytelling exists at the core of this plot. And, yet, it’s cheapened by the speed of its delivery. Man of Steel is a coming of age tale about Clark Kent’s evolution into Superman. Soon thereafter, he dies. There’s little room given for him to grow, succeed, and fail. Thus, Superman’s character development is stifled. One positive outcome is the character showing signs of growth after his return in Justice League.
1 WAITING ON GREEN LANTERN
For reasons that continue to puzzle, Green Lantern is on the DCEU’s back burner. Lanterns exist within the film universe, evinced by one appearing in Justice League’s Mother Box flashbacks. However, the present day narrative offers not a single clue regarding the Lanterns’ whereabouts. This is particularly disappointing given the precedence of a Green Lantern typically being a founding member of the League. The absence of a GL in a live-action Justice League film is sorely felt.
Their lack of a presence also relegates deep exploration of DC’s cosmic universe to the sidelines.
Unfortunately, details on Green Lantern Corps remain scarce. The 2020 release date that was once touted becomes less and less likely as time goes on. If we have to wait for a Green Lantern-centric film to debut the DCEU’s version of Lanterns, the wait may regretfully be indefinite.