An article recently published by FlickeringMyth.com posited the idea that the DCEU lacks a broader sense of appeal and that it plagues it.
What did the author believe was the cause? The DCEU’s monotonous dark and grim tone.
The article then drew the conclusion that the proper medicine for the DCEU’s current state of malaise is to vaccinate it by fast-tracking a DCEU movie with a character who can bring levity and a sense of nobility to it. Given who the character is that my website is devoted to and the headline of this article, I am sure anyone reading this can guess which character that the article suggested would be ideal for the job.
That is correct; Captain Marvel.
The idea is not inherently wrong. The Shazam! movie – if done correctly – would bring some much needed magical lightning to the current state of the DCEU, but it fails to account for one fact:
The DCEU is only two movies old.
It is not really old enough to have a monotony problem. It is for that reason that the DCEU’s true malady is not a singular tone.
True, the DCEU so far has been dark and grim, but there is a place for dark and grim, like with upcoming the Suicide Squad movie. However, that is therein where we find the problem and the root cause of the DCEU’s malaise with the dark and grim tone; so far, outside of Suicide Squad, with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there was no place for it. Why not? Because Superman.
Dark and grim is not appropriate for Superman. At all.
Dark and grim by itself is okay and even works with Batman, but it should not be the predominant tone when you have a movie with both Batman and Superman in it. No, with those two, you need to at the very least find the right combination of tones inherent with the core idea and the core template of each character and deliver them faithfully.
Thus, since neither Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did not do that, the true culprit of the DCEU’s ailment is not monotony; it is that they are using the wrong tones.
And that is a problem, one that highlights a deeper underlying disease, one that can and will truly handicap the DCEU if it continues; the “Snyderization” of the DCEU, which I define as the inability to understand and responsibly translate the core ideas and the core templates of iconic characters into a film and making up for it with pompous action and pretty visuals. In other words, a “Snyderized” superhero movie will emphasize flash over substance.
The result is that you get the “super,” but not the “hero” part of the superhero movie equation, which in turn results in a superhero movie that can be – to be generous as I can be – arguably good at best, but unable to transcend to the corresponding greatness that is appropriate – in this case – of Superman and Batman.
The Avengers realized this and took the holistic approach. It paid off commercially and critically. They changed the cinematic superhero genre forever.
Consequently, it follows accordingly that the cure for what ails the DCEU is not a lighter tone to create a yin to the current yang. No, the cure for it is making great movies that honor and stays true to the core ideas and the core templates of the characters – especially the iconic ones – and utilizing character-appropriate tones.
It is what will determine the DCEU’s legacy.
That is why if the movies are not good, it will not really matter what the tone is. See: Green Lantern.
This is true for the rest of the movies on the slate, not just the Shazam! movie. But a bad Shazam! movie or a bad Aquaman movie is made where the core idea and core template of the characters are neglected, it does not do the DCEU or anybody any favors, even if the tone is light. The DCEU cannot afford that.
Fortunately, in the case of Captain Marvel, I do not think we have to worry about that, given that Dwayne Johnson wants do justice by the mythology of Black Adam and the world that he comes from. That, and given his and Toby Emmerich’s statements about the Shazam! movie being fun in tone, it looks like a good degree of respect for the core idea and the core template of Captain Marvel will be had.
On a slightly different note, as I mentioned above, the article also urged fast-tracking the Shazam! movie – the point that it should arrive sooner than Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash – as a matter of high priority.
While I am not against accelerating the Shazam! movie ahead of schedule (and I want the movie here sooner with the Speed of Mercury rather than later, I do not want that at the expense of it being done well), I think a reminder is in order: As I said above, the DCEU is only two movies old.
There is a whole slate of movies to come, with characters who have their own mythology and tonal palette, so I want to advocate giving the DCEU time to mature. With it, the tonal heterogeneity will come and the DCEU will be all the better for it. After all, we do know from director James Wan that the Aquaman movie is going to be fun, so a little patience will go a long way. Fun, more lighthearted movies are on their way.
We live in an amazing time, and I am grateful that we are getting these movies at all, so let us enjoy the journey.
As always, Shazam!