Ever since Marvel Studios successfully built the first cinematic shared universe with the release of “Iron Man,” all the way to the first “Avengers” film, every major studio has wanted a piece of that success. Throughout the 2010s, many studios attempted to recreate their own shared universes through crossover events.
Universal launched the “Dark Universe,” a shared cinematic franchise that would connect classic horror monsters like Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolf Man. On the other side of the spectrum, Legendary Entertainment launched the “MonsterVerse” series of films revolving around giant kaiju creatures like Godzilla and King Kong.
While many movie studios have tried to replicate Marvel Studios’ success, none have even come close. The “Dark” universe was discontinued after just one film, and the “MonsterVerse” has done well financially but struggled critically.
But there is one movie universe that should have been prepared. One studio got an entire universe handed to them on a silver platter, with a clear step by step formula to rival the MCU.
That universe is, of course, the DC Extended Universe, or the DCEU. The Warner Bros. DCEU consists of all the famous heroes that come from DC Comics, such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
The DCEU had a slam dunk right in front of it. If it had just followed the MCU’s movie formula, the money would be rolling in and fans would have an intense superhero cinematic war on their hands. But it’s been seven years since the release of the DCEU’s first film, 2013’s “Man of Steel,” and what looked like an easy win has instead turned into an absolute disappointment of a franchise.
From questionable storytelling decisions to a lack of commitment from actors to rushed development, the DCEU — with a few exceptions — hasn’t lived up to its full potential. And now that “Wonder Woman 1984” has been received with mediocre reviews, the DCEU needs some serious shakeups if it ever wants to compete with Marvel Studios.
Here are five ways that the DCEU can course correct and give the MCU some much-needed competition.
1. Introduce the Multiverse
2019’s “Joker” introduced another iteration of the infamous villain, despite taking place in a different continuity. Now that the MCU is gearing up to introduce a multiverse, with different versions of the same heroes, the DCEU should do the same.
Writers won’t have to write around the absences of Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill’s characters; instead, they’ll be able to create new versions of the heroes. It seems like this is already what they are doing, as the upcoming film “The Batman” will feature Robert Pattinson donning the iconic mantle.
2. Focus On Lesser-Known Characters
It’s no secret that everyone loves Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but viewers have seen so many versions of these popular heroes; it’s high time for some new faces to take the spotlight.
This is a strategy that Marvel Studios expertly employed in the creation of its universe. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, for example, features characters that were once from a relatively obscure group of the comics, but they are now a mainstay in the MCU lore. So come on DCEU — fans want to see Blue Beetle, Nightwing or Starfire featured in their own films.
3. More Grounded, Character-Driven Stories
If I had a dime for every single end of the world-esque superhero film, I’d be a remarkably rich man. In all seriousness, we’ve seen the end of the world plot repeated countless times already. And while those types of plots are exciting, audiences of late really respond to more character-focused films.
“Joker” and “Logan” are great examples of this; those movies really explored their respective characters and were a hit with viewers everywhere. As much as everyone would love to see adaptations of the “Final Crisis” or “Darkseid War” endgame plots, what audiences really need is a break from escalating storylines with a few character study movies.
4. Create Complex Villains
One of the biggest criticisms of the MCU is toward its villains. MCU villains, with the exception of Thanos and Loki, are often one-dimensional and formulaic. The DCEU could use this flaw to their advantage and have movies solely focused on villains to build them up for later shared films.
Fortunately, as is evidenced in films like “Joker” and “Birds of Prey,” Warner Bros. has already begun to establish intricate villains, so continuing this trend could really help set it apart.
5. Build a Distinct Identity
Finally, the most important step the DCEU can take is to develop its own identity. In its quest to be like the MCU, the tone of DCEU films shifted from dark and gritty to lighthearted and quippy. The DCEU does not need to be like Marvel Studios.
Instead, Warner Bros. should work to set itself apart. This allows for creative experimentation, some of which fans have already seen in films like “Birds of Prey” and “Shazam.” This way, people will be excited to see DCEU movies again and will stop comparing the franchise to the MCU.
With these steps in mind, alongside a bit of patience and the right creative decisions, the DCEU can soar to the top, right before Marvel Studios completely takes over the superhero movie world.