The DCEU is most likely dead (but at least they tried)

Justice League. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max
Justice League. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max /

In its almost 10 years of its existence, the DCEU never seemed to get something going in a consistent or meaningful manner.

With the shelving of Batgirl, HBO Max on its way out, and a new DC Studio, the writing on the wall is clear: the DCEU is dead.

So what happened? How did a cinematic universe that seemed like an easy success on paper with some of the most iconic fictional characters ever crumble along the way?

To point fingers and go into details about everything that went wrong would require a full-length novel. The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe essentially broke the industry. Everybody wanted the success and epic crossovers without putting in the work.

In the past when something got popular in entertainment, competitors would try to imitate it to capitalize on a trend; usually it was a singular thing not an interconnected series of films.

In the pursuit of a rival cinematic universe, no one would put in the immaculate time and development that Marvel Studios did.

What went wrong with the DCEU?

Warner Bros.’ DC intellectual property is probably the only franchise around where it made more sense for them to be a cinematic universe than something like Star Wars or the failed Dark Universe. DC has the near infinite character roster and 80 years’ worth of storylines to pull from.

It just seems like once they got going they could never get it completely right whether it was overambition, over-commitment, polarizing films, egregious studio and corporate mismanagement, and toxicity.

When the pressure was on them to succeed they never could rise to the occasion.

Films that made a lot of money like Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad were polarizing and were the trio of films that kickstarted the universe. It’s not a great look when a studio wants an audience to buy into a new franchise, but doesn’t quite start off with something audiences and critics enjoy overall.

Justice League was a film that desperately needed to work but it just didn’t. How can a studio expect to keep audiences engaged if they can’t make a successful superhero ensemble film that was supposed to be an easy victory.

For the whiffs and failures, credit should be given to them for daring to directly compete with the Marvel titan while also trying to be different along the way.

MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD as Huntress in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN),” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.. Photo by Claudette Barius/ & © DC Comics
MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD as Huntress in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN),” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.. Photo by Claudette Barius/ & © DC Comics /

Man of Steel had the confidence to modernize Superman in an extreme fashion that fans either loved or hated.

Batman v Superman is deeply polarizing, but the fact that it took itself hyper seriously, deconstructing two of the most iconic heroes takes courage from all parties making it happen.

They gave fans two villain ensemble films in Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad that gave the colorful villains their time to shine.

Wonder Woman and Aquaman are probably the two darlings of the DCEU that made money and won over audiences.

Aquaman being that successful came out of nowhere but it provided epic thrills with a fun-loving Jason Momoa at the center of it all. Hopefully, the sequel can recapture some of that magic.

Wonder Woman 1984 couldn’t succeed on the level of the first one and it essentially undid all the goodwill the 2017 film earned. However, no one can take away how Wonder Woman absolutely owned that summer. A successful female-led blockbuster with an epic mix of Greek mythology, WWI, and romantic comedy sensibilities made for a truly astonishing comic book film.

Birds of Prey starred a diverse female ensemble paying homage to films from Tarantino and John Wick. Nothing quite like it exists, but unfortunately, not a lot of people saw it in theaters.

Shazam! captured the child-like wish fulfillment of wanting to be a hero that not many films have quite done.

While the franchise couldn’t get a consistent rhythm it remained interesting and took wild swings its competitors wouldn’t dare take. A lot of swings didn’t land overall but the ones that did definitely resonated.

Warner Bros. Discovery Earning Call
ANKARA, TURKIYE – APRIL 12: In this photo, illustration the logo of Warner Media is displayed on computer screen and the logo of Discovery is displayed on phone screen in front of it in Ankara, Turkiye on April 12, 2022. Media giants, WarnerMedia and Discovery, run the combined company, to be called âWarner Bros. Discoveryâ. Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency /

What does the future hold for the DCEU?

Whatever happens, DC movies will most definitely look and feel different in the immediate future once they get past their upcoming slate. It’s a true shame that Batgirl will not the see light of day. A movie starring a Latina actress as the iconic Barbara Gordon could’ve been a winning moment.

There’s also The Flash dilemma with its extremely complicated lead actor. There were rumors that this film was going to be the start of a new timeline that wipes away a lot of things from the canon. It seems like whatever set up this film is going to do might be undone (or shelved) before it gets released so it doesn’t conflict with what they have planned.

In the end, the DCEU as a whole was a mixed bag that didn’t live up to expectations for many reasons. It’ll be interesting to see how these films will be looked back upon and whether they are reappraised or seen as an aberration. If the 2023 films are truly the end of this franchise, it’ll be 10 years of comic book films that hit and missed, with some bright moments in between.

Next. All DC Extended Universe films ranked. dark