Warner Bros. and DC’s upcoming Aquaman (due in theaters December 21) may decide the fate of the entire DC universe.
Since 2016, we’ve seen Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins find success with a standalone origin flick. However, Batman v. Superman and Justice League, DC’s other attempts to build a shared universe (like what exists between Marvel’s film franchises) both found a lukewarm reception with critics and audiences.
In response, DC Entertainment announced it’d step back from the ‘extended universe’ concept, refocusing on standalone pictures instead. Aquaman is the first DC film to come out since the announcement, and as promised, we get a standalone film focused on the character, rather than the universe around him.
Given what we’ve seen so far, it’s possible the Prince of Atlantis could be the hero the DC Extended Universe needs. How? By ignoring it.
Taking It One Film At A Time
The DCEU is played down a lot in the marketing for Aquaman. There’s no real allusion to it in the trailer debuted at Comic-Con in July:
What we do see: popular names like Jason Momoa and Nicole Kidman, a lighter tone, and a timely environmental subplot (the inspiration of King Orm’s war against the surface is oceanic pollution).
The new film seems allowed to breathe more, similar to 2017’s Wonder Woman, which loosely tied into the DCEU. Granted there were lots of other elements that made that movie a hit with audiences and critics. However, focusing on making one really good movie, rather than a vehicle for future pictures, certainly played a part.
Warner Bros. and DC’s attempt to jump into a cinematic universe could have been a bit premature. The two companies saw the success Marvel had and tried to kickstart a shared universe too quickly to “catch up.” What DC and Warner Bros. seemed to ignore was that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a slow build, taking a decade to reach where it is now.
As a result, DC ended up with films that felt stilted and predictable. Each movie seemed to be going through the motions, cramming characters in wherever possible or trying to mask the seams with an edgier tone. Just look at Universal’s “Dark Universe” and The Mummy from last year for another example of that approach.
Is DC Learning from Its Mistakes?
For now, taking a step back to focus on films one at a time is the best move DC could make. If the formula for Wonder Woman is any indicator, Aquaman could be the restoration the company needs. Then, in a few years, maybe its shared universe will be as beloved by fans as their competitor’s.
Is DC’s decision to step back from the shared universe concept the best direction? Is there still hope for the DCEU in future films? Share your thoughts in the comments below.