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The Fall of the DCEU

Courtesy of DC

2013-2016: Rocky Beginning of Justice

In June 2013, Man of Steel came out almost a year after The Dark Knight Rises. Despite the mixed response from critics, it did well at the box office, making $668 million worldwide as the highest-grossing Superman film ever. Critics and audiences were torn with the new take Snyder took on Superman compared to the original Superman films. Man of Steel grew a strong following since then and better reception from critics and audiences. Comic-Con a month later announced Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was next.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out on March 25, 2016, to a mixed to negative response from critics and even some audiences. While it made $873.6 million at the box office and had a great opening weekend, it didn’t perform as well as WB wanted. While Ben Affleck proved his doubters wrong as Batman, the film was criticized for its too-dark tone, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor, rushing things including the death of Superman, and Doomsday being thrown in. Suicide Squad came out the same year in August to a similar reaction from critics, despite performances being praised. This time, studio interference and troubled post-production played a role, as WB wanted a lighter, funnier tone than David Ayer’s original tone.

2017: One Step Forward, Several Steps Back

2017 would be an important year for DC that began promising, but ended on a sour note. The first 2017 DCEU film was Wonder Woman, which came out on June 2, 2017. Unlike the first three DCEU films, Wonder Woman was loved by most critics and audiences, praising Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s performances and chemistry, the action, and Patty Jenkin’s direction. The film was also the most profitable of the DCEU films at the time, making $822.8 million at the box office worldwide.

This happiness for the DCEU wouldn’t last. The next film to come out was their big one, Justice League. The film unfortunately had a troubled production. Due to the backlash of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Brothers pushed for rewrites to the script. Then, in May 2017, Zack Snyder’s daughter Autumn Snyder tragically committed suicide and Zack left post-production, which caused Joss Whedon to step in and control the project. This caused drastic changes to the script and story due to Snyder and Whedon having completely different tones and styles. Reshoots had issues as well, between doing CGI on Cavill’s lips and toxic behavior from Whedon during production that was finally brought out by Ray Fisher in 2020. The film was also ordered to be cut to only 2 hours, less than any of the DCEU movies that came out before it.

Justice League opened on November 17, 2017, to a mixed to negative response and poor box office. The film made $657.9 million, the least amount of any DCEU film at the time. Things were looking shaky for the DCEU. It didn’t help that the rumors of Ben Affleck being done with Batman were growing and The Flash film kept going through rough changes and getting delayed. A sequel to Wonder Woman was becoming a focus and Justice League Part 2 which was scheduled for July 2019 was now scrapped. Other big changes were happening. The beginning of 2018 saw Walter Hamada come in to be the President of DC Films.

Post-Snyder Era and Snyder Cut

The only DCEU film to come out in 2018 was Aquaman. Aquaman did better with critics than most of the other DCEU films and did well at the box office, making over $1 billion at the box office. It is currently the only DCEU film to accomplish it. Still, a new direction was beginning for DC. Rumors grew that Cavill and Affleck were out as Superman and Batman. Eventually, in 2019, Affleck confirmed he was done and Matt Reeves was looking to find a new Batman. It later came out that The Batman would be in a separate universe. Shazam! was the next to come out on April 5, 2019. While it made less than the other DCEU films, likely due to its release date in between MCU films Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, its small budget made the film profitable when it made $366.1 million. The film got positive reviews from critics and audiences as well, praising Zachary Levi’s performance as Shazam and the fun, light tone. Shazam! would be the last DCEU film to be this successful.

2020 saw a lot happening. Birds of Prey, despite the good reviews, struggled at the box office. A month later, the Covid-19 Pandemic changed movies with shutdowns and delays. Still, projects were getting announced and castings were being made, including Michael Keaton’s return as Batman in The Flash. Then on May 20, 2020 during a Man of Steel watch party hosted by Zack Snyder, it was announced Zack Snyder’s Justice League would come out on HBO Max in 2021. On Christmas later in 2020, Wonder Woman: 1984 came out in both theaters and on HBO Max to a mixed response. Due to the pandemic and the HBO Max release, the film only made $169.6 million. It found success on streaming.

2021 then came and Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released in March. The movie got better reviews than Snyder’s previous two films and did well on HBO Max. Fans pushed for more and a continuation of Snyder’s vision, but WB and DC had no interest in continuing. The Suicide Squad came out in August to great reviews, but struggled at the box office due to the R-rating, Pandemic, and HBO Max release at the same time as it was in theaters.

2022 saw a lot of craziness with the DCEU, even though only one film came out in Black Adam. Peacemaker was a successful show on HBO Max. Ezra Miller found themselves in a lot of legal trouble that year, causing concerns and rumors of the Flash getting recast after The Flash comes out in 2023. Batgirl got canceled in August 2022 despite being mostly complete. This move pushed Walter Hamada out the door, leaving after Black Adam came out. Shazam! Fury of the Gods got delayed to 2023 due to a lack of money for marketing. Black Adam came out to a mixed response, similar to many DCEU films, and struggled to make a profit. Henry Cavill finally returned as Superman and was about to get another Superman movie. Around this time though, James Gunn and Peter Safran came in as the new Presidents of DC Films.

A couple of months later, it was announced Patty Jenkins was no longer directing Wonder Woman 3 and the film was no longer in the plans. Michael Keaton was also supposed to get a new Batman film themed around Batman Beyond, but it got canceled as well. Then it was revealed that a new Superman movie is being written by James Gunn, but Cavill won’t return. Dwyane Johnson’s Black Adam was also confirmed to not be involved in Gunn’s new DCU.

Overall, the DCEU’s lack of consistency, holding out on Batman and Superman after Justice League, and not having a real direction hurt this franchise. Some of the films struggled to do well. DC and WB canceled and delayed many projects even before the pandemic happened. Many audience members gave up on the DCEU after Justice League and while the films that came out afterward were better received by critics, they didn’t lead to anything to look forward to. Hopefully, James Gunn and Peter Safran can follow through on plans and build consistency.

Do you think the DCEU was a failure or needed more time to develop? Let us know in the comments down below.

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