Thursday, April 7, 2016

Should DC Combine Their Cinematic and TV Universes? [Guest Poster: Julia]

As the enormous disappointment of wasting two and a half hours of my time to watch Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (from here on out abbreviated as "BvS") wears off, I have been wondering how Warner Brothers and DC could save their infant franchise from total decimation. It was obviously going to be tough to get fans to buy into a new Batman when Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece The Dark Knight trilogy is still fresh in our brains. With fans and critics alike trashing BvS for its poor story, continuity problems, plot holes, shallow characters, and more, can the series stay alive and profitable with a possible downhill spiral looming? The following is my attempt at determining what DC’s course of action should be.


The first thing to examine is how DC got into their current mess with fans. Like most people, I blame director Zack Snyder along with his writer David S. Goyer. This duo brought the latest Superman film, Man of Steel, to the silver screen in 2013. Both Man of Steel and BvS have very similar set-ups and story structure. Both films have long backstories that drag out most of the film, in spite of the fact that BvS is not an origin story. It is safe to say that most people who have seen either film know the backstories of Superman and Batman, both of which do not constantly need to be retold.

Both films also end with long fight sequences, which are unarguably the best parts of either film. But with equally too long running times, it takes forever to get to them. This makes most of each film a bore to watch. With too much thinned-out story rehashing and not enough character development, both films wind up not sitting as well with critics or fans. Snyder’s DC films have also had a bad habit of including too many artsy shots that have no relative meaning to the rest of the film. For instance, was it necessary to show a slow motion, 30-second, close-up of a bullet falling to the ground in BvS? No, no it was not. There are plenty of useless time wasters like this throughout each film, which agonizingly make the films longer.

Interestingly enough, Man of Steel sat much better with critics than BvS. On Rotten Tomatoes, Man of Steel scored a 56%, out of 100%, while BvS currently sits at a 29%.

Some people are also critical of Snyder’s darker approach to the characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there needs to be some way to lighten the mood at points instead of the entire film being gloomy. The lack of any comic relief, besides scenes that are so bad that they’re funny, makes it hard to watch.

With all that considered, Snyder should not be back to direct The Justice League because he could ruin both those films before they are even released. The trailers of BvS revealed way too much of the “plot” and gave away the only decent parts of the film. If they had kept Wonder Woman a secret, for instance, she could have been a surprising bonus to viewers. This lack of thoughtfulness has led a decent amount of fans to want Snyder off the creative team. Recently there was not one, but two separate fan petitions set up on urging Warner Brothers and DC to remove Snyder as the director of The Justice League films. Since those two initial petitions were created, many more pro-firing Snyder petitions have been created plus a few that support him. It says a lot when the fans can’t even stand his work.

All in all, Snyder’s approach has led to many unhappy fans and critics. The bad word of mouth for BvS could cause it to fail in the long run. The bad impressions by Snyder’s first two DC films may turn people away from seeing either The Justice League films because they are bound to be the same format if the same director and writer work together. If The Justice League fails, DC will never accomplish their goal of setting up an expansive cinematic universe.


I could not think of any reasons to keep Snyder as the head of The Justice League, so I am going to skip to debating whether the TV and cinematic universes should be linked, like Marvel, or kept separate. DC has said numerous times over the past few years that they would like to keep both worlds separate to create a “multiverse.” This is an intriguing idea that will keep them unique enough so many may not directly compare them to Marvel, the opposition. But the biggest issue in creating a multiverse is getting fans to accept that all the characters are in separate dimensions, universes, time periods, or however they want to phrase it.

The best example of the multiverse working in DC’s favor currently is the slew of popular DC-based TV shows. The craze for the DC shows started when Arrow debuted on The CW in 2012. The network has since expanded their little DC universe to include spin-off series The Flash (2014) and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016). All three CW shows take place in the same universe, which has led to successful cross-over episodes. Fans have their own little universe they can enjoy three nights a week. CBS recently got into the DC multiverse with the new series Supergirl, which debuted in the fall. And recently, Supergirl welcomed The Flash as a special guest, which confirms that Supergirl is somehow within the realm of The CW universe as well. This could actually save Supergirl because the potential for crossover episodes brings more viewers and higher ratings.

The odd ball in the popular DC shows is FOX’s Gotham. With Gotham presumably taking place decades before The CW universe and the cinematic universe, it does not fit in with the rest of the series. Gotham is its own, standalone universe for now, but most certainly makes the most of it with the numerous characters/villains that it showcases. The world of Batman is expansive, which gives Gotham a lot to work with even though it is a prequel to the Batman stories we all know.

Another differently-timed prequel show is Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans, which ran initially from 2003-2007 and now transformed into Teen Titans Go! (2013-present). Some may simply say this show cannot exist with the others because it is animated. But it really is the timeline that sets Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! apart from the other shows, like Gotham. With multiple timelines being explored in the TV universes, it makes sense for DC to keep everything separated. It is not possible for all these shows to take place at the same time and also correlate with the films.

DC can also cover all its bases by keeping TV and films in separate universes. It allows different shows or films to cover specific topics or time periods that may not make sense in the long run if everything was combined. DC also started on its expansive multiverse with TV when Smallville premiered in 2001. Trying to go from TV to film is very difficult, which is why Marvel presumably started with films and built TV shows around the films. Also, Batman and Superman are not allowed on TV shows anymore. DC will not explicitly say why this is the case, but without the two major kingpins of the universe on TV, there really is no potential to have one flowing universe.

The biggest reason to keep each universe separate is the different character styles. Some of the shows have darker stories, like Gotham, while others are lighter, like The Flash. With such an array of attitudes and stylistic differences on the shows, they would never exist in one world seamlessly. However, this does not mean that Stephen Amell’s darker turn on Oliver Queen/Green Arrow would not work well with Snyder’s darker spin on his The Justice League characters. So, there is potential for some characters to cross over eventually, but it remains highly unlikely.


There are plenty of reasons as to why DC should stick to one, comprehensive universe like Marvel. First, DC has already dug a deep hole by constantly repeating the Batman and Superman franchises, and they’ll have to climb out it eventually if they want to succeed. Why continually reboot the franchises if events from previous films are thrown away and the stories start anew? Why not just continue with the story instead of starting over? Fans do not need to see the same origin story over and over again. It’s a waste of money for Warner Brothers to make the same film repeatedly. After a while, who wants to see that? If DC had smartly stuck to one, continuous line of action from the beginning, they would be much better off.

The continual confusion of which Batman or Superman is in each film can stump fans. For instance, which Batman will young Bruce Wayne grow up to be in Gotham? It has to make life harder to reinvent the characters every few years. This is actually one of the reasons why composer Hans Zimmer has left the franchise after composing the scores for The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and BvS. He could not use the same themes for Batman in BvS because it’s not the same character, which led him to dislike the new feel of the films and leave the franchise.

Also, DC throwing all their characters into one film just to play catch-up with Marvel — and then creating individual films — will cause even more confusion in the timeline. Will each film be specific as to when it takes place? If not, how are audiences supposed to follow the jumpy storylines? The biggest question is will each solo film take place before or after the events of The Justice League? There are too many questions surrounding DC’s process, which they have gone at all wrong. Even if they don’t want to completely emulate Marvel’s winning formula, they should take a page out of the Marvel handbook and do some solo films first, for the sake of backstory. Otherwise, Justice League Part 1 will inevitably be loaded with backstory and no action. How else do you explain who the characters are and where they came from? The safer approach would be to give the characters their rightful dues first before mashing them all together.

The biggest reason to stick to one universe is to make one big, happy DC family. The popularity of the DC TV shows proves that fans want more of this universe. If you have a bunch of popular shows, isn’t it a no-brainer to include those characters in the films? Apparently, the answer is no.

Let’s take a minute and look at the popularity of the TV shows. In the key demographic of ages 18-49, DC shows do very well. Supergirl averages a 1.72 rating (the percentage of all households with a TV watching the show as it airs) and 7.858 million viewers per episode in its freshman season. Both Supergirl and Gotham air in the same 8 PM timeslot on Monday nights. Gotham, in its second season, is averaging a 1.47 rating and 3.603 million viewers per episode. Gotham’s rating is down 32.78% from last season and the viewership is down 30.5%, which is no surprise since it airs against Supergirl. If one of these shows changed timeslots, both could potentially bring in better numbers.

The CW’s three series are also faring well. Arrow has an average 0.99 rating in its fourth season and 2.617 million viewers in its Wednesday 8 PM timeslot. These numbers are down 1.68% and 5.2% respectively from last season. The Flash boasts the best average rating of 1.4 and 3.603 million viewers in its second season. It has not dropped much either, only 2.76% and 6.18%, respectively. It airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has the lowest numbers. In its first season, the show averages a 0.94 rating and 2.479 million viewers, airing on Thursday nights at 8 PM.

If the TV shows were combined with the cinematic universe, DC would be able to practice a full-circle approach for their entire franchise, with the shows acting as the backstory and extended origins for most of the characters. That way, it wouldn’t be confusing when they appeared in a film. The combined universe would also allow for the same story to always be told. DC is going to have trouble with introducing a new version of The Flash to the films because both the films and TV show will reportedly have Barry Allen as The Flash. It would make more sense for Grant Gustin, who plays The Flash on TV, to be the film The Flash. Or, alternatively, the new film Flash should be one of the other countless Flashes from the past. This way, DC could keep an open mind and possibly combine both down the road.

Fans could also enjoy the DC universe much more if it was combined because it would all make sense. The shows could supplement the films, like Marvel currently does with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How hard would it have been to have David Mazouz, who plays young Bruce Wayne on Gotham, portray young Bruce Wayne for a few minutes in BvS instead of someone random? This simple idea would have made more people happy by at least acknowledging the existence of the TV universe. Also, it is quite reasonable to assume that by adding popular TV characters into the films, like Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow, the films would subsequently gross more at the box office. The TV fans would, presumably, flock to theaters to see their favorite small screen heroes team up with the big guns. There is no way that this would end badly for DC, so why not give it a try?

DC is clearly looking for ways to solve their fastest growing problem since they’re re-shooting scenes from this summer’s feature Suicide Squad to give it a lighter, more fun feel. DC and Warner Brothers are starting to see the poor impact BvS is having on their universe, so why stop with the Suicide Squad re-shoots? Now is the time to start thinking about integrating TV and film characters together in order to reach the level of success DC is dreaming of. In the infamous words of The Joker, all I have to say about the DC cinematic universe is “Why so serious?”

Overall, DC should really start considering transforming their multiverse into a single universe. The DC cinematic universe is in real trouble if it continues down its current path. With tons of films lined up, Warner Brothers has a lot to gain or lose. Taking the safest route possible appears to be the best choice for now. DC should use its very popular TV shows to its advantage to set up the next stages of its large storylines, continue the crossovers, and then transpose this to the films. Even taking baby steps by changing Ezra Miller’s film version of The Flash into someone other than Barry Allen would be a step in the right direction, then maybe have Stephen Amell make a cameo appearance as Green Arrow in The Justice League to get more fans excited for future films. It will be interesting to see how the multiverse plays out over the next several years, but will DC actually become the film behemoth they want to be?


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