Why The DC Cinematic Universe Is Dark And Gritty

Whenever a tidbit about the DC Cinematic Universe comes along, it never fails, somebody’s got to complain about how serious the whole endeavor is. Doesn’t DC understand they should make more movies like The Avengers? Well, no, they don’t. Actually, they shouldn’t.

Let’s start with the most basic problem here, which is the implied idea that nobody wants to see dark and gritty superhero movies. The last three superhero movies Warner Bros. put out were The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Man of Steel. Respectively, those movies made a billion dollars, a billion dollars, and about $670 million. Also, the first major Oscar a superhero movie has ever won, despite the repeated efforts of the Academy to screw over The Dark Knight. So, they’ve got proof their approach works.

Sure, The Avengers made more money, but it was also a movie that had what amounted to an advertising campaign of five previous movies based around characters who’d never had a movie worth watching before. Well, except for the Hulk, but that’s another post. Just as importantly, both Batman and Superman made way more money than any single movie in Marvel’s phase one: Only Iron Man 2 even comes close.

Essentially, what people don’t realize about The Avengers is that movie studios see that and think, “Man, I put a bunch of even more beloved characters together, that are already proven hits with filmgoers, I might make TWO BILLION dollars.” By a total coincidence, the first part of Justice League will be the fifth movie in the planned DC Cinematic Universe. Will Justice League outgross The Avengers? I’m not sure. To be honest, I wouldn’t be remotely surprised.

Finally, there’s just the fact that it’s nice to have a little variety. Batman v Superman looks about as subtle as a Batarang to the face, but as our own Nathan Birch noted in his look at Man of Steel, what little we’ve seen of the DC Cinematic Universe isn’t dour or humorless, it just wants you to take the idea of a man who can fly and bend steel with his bare hands seriously. Where does a guy like that fit in a world where our greatest concern, financially, politically, and morally, is over a large amount of power concentrated in a small number of hands?

It’s obvious from the trailer that Batman v Superman will have the most classic of all Superman plots: Lex Luthor leveraging public opinion against Superman. It’s nice that this is actually believable for once, that Superman has to struggle to both earn and to keep the public’s trust.

As always, Supes will turn it around. That’s the deep-seated appeal, and really the entire point, of these movies: The good guy wins against all odds. All we’re really talking about here is how brightly lit his path happens to be as he gets to his inevitable destination.

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