Saturday, September 24, 2016


So now the DC cinematic universe is up and running, and what a start. Collective wisdom would indicate that it's not been the most auspicious of beginnings, but two things come to mind- principally that Marvel's movie universe didn't arrive fully-formed and blockbuster-ready, and that this muted beginning- plagued though it may have been with low critical scores and seemingly divided audiences, at least has a vision that its current creators simply cannot take for granted. Harsh lessons have been learned.

By far the greatest surprise has been Suicide Squad, a movie I did get to see and reviewed here. It did Box Office gangbusters, which on the face of it is very good news for a movie with only marginally-recognisable characters (and no, the Joker doesn't count, even if he does feature heavily in the trailers - simply put, the same word of mouth that afforded its bad reviews must naturally be telling anyone who listens that the Joker wasn't in the movie very much at all.) Indeed one of the big lessons moviemakers might take away from its four-week run topping the US box office is that August needn't be a dead zone for franchise movies and that a few more slots may open up in schedules in years to come, thanks to its performance. 

That said, this success was probably a fluke and not to be repeated. My worry is that the pressure that came off the reviews of Batman. V Superman and which informed the arguably-botched late changes to Suicide Squad will now be visited upon Wonder Woman, a movie which unlike Squad is expected to be a tentpole franchise winner. But a female lead and also one not yet wrought from Hollywood's A List and a less-recognisable setting for a Tinseltown movie (World War One, rather than its more recognisable legacy) may prove challenging.

Still, among the remarkable things about Squad was its apparent appeal in the US to some broader moviegoers - namely young women and Hispanics. It is a remarkably diverse and progressive cast ethnically and in gender, with (as Forbes covers) features nine out of its fourteen leading characters who are not a white male - and that includes all three potential villains (no, still not a Joker movie). Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman ought to appeal to one of those demographics directly, and further down the line James Wan will give us an Aqua Man who to intents and purposes could bring a decidedly Pacifika bent to a traditional white bread super hero.
Diversity is the next big battle in superhero movies, and it'sa battle that needs to be fought hard.When Marvel fans baited the 'serious and realistic' DCEU birth with cries of "hey, we just had a blockbuster movie featuring a tree and a talking racoon!" the correct response is to counter that with a movie led by an ethnically diverse and gender-mixed cast. Crocodile man aside, Suicide Squad did just that, and we'll see Wonder Woman headline on the big screen well before Captain Marvel, let alone a Black Widow solo feature.

So although its start was less than ideal I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of DC's hero franchise. Justice League may have the worrying presence of Zack Snyder behind the lens but is a year away yet with clear directive post-BvS, and there still seems a lot of goodwill held for it with Ezra Miller's Flash receiving a lot of positive buzz. There will be a solo Batman movie yet, Man of Steel 2 is in development, and somewhere in the schedule it's believed Margot Robbie will give Harley Quinn a well-earned victory run - with or without the rest of the Squad, and maybe with some other female DC heroes in tow. We'll see, keep working hard everyone.

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