It’s a good day to be a fan of Wonder Woman… unless you’re also a fan of the way the DCEU has taken shape so far. Because as yet another cruel result of Hollywood’s ‘shared universe’ trend has shown, a single film or director’s success or failure is bound to be applied to the films and directors occupying ‘the same universe.’ In the wake of the overwhelmingly positive reviews for Wonder Woman, the success of director Patty Jenkins was immediately used, by many, as an indictment of every film that wasn’t hers. In particular, renewed calls were sent to remove Zack Snyder once and for all.
Unfortunately, this tendency for online fans/critics/trolls to turn every ray of sunshine into a hateful flame war is nothing new. In a perfect world, the conversation would be undeniably positive, as early reactions to Wonder Woman suggest the glass ceiling has been shattered for superheroines and female directors. But those arguing, once again, that Zack Snyder has been occupying a spot better suited to someone who “can make good movies” are missing a far bigger point. If Wonder Woman is the movie that will “save” the DCEU, then keeping Patty Jenkins and Zack Snyder as voices of its shared universe has never been more important.
Assuming the DCEU can be the shared movie universe fans hoped it would be, replacing one creative vision for another is the last thing they should do… and the last things any fan should want.
Wonder Woman’s Success Is A Standalone Victory
We’ve spoken before about the modern online conversation and news cycle essentially poisoning talk of Zack Snyder and the DCEU, but whether deserving or not, it’s time for Wonder Woman to stand on her own – the very thinking behind her origin story solo film. After being introduced in Batman V Superman (and stealing the show, given her limited screen time), Gal Gadot was paired with director Patty Jenkins to take on the beast of Hollywood sexism, and entrenched resistance to the idea that a female-led superhero movie could be a hit… and that a woman directing it would be a benefit, not a hindrance.
First and foremost, that’s a victory for them both, as well as the production team, the studio, the surrounding cast, the audience… basically everyone wanting a billion-dollar movie studio to put a woman in the spotlight. The DCEU is where it happened, and director Patty Jenkins made Warner Bros. look brilliant for having the idea. Yet modern blockbuster fans know that films this size are a team effort, from the very top to the very bottom – and in a shared universe, directors, writers, and producers collaborate in unique fashion.
But it’s the director who tells the story how they want to tell it, which means Wonder Woman deserves all the credit in this moment (and come release day).
Extending out from Jenkins’s success, it seems the widespread concerns over WB’s ‘unorthodox’ universe-building didn’t have the full picture. Audiences were largely sold on Gadot’s character, Diana’s powers and grace, and ability to stand beside– well, literally in front of DC’s biggest heroes. The audience’s curiosity was piqued, and her solo film chronicled her formative years in what early reviews call successful fashion. In this interconnected continuity and film catalogue, the success of Wonder Woman will ideally lead fans to look for new meaning in BvS, allowing one story to enrich even those that came before.
Enrich and, for some, outdo. There’s no question that the early reactions to Wonder Woman are more uniformly positive than prior DCEU films, some of which may be expected given the return to a standalone origin story (as opposed to picking up stories with existing characters). But it’s worth resisting the urge to define “directing a movie” as a standardized task, or equating an origin story to a team-up or ensemble film. Because several of the bloggers, critics, or general audience members who have seen Wonder Woman ahead of the masses are making their preferences in director known.
Every film’s quality is subjective, but objectively stating that Patty Jenkins represents the “right” path ahead for the DCEU, and that Zack Snyder’s time is up is overlooking one pretty big reality…
Zack Snyder’s Vision For The DCEU Hasn’t ‘Failed’
By this point, we’re not interested in “defending” the DCEU, since it truthfully doesn’t need defenders. In the face of a critical consensus branding the DCEU’s films and direction as, at best, unsuccessful, the audience and box office appear to disagree. Even with the hyperbolic online conversation surrounding the latest releases, the review scores of DCEU films have averaged out to “good” but not “outstanding,” and earned an average of more than $700 million each. And if the public interest in new DCEU films, or the talent lining up to join it has taken a hit, we haven’t seen it yet.
The critical community showing a majority of negative voices isn’t ideal for any studio, but the public interest, online conversation, and box office receipts have at least raised the question of how much that matters. Yes, Zack Snyder’s vision of superheroes, cinematic language, and re-imagining of DC characters may rub many the wrong way, and be seen as falling short of what modern superhero audiences expect or deserve in the eyes of many critics. But judging by the actual numbers and data, it seems just as valid to suggest that the DCEU is finding, and has found its audience.
That audience may simply not be the same one targeted by the highly-praised, family-friendly, brightly-colored superhero films being made by other studios. And in no uncertain terms, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman won’t succeed despite taking place in the universe Zack Snyder helped create. The positive reactions are a reflection of the film itself – or should be – which exists alongside what came before. Clearly, not forced to adhere to some overarching “tone, attitude, or style” tailored to its audience – which is actually what many hoped a ‘shared movie universe’ would allow, as opposed to a line of direct sequels or spinoffs directed by the same creative team.
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