By Nathaniel Nelson
In 2016, DC became the Jeb Bush of movie studios: it had all the pieces in place to make a run for the crown, but between blunders, taking itself too seriously, general dullness, and a lack of identity, it ended up as a bit of a joke. But with both DC and Marvel releasing new television series this fall—Preacher and Luke Cage, respectively—perhaps it’s worth reconsidering the year that wasn’t for the home of Aquaman.
DC’s two super-releases this year—Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad—thoroughly underwhelmed. Personally, I found the movies agreeable if dumb, but that’s how I feel about almost all of these adaptations. Aside from some technical deficiencies, why is it that these two in particular received so much flack?
It helps to take a look at what else is filling up the market. When we talk about superhero movies today, we’re basically talking about Marvel movies. There’s the Iron Man trilogy, the Captain America trilogy, the Thors, the Fantastic Fours, the Hulk, the Spiderman trilogy and then the Spiderman reboot, and a trove of X-Men releases. Doctor Strange’s turn is coming up later this year, and honestly, I dig fractals, so I’m legitimately excited.
Lowly DC, on the other hand, has heavy hitters like Batman and Superman on their roster. Unfortunately, that’s basically it (thus far). The real difference between the superproduction of Marvel and DC’s studios is this: when Marvel reaches, they hit—Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant Man, or even the Daredevil Netflix series—but when DC does it, the results are liable to end up good, bad, or ugly (or baffling). Though DC has a lineup to draw from that rivals Marvel’s, they haven’t built the machine to bring all their best characters to the forefront. Is this such a bad thing, though?
DC hasn’t yet monetized its entire roster of characters and, for one reason or another, it doesn’t appear to have such a strong framework for streamlining scripts, addressing plot holes, sprinkling in easter eggs, and appeasing fanboys with factual loyalty to the original comics. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were all over the place, and honestly, I found it refreshing. If you’re tired of the same, thoroughly focus-grouped formula, where boring white guys follow the same preordained story arc against some new robot-monster-looking villain, perhaps you too might be willing to sacrifice a bit of quality for a bit of unpredictability.
Think of it this way: If DC is Jeb Bush, Marvel is Hillary Clinton.
There are a lot more Marvel movies to like, but frankly, it’s a bit too many. I think a lot of us want to see something different in this genre, which explains the excitement that surrounded Suicide Squad—it promised to change things up, get a little dirty. Yeah it was bad, but maybe a little bad can be a good thing sometimes.
If you’re not with me at this point, I get it. I have two words for you, though: Nolan’s Batman. They count!
Nathaniel Nelson (N8) is a filmmaker and writer.
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