Would This Alternate DCEU Be More Successful?
With everything so far discussed, we come to the central question: would it have been better for Warner Bros. to use The Dark Knight Trilogy as a jumping off point for the DCEU rather than starting anew with Man of Steel?
The short answer is, to begin with, undoubtedly yes. While DC's fortunes are finally turning around, with 2020 possibly seeing them outproduce Marvel, the journey thus far has been a rocky one, with movies featuring the former Big Two struggling the most: Batman v Superman is matched only by Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the feverous debate that still rages around it and in failing to make $1 billion definitely underperformed, while Justice League is known more for Joss Whedon's changes than anything in the movie and was bona fide box office bomb as a result. The characters of Batman and Superman have come out of the whole experience the worse, with Batfleck reduced from Arkham to Clooney and Cavill's either misunderstood or a mustachio'd meme - and both now set to depart. The reasons for this are many, but the Elseworlds direction of Snyder and correcting of characters midway through are at the core.
Outside of Snyder's films, the DCEU has actually fared better: Wonder Woman was a true hit and Suicide Squad financially successful despite the negative reviews. There's nothing to say these avenues couldn't have worked in any universe, while coming from The Dark Knight Rises would have surely insured against the depreciation of Bats and Supes.
Man of Steel would have surely been a bigger hit with a Dark Knight connection, and even if it was exactly the same story, much of the alternative take on Kal-El would have been framed alongside a pre-existing Batman. Crucially, whereas the DCEU was only one-movie strong until 2016, it would be four movies in by 2013 (five with Green Lantern), making the tricky next movie easier; if the plan had been set, there would have been no waiting on a transformed Man of Steel 2, meaning everything would ideally gain momentum and we'd have been hitting milestones considerably quicker.
Aside from the movies, this would alter the DC movie narrative. The goodwill of The Dark Knight Trilogy would endear critics and audience to the movies more, possibly softening reactions to newer ideas, and faster development would hold back any Marvel pace problems. After all, because Batman Begins was technically the start, the DCEU would pre-date the MCU by three years. PR has been a big thorn in DC's side for years, and while this is no guarantee, these factors would have altered perceptions from the very start.
Ultimately, any shared universe relies on consistently making crowd-pleasing films that work on their own merits while gradually building a brand. Starting with The Dark Knight Trilogy is no guarantee beyond that (we haven't discussed the changing reputation of The Dark Knight Rises as it's so hard to quantify) and so much of this lies on the filmmakers that WB assembled to continue what Nolan started. One thing can be said with certainty: whatever they did, it would have inevitably been controversial.
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