This morning, the DC Extended Universe lost its Superman, as Henry Cavill exited in a manner that more than likely has DC Comics execs listening to Genesis's "Land of Confusion" on repeat. After an apparent negotiation for a cameo in Shazam! fell apart (over scheduling, according to reports), the fortunes of what's been commonly known as the DCEU are rocky and uncertain. Though as I see it, there's one certainty that should be readily apparent to all who are observing the scenario: the DCEU, as we have grown to know it, is officially toast.
If Henry Cavill's departure was the only calamity that was in play, then I could see a chance of recovery for the shared universe in play at Warner Bros. But this news is coming on top of an all but officially announced departure for Ben Affleck in the role of Batman in any upcoming DC movies. Losing one high profile lead can be triaged, but losing both actors playing tentpole superheroes in the DCEU should be enough to force DC Comics' hand in folding that cinematic universe up for good. Though, for those holding out even more foolish hopes that the DCEU isn't dead, but merely resting, the proof that the contrary is gospel can be seen in the varied box office performances.
Looking at the DCEU's tentative run, we've seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman walk away as strong performers, with Justice League taking a hard tumble. So what does that say about the approach that needs to be taken in the DC Comics cinematic canon? Solo films, and smaller event team-ups, are the way of the future; rather than reshooting and retooling a franchise-uniting film to focus on a different lead late in the game. DC Comics should focus on those individual stories, and keep those franchise separated and running smoothly. Call it the DCEU. But don't force it to be the shared cinematic universe that it clearly is not.
This shouldn't be hard, or totally alien to DC, as they've been working on a Joker film separate from the Suicide Squad incarnation (this one built around Joaquin Phoenix), as well as a Matt Reeves Batman project that's become further removed from the wreckage of the DCEU as each day passes. With Aquaman and Shazam! looking to right the ship in terms of DC Comics' tone and structure, they need to be allowed the room to thrive outside of the shadow that Justice League has cast on the entire DC franchise collective. So it's in the studio's best interest to mitigate the connections to the events of that failed team-up film, and push these stories in their own unique directions.
Ultimately, the error of DC Comics' failed cinematic universe can be summed up in one, damning claim: they tried to be Marvel Studios, and failed. DC shouldn't try to be another Marvel, simply because not only did the studio rush what could have been a fantastic competitor in the name of the box office dollar, but they've always done their best doing the complete opposite. Marvel Studios doesn't have a strong animated canon like DC Comics does, and in a similar vein, DC has always excelled at providing a variety of incarnations for the heroes underneath their umbrella. So while the stories aren't always connected, there's enough difference for fans of all stripes to wet their beaks. The DC Comics animated strategy needs to be implemented within the feature films galaxy, so as to restore the brand as the proper competitor to Marvel's box office stranglehold.
Henry Cavill's departure basically nails the coffin shut on the ambitious failure that pushed him and Ben Affleck out the doors, and it's time to leave it in the past. At this point, DC Comics should be implementing Flashpoint as their ultimate reset button / dazzling finale to the DCEU, closing off this chapter in history for good and allowing all remaining projects to succeed on their own merits, without the albatross of history on their necks. Make no mistake: DC Comics properties need to give Marvel Studios competition. However, instead of running the race together, it's time to let the Justice League fight their own battles. Maybe in the future, there can be a Crisis on Infinite Earths event that brings it all together temporarily, but for now, separate is better.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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