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The Fall of the DC Extended Universe

Potential Squandered

I was waking up a bit late last week when I practiced my usual routine for the morning consisting of brushing my teeth, showering and all the cliche hygienic details. I had checked Twitter on my phone, as I usually do, when I happened to see that Henry Cavill was the top trending topic that hour. For those of you not in the know these days, Cavill is currently the actor playing the iconic Man of Steel in the most recent DC films you’ve seen. I couldn’t of possibly guessed what Cavill was trending for exactly at the time, but I definitely knew it was for something Superman-related.

I clicked on his name…only to find that the actor was recently revealed to possibly be retiring from the role of the iconic superhero. Now, this set me back for about four minutes or so, before I realized that things on DC’s side of things were about to dramatically change.

First, let me give some context first.

DC and Marvel, the studios that brought you Iron Man, Captain America and the greatest superhero of all time, Spider-Man (can’t forget the hyphen), have been perpetually competing since their respective inceptions. In the past decade, this rivalry has transcended to movies and cartoons extensively as well. Indisputably, Marvel has been winning the war in the movies department; their portfolio and extensively popular films (which are released consistently on a yearly basis) have given them more footing against their competitors. DC, despite having successes with their flagship female character, Wonder Woman, continue to struggle with critical success as most of their films have come under fire for their rather sub-par storyboard work.

Admittedly, Batman vs. Superman was exceedingly bad. Lex Luthor wasn’t particularly intimidating, although I’m understanding of their different take on his character. Much of the characters’ motivations didn’t make much sense to me, and that god-awful connection Zack Snyder tried to employ through Batman’s and Superman’s mothers’ first names was just weird and unrealistic. Having Batman screaming at Superman because he can’t fathom someone other than his mother’s name was Martha (sarcasm) was executed only a little less campy than it sounds here. I can go on and on about the negatives of the film, but the point of this post was to highlight what I see as lost potential.

The warehouse scene in BvS was probably the most well-choreographed Batman fight scene I’ve seen in the character’s cinema history. Ben Affleck was an above-average Bruce Wayne, portraying him as a seasoned but haunted vigilante. Affleck made Batman feel vulnerable, and human in a cinematic world we were introduced to through Superman, the most invulnerable character in it. He was different from the recent renditions of Batman we’d received, with Bale’s caped crusader presented as a more grounded and rather short-termed vigilante than Affleck, who’d been Batman for over a decade prior to the film. It was a feel that was a familiar to a comic book reader like myself, but a fresh feel as an observer through cinema.

Unfortunately, it seems most good things don’t last well in bad environments. Affleck has been rumored to be exiting his role as Batman as well, joining Cavill as they both will be exiting the DC Extended Universe. With DC’s two most popular characters without actors, it leaves me to question the direction DC has decided to take their cinematic universe. Aquaman will be releasing soon, but the Cyborg movie in production has been cancelled. It seems DC is taking a more cautious route, especially after the success of Marvel’s Infinity War.

Henry Cavill’s Superman is just as tragic as Affleck’s Batman. The superhero had finally been presented in a unique light after Man of Steel, a movie criticized heavily on what I think made it so good: tone. Cavill’s Superman was dark and realistic. A man trying to do the right thing but seemingly unsure when or how to do it without drawing the ire of the people. Cavill’s Superman was the direction the character needed to be taken and appropriate for the time and era the superhero is currently in. It’s a shame DC felt the need to pull the plug instead of pushing forward despite their early failures.

I can’t tell where the DC Universe would go from here. I personally would’ve kept going. Fans still loved Affleck’s Batman, although Cavill’s Superman had some problems. In the near future, we should still be treated to some of DC’s most enigmatic characters as they continue to compete with Marvel, albeit with a little bit more caution this time.

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The Fall of the DC Extended Universe
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