If there is a common criticism regarding the two films of the DC Extended Universe - Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - it's that they're too self-serious, dark, and gritty. While many appreciate this direction and believe that it leads to great storytelling, others would prefer if the movies lightened up a bit and had a tonal balance of humor and drama. Especially with the impending arrival of an R-rated Batman V Superman extended cut, some fans are concerned that the universal appeal of these characters is getting lost in an attempt to capitalize on the formula Christopher Nolan made famous with his Dark Knight trilogy.
With Zack Snyder back at the helm for Justice League Part One, those hoping for a change in style seemed to be out of luck. But in the aftermath of Batman V Superman's largely negative critical reception and underwhelming box office gross, Warner Bros. instituted some changes behind-the-scenes, namely appointing Geoff Johns as the overseer of the DCEU. Johns hopes to inject "hope and optimism" into the franchise, which is great news for those who like their costumed heroes to have a bit of fun while fighting crime. As it turns out, the first Justice League film may be the beginning of a new phase.
Screen Rant recently visited the set of Justice League Part One, where producer Deborah Snyder discussed the target audience for the films. When asked if Justice League could be "more inclusive" than its predecessors, she explained how the team-up would differ from what's come before:
"Justice League is much more inclusive. I think also you have like, it’s all about the characters too. And we have these two very young characters, Flash and Cyborg. And you know, they’re definitely lighter. I think they’re going to appeal to a younger audience... And you know, I think Suicide Squad has its own audience. And I think Wonder Woman has its own audience. And not just women, because I think the movie – I’ve seen a little bit of it – and Patty [Jenkins] is still working on her director’s cut, but I think it’s going to be broad-reaching. I think the darkest where we’ve been is where we’ve been."
Snyder makes a solid point when she says the tone of the film depends on the characters involved. Batman V Superman obviously featured a healthy dose of the Caped Crusader, so it made sense for it to lean towards the darker side of the spectrum. Even the Superman presented - while a stark departure from Christopher Reeve - was loyal to the specific source material Snyder was pulling from (such as Superman: Birthright). The trick moving forward is to vary the types of personalities that are showcased in the movies; if everyone is brooding, then things could get dragged down. Having the Flash and/or Cyborg serve as younger voices (perhaps even comic relief?) to provide fresh perspectives could be the shot in the arm that the DCEU needs to sustain longterm success.
Those who haven't been taken with Snyder's handling of the characters will also be pleased to hear that the "darkest" days are apparently behind the franchise. This speaks to comments made by Justice League writer Chris Terrio, where he talked about Batman V Superman being the middle chapter of a trilogy (Man of Steel - Batman V Superman - Justice League), which is typically the darkest entry that shows the protagonists at their lowest point. It's long been rumored that Justice League will be more of a crowd pleaser when compared to what's come before, so that gives certain viewers something to look forward to seeing.
As ironic as it sounds, it may be the DCEU's villains that bring about this change. While it may not be the most appropriate film for impressionable youngsters, Suicide Squad has been personified by a gleefully kinetic marketing campaign scored by retro pop music and flashy trailers. It feels inherently different from Man of Steel or Batman V Superman, and as a result is one of the most anticipated films of the summer. If Suicide Squad can be the entertaining tentpole that Warner Bros. needs, then the studio could be on the right track when it comes to turning things around and making well-rounded superhero films.
Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.