The DC Extended Universe roster of films — Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, with Justice League coming in November and others in the pipeline — has been a mixed bag. All the ones that have been released have been multimillion-dollar blockbusters, but most have garnered negative, even savage reviews, with the notable exception of Wonder Woman. 2013’s Man of Steel kicked off the DCEU, bringing Superman back to the big screen seven years after Superman Returns and a year after Arrow started a wave of popular TV shows on the CW network based on DC characters.
However, the DC movies haven’t been so well regarded. Fans have complained about casting choices, directorial decisions, costume colors, even facial hair. Not all fans have been against everything; some have been passionate defenders of their favorites, despite dozens upon dozens of film reviews citing shortcomings in story logic, character development and basic entertainment value. Then there are the troubles that come along with the normal business of film making — scheduling delays, reshoots, script doctoring, director replacements — that breed rumors, speculation and wild theories that whip partisans into a frenzy. Here are 15 controversies regarding DCEU films that made fans furious.
15. SUPERMAN BREAKS ZOD’S NECK
The moment in Man of Steel still shocks: Superman, struggling to restrain General Zod, snaps his neck to keep him from burning a family to death with his heat vision. Complaints were loud and vehement: Superman doesn’t kill. Superman: Birthright writer Mark Waid wrote, “We don’t just want Superman to save us; we want him to protect us. He was okay at the former, but really, really lousy at the latter.” The Illumi-Nerdi blog theorized Superman turned Zod’s heat vision toward the family, killing them anyway, but it was debunked; they’re alive in the background.
Other fans appreciated that this was a fledgling superhero, not your father’s Superman. In a Nerdist podcast, scriptwriter David S. Goyer said the goal was to explore, “the moral, horrible situation to be in … to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race.”
14. BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN
Even his possessing two Academy Awards wasn’t enough to stop the fan howls over the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Then again, neither of Affleck’s Oscars are for his acting; he won Best Picture in 2013 for Argo and shares the 1998 Best Original Screenplay with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting.
As an actor, Affleck’s filmography is marred by his previous superhero outing, 2003’s Daredevil. When Affleck got the Batman nod, fans quickly took to Twitter, making the hashtag #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck a trending topic. Others took their complaints to Change.org and to the White House “We the People” site, trying to launch a petition to both denounce the Affleck choice and recast the role. It was taken down. Once the movie was done, Affleck’s sad-faced reaction to hearing negative reviews became a meme.
13. GAL GADOT AS WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman was the first DCEU movie that was an unequivocal success — critically, commercially and popularly. But Gal Gadot’s casting in the title role drew complaints from fans who focused on her model looks — she was Miss Israel 2004 — and not her acting chops or real-world experience as a combat trainer in the Israeli Defense Forces. But Gadot brushed off the jabs. “They said I was too skinny and my boobs were too small,” Gadot told Robot Underdog. “When I was younger I would take criticism really hard. But now it mostly amuses me.”
Even Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins admitted to Playboy “my heart sank” that Gadot was cast without her input. “I’m sure we wouldn’t have made the same choice,” she said. But Gadot more than won Jenkins over: “The fact that they found Gal and chose her is a magical gift to me.”
12. JESSE EISENBERG AS LEX LUTHOR
“Howls from the blogosphere” was how Variety described the reaction to Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Eisenberg didn’t fit the Luthor mold established in the comics since the 1980s as a commanding, unscrupulous captain of industry, nor Luthor’s initial depiction from the 1930s as a genius criminal scientist. Eisenberg’s portrayal was more in line with his performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network: an annoying, whiny, conniving tech mogul.
One tweet: “Ben Affleck gotta be smiling that the heats Off him for a while.” Another: “So far my favorite villain in Superman/Batman is the casting director.” Others defended the offbeat choice as inspired: “Casting critics are often opinionated and just as frequently wrong,” said The Wrap.
11. DIANA’S HAIRLESS ARMPITS
A moment from the Wonder Woman trailer in which her arms are raised, showing smooth armpits, drew barbs on Twitter. Fans — some identifying as feminist, some not — pointed out that Wonder Woman comes from an environment isolated from the rest of the world. As one fan tweeted: “Wonder Woman should have leg hair + armpit hair. If she came from a place with no male standards of beauty she wouldn’t GAF about body hair.”
Not only that, the image appeared to have been digitally altered, as Gal Gadot’s armpits are noticeably paler than the rest of her body. But Gadot previously noted to Robot Underdog that “The true Amazons had one boob so it wouldn’t bother them in their archery. So it’s not going to be like real Amazons. We always try to make everyone happy but we can’t.”
10. THINK THIN
Marketers sometimes miscue when promoting female superheroes. Avengers: Age of Ultron featured a stunt with the Black Widow jumping on a motorcycle that was dropped from a quinjet, but Lego and Hasbro playsets based on that moment replaced her with Captain America. Likewise, the buildup for Wonder Woman — a character who represents strength and empowerment — seemed pretty light on cross-promotion. But there was a partnership with thinkThin protein bars.
Since star Gal Gadot had previously been derided for being slim rather than muscular, response to this promotion was harsh. “‘Think Thin’ is not a slogan we need associated with a fierce warrior,” wrote The MarySue. One tweet declared “this ridiculous ideal of thiness (sic) is the opposite of empowering.” Whether or not this will be remembered as a misstep, or at all, is up for time to decide,
9. WOMEN-ONLY SCREENINGS
To offer a supportive environment for Wonder Woman fans, the cinema chain Arlington Drafthouse hosted a women-only screening of the film at its Austin, Texas location. The theater provided an all-female staff and donated proceeds to Planned Parenthood. The screening quickly sold out and was followed by a second one and another in New York.
It also quickly drew gibes on its Facebook page, like this one: “Will there be a male-only screening for Thor: Ragnarok?” Further, Albany Law School professor Stephen Clark dug through Austin’s city code and filed a discrimination charge. But others saw the occasion as empowering, not exclusive, as it was open to “women and their allies.” The screening drew enthusiastic Wonder Woman fans. “It was the best experience in a theater because I felt like I had the freedom to feel without any judgment,” Carrie Witmer wrote for Business Insider.
8. SUICIDE SQUAD POLARIZES
With Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. perfected the knack of making $750 million blockbusters that no one likes. Negative buzz and reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice led to Warner making different cuts for Suicide Squad: director David Ayer’s take and a lighter version from the studio.
Early fan reaction at test screenings was more positive than that from the critics. Fans defended the film — “If you’re a true DC comic fan you will like this movie” wrote one critic — against dissenting views. Adamant that the critics were wrong, some fans flooded IMDB with positive reviews before the movie was even released, and sniped at critics. Rolling Stone noted that reviewers who panned the film “suddenly found their inboxes and Twitter mentions full of fury.” Which leads to …
7. 25% ROTTEN
Even before Suicide Squad hit theaters, the community of film critics didn’t like what they saw. Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates movie reviews and gives a score of “fresh” if 60% or more are positive, early on scored Suicide Squad at 34%. This prompted fan Abdullah Coldwater to start a Change.org petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes, which quickly garnered 7,000 signatures on the way to more than 22,000. Variety reported Coldwater as saying, “Critics always give the DC Extended Universe movies unjust bad reviews” that affect the viewer’s enjoyment.
Coldwater later revised the petition, admitting the unlikelihood of closing the site. He said, “[W]e must get the people to know that the criticism [is] not the measure of the quality of the movies, it’s just the opinions of the critics.” Suicide Squad’s ranking fell to 25%, with only 81 positive reviews and 213 negative of 318 total.
6. HOW MUCH JOKER?
The Joker’s presence in Suicide Squad was polarizing. As he isn’t actually part of the team, some found him overbearing, even though he was in barely 15 minutes of the film’s running time. Also, many of the Joker’s scenes, including his violent backstory with Harley Quinn, wound up on the cutting room floor. One Reddit fan in England threatened to sue Warner Bros. and DC Comics for false advertising because several Joker clips that were in trailers weren’t in the finished film.
Others thought that the Enchantress wasn’t compelling enough as the story’s main threat and wanted to see more Joker. Director David Ayer, responding to a fan on Twitter, said as much: “I’d make Joker the main villain and engineer a more grounded story.”
5. TOO MUCH JARED LETO
Following Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as The Joker in 2009’s The Dark Knight, Jared Leto went far out of his way to put his stamp on the character in Suicide Squad. Leto insisted on being called “Mr. J” at all times, and had a dead pig delivered to the cast at the first table read. Other gifts included anal beads, bullets, sex toys and used condoms.
Will Smith told a San Diego Comic-Con panel of a moment where Leto gave Margot Robbie a gift from “Mr. J”: a box with a live rat in it. “I was playing Deadshot, but if I had pearls on I would have clutched them,” Smith said. Robbie kept the animal as a pet. For all that, “Method Actor Jared Leto spent more time playing The Joker on set than he did in the damn movie,” said MTV News.
4. JUSTICE LEAGUE RESHOOTS
After complaints about the dourness of Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the enthusiastic acclaim for Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. pulled back Justice League for tinkering. This meant juggling the schedules of the cast members who went to work on other projects. Also, director Zack Snyder left the production after his daughter’s suicide, so Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought in to complete the work.
Ultimately, the changes added two months to the schedule and $25 million to the budget. As Variety noted, “‘Justice League’ is spending the time and money on reshoots that mid-budget films would have to shoot an entire movie.” All the changes led to rampant fan speculation of a troubled shoot, which the cast did its best to tamp down at the San Diego Comic-Con.
3. HENRY CAVILL’S MUSTACHE
The reshoots for Justice League caused a hairy situation for Henry Cavill, who reasonably went on to his next project, the sixth Mission: Impossible, when filming was done. With no open time on his schedule, Cavill bounced from one production to the other, but he grew a mustache for M:I6. For continuity, Paramount Studios required him to keep the facial hair. So Superman’s mustache will be digitally erased as was Wonder Woman’s armpit hair.
Fans had fun online Photoshopping handlebar mustaches and other types on images of the Man of Steel. And Cavill addressed the issue in an Instagram post. He captioned an image from the M:I6 set, showing “a series of weapons being designed by Warner Bros and Paramount Studios to combat the entity known as ‘Henry Cavill’s Moustache’.”
2. A DIFFERENT FLASH
With the popularity of The Flash TV show on the CW network, it would seem a no-brainer to cast Grant Gustin in the role for the Justice League movie and solo Flash film. But it is not to be; Ezra Miller was chosen instead, and appeared as a proto-Flash in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Why the switch? Because Justice League director Zack Snyder dismissed the idea of Gustin’s version from the start. Snyder told the New York Daily News, “I just don’t think it was a good fit. I’m very strict with this universe, and I just don’t see a version where … that (tone is) not our world.” In The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Amell of Arrow criticized that call, but acknowledged Gustin and Miller can have different takes on the character.
1. BATMAN WITHOUT AFFLECK?
At the San Diego Comic-Con, Ben Affleck also disputed a Hollywood Reporter story that stated Warner Bros. was easing him out of the Batman role. The studio was high on him going into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with plans for Affleck to cameo as Batman in Suicide Squad and write, direct and star in a standalone Batman film.
Things cooled after the negative buzz on Batman v Superman and after Live by Night — a gangster film Affleck wrote, directed, produced and starred in — tanked. After that, Affleck gave up the directing reins for The Batman, and replacement Matt Reeves declined to use Affleck’s script. But Affleck said at Comic-Con he’s excited to play the part, even if he isn’t directing, reported the New York Times: “I’m Batman.”
Do you know of any other controversies that rocked the DCEU? Let us know in the comments!
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