DC Entertainment’s next movie is Wonder Woman, out on June 2. The company started a great run on Batman with Batman Begins as the first of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. That wrapped up in 2012 with The Dark Knight Returns. As a critic and a fan, that felt like the last great moment for them. The next three movies just didn’t hold that same weight and there was never that feeling that I needed to see the movie right away. There were missteps and the company dubbed everything post-2012 the DC Extended Universe. It’s their new wave of films to try to keep up with Marvel. So why did they lose so many critics along the way? Honestly, they just ended up making things way more complicated than they needed to be.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice felt more like a way to introduce Wonder Woman and set her up for her own solo film. Lex Luthor fell flat and could have been so much more, especially considering how big of a role he plays in Superman’s life. Sure, he convinced Batman to fight Superman, but then they brought in Doomsday on top of that. It was just too much for the movie and the film felt unnecessarily long because of it. Plus, then they release director’s cuts for every movie now it seems. That’s excessive.
The DC Extended Universe could learn a lesson or two from the animation department. The animated films still have flaws (as a lot of movies do in one form or another), but they don’t draw things out and they’re willing to tackle some beloved stories from the comics. Batman: The Killing Joke wasn’t good because of the creative liberty they took that changed the story. However, something like Teen Titans: The Judas Contract took on one of the best Teen Titans stories. It looked and felt familiar and it did so in under an hour and a half. With the way DC is making their live-action movies, this might’ve been an hour longer and of lesser quality.
Next up for the animated films is Batman and Harley Quinn, which just released a trailer. From what we’re given, you can sense a much lighter tone with the animated film even though it’s getting a PG-13 rating like the live-action movies typically do. The animation department appears to be having more fun with their movies and it makes them more enjoyable as a viewer. The DC Extended Universe can do the same thing if they’d just give up on the doom and gloom for a bit.
Suicide Squad followed up BvS last year and they introduced us to each character through Amanda Waller. The “squad” isn’t even together until about 45 minutes into the movie and even then, they aren’t in action until about 5 more minutes after that. Enchantress and Incubus are the villains of the movie, but the squad spends more time battling their minions instead of them. It takes until the last half hour for them to get to it and try to actually take them down. Because of that, most of the movie felt boring.
Wonder Woman runs over two hours, but the favorable reviews are a good sign. I’m not opposed to movies that are over two hours if they fill the time well. DC needs to bring us more concise stories if they want to win some critics back. Not everything needs to be complicated, but it also doesn’t need to be hand-fed to us. With Justice League, they can’t make the same mistake of the long character introductions to show us how or why they’re part of the team. If they can fix these past mistakes, they’ll be in good shape.