In light of the wealth of discussion and divisions in the DC fanbase over their attempts at building their Cinematic Universe, or Extended Universe (EU) as it’s referred to, the biggest argument that comes up is that DC should probably stick to their Animated Universe (AU) and TV Universe (Arrowverse). I’d like to discuss why, while this popular opinion holds some validity, this is the wrong mindset and that patience is required when reviewing the DCEU.
One of the big things that DC have been doing, that Marvel have not, is pumping out animated films every year or two. So far, most of these films have either been a strong adaptation of a comic storyline (Superman: Doomsday, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), or a tie-in to a now discontinued AU (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker). However, the latest slew of films forms a new AU, adapting the stories told in the New 52 storyline that was used to reboot the Comic Universe using Flashpoint Paradox, which was used begin this new series of films. Each film in the current AU lends itself to lay the groundwork for the next film, often including a post-credit scene that hints at the next film. This is where a lot of fan attention and praise goes.
The DCEU has the unfortunate stigma that their films are being pumped out to catch up to Marvel, who turned the dream of a feature-length Superhero team-up film into a reality over four years and six films. This was quite a feat, considering that each of the six heroes would need time to flesh out their own origins and relevance. What a lot of people forget is that DC were actually in the process of starting up their EU around the same time that Marvel was halfway through Phase One. I will never disagree that Green Lantern was a truly awful film, but given their attempts at superhero films, one can’t exactly blame the staff at DC for deciding to take a step back. You can’t exactly blame them for thinking that the superhero boom was over then and there. I remember Catwoman and Batman & Robin, whether I want to or not, and I’m sure the same goes for you.
Justice League is set to release in November, bringing a total of seven characters together on the silver screen, with only three of them having seen major screen time across the three films that will precede Justice League, and the other four having minor cameos in only one of them. This appears problematic, especially given the reception Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice received on release. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice in particular copped a beating from the critics, citing a lack of coherency and poor pacing. However, it doesn’t seem like anyone has had a look at the Ultimate Edition. At 3 hours long, it boasts an extra 31 minutes of footage. Unsurprisingly, the pacing and coherence problems evaporate into nothing thanks to that bolstered runtime. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why the Ultimate Edition was not the cinematic cut. The answer, simply put, is you as the viewer. Most people want to spend a casual 2 to 2 and a half hours in the cinema, 3 hours is simply too long and exhausting to sit through. As a result, directors are forced to cut perfect films down to suit the “appropriate” runtime, leading to the film developing problems.
With all this in mind, DC had few choices before them when Marvel cast a literal golden Gauntlet down; lose out on a huge market or knuckle down and do their best to play catch up. While I don’t disagree that the road to Justice League appears to be DC taking a shortcut to their big team-up, I can’t say that I blame them. It doesn’t help, either, that strong films are being diluted to meet a runtime that people are happy with, as opposed to one the director is comfortable with. The best we can do, as fans, is to stop comparing the MCU and DCEU, as well as give DC the freedom to give us amazing films.