Fifty Shades of Wayne.
With the release of Suicide Squad, the DC Extended Universe gets a more fun and fast-paced addition compared to 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, the critics’ responses for this true action spectacle are still not too bright, sitting around 41% at the time of writing. So, is it finally time to rule out the grim and dark tone of past entries in the DCEU as a cause for their critical controversy? To answer that question in short: yes, it most definitely is.
The comic book pages of DC have lent themselves to some of the most twisted and heaviest story lines in the industry, with Watchmen and The Killing Joke being just some prime examples of this tonality. It just so happens that these darker, more mature story lines are among the most popular in comic book history, which is likely why die-hard fans of the source material tend to enjoy these movie adaptations more than the average movie-goer.
The thing with DC movies is that they nearly expect the viewer to go in with some sort of basic comic book knowledge. What sacrifices did Superman have to make to become a symbol of hope? Why are Batman and Superman so hell bent on taking each other down? What is the deal with these Task Force X members? If you know how gritty and raw these stories can be, it’s far easier to enjoy how well they are adapted to the big screen. But if DC’s darker tone isn’t to blame for the low critic scores, then what is?
Well, something Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad all have in common is that they stretch their movies too wide to cram in as much grand and awe-inspiring action piece as humanly possible. A massive hand-to-hand beat down with Zod is as thrilling as a superhero team-up facing off against Doomsday and a band of misfits fighting their way through hordes of even badder bad guys, but we don’t need that one fight scene stretched for a good fifteen to thirty minutes. Whereas the action is undoubtedly thrilling and overflowing with visual finesse, there is really no need for these action sequences to last so long on end.
Think about the superhero showdown in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Seeing Batman and Superman team up with Wonder Woman to take down Doomsday was incredibly epic to watch, but it lost its sense of awe and surprise because that fighting sequence went on for such an unnecessarily long amount of time. It would’ve been much better if they had toned that fight down a bit whilst giving us an extended scene where the two titular heroes go toe-to-toe with one another, allowing the fight to tell a story of its own instead of it just being filled to the brim with eye candy.
Take the warehouse fight scene in Batman v Superman, for example. That sequence was so phenomenal because it was long enough to keep it fresh and impressing, short enough to keep it from dragging on and getting boring, and without too many whistles and bells to keep it somewhat grounded in reality. That scene was gritty in its own right because it had a story to tell. We saw the Bat of Gotham working out his frustration on a bunch of thugs to save a woman and redeem his former self. And that is the tone we need desperately crave in DC movies.
Viewers don’t need tongue-in-cheek jokes or cheesy one-liners to make it an enjoyable experience (although the occasional gag sure is a welcome addition), but the DCEU needs to find a balance between fleshed-out character developments and engrossing cinematography without making it a character study or a CGI Pollock painting. Suicide Squad did improve on some of the aforementioned aspects, but the issues still lie within its repetitive pacing, dragging down an otherwise thrilling and highly enjoyable movie-going experience with a final action sequence that simply drags on for about half an hour.
We would love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you believe the DC Extended Universe does oh so right, and what does it get completely wrong? Sound off in the comment section below.