With the release of Wonder Woman, it seems as if critics and moviegoers alike are shouting the same message from their prospective rooftops, blogs, and soapboxes: The DC Extended Universe has finally delivered a good superhero movie! This leads me to a question that has been haunting my soul for years: In general, I like the DCEU movies…does that mean there’s something wrong with me?
That’s right. I like the DCEU movies. There. I said it.
Let’s get one thing clear: I am in no way claiming to be a film or comic book expert. Instead, I come to this keyboard as a fan of both. I go into movie theatres not expecting perfect plotlines or philosophical quandaries. Instead, I go expecting to be entertained. If I am, I consider that a win for me and for the film. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but I very rarely expect a superhero movie to be heavy on the philosophizing; however, if one of these films does have some depth, that’s just icing on the cake.
Second, I’m going to focus solely on the DC Extended Universe. There are many DC movies that are old enough to have already established themselves as classics, like Superman, and those that have been the butts of jokes for years, like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Third, I’m not trying to say that DC movies are better than films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What I am trying to say is that the DC movies have been getting a bad reputation when they’re actually not that bad.
I propose a three-pronged argument to explain why the DCEU movies are actually pretty good:
First Argument: The DCEU Has Been The Victim Of An Unfair Comparison To Movies In The MCU
Perhaps calling this unfair isn’t exactly the best term, but it definitely seems to fit. The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2008 with the releases of Iron Man, followed by The Incredible Hulk. Since then, Marvel has been releasing movies regularly and producing some excellent-quality TV in the form of their Netflix series and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest-rated movie in the MCU is Thor: The Dark World, with a score of 66%. The highest-rated MCU film is Iron Man with a score of 94%. It’s worth noting that there are NO films in the MCU that have received the rotten green tomato splat (a rating of less than 59%). Needless to say, Marvel has been pumping out some great, entertaining films.
When you’re up against the entertainment juggernaut that Marvel has become, there is bound to be some difficulty. Marvel had the benefit of being the first out of the gate when it comes to these modern super hero movies, and they took that opportunity to set a very high standard.
The first movie in the DC Extended Universe was Man of Steel, which came out in 2013. This film was rated 55% positive by critics and 75% positive by fans, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus is that the movie had a lot of great action, but that the story was lacking and generic. Basically, it failed to reinvent the wheel. It should also be noted that there is a decidedly different tone in Man of Steel than in the MCU films that came before it. The film definitely took itself more seriously, and may have seemed to lack the energy of some of its high-octane MCU counterparts. As The Geekiverse’s Seth Zielinski notes, “It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a superhero series to take itself seriously as opposed to stopping to wink at the audience every few scenes.”
I think people are viewing the DCEU movies through a lens of what they want them to be rather than viewing them for what they are. Critics and fans want them to be funny. They want them to be bright and colorful. They want them to contain tongue-in-cheek references. For better or worse, this is not the case; however, when considered in isolation, they’re not bad at all. Sure Suicide Squad had an extremely flat villain, and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice felt disjointed or rushed (a complaint that was somewhat alleviated by the release of the extended cut), but neither of those complaints made those films bad or even less than good, for that point.
Second Argument: Fanboy Bias
Just as there is light and darkness, fire and ice, Democrats and Republicans, every big fanbase has its opposite, and boy do these groups of fanboys love ripping on each other. In comics, the two big names are Marvel and DC. There are a good number of people who appreciate both, but we all know people who are all about one and harbor nothing but hatred for the other: fanboys.
These rabid fanboys have also had a negative effect on the reception of DCEU movies. Marvel people want to see the DCEU movies fail because they can say their fandom reigns supreme. DCEU people want their movies to be like the Marvel movies, but better. When these films are released, and they are totally different than the MCU films—not only that, but they also don’t receive great reviews from the critics—it builds resentment. Now the MCU fanboys get their “Told you so!” moment, while the DCEU group is trying to accept an “inferior” movie franchise, and what makes the DCEU films inferior? Expectations (see the first argument above).
My theory is that fanboyism does little to help any property. Instead, fanboys can cause properties to become damaged over time. Fanatically sticking to one franchise, company, gaming system, etc., is a way of letting that entity know you’ve got them no matter what. Once a fanbase has been built up to a fever pitch, why does this company even need to be innovative anymore? They become a self-sustaining monster of mediocrity. In the case of movies, companies start to realize that they can make whatever they want and people will still see it. Even if it’s garbage, they will make bank. In video game terms, think about how the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed series suffered after pumping out game after game (COD is especially guilty of repackaging almost the same game year after year); they didn’t have incentive to change too much. After all, they were going to break sales records each year, right? Right. Until you don’t. Then it’s time for break (Assassin’s Creed) or a back-to-the-roots reboot (Call of Duty WWII). Fanboyism is also detrimental to the opposite franchise/company for obvious reasons: fewer fans, perhaps not as many sales, and spewing putrid hate about what is seen as your enemy.
What happens if fanboys are left out? Honest appreciation and honest criticism. Not loving or hating something because of the title or pedigree: Loving it because it’s good. Hating it because it’s bad. From a truly neutral perspective, I can say that many of the MCU films are good (even great), and some are not so good (Ant-Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World). I can also say the same of the DCEU movies (good: Man of Steel, Wonder Woman; okay: Batman v Superman; not so great: Suicide Squad), though they number less than a third of their MCU counterparts.
Being free of the fanboy gene means being free of prejudice towards property, which means I am free to love and hate at will, and I know my dollars spent are my votes of approval.
Third Argument: Entertainment News Took The Reshoots And Turned It Into A Whole Thing
Sometimes in the editing room, or even late during the filming process, the production team behind a movie might realize something didn’t look quite right, something wasn’t meeting expectations, or maybe something was lost from the script to the screen. When this happens, reshoots may get ordered. This could mean one or two scenes or, as Independent reports, “. . .as much as 40%” in the case of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Out of the four currently released DCEU films, two (Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad) went through reshoots that were dubbed “significant” by members of the media. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s important to remember that reshoots are not always such a bad thing; however, when presented as a desperate plan to fix a broken movie, it’s understandable that fans might start to worry. I remember the same thing happening during Rogue One—reshoots were ordered, and people started to worry. The press jumped on the bandwagon, speculating about what was wrong with the film. What needed fixing? Exactly how bad is this film? Needless to say, this rubbed off on the public, many of whom are now pondering the same questions instead of excitedly waiting for the film’s release.
Now, I’m not saying that there was nothing wrong with BvS or Suicide Squad—they needed reshoots for what I imagine were good reasons, but this does not mean the film was originally broken, which is what calling attention to reshoots can make people believe. I’ll also admit to the opposite: Sometimes movies are broken as hell, and they need somebody to take over and right the ship.
The reshoots damaged BvS and Suicide Squad because they made people more cautious; moviegoers were now on their guard. Instead of looking forward to it, the point of view switched to, “Well, let’s see how bad they messed this one up.” This is crowd mentality at its finest: The media convinces fans that something is wrong, and people believe it, maybe even share an article or video about it on Facebook. It soon becomes the popular opinion that it’s going to, for lack of a better word, suck. If people go into a movie expecting to be let down, they’re going to be let down.
The DCEU movies are not as bad as everybody makes them out to be. I’m all about holding companies to high standards—if Sony wants my money, they better have the best console. Same with Microsoft, and same with movies. While I may not have been blown away by Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad, I still enjoyed them despite their flaws.
Since these films are always under such heavy scrutiny, I have to ask myself why I’m in the apparent minority (and I say apparent because each DCEU movie holds at least a 62% Audience Approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes)? I can come up with three possible explanations: I always try to watch movies as a fan, not a critic; I don’t have any huge attachments to any DC characters (although I am a bit of a Batman fan) so that might make me less critical of the films in general; and the last explanation is that…well, maybe I just have shit taste in movies.
Am I alone here, or are you a closet DCEU fan like me? Do you agree with any of my points, or are there different reasons you like them? Or do you think I’m insane? Hell, if you’re on the opposite side, we’d love to hear your reasoning for why the movies deserve the hate they receive. Either way, let us know in the comments!
Andrew is a Geekiverse editor who enjoys playing devil’s advocate and sticking up for the little guy, even when the little guy is a multi-billion dollar comic book and media giant.
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