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Addressing Seriousness in the DC Cinematic Universe
“Dark, edgy, realistic, and gritty are words often used to describe the tone of DC Comics. An idea springing from the more serious and “realistic” versions of characters and stories. It’s commonly thought that the ever-increasing popularity and financial success of the Batman film franchise (in particular the Dark Knight trilogy) and television series has prompted DC to think that it’s the serious, darker nature of Batman and his mythos that has lead to his success. So by incorporating some of these elements into other characters, they too can reach his level of popularity.
Similarly, Man of Steel, the starting point for the DC Comics Cinematic Universe (DCCU), while a financial success, was very divisive among Superman fans. Some applauded the gritter, darker take on the story of Kal-El. Others were very put off by the nontraditional Last Son of Krypton given to us by Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. For those that look at Superman and think “symbol of hope” while it wasn’t completely absent, such moments were few and far between.
Meanwhile, the competition over at Marvel have taken a more adventurous and fantastical approach with their characters. The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannot be underestimated. However, it’s possible part of that has to do with the fact that they are the only real CBM (Comic book movie) makers in the game at the moment, with DC still in the very early stages of their own plans and Valiant a relative unknown to the masses.
Still, there’s something to be said about the serious tone taken by DC. We’ve seen four members of the Justice League revealed so far, with the most recent being a drastic reimagining of Aquaman (Jason Momoa.) There are also several members of the team who haven’t been revealed. These remaining members include Green Lantern, Cyborg, and potentially Shazam.
With these characters still up for interpretation, Warner Bros. has ample opportunity to bring the charm and adventure often associated with more classic Superhero stories, with a modern touch of course. Shazam, for example, is a young boy gifted with the attributes of The Wizard (also known as Shazam.) While he will no doubt have great responsibility with his powers, it’s not difficult to believe a thirteen year-old hero won’t be up for no laughs and offer a bit lighter tone, than say, Batman (Ben Affleck.)
Cyborg is known as a staple in the comics and cartoon series, as a member of the Teen Titans. Following Flashpoint however, the Titan found himself a member of the Justice League, replacing Martian Manhunter. While it’s doubtful he’ll have the same penchant for pizza and leaving his robotic form as displayed in animated appearances, his placement brings a second (if counting Shazam) element of youth to the team, which could help to balance things out with the older, more experienced heroes and give viewers a vehicle to relate to.
Plus, we’ll probably get a “booyah” in there, at some point.
With Green Lantern, there’s a bit more than just finding the right actor, but also the right Lantern for the team. Many would cite John Stewart as the best choice, and DC does seem to be considering giving him the green light. However many fans feel like Hal Jordan deserves a second chance at the big screen, and offer his credentials as the original Lantern for the Justice League as reason enough to take him over Stewart. There’s also the rumor that WB has someone in mind to play Hal.
Then comes the question of which Flash will Ezra Miller play come his introduction to the big screen? Will he be everyone’s favorite ginger, Wally West? Or will we see a second Barry Allen make the scene? Both characters have their upsides to being used, with Wally having a known chemistry with John Stewart thanks to the Justice League animated series. Likewise, Hal was known for his friendship with Barry. A large part of the team dynamic will hinge on the choice of Lantern and Flash used in the team, though either way, the combinations tend to result in solid banter.
Regardless of the particular casting and character choice attached to the future Flash movie, it looks like it will take at least a slightly more fun approach, if rumors of their preferred casting duo are true. And if so, it creates precedent for more diversity between characters and films in the DCCU. It’s that diversity that could position DC at the top of the heap when it comes to CBMs.
While Marvel is also offering a look at the uglier side of their universe with their upcoming Daredevil series, it’s unlikely the Netflix hero will be able to contend with the scope and size of the DCCU on the merit of its own street-level take. A more apt take will likely come from the dark sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy.
Time will tell what the DCCU will look like, as its heroes make their big screen debut. However, it would be a mistake to write off DC as being strictly serious and dark. The DC Universe has a number of funny, wacky characters that could make their way to the big screen, such as The Trickster, Bizzaro, and of course Suicide Squad‘s leading lady, Harley Quinn.
DC has made some choices with characters and properties that have left fans and critics alike scratching their heads. However, those concerned about the overall tone of the DCCU should look to the comics. While there are both good and not-so-good books out, their tones vary.
With that in mind, it’s simply too early to give one strict rule to the entirety of the DCCU. One movie in and a lot of speculation is not a definite on how every film will play out. That’s something to keep in mind as we watch DC’s Cinematic Universe unfold before us.