The Darker, Different DC Cinematic Universe

The Darker, Different DC Cinematic Universe

Christopher Nolan changed superhero movies forever when he unleashed his vision of Batman.  It’s was a realistic take on the cape crusader based in a world that was gritty, grounded and absolutely captivating.  With Batman Begins, he resurrected one of the most popular comic book heroes on the planet.  With the follow up, he redefined the superhero sequel with The Dark Knight.  It’s arguably one of the greatest comic book movies of all time.  The conclusion to the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, brought his historic series to an epic conclusion and cemented the filmmaker as one of this generation’s best.

While Nolan was crafting his masterpiece, Marvel began their own vision of what a superhero movie could be.  With 2008’s Iron Man they established a larger than life cinematic universe.  By the time The Dark Knight Rises debuted, many fans wondered if Nolan’s Batman could ever connect to other DC film franchises.  While it was disappointing that Nolan’s trilogy would remain a standalone story, fans were elated when he was brought in to help guide the reinvention of Superman.

Man of Steel was a divisive movie to say the least.  I thought what Zack Snyder created was brilliant.  I adored Man of Steel and the promise it ignited in DC’s cinematic future.  A brand new universe was born.  Speculation began immediately.  Who would be the new Batman?  How would the DC cinematic universe separate itself from Marvel’s?

Marvel had spent years introducing their heroes one step at a time in a bright colorful world full of humor and giant set pieces.  How would DC be different?


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would introduce an older, angrier Batman with Ben Affleck dawning the cowl.  But it was clear that DC intended to open the flood gates right away when it came to their stable of heroes.

Why not?  It’s Batman!  It’s Superman!

Personally, I’m a little concerned that there will be too much story in BvS but until it’s release I’m willing to play along.   Instead of a slow burn introducing heroes one by one, we are guaranteed to meet 4/7 Justice League members in one film.

It’s a bold move bringing out the big guns right away but playing ‘catch up’ never looked so good.

The DC Universe is here and it is most definitely different.  Keeping the darker tone established in Nolan’s Batman trilogy is genius.  Fans don’t want a carbon copy of Marvel’s model.

We want something different and we are getting it.  I was always excited to see a follow up to Man of Steel.  But I wasn’t fully sold on the DC Universe until I saw the first trailer for Suicide Squad.

The Suicide Squad trailer spoke directly to anyone who doubted the DC Universe would be different.  But it didn’t stop there.  It raised all new fascinating questions about where the DC Universe could go!

The answer?  Anywhere.

Suicide Squad is a brilliant exercise in storytelling.  In one trailer, they established a rich history.  We won’t be getting origin stories.  Batman already exists in this universe and probably had a hand in putting many of the villains away in the first place.

Joker and Batman already have history.  We don’t need a standalone Batman movie anymore.  Batman is already battle hardened, bitter, vengeful and now we know why.

That face.  The Joker’s ghastly grin has proven that fans can rest easy.  Nolan’s trilogy will always go down as one of the best.  In fact, it is most likely the LAST true superhero trilogy we will see for some time.  But fans once questioned how soon Batman and Joker could be rebooted after the incredible story The Dark Knight told.

Again, DC didn’t copy.  They reinvented their iconic characters and the results have been incredible.  Indeed, DC’s film slate will be full of surprises and that’s how it has to be.  Only this time, these characters will not stand alone.  They will cross over in completely new ways!

Shared universes aren’t going anywhere.  Movies have to connect.  Characters in one film HAVE to cross over.  I think DC took a moment and realized that solo stories are no longer feasible in a post Avengers world.

Even Marvel is raising the stakes when they bring us Civil War in 2016.  Fans demand that new entries have deep connections to a larger world.

I’m blown away by how detailed and rich the history of the DC Universe is conveyed in just a few trailers.  That doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed success.  There are a lot of elements in play and DC has yet to reveal their grand plan.  They may be unleashing a vast and diverse collection of superheroes but they must also show restraint and balance each element carefully.  Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 is a perfect example of what can happen when too many characters unite too quickly.  Improper handling of each character can turn a cohesive story into an unintelligible mess.

Thankfully, I think there is simply too much at stake to sacrifice story for greater gain down the road.  Iron Man 2 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 put world building ahead of story and suffered the consequences.  Iron Man 2 is widely considered to be the worst Marvel movie and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 literally derailed Sony’s plans for their own shared universe.

These lessons helped shape every major studios approach to shared storytelling. You need to balance story and world building.  That is my greatest hope for the DC Universe.

I hope they’ve found that balance.  I hope their universe is full of characters who have a place in each and every story.  But I also hope each story connects to something bigger.  Something special.

Marvel has Thanos and the Infinity Stones.

Where will the DC Universe take us?  How will it be different?  It may be too soon to tell but so far, it’s hard to ignore the hype.  I’m looking forward to Batman v Superman.  I’m looking forward to Suicide Squad.  I’m looking forward to something different.


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