Okay, now that I’ve managed to scare any obnoxious nerds who wandered by to the comment section to angry rant about how I am a “marvelcuck” or something related to “cucks,” let’s talk about why the DC cinematic universe is the single worst thing DC has ever done.
Keep in mind that’s a real fucking long list.
With three films now released, there’s a lot of discussion in how DC’s brave experi-excuse me, I mean pathetic rip-off movie series has fared. Money wise, they aren’t doing Marvel gangbusters, but doing damn well by all accounts, or at least surviving despite under-performance. Critically, though…
To say these movies are disliked is like saying Donald Trump has the hands of an ant. There’s a lot to unpack, and a lot has been said, but as a comic fan myself, I’d like to unpack why these films don’t actually seem to engage audiences as well as they could, with exception to a certain terrible, terrible audience no artist should ever want. No matter how much WB tries to get the next few films in a more pleasing state for the masses, there’s some problems they desperately need to address first, or else we’ll have another Suicide Squad chop job on our hands.
To understand where all of this falls apart, we need only start at the two main masterminds of the endeavor, Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer. Snyder is an accomplished director most known for 300 and his messy but spectacular looking adaptation of Watchman, while Goyer has written for the Blade series, Dark City, and the Nolan Batman films. Quite the impressive resumes.
Oh and here are things they have vomited out of their food holes
She Hulk is Hulk’s cousin and pretty much a woman of great agency from her initial creation, and I don’t think I need to explain the second quote. If I have to explain why Batman getting raped in prison is a bad thing please stop reading this and go outside and plant a garden or just do something not horrible.
Also, Zack Snyder wants to adapt Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, which is a book preaching about Objectivism and how awesome it is to be a dick and shit on other people because your accomplishments mean more than helping your fellow man, which is not how Objectivism describes itself but that is literally what it is. And this explains so fucking much about Snyder and these movies.
As static and stale as the Marvel movies tend to get, they do get some fundamentals right. Superheroes tend to swing into either one or two camps when taken seriously. They can either be relatable and inspiring, or relatable and deeply flawed. The Marvel films have characters shift between these two extremes pretty regularly, and I must say they’ve done an amazing job at making Tony Stark a complete sack of shit too wrapped up in his own egotism and drama to actually do the right thing. Just like his comic book counterpart! But he understands right and wrong, and he is able to do inspiring things despite his faults, as Cap can do disappointing actions because of how limited his view of morality is. The key ingredient to all this is that these characters, despite their abilities and powers, are people first and foremost, capable of compassion, sympathy, and selflessness despite their imperfect nature.
This is partly why I love the anime Gatchaman Crowds. The series understands the importance of seeing people as people and not just enemies, growing personally and helping others grow to help the world evolve and change in a positive way. Its views on conflict make for a whole other essay for another day, but it’s ultimately a series that embraces idealism and cynicism equally and wants people to be heroes by simply engaging with the culture and people around them, thus helping do the same for others. The classic capes and cowls, on the other hand, argue that we are able to do incredible things, and not necessarily because of great powers, but just through our intelligence, wit, or simple bravery. The most memorable moments with Captain America don’t involve punching Tony Stark’s stupid face, but sacrificing himself for others or continuing a hopeless fight. Superman inspires because despite all his power, he still manages to be one of the most compassionate people in all of comics and does most good simply through talk or setting an example. Hell, even dickbag Tony Stark is truly heroic in how he shows that even when you have power and means above others, that comes with a great responsibility and you should act for the good of others (though his track record there is highly debatable).
Where these films fall apart from the first step is completely failing to understand this simple concept. Man of Steel’s origin story is shockingly lacking in Clark learning anything at all from his parents. There’s a weird new spin where Pa Kent emphasizes Clark hides his powers, instead of showing how his time with his down to Earth family taught him important life lessons. We never really see Clark learn to understand others or to always do the right thing, and when he wants to do the right thing and save Pa Kent, the idiot tells him not to in one of the dumbest sequences ever shown in a superhero movie. He’s fucking Superman. He can save you without anyone making him out.
This continues throughout the films and launches into a horrifying finale where Superman and Zod destroy Metropolis in their battle, and Superman only learns that murder is bad by finding out it didn’t feel good to murder Zod. This is how Snyder thought someone like Superman should learn killing is wrong. This makes me suspect that Snyder has murdered before. It’s a slog of a movie with some cool fight scenes, but horrific ideas on what Superman is. He’s made out to be a savior of some sort, but he only causes more pain and chaos in the end. Just because you stopped the bad guy doesn’t mean you get a free pass for hurting so, so many people.
This makes Batman V Superman even more frustrating, because that aftermath is brought up, but Superman never really faces punishment or judgment for what he did, and while people try, the thesis of the film comes off that he shouldn’t have to deal with any repercussions because he’s just better than everyone else. I mean, his mom tells him he doesn’t owe anyone anything.
HE DESTROYED AN ENTIRE CITY.
Batman is just as vile, taking heavily from Frank Miller’s All Star era and less from his Dark Knight Era. Batman outright murders a LOT of people in this film, and while the full cut does reveal he has huge issues he’s going through, Batman never reacted to Jason Todd’s death by becoming a violent murderer. That Batman who was killing everyone was someone taking the mantle while Bruce was in the middle of recovering from a snapped spine. Oh, and did I forget to mention that he brands people before they go to jail so other prisoners know to violently murder that person in particular? He does learn to see Clark as a person, but all those criminals he murders willy nilly (including one brutal kill with a giant crate smashing a man’s head into a wall)? He keeps on murderin’!
Suicide Squad really shows off how gross Batman has become in this universe. While Harley’s treatment can be explained away with supposed cuts removing a detail that she helped kill Robin, that doesn’t excuse involving Deadshot’s child in his arrest. This Batman is everything the harshest critics always said Batman was. Because he’s high status, he can do whatever he wants with no consequences, because he’s always right. Who cares if people died horribly, if Batman did it, they must have deserved it! Why bother trying not to horribly scar a child when attempting to arrest her dad when you can just confront them in public on a family outing? He’s an actual fascist shitheap that is the full on conclusion to Snyder’s disgusting Objectivist views.
It’s this sense that those with power or ability are inherently superior that makes these films so vile. I mean, a montage of Superman saving people is treated as the most grim, depressing thing. He’s fucking Superman. Saving people is what he does. It is an inspiring act that he can act with restraint to help people so fragile compared to him. He’s supposed to show that power is meaningless without restraint. But in these films, Superman and Batman are just perfect god people and all us normal folk are just ants compared to them. People don’t matter in these films. Snyder heard that comics are the new myths of legend, but failed to realize not all legends are defined by right to rule through sheer power or ability.
The central problem is that the DC movieverse does not value compassion. It does not value sympathy. It does not value being human. It views humanity as a weakness. While the films with different directors can escape this trap a little, as Suicide Squad tries doing with a focus on the team becoming a makeshift family and showing this bad people actually getting a chance to show their heroism and better sides (which the cuts ruined, of course), the stink of Snyder’s poisonous world view keeps popping up. The Justice League and heroes of this world are not heroes. Hell, they’re closer to The Authority, a parody team of superpowered people that were actual fascists that would wipe out an entire country for the sake of what they saw as good. There was an entire Superman story made to tell off that team for being such fucking dicks. How the times have changed.
Everything I’ve been hearing about these movies does nothing to solve these issues. The Wonder Woman film seems focused on violence and not Diana’s ability to solve conflict in talk or inspire others to action. The Justice League trailer was a step in the right direction with Flash, but there’s still a sense of inhumanity among the characters, especially Aquaman. The lighter tone shown in the first trailer could just be more DC executive meddling, and that will just lead to another messy cut job that doesn’t even have the balls to be anything.
Really, the major problem is that DC picked the exact wrong people to appeal to a mass audience. Being darker is one thing, but what they’ve actually done is appeal to the obnoxious dudebro crowd that ruined the medium in the 90s. Without a heart to the action on display, the point goes from “showing we can be better as people” to disturbing ideas that lead directly into thoughts of xenophobia, nationalism, and spiteful ideology that villainizes those that show any concern for others. They picked heartless people to make stories about archetypes all about heart, and thus everything is falling apart.