Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What The Hell Is Going On With The DC Extended Universe?

I was so excited for Man Of Steel. My God, me and my buddies absolutely couldn't wait. We were all superhero movie geeks and in love with Christopher Nolan's take on The Dark Knight, so the idea of him shepherding Superman into the modern age just sounded like a recipe for pure gold as far as we were concerned. And those trailers! They inspired a sense of awe that we couldn't wait to see in the movie itself. So, on Friday June 14th, we all met up at our local Cinemark and excitedly sat in our seats, prepared to see Superman's newest motion picture.

We went in hoping for awe-inspiring spectacle. What we got was Shaky-Cam: The Movie that managed to waste Kevin Costner, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon in one movie.

Me and my pals didn't even need to say a word, the feeling of disappointment that bubbled in our bodies throughout the course of this disaster was palpable across the row of seats. Only some kid swearing profusely at a young Clark Kent managed to get some giggles out of us, otherwise, we just sat there stone-faced at the cataclysm unfolding before our very eyes. Henry Cavill's lack of screen presence, Superman never getting anything remotely inspiring to do and that destruction filled climax, oh my God, what the hell was that? By the time Lois Lane and Clark Kent were making out in a crater, I wanted to hurl my popcorn at the screen. Little did I know that Superman murdering some dude and then moving on like it was nothing was just around the corner.

I was so young and naive then three years ago. Oh, if I only knew what I knew now. What horrors would be wrought by Zack Snyder, Warner Bros. and company in their effort replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here's the thing that I've gotta get out of the way right now; I don't hate these movies because "they're not like the comics!!!!" Actually, changing things from the comics for film adaptations can be a great idea. The Civil War comic is muddled mess of ideas that don't really work if given half-a-second of thought, so thank God the movie adaptation of said storyline managed to overhaul it to make it coherent. Plus, we should be altering the race and genders of comic book characters more often so that 2016 comic book movies don't have the same racial make-up as comic books from the 1960's.

The reason the DC Extended Universe aggravates me so is that, thus far, this universe has produced three movies that just don't work on any conceivable reason. All three seem to be chasing the tails of different movies (Man Of Steel is clearly aping The Dark Knight trilogy, Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice wants so bad to be an Avengers-sized superhero showdown and Suicide Squad is like Guardians Of The Galaxy without all the fun, charm and quality) in a vain attempt to get a cinematic universe going on par with what Marvel's accomplished over the past eight years. But in these movies blatant attempts to mimic what's come before, they lack the audacity to try new things, to engineer their own idiosyncratic successes.

Even looking outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, one finds a treasure trove of immensely popular blockbusters that pushed boundaries, dared to try something new. Star Wars was like no other space opera seen in its time. In the early 90's, Jurassic Park pushed the envelope in computer effects while contemplating the greater nature of life and the effects of trying to control it. Jack Sparrow in the Pirates Of the Caribbean movies sounds like an over-the-top disaster waiting to happen conceptually, but in that first Pirates movie Depp is absolutely amazing challenging the popular conception of what a pirate could be. Hell, fellow DC Comics movie The Dark Knight  channeled the atmosphere of a post-9/11 America to create a villain in that movies incarnation of The Joker that hadn't ever been seen before on the big screen.

By contrast, maybe the boldest thing attempted in these new DC Comics movie is play off the absuive relationship between The Joker and Harley Quinn as a cutsie-poo romance that wouldn't be out of place in a Nicholas Sparks movie. Thus far, this cinematic universe consists of uncomfortable depictions of women (all of the women that aren't named Wonder Woman in this universe exist either to be damsel-in-distresses or serve as eye candy), plenty of racial stereotypes and screenplays that border on incoherent.

And we've got 2-3 three new movies coming out every year in this universe for at least the next four years. Jesus Christ, looking at the release slate for future DC movies is like looking down the barrel of a gun. Will any of these movies be good? Can they even have a shot to be good when Warner Bros. is run by Kevin Tsujihara, a man with no prior experience in the world of cinema before he took on the job of running one of the biggest movie studios in the world? Any movie that turns out to be bad is a tragedy considering all the time, energy and creativity used by thousands of human beings to bring said movie to life. So far, the DC Extended Universe feels like the epitome of the word tragedy, a waste of great fictional characters and incredible actors. These aren't movies but rather the results of executives looking to replicate the success of better past movies without fully understanding what made them great. Hope the scant amount of dollars Warner Bros. gets from selling Harley Quinn and Joker merchandise at Hot Topic makes them happy, because, at the rate this cinematic universe is going, the damage done to these characters in the long run in pop culture could be massive.

OK Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins...it's all on you now. Let's see if, come June 2017, you can salvage this disaster of a cinematic universe.

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