Open Fan Letter to Warner Bros. Regarding The Future of DC Films
Dear Warner Bros.,
Here we are on the cusp of a new year. Justice League (JL) is still struggling at the box office, trying to recoup the heavy financial losses, while fans are left wondering what will happen next. WB and DC use to be at the top of the superhero genre with such great classic films like Superman (‘78) and Batman (‘89), each of which had a successful sequel...and not so successful proceeding films. If anything can be learned from these past films, chasing possible viewer trends is risky, and putting nipples on the batsuit was a horrible idea. However, as we move forward into a new year, all I have to say is, hold on! Even though JL is not the box office hit you hoped it would be there are plenty of silver linings to be found within the catalog of DC characters and the DCEU as a whole. I have listed a few helpful guidelines to propel the DCEU into Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) greatness.
Have A Plan & Take It Slow:
There are many lessons that can be learned from the success of the films that tie into the larger MCU. However, out of those lessons, the ones that stand out are to have a plan and take it slow. The WB and DC each have a ton of talent to pull from in order to create a plan and/or map of where you would like the DCEU to go to next. Geoff Johns is a spectacular writer/storyteller, but he is only one individual and is knee deep in the newest DC storyline, Doomsday Clock. Keep Geoff Johns as an advisor, but give the reigns of the DCEU to someone else. This individual will need to have a vision and the focus to see the slate of DCEU films through the next phase. Disney and Marvel have Kevin Feige and a whole host of talented individuals, from directors and actors to producers and comic book writers, all working to make the MCU great. Delve into that talent pool and find someone that not only has a vision, but who has a strong understanding of how to adapt DC comic book properties to the big screen, and has a plan to do it. I understand that WB and DC are both businesses that need to pull in revenue in order to produce art. Money keeps the lights on and makes everyone happy. However, you cannot rush success. WB and DC should not seek to be Marvel or Disney, especially in regards to the DCEU. Instead, act as a small time studio that just happens to have a lot of financial backing. Do not stack all of your cards on the back of one movie, but also keep pushing forward and work on developing your titles. Take risks, get a little weird, and see how the films develop and unfold.
Let the Story Progress Naturally:
Thanks to Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League the building blocks for the DCEU are already in place. Sift through these films, look at the incredible slate of DC storylines, and build up from there. WB and DC also have a nice long list of successful animated films and tv shows that can be used to gain the support of fans. Look at what works, what does not work, and let the stories grow naturally from these pieces. For example, JL ended with a final post-credits scene that depicted, spoiler warning, Lex Luthor and Deathstroke discussing the forming of a league/team. Regardless of how JL was received, that scene is your Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury Iron Man moment. Each film from this moment forth should have a post-credits scene that slowly builds upon that scene and into the JL sequel.
Great Stories & Greater Characters:
DC has some great stories to pull from: Batman: Hush, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Flashpoint, Superman: For the Man Who Has Everything, Blackest Night, Identity Crisis, 52, etc. All of these stories are great for both fans of the genre and can offer something exciting to new fans. These stories utilize the mainstay characters of the DC comic book library, while also managing to do something unique. As with great stories, DC also has a plethora of great characters, some might even say a League of great characters… Okay, that line was bad, but you get the idea. Along with the trinity of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, DC has great less well-known characters like Plastic Man, Booster Gold, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Resurrection Man, etc. You might have noticed that in that listing I did not mention all of the fantastic female characters that DC has. With the success of Wonder Woman and the bad press from sexual harassment claims, now is the time for more female-driven films. Batwoman, Batgirl, Supergirl, and Star Sapphire are all magnetic characters who could easily lead a film. DC also has the one thing that Marvel lacks, a strong legacy of characters. From Jay Garrick, to Barry Allen, and Wally West, the mantle of the Flash has been passed down from person to person. The same can be said for Batman who has a cave full of men and women looking to carry the legacy of the Bat. DC stories are littered with characters that readers have seen grow from boy wonders and into caped crusaders. This legacy has the potential to define the DCEU and cause it to stand out amongst the growing slate of MCU films.
People want hope right now, but that does not mean a darker tone is right for all of the DC characters. JL gave the public the Superman we have been hoping for since Christopher Reeve originally wore the shield. However, Batman is not a character that necessarily needs hope or a lighter color palette. Batman: The Animated Series and the Arkham series of video games each portray the type of Batman that fans are yearning for. Though JL captured the witty side of Batman, it lacked the side of Batman that fans have gotten used to. For example, instead of fighting the para-demons one-on-one Batman hid in a vehicle. While Superman and Wonder Woman tackle the immediate threat, Batman should be working from the background and doing only what he can do. Batman once challenged Darkseid with nothing more than an explosive switch and won. That is the Batman that should grace the big screen and leave audiences yearning for more. As you move forward remember that fans want you succeed, but that does not mean that we do not have standards. Great stories, greater characters, a clear vision, and flexible plan are all keys to making the DCEU a success.
Thank you from a fan!
Guest Article By Joseph Fridley (@brother_fridley)