It’s no secret that the the first three movies in the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad) have been met with mixed reviews. There are elements of these films that have seemed to polarize audiences, leaving most to become either die-hard fans or stark detractors of the DC films as a whole. Love it or hate, the DC Comics and Warner Bros. are still moving forward with plans to release at least nine films in the next four years! With so much still ahead (and at stake), the DCEU will need to capitalize on the very thing it’s been building up to: HOPE.
Hope is the driving force that the DCEU needs- both to overcome the growing skepticism among those who have been disappointed thus far, as well as to reinvigorate and reward the expectations of its current fans.
As of right now, it would appear that hope is indeed on the agenda for the DCEU. After surprising critical backlash to the juggernaut of a film that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the studio wanted to make it very clear that 2017’s DCEU films would take different direction. To make this point especially clear, they even went to the extent of inviting several journalists and movie bloggers to visit the set of the upcoming Justice League movie. This set visit, along with some encouraging remarks from producers and actors on the film, managed to bring optimism to a few otherwise skeptical minds. Although it may seem like this was all simply a response to the less-than-ideal reception Batman v Superman received, there have been many reports that suggest this was actually the plan all along.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal a few weeks before the release of Batman v Superman, writer Chris Terrio was already hinting at a tone change in Justice League. He said,
“I expect Justice League will be tonally not quite as dark as Batman v Superman. From that point of view, I felt compelled to go back and try to lift us and myself into a different tonal place because I think when you write a darker film, sometimes you want to redeem it all a bit.”-Chris Terrio
Terrio’s words of tonally “redeeming” Batman v Superman can resonate with anyone who struggled with seeing these iconic heroes be deconstructed. In the film, we see a novice Superman struggle with a world who is rejecting him despite his best efforts to protect it, and contemplates if the world ever really needed a “Superman.” Meanwhile, we’re introduced to a jaded, experienced Batman, who is weighed down by the hardships of “20 years in Gotham.” They’re both facing this inner conflict as well as exterior influence that is driving them into conflict with one another. This is unfamiliar territory for most audiences. It’s rare to see Superman and Batman as vulnerable, imperfect versions of themselves. But the beautiful thing about seeing these heroes at such a low-point is that there’s no where to go but up. Without going too much into the detail of the movie’s plot, we can start to see the redemption of both Batman and Superman in the final act. Where the story arc of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman ends, hope begins.
So, if the directors, producers and actors of the DCEU are pointing to a hope-filled future, and the main story arc of the films is pointing to a hope-filled future, when exactly will we start seeing it? Some have speculated that 2017’s Wonder Woman will be the turning point; however, this might not be the safest bet.
In the final act of Batman v Superman, Diana Prince states that she abandoned mankind after witnessing “a century full of horrors.” It’s very likely that we can assume Wonder Woman will end with a disillusioned and discouraged Diana. If that’s true, that will make Justice League (which is already poised to show the redeeming of Batman and Superman) Wonder Woman’s redemption story as well, as she decides to give mankind another chance.
The DCEU is set up for hopefulness, and if the franchises capitalize on this, it will successfully produce not just “critically-acclaimed” or “frugal” movies, but stories that are cherished by audiences. Because stories of redemption are some of the most cherished stories of all. Each of us has stories of loss, pain, and hardship from our own lives. And to have a story presented to us that brings these dark, but very real, elements - and then redeems them - can instill in us the hope that better days are yet to come.