It’s no secret that Marvel Studios has been demolishing Warner Bros. when it comes to superheroes. People might go see a DC movie if they have kids, are die hard fans or are already at the theaters and there’s nothing else they want to see. If you don’t believe me, just look at social media before and after the release of the an MCU film and a DCEU film.
There’s always hype for a Marvel movie before and after its release, memes about the movie fill social media platforms for at least a couple of weeks. Before the release of a DCEU movie, people make fun of how bad it’ll probably be, and post-release … they make fun of how bad it is. If they even talk about it all.
However, it looks like WB might have lightning in a bottle with the upcoming “Shazam!” movie — a lightning bolt that could transform the entire DCEU.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
A main appeal of Marvel superhero movies is the simplicity. Yes, sometimes their simplistic nature gets criticized for lacking depth, but ultimately it works.
“Ant-Man” is essentially a heist movie and lets that be enough. “The Incredible Hulk” (yes, that happened, it’s part of the MCU and criminally overlooked) is nothing more than a monster movie. Any commentary about society these movies happen to make comes second and doesn’t take away from the movie.
The DCEU seems to almost always mess up the execution of simplicity, one way or another. You have “Batman v. Superman,” which could’ve been a great movie if it focused on which of the philosophies Clark and Bruce held was better for the world.
Instead, the movie boiled down to a really angry, paranoid (read: scared) Batman who is a little lenient on the “no killing” rule becoming intent on taking Superman down. The writers threw in some on-the-nose controversy about Superman living on Earth just to make Batman’s vendetta a bit more justified. Throw in some Luthor and Wonder Woman because why not, and you’ve got the mess that is “BvS.”
Conversely, “Suicide Squad” ended up an even larger mess for being overly simple — to the point of utter stupidity. From the get-go, the movie asks you to believe that a team of street level criminals that makes a firearms expert a top-tier member can take down Superman.
Within the first few minutes, the most powerful member of the team (and the only one who actually stood any chance against Superman) becomes the main villain. It makes you wonder how anyone thought they would be able to control an ancient evil to do their bidding in the first place.
“Shazam!” can avoid all of this if it focuses on being a movie about a kid that gets the chance to be a real and formidable superhero, and all the wacky hijinks that come with that. If it manages to do that, then it might be able to bring the rest of the League back into the people’s favor.
When “Deadpool,” a Marvel comics property, mocks your movies for being too dark, it might be time to change things. When the Teen Titans from “Teen Titans GO!,” a DC property, make fun of your movies for being too dark, you need to change things.
The DCEU clearly saw the success of Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the gold mine of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and thought they could put two and two together. What they didn’t account for was the fact that the Nolan movies, despite their critical acclaim, were barely Batman movies.
Also, it took Marvel years to make the MCU the box office colossus it is today, and it did so with a few bumps in the road (“Iron Man 2” and the first two “Thor” films come to mind). Now, Superman and Batman, arguably the most iconic superheroes in comic book history, are seen as jokes, even in other DC films.
The first outing for Billy Watson could fix all of this. If “Shazam!” manages to provide a light-hearted film that has even a little bit of soul, the rest of the heroes can follow suit. Why wouldn’t they?
Shazam exists in the same world as the rest of the Justice League, and if he manages to save the day in his own bright-eyed way, it might show the others they don’t have to be so serious all time. Especially since it seems the League will be in the public eye more often, a more easy-going demeanor would make for good PR.
If the movie does well, it could also send a message to the studio that they don’t have to try to give a gritty feel to Flash and Cyborg’s respective movies, if they decide to make them. Even if WB is intent on having the founding members of the League be a more “mature” group, maybe they will be open to letting newcomers bring the levity.
The New Guys
The DC universe has a ton of comic book characters to choose from and WB should start bringing them to the silver screen. Only a decade ago, Iron Man was a C-list hero as far as the mainstream audience was concerned. Now, some kids list him as their favorite hero, over Batman and Superman. Yes, he is arguably the face of the Avengers, but a good solo movie put him in the position he occupies today.
If the DCEU is willing to expand its roster just a bit, they could have a serious shot at competing with Marvel at the box office. There’s Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Green Lantern (they can even do Guy Gardner or Jon Stewart if they want to avoid Hal altogether), Vixen, Blue Beetle, Dr. Fate and plenty more. If “Shazam!” is a hit, it may be the movie that ushers in a new era for the DCEU.