DCEU critical response – Critics, moviegoers, and the divide between the two
“Over the last four or so years, DC has taken a gigantic hit in the form of what appears to be only describable as comic book political violence by a bias legion of critics.”
By RUSSELL BERGER
Over the last three decades, we — DC Comics fans — have bore witness to the absolutely amazing fruits of the tree. From BATMAN RETURNS to Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY in live-action movies, and then MASK OF THE PHANTASM to UNDER THE RED HOOD in animated movies; there’s been high quality and entertaining iterations of the iconic characters and stories that make us as fans happy to be fans. Though, over the last four or so years, DC has taken a gigantic hit in the form of what appears to be only describable as comic book political violence by a bias legion of critics.
Before the “spearhead” of the DCEU — MAN OF STEEL — hit theaters back in [June] 2013, DC had a critically well received franchise in the DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. Nolan gave everyone; from comic book fans to the causal moviegoers, and even critics a story that captured the “Dark Knight” in an iteration we needed at that time, but not necessarily the iteration we deserved (just read that in Gary Oldman’s voice, and you’ll see what I did there.) I believe that the franchise unintentionally poisoned critics’ views, and an entire audience to what Batman should be.
Now, every coin has two-sides and the tails to DC’s heads is Marvel. I can’t sit here and honestly, or truthfully, tell you that Marvel hasn’t had success in the cinematic universe category, because they have. They’ve basically had a monopoly the last decade and a half on that corner of the comic book genre. Hell, Forbes put out an article how the MCU has grossed roughly $12-billion worldwide over sixteen movies.
That monopoly they’ve had an “iron grip” on has ultimately drilled into critics what they preach should be a comic book movie; forced comedy, one-dimensional villains who have no real long-lasting effects on their “world,” and a lack of true consequences. This “Marvel way” has caused reviews for the DCEU to be unfairly one-sided, and appearing to lack a want to delve into the layered with depth style of story telling that WB/DC has chosen to use. We’ve seen it from the slew of negative reviews that’s plagued the DCEU thus far,
From Scott Foundas at Variety on MAN OF STEEL,
A humorless tone and relentlessly noisy aesthetics drag down this heavily hyped, brilliantly marketed tentpole attraction.
Tom Meek at Cambridge Day on MAN OF STEEL, What’s missing in Snyder’s Superman is a dash of the hokey goodness that Christopher Reeve contributed to the role and the comic cold cheesiness that Gene Hackman and Terrence Stamp brought as Luthor and Zod.
Abby Olcese at Sojourners on BATMAN V SUPERMAN,
Ultimately, Batman v. Superman is a film with no real reason for being, other than to usher in the next round of DC Universe films, and to provide a bunch of explosions.
And Colin Covert at Star Tribune on SUICIDE SQUAD,
This is what happens when the comic book fanboys have taken over the asylum. It is damaged goods from the get-go, the kind of film grown in a petri dish in Hollywood.
Their knee-jerk reviews to what is one of the best origin stories — MAN OF STEEL — for the “measuring stick” of superheroes is probably one of the most telling of how Marvel’s lengthy and uninterrupted time at putting out comic book movies influenced their views on the genre. The want for there to be enormous amounts of comedy. There being too much action, despite it being something fans had a problem with SUPERMAN RETURNS over for not having enough, and their unwillingness to move on from the Reeve era.
Not only is their “blindness” for progress and individuality apparent, but what seemed to me [and many others] an anti-Zack Snyder mission. A refusal to even at least footnote that BATMAN v SUPERMAN is buried in-depth, which I continue to this day to find more layers of, is what seems to be undeniable ignorance, and it goes back to when I said that there’s a laziness on wanting to delve into the movies. We’ve seen that they’ve loaded their chamber with an “immediate go-to attacking Zack directly” bullet. Now I understand that not everyone will like his style, and that’s understandable, but that seems like a minority of the case when there’s at least a dozen reviews who question his credibility and success as a director instead of doing their job.
BUT what I found most entertaining was the critics attacks at SUICIDE SQUAD, and that’s because it was what I often refer to as DC’s closest attempt at making a Marvel movie. It was nonstop fun, and a more comedy filled movie than its predecessors, but yet they attacked it for those very reasons. It’s a strong whiff of hypocrisy. It is true that SUICIDE SQUAD is the weakest of the three — MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN v SUPERMAN and itself, — but still a solid movie overall as it opened the doors to a large portion of the Batman mythos and even a tad bit of the Flash and Justice League Dark mythos. There were things to criticize, but to do it on simple things that Marvel is praised for undermines the critique from the jump.
Something that heavily undermines critics, and adds to the current divide between them and moviegoers is that despite the mixed response from fans (that overtime shifts more into the “liked the movies” side of the scale,) and the Rotten Tomatoes scores of 55% (MoS,) 27% (BvS) and 25% (SS,) Box Office Mojo tallied well-earned $668,045,518 (MoS,) $873,260,194 (BvS) and $745,600,054 (SS) worldwide box-office grosses. You can see the divide in the very RT scores themselves, as the audience scores — 75% (MoS,) 63% (BvS) and 61% (SS) — are the polar opposite of the “Tomatometer” that’s based on the critics’ scoring of it. I do believe that critics themselves are seeing this, and understanding that their perspective is a bit skewed.
WONDER WOMAN so far seems to be the movie to wake them up, and we see that they’re looking for more than just the “Marvel way.”
Richard Brody at the New Yorker,
“Wonder Woman” is a superhero movie, and it fulfills the heroic and mythic demands of that genre, but it’s also an entry in the genre of wisdom literature that shares hard-won insights and long-pondered paradoxes of the past with a sincere intimacy.
Tim Brayton at Alternate Ending,
The No Man’s Land scene is everything, literally absolutely every last thing that every comic book movie should always be aspiring to.
And Kaori Shoji at the Japan Times,
Wonder Woman is not a “woman’s movie,” but an action film with incredible relevance.
The way to mending the divide between critics and moviegoers always lied in the hands of the critics themselves, and the key to it was by being honest and actually putting time into looking beyond the face value of what was presented. Sure, there was still those who stayed stuck in the ways I had pointed out with her [WONDER WOMAN] predecessors, but with anything there will always be those who are a voice of opposition, and that’s okay. The point is never to have all opinions be the same, but to be truthful.
I hope moving forward with the DCEU in the next wave of movies — JUSTICE LEAGUE, AQUAMAN, the BATMAN solo, FLASHPOINT and more — that what WONDER WOMAN started continues. From what I’ve seen with the coverage of JL I fear it won’t be that simple, but I stand ready to call out a bias among the critic ranks if that’s what follows, and if not, then I’m ready to praise them for doing their job. $3,094,354,787 over just four movies is a success in my book, and the one thing I’m certain of going forward is that Zack, Geoff Johns and company won’t let us down with giving quality movies and stories.
JUSTICE LEAGUE hits theaters on November 17th.