Your DC Universe Already in Progress

We are three movies into the DC Extended Universe. In the first, Man of Steel, Superman was presented as the first and only metahuman on Earth. In the second, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman has been operating for at least ten years and Lex Luthor presents the “metahuman theory” that posits there may be more than Superman out there. In the third, Suicide Squad, the US government has several metahumans already in custody, one of whom is a six thousand year old demon.

What I’m saying is;

escalated

For a studio who initially looked to produce “grounded” superhero epics, Warner Bros has gone weird. That’s not a complaint, at all, but I would like to examine how we got here. To be fair, the DCEU is already that weirdest franchise out there. All of the movies in this interconnected universe have massive problems, each one is made as a reaction to the previous film, but they are all certainly pretty to look at. I’m still having trouble working through my feelings about Suicide Squad and its tonal whiplash.

So how did we get here? Of course it begins with Christopher Nolan.

The Dark Knight premiered on July 18th, 2008. This was two months after Iron Man left an Easter egg scene after their credits that many people missed. Both of these movies lived in our world. One with normal rules and science. The Dark Knight, with its complicated morality and captivating villain, rocked that summer. It’s the kind of one of a kind success that studios can’t help but try to achieve again.

However when The Dark Knight Rises came out in July of 2012, it arrived in a post-Avengers world. Marvel had slowly taken us from a robot suit in Malibu to an otherworldly Hemsworth carrying a magic homing hammer. They created a new kind of franchise, one that nobody else has successfully replicated, and unequivocally won that summer.

In comparison The Dark Knight Rises felt a little bit like a throwback. It’s grounding even hurts it when plot holes open up upon inspection. But for WB, the film was still a financial success and drove their approach to Man of Steel and their introduction to the DCEU.

Meanwhile, the televised DC Universe was slowly preparing us for the much stranger sides of comic books. When Arrow premiered in October of 2012, it was still pre-Avengers. This shows in the first season of the show, one that attempts to capture the energy of the Batman films. Aggressively turning super villains into “realistic” versions of themselves, Arrow season one never quite hit it out of the park.

But season two changes everything.

In Arrow season two, the series introduced its own super soldiers, introduced Barry Allen, and saw him get struck by lightning created in a particle accelerator explosion. After that, The Flash premiered and explained the concept of a metahuman to audiences. The Flash could travel through time and Arrow sucessfully brought a character back from the dead. Suddenly Arrow was fighting magic, The Flash explored the multiverse and met Supergirl, and the Legends of Tomorrow were gathered to protect time itself.

Now we’ve seen a full fledged DC Universe, nobody wants to wait for the movies to get there. So the movies have retroactively decided to start there.

WB has created a DC Universe already in progress. It’s been around for a while. There’s been magic and super science. There’s already a Joker and a whole rogues gallery for Batman. The Flash is out there apprehending people like Captain Boomerang before he even gets his own movie. Wonder Woman fought in World War One.

It’s exciting, and a fascinating experiment overall to see if it will work. Now if they can just make good movies this could all come together.

-JP

PS, if you had told me years ago that part three of a DC movieverse would be Suicide Squad, before Justice League, I would have learned to scoff like never before.

When the Audience Makes the Movie

The other day I saw Bad Moms, and it was one of the best movie going experience I’ve ever had. Not just because the movie is good, though it is a delight and Katheryn Hahn is spectacular, but because the audience was just better than most.

In an early scene, Mila Kunis’s character finds her husband… um… do kids read this blog? Just, maybe not this next paragraph okay?

Anyway Mila Kunis’s character finds her husband masturbating to another woman on the internet. This is essentially cheating, so she kicks him out of the house. And that’s when a woman in the audience yelled “Motherfuckaaa!” at his character on screen, eliciting an uproarious laugh from the entire audience.

I’ve had experiences like this before, where an audience member makes a joke at the movie and the whole theater laughs. I can remember during the Avengers in 2012, as Iron Man fell through the sky toward his death, a woman in the audience yelled “Oh lawd he gon’ die!” and it killed. However, she tried to milk it and make more jokes. Pro tip: take the one and leave it. The woman from Bad Moms did just that, but the job was already done.

What was a typically respectful movie crowd immediately became much more casual, the perfect approach to this particular movie, and suddenly each joke in the movie came with a separate response from each friend group. It was perfect.

I find that most of the time a good audience can turn a good movie into a great one. It’s the reason I make sure to see every Marvel movie on opening night. It makes a real difference. The first time I saw Iron Man 2, arguably the weakest Marvel movie, it was a joy that only heightened when the camera settled on Thor’s hammer at the end of the credits. The audience knew what this meant and lost their minds in excitement. A week later I saw the movie with a different audience, and that same moment was met with questioning mumbles. That moment of elation was lost with this different audience.

When I saw Captain America: Civil War on opening night, the word “Queens” got more applause than I thought it ever could because everybody knew Spider-Man was coming. I doubt that would be the case any other time.

If you’ve ever been to one of those casual movie theaters where they encourage yelling at the screen, a screening there can be a delight. But I also understand the need for a respectful quiet audience at times. Hell watching movies at home with friends has taught me that I hang out with both kinds, and they do not get along as a cohesive audience.

Here’s my takeaway. For a comedy, absolutely go with the commentary audience. The stories to these are never so deep that you will miss something by having a tangent with a friend based on the movie’s joke. For a franchise, go with other fans, then see it again with the commentary crowd. The first time you want to bask in everything you hoped the movie would do and follow the story. After that you can explain to your friends what’s happening while they level a few good jabs at the plot holes likely to exist in the film.

Around Oscar season, go with the quiet and respectful audience. See it once, and sit with it. Think about it. Even if you don’t like the movie it can be fun to dissect why you don’t like it, because then you learn a bit more about how a movie connects to you. What parts stood out and what didn’t. These movies make you a better audience member, able to pick up on the intricacies of visual storytelling.

And then the next time you see a summer blockbuster you can see how all of those same elements are around there too! While laughing and basking and having a casual fun time with your friends! Or if you have to go to the movies alone, and I’ve been there I know what it’s like, find the theater that attracts people like you.

With good seats.

Ample leg room.

Fair prices.

Probably isn’t called AMC.

-JP

PS, when the audience audibly responds to a character getting hurt, that’s the best.