The DC Extended Universe Has a PR Problem

It’s impossible to talk about the DC Extended Universe without mentioning the divisive nature of the franchise. Nearly every article you read on the topic starts out mentioning that fact, an issue that traces its roots all the way back to the very first movie, Man of Steel. While the Superman reboot initially saw a fairly positive reception, some fans and critics took issue with Zack Snyder’s tone and the fact that Superman snaps Zod’s neck to save civilians at the end.

The events of Man of Steel became the source of the core conflict in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was met with even louder complaints. Things were initially looking up for Suicide Squad, until the movie's tone (and content) made some significant deviations from the marketing, earning it another strong rejection by critics.

Things finally seemed to be turning around with Wonder Woman. Despite some pre-release negativity, critics were happy, fans were happy, the box office was happy, and while there was still some doubt cast at Justice League, it finally seemed like the DCEU was getting generally positive buzz for the first time since before Man of Steel. That is, until it was announced that fan favorite composer Junkie XL was leaving the project due to scheduling conflicts, and Danny Elfman would serve as his replacement during Joss Whedon's reshoots.

Whedon and Elfman both have a positive association from much of their past work, but the situation has an unavoidable appearance of WB making massive last minute changes to Zack Snyder's original vision. A lot of this confusion, and much of the past divisiveness in the DCEU news cycle, would be completely avoidable if Warner Bros. were better at communicating plans.

Nobody’s Setting a Narrative

These communication issues are nothing new; it's been a problem since the beginning of the DCEU, starting with the way Warner Bros. announced its plans for DC films. While Batman v Superman got a proper (almost surprise) announcement at San Diego Comic-Con, the rest of the DCEU slate was mentioned in an almost offhand manner during a WB investors call, omitting many details that fans and media would normally be interested in and leaving people to connect the dots on their own, contributing to the impression of a disorganized and rushed shared universe.

Compare this to Marvel who, two weeks after WB’s “announcement,” held an event for fans and critics where they unveiled titles, logos, release dates, and casting confirmations for a whole slew of films. The thing is, only a few of the movies Marvel announced at that event stuck to their original release plans, and an Inhumans movie isn’t even happening anymore. Yet Marvel Studios doesn’t get the same negative flack over that because it projected a much more confident image out the gate, with the announcement designed to hype fans, leaving less room for speculation and negative spin over the state of the studio.

Looking back, Warner Bros. has (so far) stuck closer to planned release windows than many of the projects announced by Marvel, and it could be argued that DC films have actually been the more organized of the two brands since 2014, but allowing the news to be spun the way it has given anything but that impression.

Most DC news doesn’t come in the form of official announcements or press release,s but through leaks and various scoops. Rumors from 4Chan regularly make the rounds, because there’s not much else for hungry fans to go off of. The DC panel at San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H is frequently the most exciting of the bunch, with official footage and cast appearances getting fans hyped up, but very little official news direct from the studio during the other 11 months of the year allows the cycle to repeat.

As the universe was initially forming, it was regularly said that the DCEU needed a central figurehead to help guide things, and it seemed like that desire was finally fulfilled when Geoff Johns was brought on as the head of DC films with plans to serve as a producer along with Jon Berg. While his impact seems to have made a difference on the film side, he hasn’t stepped into that public figurehead role typically associated with Kevin Feige, taking a mostly hands-off approach when it comes to DC news, allowing this trend of rumors, leaks, and speculation to continue.

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Key Release Dates
  • Wonder Woman (2017) release date: Jun 02, 2017
  • Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
  • Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
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