OPINION | The DCEU Was a Successful Failure by James Armstrong


DISCLAIMER: Guest op-eds on BOF do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Founder/Editor-in-Chief nor do they represent the official stance of this website. – “Jett”

By James Armstrong (TWITTER: @JAMZARM)

I loved the DCEU and I couldn’t be more excited for the dawn of the DCU.

There’s something in the air that I haven’t been able to pinpoint until now. We’ve seen movies and film slates announced before. This time there’s a core, comforting feeling to this week’s announcement by James Gunn and Peter Safran that I can only compare to being a five-year-old walking the aisles of Toys “R” Us.

Things were simpler in the early 1990s: you had your choice of the latest Batman movie merch or the DC Comics superheroes line. As a kid, I loved it because while acting out scenes from the movies was fun you could invent your own adventures with the more open-ended DC toys.

Now, for the first time in a long time, the layout for future DC projects feels similarly streamlined.

When it comes to comic book movies I’m not a fan of rules. I’m perfectly happy with grounded, realistic Batfilms but believe the option for fantastical stories should be available, too.

To have Matt Reeves continue his brilliant Batman epic crime saga under an Elseworlds banner while we get a DCU Batman who can match wits against super-criminals is incredible. Again, it’s like being a kid. No limits, only what you can imagine.

I’m equally fascinated by Gunn’s comment that video games and animation will be tied in to this DCU. Stories that would be too costly to tell in live action, or with runtimes that rule out a theatrical run, can now be consequential to this new universe as animated films. If memory serves, we haven’t had an animated tie-in to a Batman movie since BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT in 2008.

It was that best-of-both-worlds potential that made me cautiously optimistic about Gunn and Safran’s changes…but barely optimistic.

The first change was hearing that Henry Cavill would not return as Superman, something I strongly disagreed with. Having worked at a movie theater for 10 years and chatting with general audiences I can tell you that casting choices are more inside-baseball, fan-oriented priorities. I wholeheartedly believe that we could have had both Cavill and a new direction.

After doing the right thing and keeping an open mind I want to say that if these changes have you feeling resigned or upset I understand. But here’s the deal: it has not been for nothing.

When describing the DCEU I would say it was “a successful failure” in that it expanded the DC film universe but met with mixed critical and box office reception.

The analogy is borrowed from how NASA labeled the Apollo 13 mission, as the crew returned safe but did not land on the moon.

The DCEU, along with an assist from the early CW stuff, made me branch out beyond Batman. Prior to 2013 I only put up with the other characters. Superman was an afterthought and Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman weren’t even on my radar. MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and the subsequent solo films changed that.

The casting for the DCEU was spot-on and the mythological aesthetic was incredibly beautiful. Most importantly, the films spoke to the Great Recession graduates who continually felt like they’d been left out. Seeing these heroes go through a rut, doubting where they were headed in life, only for them to get better spoke to me in a way no other comic book films had.

I’m proud that the DCEU films are on my movie shelf ready to be rewatched. But, you know, there’s “room for more,” as Wonder Woman said at the end of both JUSTICE LEAGUE cuts.

Ultimately, the DCEU was dealt far too many bad hands and self-inflicted wounds to the point where DC drama became a genre in itself! The very fact that the DCU will be a studio independent of corporate distractions is a solid win. While I’m not the biggest fan of Gunn’s filmography it’s refreshing to know that directors will get a sympathetic ear talking runtimes, story arcs, and casting with a creative like him instead of [insert executive here].

As Jett has always reminded us, we should relish the build-up to something new as much as the movies themselves. This change has the potential to give fans a better experience, fresh stories, and the shot-in-the-arm DC movies needed. – James Armstrong