Saturday, 20 August 2016

My Thoughts on the DCEU?

The DCEU began back in in 2011 with the release of the lukewarm (at best) 'Man of Steel'. Although Man of Steel wasn’t a total failure, and currently sits as the best reviewed film in the DCEU (so far), the two films that followed, 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' and 'Suicide Squad', were met with pretty negative or at most divisive reaction.

So who's to blame?

The juggernaut franchise pegged to be the rival cinematic universe to Marvel's 'The Avengers', 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' and 'Captain America: Civil War' (and other Marvel hits) ended up at the deep end of bad critical reception, generally unfavourable audience reaction and bad word of mouth. Although having garnered some praise and some followers, many have speculated if this (already) is the end of the DCEU; and who, if anyone, can SAVE it?


The man at the helm of the first two instalments in the DCEU. Is he TRULY the one to blame for this kerfuffle? And could he be the one to turn all this around and ultimately SAVE it? 

Zack Snyder was given a free pass to direct 2013's Man of Steel (because, you know, 300). The marketing campaign was STRONG. Much like all of his films, the project's promotional material was ace. The first few trailers that surfaced online conveyed an upcoming film that was sure to be extremely and emotionally compelling; the third trailer was just awesome. Hans Zimmer's upcoming score sounded incredible, Henry Cavil looked to be one of the best on-screen interpretations of Superman, yet, possibly even trumping Christopher Reeve and the promo material effortlessly got us all hyped up on seeing this film.  So what happened when the film came out? If you placed one thousand audience members in a theatre, for the first time, five hundred would probably say they liked it while the other half would probably have complaints... that seemed to be the case with Man of Steel - divisive reaction. Although, this seems to be the case with more and more of Snyder's work; remember Watchmen? Great trailer. Great visual effects. Massive hype. But, ultimately, created a GREAT divide. Some people loved Watchmen, others hated it. So, maybe it shouldn't have come as a total surprise when the same thing happened with Man of Steel. The general moviegoer seemed to praise the film's visuals, action sequences and Hans Zimmer's musical score, but had gripes with the film's lack of humour and character development. There was one moment in the film when Superman and Lois Lane, were... just a thing... all of a sudden... There was no proper development up and to that point for this to feel real; the audience had to just accept and rely on the iconography of the previous films.
Man of Steel made $668 million at the box office, however, so not all was not lost... and paved the way for The DC Extended Universe. All they had to do? Don't screw up with the next film... "Simples!"


"They're goina do a BATMAN V SUPERMAN film?!"

*stares in shock at computer screen*

"Nobody's going to f@$% that one up, right? This is going to be AWESOME!"

Many people, myself included, got super hyped again when news started to surface that the next film to go into development with DC was the much prolonged and eagerly anticipated 'Batman v Superman' (Dawn of Justice). While Snyder devotees were convinced there was no way this was going to fail, sceptics knew not to place their hopes too high...


'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' was released to the general public on March 25, 2016, and set new box office records despite, overall, being received poorly with audiences and critics alike. Much like Man of Steel, it garnered a some what divisive response, leaning slightly more towards the negative than the mixed response MOS received. So what went wrong? The film, in one word, could be described as enigmatic; one minute you are totally engrossed in what's going on, the other bored to death. There would be flashes of really cool stuff, but this was then blended together with muddled GCI-heavy action.

Near universal criticism was directed towards Jessie Eisenberg's portrayal of iconic villain Lex Luthor. An overall somber and subdued tone contrasted in a bad way with Jesse Eisenberg's over-the-top, eccentric performance. Most fans and critics felt that Eisenberg didn't accurately depict the iconic villain, the one they knew and loved, unlike previous interpretations of Luthor. Whether it was Snyder's idea, Eisenberg's, or the studio's, what we ended up with was a sort of haphazard, post Ledger (The Dark Knight) performance. This didn't sit well with audiences, who were expecting a far more calculating and business-like Lex from previous films (or the comics). Like Man of Steel, the film was also criticised for a lack of humour and levity (the unintentionally laughable Lex Luthor doesn't count). Another criticism was aimed at the film's misleading title; a film called Batman v Superman, which only had around eight minutes of actual fighting. 

The film's actual "versus" moment was far too short, and to make matter's worse it wasn't even an actual fight, well, not "Batman v Superman", so to speak, anyway. Instead of Batman's ideologies going up against Superman's ideologies, the real reason why they fight ends up being because Lex Luthor kidnaps Martha Kent, and so, now, Superman has NO choice but to fight Batman...'s not really a fight in which both parties want to fight each other, which is a shame.

A lot of people also had a lot to say about the film's last act, when BvS turned into Creature Feature. Villain, Doomsday, was lampooned into the film's final scenes and stirred up even more criticism. A common complaint was aimed at the creature's poorly rendered GGI (as though we hadn't got enough GCI, already) and the logic behind it's being. It was confusing to understand HOW Doomsday came to be in the film. Some how, some way, the genetically-enginered Doomsday was created via the infusion of Luthor's DNA with that of the recently deceased General Zod (yeah, remember him?) mixed with... erhmm... SCIENCE! One of those, "ah, okay, we're just going to accept that this is happening now", moments...

Some also complained about the over-use of dream sequences. I assume this maybe had something to do with Christopher Nolan's involvement in the film...


But, Batman v Superman's silver lining seemed to be the surprisingly well tuned Ben Affleck, churning out a great performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. In contrast to what everyone presumed, Ben Affleck's Batman was one of BvS's most redeemable aspects.

One scene, in particular, was extremely reminiscent of the widely popular video games, 'Batman: Arkham City' and 'Batman: Arkham Knight'. And led most critics, when examining the pros of BvS, to single out this scene's action as demonstrating one of the best on-screen Batman fight choreography seen to date. This scene was carried out in a warehouse, the location of which Martha Kent was being kept, which brings me too my next segment that created a lot of spark (and no we aren't talking about The Flash's cameo) - BATMAN KILLS! Can Batman kill now? Apparently... Batman aimlessly starts kills people in this film, this happens in the warehouse but also via an in-built machine gun Bat-Mobile (which was, as you would expect, rather cool). This was a problem for some, but, conversely, I quite liked this aspect to the film; this is where the film added something different and something we hadn't seen before, an older, darker version of Batman. I imagine this version of Batman has seen some pretty horrible scenes, that, which was implied, when we saw Robyn's old costume in the Bat-cave.

Another scene that was widely lamented was the scene in which Batman choses to stop fighting Superman, yes, I'm talking about the now infamous scene with the line Batman gives when Superman asks him to, "Save... Martha...", and he replies with, "WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?!". I'll admit when I first watched this, I thought this scene was a bit cooky, but not nearly as bad as it is exaggerated to be. Once I watched this film again, second time round, I found this scene far more interesting. The idea of perceiving Superman as a man, a human being, comes into play after this line, as before he was just perceived as being an alien; Batman's completely oblivious to Superman's backstory, and it is here that Batman learns of Superman's mother being of earthly, human descent. It wasn't so much of a, "oh, our mother's both have the same name, let's be pals!"

I also liked Bruce Wayne's perspective on the fallout caused by Superman in MOS when he was fighting General Zod. Great scene, clearly setting up a completely understandable reason why people would hate Superman, or to view him as the "baddy". It was nice to see that they noticed this was a highly talked about criticism when MOS came out, and, so, took the necessary steps to rectify that issue and worked it into the plot. However, the fallout caused by Doomsday at the end of BvS completely negates that, and so, maybe when Justice league comes out, the opening will see The Flash or Aquaman and their perspective during the events of BvS, whilst we observe the fallout caused by Doomsday at the end of BvS. Who knows? But the destruction caused by Doomsday far exceeded that of MOS, It'll just be interesting to see how they address that, you know, surely somebody got injured and wants to sue...

All and all, I thought Ben Affleck was brilliant in the role and I hope we get to see a stand-alone Batman film, soon (it's hard to imagine why the studio wouldn't green-light this, anyway).


But, BvS's most redeemable aspect? The very lovely Gal Cadot as Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman made her debut early on in the film, and managed to steal every scene she was in from her brooding onscreen counterparts; Wonder Woman was doing work -- and having a good time doing it. She's the only person in this movie who had any semblance of fun while superheroing, as evidenced by her sly grin amidst her fight with Doomsday. That grin alone is worth the $14 price of admission. She is a warrior who loves the thrill of battle. She is in her zone in this fight.

Superman can fly! He has superhuman strength, x-ray vision, and heat vision! That's cool. Meanwhile, Bats can build almost any gadget with his Scrooge McDuck money. That's pretty effing cool! So why don't these characters act like they have awesome powers and abilities? Why are they so burdened by their existence all of the time? It's a real bummer to watch two grown men brood for 153 minutes.

That's why we need heroes like Wonder Woman. Batman is too overworked and depressed to ever feel joy, while Superman is too blinded by his love for Lois to see how his actions recklessly endanger the lives of innocent people. Wonder Woman, however, is a breath of fresh air. She's here to save Supes and Bats from themselves -- and save us from the drudgery of listening to them.
Aside from the popular '70s television series starring Lynda Carter as Princess Diana of Themyscira, we've seen nary a Wonder Woman adaptation on our screens. In fact, Gadot's Wonder Woman is the first film adaptation of the character ever. Mind you, Wonder Woman is 75 years old. We've had to watch poor Thomas and Martha Wayne get brutally murdered 1,823 times in Dolby Digital, but it's taken more than seven decades to see Wonder Woman on the big screen? Smh.

For comparison, at this point Superman has seven individual films to his name, while Batman has eight. So it's not exactly hard to see why people are pumped to see Wonder Woman kicking ass alongside Batman and Superman. Not only does her outing in Batman V Superman set the stage for her 2017 solo film, but the success of that movie will set a precedent for future studio decisions about female-driven superhero features. For that reason alone, her presence in the film is pivotal, especially when the egregious lack of female-led superhero narratives can be summed up in one pointed line of dialogue between Bruce and Diana: "I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me." Perhaps not. But we need to see more.

Of course it helps that Gadot naturally commands attention; she steals every scene she's in. Not to mention, she looks cool as hell doing it. After all, Wonder Woman is of divine origins, so she's been blessed by the gods with her armor and abilities. She also has a ridiculously badass theme song from composer Hans Zimmer

And what is it about Patty Jenkins that makes her right for directing the upcoming DC flick? Director Patty Jenkins made a stellar feature debut with the harrowing drama, Monster, which earned Charlize Theron an Academy Award for her transformation into serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. In the 13 years since its release, Jenkins has stayed busy working on shows like Entourage and The Killing, but she hasn’t helmed a second feature. Wonder Woman will mark her return to the big screen, and we couldn’t be more excited to see how her skill as a filmmaker has grown over the last 13 years.


Imagine, for a moment, that Marvel Studios had decided to launch its vast cinematic universe with Captain America: Civil War. That is to say, the movie didn’t merely have to introduce Black Panther and reintroduce Spider-Man; it also had to introduce Cap himself, and Iron Man and Black Widow and Falcon and Vision and Scarlet Witch and everyone else all the way on down the line. It needed to set up backstories and narrative arcs and romantic entanglements for everyone involved. It needed to explain what brought them together. And it needed to do all of this in about 15 minutes in order to subsequently come up with a lame supervillain for them to fight.

This is the challenge that Suicide Squad sets for itself early, and it succeeds just about as poorly as you might imagine. Intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is at dinner with a general, when she slaps down a binder marked TOP SECRET in letters big enough to be seen from space. In it are “the worst of the worst,” an assembly of evildoers whom Waller has managed to corral in a super-secure facility; she wants to form them into a team of on-the-leash supervillains who can do the government’s dirty work with utter deniability.

It turns out, of course, that they’re not really as evil as advertised, at least not compared to their captors. The first two scenes of the movie feature the prison guards meting out sadistic punishments to their charges. This is by no means the last time the movie proposes that its bad guys are actually good guys. But it offers an early, disheartening glimpse of just how little confidence the filmmakers have in the animating premise of their whole endeavor.

Back to Waller and the corner-cutting, expository intros of her TOP SECRET folder: There’s Deadshot (Will Smith), “the most wanted hitman in the world”; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), once the Joker’s psychiatrist, now his psycho girlfriend; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a guy who, well, hurls boomerangs; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a human flamethrower; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, hidden under several inches of prosthesis), a super-strong reptile-man; and the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a former archeologist intermittently inhabited by the spirit of an ancient witch. For reasons that remain hazy (other than to demonstrate how cunning she is), Waller engineers a love affair between the Enchantress and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), “the finest special forces officer this nation has ever produced.” The latter is thereby appointed to keep his dubious troops—yes, this is the titular “Suicide Squad”—on the (relatively) straight and narrow.

Are you exhausted yet? I know I was. It feels like roll call on the first day of summer camp—“Tell us a little bit about yourself”—except that almost every character offers either a Tragic Family Melodrama or a Completely Inert and Uninteresting Romance. The producers of the movie could have saved time and money by simply instructing moviegoers to consult the Wikipedia pages of everyone in question before arriving at the theater. Don’t worry though: About half an hour later the movie will introduce two more squad members: Katana (Karen Fukuhara), whose samurai sword “steals souls”; and Slipknot (Adam Beach), “the man who can climb anything.” No, I’m not kidding: He literally has the superpowers of a squirrel.

As I hope I have made apparent, the storytelling that brings all these characters together so quickly is lazy to the point of professional negligence. But it still constitutes storytelling, which is more than one can safely say of the rest of the picture. The director David Ayer (End of Watch) has done solid work in the past, so it’s hard to say exactly what went so terribly wrong here without falling back on the explanation that Zack Snyder, who has largely overseen the DC Extended Universe so far, must somehow be to blame. (Glum? Check. Ultraviolent? Check. Devoid of any apparent empathy for anyone involved…?)


So far, the DCEU has been disappointing. Some could argue that the DCEU started with MOS, back in 2011, but, BvS and SS were the first to integrate more than a few aspects of the DCEU in one film. BvS and SS were real opportunities to create a great first impression among viewers, introducing audiences to a faithful and expansive cinematic universe. 

The total overall gross for the DCEU sits at $650 million, how can that be a failure, you ask? While the DCEU does have it's fans, and it while it does appear to be making sizeable amounts of money, you can't help but think that it would have been nice to have seen a bit more investment in development. Before you throw overstuffed GCI at our face, or a squad of villains that we haven't been properly introduced to, yet, give us a batman solo movie where he goes off against the Joker. Give us some insight into Robyn (and maybe when and how he died). Give us a Joker and Harley Quin spin-off film focussing on their origins, and give us each, individual member of the Justice League their own solo film (BEFORE the JL) and give us proper character development so that when the BIG team up film comes around, we are more invested in these characters to care what's going on (same rules apply for SS). Give us a Justice League that does the comic-book source material, no pun intended, some justice.

Thanks for reading this MovieBurst review, guys. I've recently started work on video reviews as well, and you can catch them on my YouTube channel for more, as well as various professional movie title effects, visual effects, reviews, tutorials, short films, short animations
and more...

Until next time, guys,

Marcus Binnie