Last week I saw Suicide Squad. I went in with very low expectations, and the film met them. So, I’ve made a decision.
I’m officially giving up on the DC Cinematic Universe.
Making a film isn’t easy. Often I hear people wonder aloud about how bad films get made. The truth is that filmmaking is such a fragmented, compartmentalised process that it can be impossible to get a true image of the final product until it’s too late to change anything. There’s no formula that can be followed to guarantee success.
And while I may bitch about a film being terrible when I leave the cinema, I’m willing to forgive the filmmakers in the long run. They tried, and they didn’t quite succeed, but hopefully, they’ll at least have made enough money to carry on, and learn and do a better job next time. If they make a truly terrible film, then they should try something else. If they make an okay film, they should be given another chance. If they make a great film, then they will be given another chance. It’s an industry and – at least theoretically – a free market one.
What I can’t forgive, and what gets me remarkably angry, is rewarding mediocrity.
Which is what we have with the DC films.
This is the way this should work: you make a film. If it’s a success it gets greenlit for a sequel. If the sequel is a success, and the IP is suitable, the studio can make the decision to continue building until you have a franchise. You can plan for a franchise, but you can’t just decide you’re going to make one happen. Money follows success, and success – at least in a perfect world – follows quality.
But what we have with the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) is the studio deciding that as franchises make money, they will simply create one. And because they know they have a guaranteed audience, they don’t worry about quality.
(Yes, this isn’t a problem just with DC. It’s an issue pervading the industry as a whole at the moment, but DC is the most obvious culprit right now – and the particular subject of this post – so I’m using them as an example.)
The DCCU has so far given us three films; Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now Suicide Squad, and each of these has been equally mediocre. None of them at bad. I came out of each of them thinking they were perfectly workable films, but nothing worth writing home about. But none of them deserved any kind of sequel or follow-up. If it hadn’t been for this guaranteed audience they would have each been a box-office flop and any plans for sequels would have been quietly swept under the rug.
Remember Superman Returns back in 2006? I didn’t think so. It was a decent but forgettable movie, and justly warranted no follow ups. Man of Steel was no better, yet all those involved will be a major part of the following franchise. The world is a different place than is was in 2006. We live in a world of IP franchises. Now that Marvel has the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominating the cinematic landscape, DC can’t afford not to emulate them because (a) it would damage their reputation, and (b) they’ll make money anyway.
I know about the guaranteed audience, because I’ve been part of it. I really wanted these films to be good. I wanted there to be a second MCU, and I was willing to forgive the lack of quality shown in the hope that the later ones would be better. I really wanted DC’s movies to be just as good as Marvel’s. But they’re not. In each case, I could see exactly what DC was aiming for, but in each case, they were widely off target.
And it rankles. It comes across that they don’t care about earning anything from us. If the next MCU film is rubbish, or even just mediocre, I’ll still go and see the next one, as they’ve earned enough trust from me to do I. I’ll have reason to believe that this misstep will be a one off. They started the MCU off slowly, allowing us to get to know each character one at a time. Now we have films crammed with characters, but we’ve got to know them well enough that they can do a lot with the small amount of screen time each gets.
DC don’t seem to care that they don’t have this. Even though I really want the upcoming Wonder Woman movie to be awesome, I no longer trust that it will be. It will do well at the box-office because it will be driven by that guaranteed audience who desperately want it to be something it won’t be. There’ll be the same sense of disappointment followed by DC shuffling their creative team around, doing some reshoots for whichever film is currently in production, and promising that the next one will solve all the problems we had with the last. And even if it isn’t – even if Wonder Woman turns out to be the greatest superhero movie of all time – this would be the anomaly. I still wouldn’t trust that the next one had as much chance of being that good.
I could go into detail as to my opinions on the reasons behind all of this – studio interference, pressure from Marvel’s success, oversaturation of the genre, overused characters – but there is already so much more of that online already I don’t see the need to do so. A quick Google search will throw up more than enough opinions for you.
I’ll just state my own personal decision: I have decided that I don’t want to waste my time anymore.
I’m giving up on the DCCU. I might want Wonder Woman to be the strong, empowering movie it has the potential to be. I might want to see more of Ben Affleck’s older, burnt out Batman. I might want to see these actors – now tied into multi-movie contracts – be able to do something interesting and exciting with their characters. But I don’t think that will happen.
Mediocrity isn’t a crime, but it shouldn’t be rewarded. DC haven’t earned the franchise they’re giving themselves. They’ve just decided they deserve it. Instead, I’m going to invest my time and money on something that I believe might actually impress me. Something that has my trust or something new or interesting that deserves a chance.
I don’t want to judge those of you who actually enjoyed the films, or who still wish to remain part of their audience. This is my own decision, not yours. I just hope I’ve explained my thoughts clearly enough that you at least take a moment to think about whether or not you want to carry on enabling DC to do such a poor job.
So, enjoy the films. I hope they get better. (Spoiler: they won’t).