Hello all you happy people. Josh Stoodley here with more heresies for your viewing pleasure. Today we’re going to look at former (happily) Marvel director and current Kevin Feige wannabe (unhappily) over at DC, James Gunn, and his plan to reboot the DC movie universe. And, uh, spoiler alert: we’re not going to like it. At all.
First caveat: I say this all from a place of hating Kevin Feige. I really, really hate that guy and what he did to cinema, to Marvel and to the directors, cast and crew he stripped all agency from. Hollywood’s a rotten place to begin with, but Feige is a different kind of vile. It will be years before movies recover from the damage he and his ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ did, and longer still for comics. So if this comes across as a negative post… well, it is!
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Now, join me under the cut!
Reboots Will Continue Until Morale Improves
The year is 1981 and Marv Wolfman is editing Green Lantern when a fan notices a minor continuity error and Wolfman freaks. The. Hell. Out.
“Oh no,” my imaginary, straw version of Marv thinks. “My writers are idiots and cannot keep up with every single continuity detail ever! We must destroy all of DC’s continuity up until this point and reboot the entire universe to make our lives easier!”
And thus was born DC’s addiction to rebooting the entire universe every time there’s a problem.
Okay, look. All ragging on Wolfman aside, a reboot was probably necessary at some point. Though Marvel, I want to point out, has never done a Crisis on Infinite Earths style story (though they have rebooted a couple of times). Sales for a lot of titles were low, unsustainably so, and even the titles that were doing well were showing their age. And besides, DC had success with this kind of thing before, after The Flash ended the Interregnum and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. The Age, I must point out, where DC was the indisputable king of comics.
No, the problem (and the reason I bring up Crisis) is that it’d lead to two interconnected issues at DC: One, the idea that reboots will solve everything and two, the reboot will always be somewhat incomplete.
After Crisis, Dick got to keep all his character development and status as Nightwing because Teen Titans was so popular. Supergirl died off, but Power Girl stayed. Wally West was made the Flash, but Barry Allen’s sacrifice was… not forgotten, exactly. But officially no one remembered the old universes so that left Barry’s (legitimately awesome) sacrifice in kind of a weird place.
All of that is relevant to James Gunn’s proposed reboot of the DCEU because oh, guess what: they’re doing the same freaking thing!
Again, like the Pre-Crisis DC Universe, a reboot was probably necessary. We can all agree that DC’s initial efforts to build a coherent cinematic universe was… fumbling, at best. The reasons for this are many and varied, and I think we all disagree on the relative quality of these early efforts. I, for one, loved Man of Steel (though I totally understand and agree with many of the criticisms) but felt
Superman v Batman: Dawn of Bad Movie Making was a terrible mistake and don’t care for either version of Justice League. Other fans and professionals had different reactions.
All that’s beside the point, however. The point is, everybody, even fans of Zack Snyder, can agree that the early DCEU was weak. It was plagued with executive meddling, poor direction, Joss Whedon, and worse. There were bright spots (Aquaman) but most of those were stand-alone films (Joker according to everybody who isn’t me, and weirdly enough Pattinson’s Batman). If DC wanted to continue in the movie space, it had a choice: Continue with stand-alone films (my preference) or reboot the whole thing (which is what they went with… sort of).
The problem is that, again like the Pre-Crisis universe, the reboot is less than complete. There are no less than five legacy projects (Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Peacemaker: Season Two) and five more stand-alone projects (Joker: Folie a Deux, The Batman 2, Gotham Knights, Superman & Lois and Pennyworth). So that’s ten projects that aren’t connected to the new DCEU. At least of two of those projects (Joker and Batman) are going to be in direct competition with another DC project (The Brave and the Bold)! Back during the halcyon days of Justice League Unlimited there was a Bat-embargo because DC was afraid kids would get confused if Bat characters showed up in a cartoon and a live-action movie (Batman Begins). So either DC has gotten a lot more faith in its audience (surprisingly possible, given James Gunn is the new boss and this is the guy who sold a CGI talking raccoon to audiences) or, more likely, DC just gave up and is pursuing anything that will make them money.
The point is, though, that we’re heading to the same mess that Crisis created: an incomplete reboot that leaves a lot of dangling or contradicting plots and characters. Even Gunn’s plan to include video games in his new DC plan doesn’t alleviate this: just ask the Star Wars EU of the 90s (to be fair to the Star Wars EU, it was a lot better coordinated and with fewer continuity snarls than either Marvel or DC or Star Trek. Or than has been claimed by everybody’s favourite lying rat, Pablo Hidalgo. But there was still a lot of gaps and snarls because coordinating continuity across that many platforms is a pain in the ass).
So we have the basic problem: DC is still relying on reboots to save its failing products and the reboots aren’t completely clean. Now, some of these decisions are justifiable, some are not. But either way, they don’t necessarily mean the DCU is going to be better than the DCEU and indeed, could backslide.
So we need to look at what, exactly, James Gunn is trying to sell us. And oh boy the list is not good.
Why Is Ezra Miller Still Picking Up A DC Paycheck?
Let’s face it: Ezra Miller is an asshole. I won’t enumerate their many, many scandals here, but I will sum it up by saying that if this were any place but Hollywood, Miller would be fired long ago and his project canned. Christ, Paradox (claimed; it’s Paradox) ditched all of Chris Avellone’s work on Bloodlines 2 due to unsubstantiated claims of sexual harassment. Ezra Miller’s scandals are very substantiated and lo and behold, he’s still headlining a freaking multi-million dollar film. It’s honestly a miracle Joss Whedon suffered any consequences for his behaviour at all.
Now, at some level, DC’s decision makes sense. According to Gunn (and I see no reason to doubt him at this point), The Flash is being used as the big reset for the DCU. This has both precedent in wider in DC history (Flash being the starting point for the Silver Age, Barry’s sacrifice in Crisis and, sigh, Flashpoint) and makes sense from an in-universe point of view. Flash’s speed powers sometimes allow him to play with time, so it’s okay to do this time.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Ezra Miller is poison and is still being used to headline a major blockbuster! Worse, Gunn has been cagey about whether or not Miller will continue as the Flash after their move gets released. This asshole is a convicted criminal, what will it take to get rid of the bastard?
So that’s problem two. And it’s a big problem when you compare it to, say, the Batgirl movie. Which got canned because it was allegedly un-releasable. It’s hard to ignore questions of sexism and racism when the movie starring a Latina woman is deemed un-releasable and the movie starring the literal criminal is not.
But, alas, it is not the only problem.
Tom Fucking King
I cannot believe this asshole still has a career.
Let me sum up Tom King for those of who don’t know. This is a man who has built his entire career on ableism, exploitation of mental illness, incredibly bad dialogue, flat characters and aimless plots. All of this can be seen in in his execrable run on Batman, but its present in everything he’s ever written.
And, lo and behold, the next Supergirl movie is based on his god-awful run on the comic.
As someone who’s both a fan of Supergirl and struggles with a mental illness (depression), there is nothing that pisses me off more than Tom King’s continued career. I don’t care that this run is allegedly critically acclaimed: critics are stupid and Tom King is a terrible writer. This is, I kid you not, a direct example of his dialogue from Batman:
Pages upon pages of that crap! Which directly contributes to the aimless, pointless feeling of his stories. That’s not getting into his terrible treatment of depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses (cf. Batman’s inexcusable behaviour after Selina leaves him in Batman, the entirety of Heroes in Crisis) or his complete lack of understanding of his characters and their history. I pick on King’s run on Batman a lot because that’s the run that showcases all of King’s issues at their worst, but they’re easy to see in everything he’s ever written.
And yet, King is widely praised! I don’t get it. In an age where we’re talking more openly about mental illness, where its easier to get help and better understanding for mental illness is widely available, we’re still praising King’s exploitative, uninformed and ableist take on mental illness.
Christ, and I thought that damned Harley Quinn movie bad.
Oh No, It’s Grant Morrison
It’s no secret, I hate that bald fucker. Like King, I’ve never understood the praise for Morrison: they writes like a watered-down Alan Moore (whom I also hate), their knowledge of characters made by other people is poor to say the least (cf. their version of Magneto or their version of Talia al-Ghul), they’re another liberal who thinks their liberal politics should let them get away with shockingly racist nonsense (cf. Angel Salvadore, Dust and once again, Talia) and their… questionable use of lgbtq themes in their works (questionable because Morrison is queer and minorities often play with exploitative themes in their work ala The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That doesn’t the fact that a lot of Morrison’s early work feels exploitative at best and queerphobic at worst).
And guess what James Gunn is basing DCU’s new Batman on!
Okay, a couple of caveats here. On the one hand, Pattinson’s Batman is based on Jeph Loeb’s writings which… isn’t great, but the movie turned out pretty good. I’d say Morrison is on about the same level as Jeph Loeb, so it’s totally possible somebody will take Morrison’s themes and turn out something much better than the bald fucker ever turned out. Plus, Morrison is a much better writer than Tom King ever was, so there is that going for them.
That doesn’t change the fact that Gunn is basing his movie Batman on the run that turned Talia (a complex anti-villain/anti-hero and serious contender for best love interest along with Selina) into a rapist and one note villain and Batman into a dead-beat dad!
Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to this new slate of the DCU. It seems to me to be picking up on the same problems the old DCEU had. Needlessly darker and edgier, disconnected and rushed plans, poor choices for inspiration, and bad characterization.
Hopefully I’m wrong. But we’ll see.