I love DC comics. Make no mistake, I like Marvel too (Hellcat and Ms. Marvel are two of my favorite current titles), but DC is the one I was born into. The DC Animated Universe, Teen Titans, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the over two dozen animated films (most of which are pretty good), Young Justice... and then there’s the non-comic stuff I grew up with. When I actually got into comics, my initiation was with Watchmen, Infinite Crisis was my starting point into the actual DC multiverse, and the first time I fell in love with a series was with Bryan Q Miller’s run on Batgirl. I know this universe, I’ve seen how great it can be... which is why I feel wounded with just how badly its first stab at a cinematic universe has gone.
It’s not hard to see how it’s all gone so wrong so fast. DC’s current management isn’t a dream team. Zack Snyder is a director who not only lacks the talent and vision to make something good out of the subject material, but also is devoid of the respect, and actual understanding of the characters he’s been assigned. Warner Bros. is a studio that will greenlight damn near anything, regardless of how crazy it is. However, I choose to view this last part as a double-edged that can work to our advantage, given that despite the clunkers that’ve come out from WB (Man of Steel, BvS ), it has also produced films that couldn’t have come out anywhere else (Pacific Rim, Mad Max: Fury Road).
This aspect is why I believe that not only can Warner Bros fix the DC Cinematic Universe, but do it in a crazy fashion that actually works. What I have here is a thought out, step-by-step plan of how to save the DCCU, in a way that that both stays true to the nature of DC comics, and everything turns out for the better. That being said, the first step is going to be the hardest:
Step 1: Get the build-up films out of the way
I’m not going to deny for a second that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman have dug us one hell of a hole. To do this “properly” (and without waiting for five years, and then rebooting from scratch... which is plan B, for now), we are going to need a Justice League, and since WB still has Suicide Squad planned for later this year, Wonder Woman in production, and Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, and Flash films planned out, it’s easier to just get them out of the way, plan ahead for what’s to come, and try at least to make them somewhat good.
Aside from getting good directors to go with each movie, the two main suggestions I have are kicking Zack Snyder out (and keeping him out since he’s done almost as much damage to DC as Michael Bay has done to Transformers), and also maybe work a Man of Steel sequel somewhere in here. Superman does deserve to be in Justice League, but not in a sequence where he’s resurrected in the middle of the film. I’d personally like to see a movie where he’s come back without anyone noticing, and just him traveling around the world, trying his best to solve problems without causing massive damage in the process. I know the first Man of Steel kind of had this, but it was downplayed, and it felt more like Superman was just going around, doing... stuff. I’m talking more about him finding himself, like the short montage Batman Begins had where Bruce Wayne travels without a cent to his name, learning about the criminal element. This can give us a Superman who is a global force for good and using his words over his fists, rather than the “post-9/11,” Jesus-y figure that just feels patronizing.
Also, I know Henry Cavill has a good Superman in him. He was the best part of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and I’m all but certain he can bring charm to a role that desperately needs it. Also, Affleck is a damn good Batman, and Gadot is a surprisingly good Wonder Woman. Casting for the most part isn’t the problem here: it’s what’s being done with the cast. Some decent writing, a director who actually likes these characters in a way that doesn’t warrant a psych test, and this could all work.
So, we have the members, they each get their own film, and in each film we get glimpses at an apocalyptic adversary: Darkseid. He’s coming, and none of the heroes on their own can stop him. They need to form a team...
Step 2: “Justice League: Crisis”
I know what you’re thinking: “not another one!” I know DC itself has a huge problem with rebooting its comic universe twice per decade, but given how well big, comic-storyline-based event films have worked out for the competition, this isn’t the worst idea. The best X-men film (that isn’t Deadpool) is Days of Future Past, and Captain America: Civil War looks and sounds fantastic. Also, I’m not saying to make this Infinite Crisis nor Final Crisis: think more towards the older Crisis on Multiple Earths, or the damn good animated feature Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. When the JLA goes up against Darkseid, his very presence warps reality itself, so much so that alternate realities start bleeding into ours. Oh, yes: I’m talking about bringing in the CW and Supergirl universes. It’s something that we’ve all wanted to see happen, and at least now there are characters we actually care about... although it’ll depend on how well Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow are doing at that point..
Anyway, the League and the other heroes all band together to fight Darkseid and his forces, but it does not go well. In a huge event that sees heroes from multiple Earths comes together to defeat Darkseid and his forces, the villain (as you’d expect) is a sore loser: he activates a self-destruct mechanism that wipes reality itself (think an Anti-Monitor kind of situation). It can’t be stopped, and only one option remains: both Flashes, Ezra Miller and Grant Gustin, have to go back in time to warn their earlier selves, and prepare for this fight years in advance. However, while TV-Flash is okay to time travel, movie-Flash hasn’t done it before. Stealing the Black Racer’s suit (one of Darkseid’s minions), he successfully travels back to warn Bruce Wayne (yeah, I’m tying up that plot tread from BvS. It’s already there, might as well do something with it), but messes up. Not only is he in the wrong time, but the suit breaks down around him, and he dissolves into the speed-force.
At this point (if we are huge fanboys) we can have movie-Flash become a two way lightening bolt that strikes TV-Flash, hitting him back in the past (giving him his powers in the first place), and in the present as he’s time traveling. This’d be a callback to Crisis on Infinite Earths, and also provides a way for modern TV-Flash to outrun reality itself collapsing, escaping far into the past. When he emerges, he knows that he’s nowhere close to the 21st century (1938, to be exact), and that he has work to do. However, not all is as he would thought it to be...
Step 3: “Flashpoint: Justice Society”
At this point you might be thinking I’m calling for a mix of Days of Future Past and The First Avenger, but what I’m aiming for is something a bit... different. As I see it, having Flash travel back in time makes this a Flashpoint film (one of the few times a DC reboot event was actually kind of good... even though what it spawned was almost complete crap), and I also think we can make the straining on reality from Justice League: Crisis give us one more perk. When Flash goes back to 1938, he finds himself in a USA that’s familiar, but a few things are out of place. There are already rumors and sightings of superheroes back then, and they aren’t heroes that we know of. Also, Flash can’t go back home, since he’s the only speedster here, and Crisis has left time too unstable to travel through. Flash has to find a way home, and in doing so create a society of superheroes to find another speedster, and also combat the coming problems America will face, be it WWII, or something else entirely (Vandal Savage, perhaps?).
I’m calling for a Justice Society film because this is an opportunity unlike any other. One issue that BvS brought up (but wasn’t followed up on, of course) was Batman existing decades before Superman. You’d think the Superman of that reality would’ve been inspired by that Batman to some degree, which is why I found it so weird that Supes had such a personal vendetta against Bats (okay, he branded a few guys... but what about all that stuff he’s done years earlier, huh? What are his views on all of that?). With a Justice Society, earlier heroes can inspire later ones, creating a brighter future. If we are inspired by heroes, then who inspires the heroes themselves? The Justice Society is founded by a hero from the future, and they in turn inspire future heroes... This also means we can use heroes from that time period that aren’t too well known like Wildcat, The Spectre, and Dr. Fate.
Then there are the legacy heroes, like the original Black Canary, Blue Beetle, and best of all Alan Scott’s Green Lantern. Given how Justice League won’t use Hal Jordan or John Stewart for... reasons, this is a perfect place to reintroduce the character (also, Alan Scott could be the film openly gay superhero character on film, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in a medium that’s criticized for lack of diversity...). Also, there’s a great way to link this all into the earlier movies and TV universe: Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl. It’s already been established that WW appeared during WWI but abandoned man’s world after the fight, and HG’s past lives means that there’s an earlier version of her and Hawkman flying around as well. Having these two characters not only keeps it all together, but also creates links back to the present, with Wonder Woman coming back and staying with the Justice Society (thus being around to form the Justice League before Superman shows up), and along with Hawkgirl also provides a way to keep a message from Flash as to what’s coming, and how to prepare for Darkseid in nearly a century’s time. Also, this ties back to using Vandal Savage as this movie’s main villain, which could make for the showdown where the Hawks finally take him down for good...
As TAY author Poey Gordon noted in an article of his, for a superhero movie to be good, it needs to be more than just about superheroes. For Justice Society to work, it’d be fantastic if we saw people back then realizing the effect of being a hero, in a time before heroes existed. One scene that would show this is where Flash meets Wonder Woman, and tells her of what will happen in his future. With the lasso of truth confirming what he says, she realizes that abandoning our savage civilization is a terrible option: if anything is to change, she has to be the change, otherwise we’re all doomed to a constant future. These extraordinary people would be forgotten and human civilization facing a pre-set extinction, unless they actually use their powers to do something about the problems in their world.
Also, imagine Barry Allen realizing he’s in Back to the Future, and that no one else will get the joke for half a century...
After the Society is formed, that time’s Jay Garrick becomes the golden age Flash, and TV-Flash sets a foundation in place to prepare for the invasion, he and Garrick are able to harness enough speed-force to return him to the present. Time is found to be stable enough to travel through, and he successfully makes it. But once again, not is all as it seems...
Step 4: The New Frontier
The thing I liked most about X-men: Days of Future Past are the implications of past actions, rather than time travel itself; how past actions and choices really can decide what kind of future we will face, and how it does all matter. Also, it showed that what I’m suggesting can be done: a studio recognizing it made mistakes with its movies, is willing to correct those mistakes, and that it can do it in a way that’s both critically and financially successful. If Fox of all studios can do this, then so can Warner Bros. When Flash returns to the 21st century, not only is the Justice League formed, many other superheroes and teams are here as well: the Justice Society is still going (albeit with different members), the Teen Titans is being lead by Nightwing (we are using Robin now, no more loner Batman), and there’s even rumors of a black-ops squad of anti-heroes called The Outsiders. Flash also notes how this universe is comprised of heroes from both his universe, the cinematic universe (although these ones are much more... likeable), and also ones he’s never heard of.
This sequence should probably be at the end of Justice Society, and itself would include a scene of Barry visiting both Batman and Green Arrow to talk about what he’s gone through, but the one scene that it all has to end on would be him returning to his CSI day job at Central City Police Department, to find the mural that’s been there completely changed. Instead of greek figures, it’s now the heroes of the JSA.
What we would have now is not only a movie universe that’s more than ready for Darkseid, but one that we actually want to watch. There are multiple teams ready and in place, DC has all of its heroes under one roof, and now its TV shows don’t need to fight with the films over which characters either one of them wants to use. With multiple heroes and teams, DC can now go for as many audiences as they want, with lighthearted, youth oriented takes (Teen Titans, Booster Gold/Blue Beetle), stuff for general audiences (Justice League, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman films), and even more mature material a la Daredevil or Jessica Jones (Suicide Squad/Secret Six, Constantine... maybe even Sandman). As long as it doesn’t go the Marvel route and make it asininely hard for shows to “stay in their place” while tying back to the movies, it’s all good. Also, get directors who understand and already like these characters, actors who fit the roles (although that part, for the most part, seems to be doing well already), and try to get Hans Zimmer back in. We deserve at least one more good superhero score from him.
No comic publisher is perfect. They all go through light and dark times in their histories. Marvel is killing it right now with their films, but their television (both live action and animated) still has room for improvement. DC is almost the exact opposite when it comes to movies, television, and comics themselves, and only Image right now seems to do next to no wrong when it comes to actually making good comic books. But when it’s all said and done, there’s always a chance to do good.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.