The DC Extended Universe truly kicks off this year. With just one movie under its belt thus far (2013’s Man of Steel), 2016 will see the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
While those movies – and the ones that will follow them in future years – are indeed exciting prospects, the fact is that the DC Extended Universe is a concern for fans (and, undoubtedly, the people behind it).
The reason for that is simple; DC have a terrible history with movies. Aside from the early Christopher Reeve Superman movies, the Michael Keaton Batman movies and the Dark Knight Trilogy, Marvel’s biggest rivals have really had no major success with their movies.
This article will list ten DC movies from the past that make us worry for the potential success of the DC Extended Universe…
Dishonourable Mention: Catwoman
While this 2004 movie clearly has influences rooted in the DC Comics character Catwoman, there’s absolutely no doubt that it was barely based on her at all. Halle Berry’s Patience Phillips was an entirely original character.
It also had nothing to do with DC in terms of production. Warner Brothers distributed the movie – as they do with all DC movies – but the companies behind its creation were Village Roadshow Pictures, Di Novi Pictures, Frantic Films and Maple Shade Films.
For those reasons, it doesn’t make the main list, but it definitely deserves a mention, because it was absolutely appalling.
Superman III was the first evidence that the world was given that DC were incapable of keeping a good movie franchise going well, even when it was doing great.
The 1983 movie was the follow-up to the hugely successful Superman and Superman II – starring the inimitable Christopher Reeve – but Superman III made the franchise take a huge turn for the worse, as the introduction of comedian Richard Pryor – as a computer hacker who went from Superman foe to Superman friend – made the movie nothing more than a farce.
It was a prime example of a movie franchise “jumping the shark” and an early indication of DC’s inability to keep a franchise successful over a long period.
1984’s Supergirl was DC’s first attempt at creating an expanded universe from an existing movie, as it was a spin-off from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
Sadly, not only did it come at the wrong time – if followed the very poor aforementioned Superman III, rather than one of the first two movies, which were great – but it was also absolutely terrible.
It had a decent cast – the likes of Peter O’Toole, Faye Dunaway, Peter Cook and Mia Farrow all appeared alongside Helen Slater as the titular heroine – but it just wasn’t very good. The villain – a power-hungry witch named Selena (played by Dunaway) who was created specifically for the movie – was terrible and the story was garbage. It was a lame attempt at profiting from an existing franchise.
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was a 1987 film and the fourth Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. Given that the third Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve wasn’t very good, it was the first example of DC truly not knowing when to quit when a franchise goes sour.
The movie saw the creation of Nuclear Man – a villainous character created specifically for the movie – and it was terrible. It was cheaply made in comparison to the previous installments and was generally boring and uninspired.
Even the return of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor didn’t help the movie and it was worrying that, with all the villains available in DC Comics, the people behind the movie had to resort to an old face and an original character to give Superman a challenge.
Batman Forever was another worrying example of how DC don’t know how to keep a successful movie franchise going strong. There was so much wrong with the 1995 movie that you could write about it all day, but let’s keep this concise.
For starters, the casting was all wrong. Having surprised everyone with the brilliant casting of Michael Keaton as Batman in the two previous movies, Val Kilmer just didn’t sit right with fans and critics alike.
It had the unique trait of being extremely busy, but very boring at the same time. Jim Carrey (The Riddler) and Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face) did their best to improve matters with decent performances as villains, but it wasn’t enough. The movie took the franchise on a downhill path.
Batman & Robin
Another example of DC not knowing when to bring an ailing franchise to a close, 1997’s Batman & Robin was absolutely terrible – and it shouldn’t have happened to begin with, given how bad Batman Forever was before it.
Again, the people behind the movie got the casting all wrong. George Clooney was an awful choice to play Batman – but this time the villains did nothing to help him either.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze was a cheesy mess, Robert “Jeep” Swanson’s Bane was a horrible mindless depiction of the character and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy was only passable, but it was the fact that the movie was so bright and very “un-Batman-esque” in terms of its tone that really ruined it.
Where to start with this one? It’s a prime example of how DC are often clueless when it comes to movie-making because, quite frankly, everything about this particular offering was both wrong and totally unnecessary in the first place.
Making a movie about a little-known DC character in 1997 was risky enough – Steel really isn’t that popular, even among comic book fans – but casting basketball star Shaquille O’Neal as the character was simply stupid and it backfired massively.
It was an awful movie with nothing going for it and generated no interest. It never gets going and, before the end, bores audiences to death. It really makes you worry for movies such as 2020’s Cyborg in the DC Extended Universe.
Constantine’s placement on this list might seem harsh to some people, as it wasn’t terrible – but it just didn’t do very much to a brilliant standard.
The 2005 offering’s biggest flaw was that it was so different to the source material. Keanu Reeves played a relatively entertaining character – but he wasn’t John Constantine. Not even close. And a decent supporting cast that included the likes of Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton, Djimon Hounsou and Shia LaBeouf couldn’t make it a major success.
It’s worrying because if the DC Extended Universe wants to explore the supernatural elements of DC Comics – with a Justice League Dark movie, for instance – it could end up shying away from the source material too much and having a ridiculously goofy ending.
2010’s Jonah Hex is a prime example of how DC are prepared to try something new, but aren’t really sure how to pull it off. It was a science fiction Western – a very different take on the comic book genre – and they just couldn’t get it to work.
Even a stellar cast that included the likes of John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender – as well as Josh Brolin in the titular role – couldn’t save the movie.
The makes of Jonah Hex tampered with the source material in a big way – it was as if they thought its obscure nature would allow them to get away with it – but they made a total mess of it. Brolin did okay, but he couldn’t hold together a movie that was, frankly, absolutely allover the place from start to finish.
2011’s Green Lantern movie was pretty damn awful – and it was a prime example of how DC can so often miscast their actors as comic book superheroes.
Ryan Reynolds is a big star and a decent actor, but he undoubtedly excels in a specific type of role – he should be brilliant in 2016’s Deadpool, for example – and the role of the Green Lantern Corps member Hal Jordan was never going to be one of them.
The cocky quips associated with the actor just didn’t work in the role of Jordan and the movie suffered greatly as a result (it also generally focused too much on special effects). With a Green Lantern movie scheduled for 2020 in the DC Extended Universe, it’s worrying to think how horribly wrong the last attempt went. Even fine actors of the likes of Tim Robbins, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Michael Clarke Duncan and Angela Bassett couldn’t save it.
Man Of Steel
The basis for success in any given movie franchise is always the the first installment. Look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example – 2008’s Iron Man is generally considered to be one of the best superhero movies ever made – but the DC Extended Universe started with a bit of a whimper.
2013’s Man of Steel wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. It was an underwhelming movie that had fans in uproar about a number of things – most prominently the damage caused by Henry Cavill’s Superman and the fact he was prepared to kill.
Reviews were average – and that’s not good enough to launch a franchise scheduled to last until at least 2020 with. It’s a major concern that the platform from which the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad are expected to succeed was so mediocre.
Other movies worthy of a mention include Steel (Shaquille O’Neal, really?!), The Return of Swamp Thing (the first one actually wasn’t bad), Superman Returns (not terrible, but very boring) and The Spirit (absolutely awful, and DC-related, but totally unconnected to the mainstream DC universe).
What do you think? Are you concerned by the DC Extended Universe? Were the movies in this list terrible DC offerings? Have your say below!