Batman v Superman: Dawn of Failure – The Ongoing Struggle of DC Comics in Film

Cinematic universes. The goldmine idea of having crossover movies that Marvel Studios has taped to create a film empire that other film studios try to replicate. While many cinematic universe projects like Universal’s Dark Universe or Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man usually fail and fizzle out after two movies, Warner Bros and the DC Comics superhero films have held on, for better or worse.

After a failed first attempt in 2011 with Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern, Warner Bros decided to try again with cinematic universes in 2013 with the Superman film Man of Steel. This film would mark a new era of DC Comics films after Christopher Nolan’s beloved Batman trilogy came to an end. This universe was to be carried by the vision of director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), and producer Charles Roven. 

DC Comics Man of Steel starred Henry Cavill  and was released to moderate success, making roughly over $600, and being generally accepted by viewers and critics. Warner Brothers then announced a sequel featuring a new Batman portrayed by Ben Affleck would be released along with an entire slate of movies featuring projects like The Flash and Justice League sequels.

In 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released and critically panned, with audiences and critics not enjoying the dark and grittier tone of the movie compared to the competing Marvel films. Suicide Squad also released to more critically panned reviews. Regular audience viewers were more approving of the film however, pushing the film to make over $700 million dollars (surprisingly making more than Man of Steel and almost matching Batman v Superman). This would set in motion the deep changes that were to come for the DC universe.

Wonder Woman, seeming now like lightning in a bottle, leapt into the box office and did extremely well, being loved by both fans and critics. It was hopeful, optimistic, fun, and wasn’t trying hard to build a franchise. Suddenly, the dark and gritty vision of the Justice League that Zack Snyder had started filming was looking problematic. During this time, Charles Roven left his position of looking over the DC films and instead handed the reins over to comic book writer Geoff Johns and producer Jon Berg.

DC Comics

The success of Wonder Woman and audience response to Suicide Squad split DC into a couple different directions. Films not previously announced on the film slate were announced left and right, mainly focusing on different Harley Quinn spin offs. Other projects, like The Flash, were suddenly trapped in production hell, as rumors of actors like Ben Affleck wanting to leave the franchise grew amongst other studio meddling stories. Zack Snyder while working on Justice League was suddenly replaced by Avengers director Joss Whedon. This move on Warner Bros part was likely to infuse the light and hopefulness that Marvel films and Wonder Woman were able to provide.

Justice League was released to negative reviews and numerous controversies and stories, ranging from Henry Cavill having a CGI mouth due to reshooting with a mustache and entire important chunks of film being removed due to a Warner Bros mandate to keep the film under 2 hours. It was also the lowest grossing box office film of any DC film so far in the series. This heavy blow began another restructure of DC, with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns leaving their roles, and being replaced by Walter Hamada.

Currently, DC films is different. Superman star Henry Cavill has recently left the role, and Ben Affleck’s part as Batman is up in the air. All DC projects are to be lighter and hopeful. They also are creating solo films that aren’t connected, differing from Marvel. Personally, as a huge fan of the initial film Man of Steel and these characters in general, it’s sad to see everything fall apart. I followed these films religiously, but have become numb to the idea of them being anything great. What do you think? Should Warner Bros have continued to try and build up this franchise, or should they have found their own avenue?

-Tarrell Christie

4 thoughts on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Failure – The Ongoing Struggle of DC Comics in Film

  1. I think that DC is attempting to not let the superheroes die. I’ve heard bad things about most of their recent movies and I personally believe it is because they are trying to pull interesting ideas out of thin air. Marvel was able to put all of their superheroes together in movies and it worked. That doesn’t mean that DC can follow the same role. If two movies do not work together than don’t try throwing them together due to the same production company. (Also, did green lantern really fail if it brought Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively together?)

  2. The DC cinematic universe obviously has struggled to establish itself as an elite movie industry. Maybe feeling some pressure from the success of Marvel, it seems as if DC has been stressing to try to find success in the cinematic world. I have never been a big fan of super hero movies, but have watched numerous super hero films with my dad and brother. I think a big reason why DC is looked at as the “little brother” to Marvel in the film industry is due to the individuality of the films. As someone who has no preference at all, I felt as if the Marvel films were easier to follow due to the ability they have to run off of one another. I think the best thing for DC to do is to keep trying to establish themselves in the film industry. If they get their hands on the right cast members and are able to develop a running storyline, I think DC could find its way to the success of Marvel in the near future.

  3. I also thought Man of Steel was good. I think Man of Steel was a decent starting point for the DCU i felt like it could’ve been a good stand alone film for the WB/DC studios as well. i think the DCU tried to do what took Marvel 4 years to do in only 2 years which most likely was the cause of such disorganization within the studios.

  4. I think that with how poor there movies have done compared to Marvel they should have either cut the series all together and focused on individual films not linked or tried to make better movies as they tried to copy what Marvel has done. With how much success the competitors at Marvel has gotten, DC is almost put in a situation where they need to see what Marvel has done right and implement them into their films. However, I don’t think DC started off strong enough to compete with Marvel and will probably never catch them.

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