The End of the Universe, by Tyler Smith
With the recent release – and lackluster box office – of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the future of the DC Extended Universe is in question. While the success of Wonder Woman guarantees that there will be a sequel, and the Aquaman movie is already set to be released next year, the general lack of audience excitement about the shared elements of these films makes one wonder if they’ll simply abandon the format. And with continued rumors of Ben Affleck’s waning interest in continuing to play Batman, everything appears to be coming apart at the seams. Perhaps these films are more powerful apart than they ever could be together.
If DC were to set aside its shared universe, it would be the latest in a continuing trend. Universal’s Dark Universe, advertised heavily before the release of The Mummy, has since evaporated, and with it the possibility of a new Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invisible Man, Frankenstein, and all the others. In the old days, the studio would simply make these all separate franchises, but now, it would appear that, if it can’t be a part of a larger universe, it shouldn’t be done. All or nothing.
I also seem to recall the briefest whisper of a Ghostbusters shared universe, but that talk stopped shortly after the release of Paul Feig’s forgettable reboot.
In the end, it seems that only Marvel – the originator of this trend – has cracked the code, by establishing characters through their own films, hinting at a larger connection, and then finally bringing everything together. The Avengers was an event, highly anticipated by audiences, whereas films like Justice League and announcements like the Dark Universe feel like calculations, meant to capitalize of a more organic development by a competing studio.
But, with the disappointing box office of Justice League, maybe this will all change. Perhaps studios will stop trying to ape the success of their competitors and go back to doing what they were good at: creating a franchise and then beating it, fastly and furiously, into the ground.