I'm Batman! No, I'm Batman!
A Discussion on the DCEU and All It's Batmen
As we discussed yesterday, Disney is absolutely flailing around with its big box of Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. toys, realizing that they have, as they say in the industry, really cocked-up their franchise. But they aren't the only ones to not have a bloody clue what to do with their big-screen cinematic universe as DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. also pulled a massive cock-up with it comes to the DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe..
For those that aren't up on the complete history (and don't want to go through and read the dozens upon dozens of reviews I've written about all the referenced movies), there was a time with DC had the biggest and best superhero franchises around. They proved a man could fly (convincingly on screen at least) with 1978's Superman: The Movie. Then, in 1989 they released the Tim Burton opus Batman and it seemed like DC could take any of their heroes and make massive Box Office bank from them. But then, curiously, the mostly just focused on BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen., assuming no one would be interested in any of the other heroes, and then they ran Batman into the ground.
So they rebooted and tried again, this time with auteur director Christopher Nolan at the helm. His original Batman film, Batman Begins, was hailed as dark but refreshing new take on the heroes, and DC saw dollar signs once more. While the trilogy of Nolan films varied in quality (with the third, The Dark Knight Rises, hardly being a worthy conclusion), DC took the lesson from these films that what fans wanted to see was "more dark and gritty", which is why they hired Zack Snyder to direct a new SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s. film, Man of Steel. Needless to say, this was a poor decision (if for no other reason that Superman doesn't need to be dark and gritty, plus Snyder is a terrible director).
It's worth noting at this point that while DC had big plans for Snyder, using the director to launch a whole series of DC superhero films, they were trying for this only because Marvel had just seen huge success with their Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe., ranking in an ungodly amount of money off the backs of their big crossover film The Avengers. DC wanted that, but they didn't want to put in the time and effort to lay the ground work and get audiences invested in all the heroes that would need to be involved in a crossover. No, instead they jumped the gun and immediately went straight to the first crossover, they horrible designed (and wretchedly directed) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It's fair to say the DCEU never recovered from that fiasco.
We're now three years removed from Snyder's last film in the series, Justice League, a film he had to drop out of part way, forcing Joss Wheddon to come in and finish the film. That movie bombed hard enough (against expectations for crossover films) that it basically put the kibosh on the entire DCEU. DC swore, up and down, that they would reinvent at this point, carrying forth the characters that worked and heading into different directors. The connected cinematic universe was dead at DC...
That's what makes the recent news coming out of Hollywood so confusing. On the one hand we have reports that DC is looking to hire Michael Keaton (of the 1989 Batman and follow up Batman Returns) to don the cape-and-cowl once more and return as Batman. He would serve, as the character, in a mentor capacity (almost like a Batman Beyond setup), training a new league of heroes, starring in a re-envisioned The Flash, before possibly starring in other films as well. This would essentially wipe away the later, terrible Batman movies, which I think is a great idea, but it would still be "safe" because it would have Keaton's caped crusader in it.
Considering there's also Matt Reeves's The Batman coming out, this would make two Batman-related works in development. That's a lot, especially since neither of these would be connected, that we know of, to the previous DCEU. But then, out of HBO Max, we got more news: Ben Affleck, who played Batman in the Snyder-associated DCEU titles has signed on with HBO Max to play the caped crusader once more. Originally, Affleck let the series after Justice League due, in large part, over executive meddling over the Batman project he was supposed to write and direct. Affleck left, and that project evolved into the Matt Reeves-directed The Batman. Now, though, from the sounds of it with the Snyder Cut of Justice League coming out on HBO Max, Affleck is happy to sign back on and do whatever version of the project he wanted on the streaming service.
So, that means we now have three difference Batman projects in the works: the Matt Reeves-directed film, the Bat-fleck project, and the Keaton-attached The Flash (and that's not even counting Batwoman over on the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming., nor any of the animated projects coming up featuring the hero). Is that too much Batman for audiences to take?
DC's reasoning has always been that, more than Superman or Wonder WomanLong considered the third pillar of the DC Comics "Trinity", Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes ever created. Running for as long as Batman or Superman (and without breaks despite a comic downturn in the 60s that killed superhero comics for about a decade), Wondie has the honor to be one of the longest serving, and most prolific, superheroes ever., Batman is the hero most people want to watch. That's why whenever DC is feeling risky they dive into the Bat-well. Remember, even though Man of Steel launched the DCEU, it was Batman who got top billing in the sequel, Batman v Superman, it was Batman who led the team in Justice League, and it was Batman who made a cameo appearance in Suicide Squad. Batman is DC's go-to guy.
No matter how much audiences like Batman, though, I have a feeling that three different continuities on the big screen featuring the Caped Crusader is a bit much. Even I'd have problems keeping up with all that, or caring about all of it, and I'm in deep at this point. Will audiences really care about a future continuity with Keaton Batman, a origin story continuity from Matt Reeves, and the DCEU (which is still ongoing with the Wonder Woman sequel, Aquaman sequel, and so on, of which Bat-fleck will presumably appear)? That's too much.
I get that DC really wants a successful Batman (even though, personally, I think Wonder Woman is the more interesting character, especially as played by Gal Gadot), but maybe they should cool their jets just a bit and let one version of this character settle in with a single movie, one that tells a solid, cohesive story, before the studio starts sniffing the Bat-glue once again.