In the wake of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, many fans were left wondering if the direction of the DCEU wasn’t considerably off. To the minds of many, the problems of Man of Steel — the brooding heroes, the dismal colors, the wanton destruction — were only amplified by its sequel, rather than corrected. As fans and critics began the traditional finger pointing that erupts in the wake of a poorly received film, one name kept rising to the top as the focal point for the ire.
Director Zack Snyder (300) was placed under almost unprecedented scrutiny for his part in the direction and tone of the DCEU. As the overseer of the universe, his job consisted not merely of directing movies, but of guiding an entire series in much the same way that a showrunner guides a television show. So swift was the vitriol that Warner Brothers enlisted DC creative director Geoff Johns to help course correct the ship. The criticisms against Snyder, however, were nothing new. His gritty takes on the comics genre have been maligned now for years, and hardly began with Man of Steel.
Snyder is once again taken to task in the latest Honest Trailers from the folks at Screen Junkies, this time for his 2009 adaptation of Watchmen. Delivered in the typical, irreverent style for which Honest Trailers is known, their latest is a reminder that the perceived problems with both Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel were present in his earlier works as well.
While perhaps drawing comparisons between Watchmen and the DCEU isn’t exactly fair — Watchmen, after all, exists in a separate canon and his movie, by and large, was true to its source material — it does draw some interesting parallels which, perhaps, provide some background on the choices made for the DCEU thus far. Cinematically, Watchmen serves as a sort of thematic precursor for the dark take on DC that their movies have been headed towards. Violence and grey morality reign supreme in the world of Watchmen, which is a trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Interestingly, this largely parallels the influence that Watchmen had on DC comics back in the '90s. The success of the comic series — which TIME magazine would call one of the 100 greatest novels ever written — helped spark a new era of gritty, adult-oriented storytelling that lasted through much of the '90s. The “grimdark” era, as it’s come to be known, remains a point of contention between fans, with many bemoaning the lack of hope and optimism the era showed in its storytelling.
Perhaps it makes sense that Watchmen should do this again, this time cinematically. Over the years, Snyder has made no secret of his adoration for the comic book, so its continued influence on his movies should come as no surprise. Whether or not it works in this current setting, however, is still largely up for debate.
Still, the Honest Trailer is a good reminder that the overall direction of the DCEU isn’t really anything new, and it’s, as ever, fun to see the movie taken to task. The oh-so-serious, moody tone of the film feels somewhat ridiculous and dated today, and the flaws are a lot more glaring than they were seven years ago on its release. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that sometimes comic book movies need to remember to be fun first and foremost. If we can’t get that from the movies themselves, at least Screen Junkies is there to find it for us. They are, truly, the heroes we both deserve and need right now.
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; 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. The Flash and Batman solo movie are currently without release dates.