Before I talk about why the DC Comics Extended Universe needs, but doesn’t yet deserve a hero like Nightwing, I want to make one thing clear. I’m not one to tell people, “be nice now.” If you don’t like my opinions on your favorite movie and want to call me a marvel nigger fanboy, then I truly can’t stop you. But before anyone takes to the streets of Twitter complaining about this article, understand what I mean by the word success.
Success is a simple term to understand. Nothing complicated or unique about its meaning. When describing the DCEU, I don’t consider the financial success they’ve had when talking about the word success. When people begin their weak arguments for why this universe is the best, this is one of the first things they say. I have two examples on why that argument is completely invalid. Suicide Squad grossed more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Iron Man 3 grossed more than Captain America: Civil War. Objectively, if someone doesn’t know a single fact about superheroes, their sanity would be tested if they said Suicide Squad was a better film than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Same story with Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War. Money to me doesn’t matter. The majority of these films will make money. The superhero culture has reached the pinnacle of its pervasiveness. People who would never watch a superhero film in 2002 are watching every film now. So, if anyone has any objections to why I think the DCEU is struggling, please present a different counter argument than money. A completely baseless defense that a child would use.
Now, that’s out of the way. As the paragraph above suggests, I have considerable problems with the DC Comics Extended Universe. My reviews of every movie they’ve done can be found on this site. I’ll link the three reviews at the bottom of this page. While my favorite film of the 3 is Man of Steel, the film is incredibly flawed. Why though? Why is this franchise struggling? Why do critics and fans alike think these films are in need of a serious makeover? Some answers are simple, some are complex. I’ll start with the simple first.
- They’re late to the party
This is an unfortunate reason, but a reason nonetheless. In 2008, The Dark Knight was released. A conversation with me wouldn’t last long if someone argued the Dark Knight was a bad film. The worst past about the film was actor Christian Bale’s fight scenes as Batman. You’d think in a Batman film, you’d want the Caped Crusader to exhibit masterful martial arts, but he didn’t. That’s how well structured the movie was. That same year, Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. was released. I didn’t go see this movie in theaters (a choice I regret) because I wasn’t interested at all in an Iron Man film.
I watched the movie eventually and loved it. The Dark Knight is a better movie, but the importance of this film outshines the Dark Knight to me. DC produced a solid, single production. Marvel Studios has had the plans for their Cinematic Universe for quite some time. This movie was the beginning of a journey. Page one of a new book. Their history begins with this film. That’s impressive to me. Later on, when DC arrived to the party with Man of Steel, which was a solid intro no doubt, Marvel had already had 7 films in their universe. Iron Man had 3 films, we were introduced to Thor and Captain America, and The Avengers had taken the world by storm. It felt like Marvel beat DC to the punch. Man of Steel was a good film, but Batman v. Superman felt like an attempt to catch Marvel in one movie. Captain America: Civil War came out the same year as BvS. Marvel proved that patience is one of their greatest traits. If you watched the previous Captain America films, you felt the impact of Civil war even more. Critics and fans alike feel that Batman v. Superman showed DC’s willingness to make money, not tell a good, coherent story. As I said earlier, an unfortunate reason that it’s struggling. But feeling sorry for DC isn’t part of the equation. This time, Marvel was first.
- Too much in the trailers
Another simple premise. This point looks at the last two films and the upcoming Wonder Woman film. These films have all produced exciting trailers. When the very first teaser for Batman v. Superman dropped, I’m not ashamed to say I watched it probably over 50 times. But, they didn’t know when to stop. I would have seen the film if all I saw was a poster. A plethora of fans have the same mentality. But, we live in America, where everything must follow a formula (side note here. How cool would it be if a superhero movie released without showing a single trailer? Avengers: Infinity War for example. All we got was an official poster, nothing else. Wouldn’t that be something?) The comic-con trailer for Batman v. Superman was nice. The last trailer is why people have turned on the DCEU. The last trailer was sensational. Two problems though. Well, three honestly. The first one involves Lex Luthor. I despised him as a character. Jessie Eisenberg gave a mediocre performance at best. But in that trailer, the very first scene where Clark and Bruce meet, I noticed something. It was more than a little something too. After that scene, I looked at my friend, who was watching it with me, and said, “Lex knows who they are.” As the trailer went on, I had a feeling that Lex set this entire thing up. I had a feeling he was the reason Batman and Superman would fight. I’m not trying to boast about my observation skills. I’m that one guy in the theater who had no idea Han Solo was about to die in the Force Awakens. I usually don’t notice (or really look) for plot developments like that. If I noticed it, a bunch of other people must have too.
The second and third problem with this trailer involve two character reveals. Wonder Woman and Doomsday. I’ll start with Doomsday first, since his arrival isn’t earth shattering. They shouldn’t have revealed him. It’s that simple. By revealing him you basically tell us the ending of the story. The main reason this movie intrigued me was because of the premise. I wanted to see the journey Batman and Superman were going to go on before becoming the friends we know and love. To see the end of that journey in a trailer, made me completely numb to what happened in the middle. I couldn’t have cared less at that point.
Wonder Woman’s reveal came right after Doomsday. I said it before, this trailer was jaw dropping. I broke the chair I was sitting in when Wonder Woman came onto the screen. I screamed a scream of pure joy when I saw the Trinity finally together. Want to know what my reaction was in the theater? After the stilted plot, underwhelming character development, and a bunch of other things, I’m almost 100% sure I yawned during this moment in the theater. Once again, critics and fans didn’t like the reveal of major plot points and important characters.
Suicide Squad had the same problems. In the trailers, we got enough, but Joker was all over them. They marketed Joker hard. Excitement flowed through my veins as Jared Leto strutted around as the Clown Prince. Only problem is, Joker wasn’t in the film much at all. Another DCEU trailer mess up. Wonder Woman comes out this summer. We’ve already gotten two, count them, two full length trailers for the film and it isn’t even February. I’ve talked with at least 5 people who say they think the movie’s marketing is off because of the timing of the trailers. I didn’t agree until I re-watched both trailers multiple times. What if we saw all the best action scenes from our favorite Amazonian? Maybe I’m too skeptical, but the last two movies have given us too much. We’re no doubt going to get a 3rd trailer soon. I just hope we don’t see more plot points or character reveals (Ares.)
So, those were long-winded ways of explaining simple reasons why the DCEU is struggling. Below, I’ll now discuss the more complex reasons I believe the DCEU is struggling.
3. Pacing, Pacing, Pacing.
Pacing is everything in a movie. It’s everything in a book. It’s even everything in an article. Before I write any review or article I must make sure I pace it correctly. If someone doesn’t want to read a long piece, they won’t, but for those who do, I must pace it well so they don’t get bored. It’s extremely important for any type of writing. Every DCEU film so far has had horrible, dreadful pacing. Man of Steel, being the best one, had some of the worst pacing. The middle of the film bored me to death. Same story with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. Batman v. Superman was the slowest of the films. Suicide Squad had the worst plot. Its pacing was affected by the bad plot. The movie was proactive, not reactive. The Squad didn’t have a mission until Enchantress lost her mind. That made the film’s pacing go all over the place.
Critics receive a bunch of hate for their judgement on the DCEU. I’ve never been the biggest fan or critics, but I don’t mind them too much either. A film critic’s job is to judge a film based on a number of merits. How good of a superhero film something is, isn’t one of those merits. I’m sorry to say this, but some people truly don’t give a damn about superheroes. Just like I don’t give a damn about bodybuilding. We all have our interests. The comic book community is too sensitive about their precious DCEU. Critics have continued to voice their frustrations with the films’ pacing, but fans refuse to believe the valid arguments. Are some critics brainwashed by Marvel and the MCU? Yeah, but most don’t give a damn. They just want a good film, and a good film has good pacing. These three films do not.
- Too much interpretation on who these characters are/who they should be
This is my BIGGEST problem with the DCEU and the main reason I think the films are struggling. So throw away the DC Extremists who went to the Sean Spicer school of debating, and the critics, all of them, even the non-biased ones, and the normal movie fan who knows who Batman is but doesn’t read comics, and we have one group left. The comic book fans who know these characters better than they know their own family. There is no DC or Marvel for these fans. There’s Image, Valiant, and many, many more. These fans understand who these characters are. Sometimes more than a movie studio or the great Zack Snyder. Fans is almost a derogatory term to describe these people. I use the term comic scholars. These people come in all shapes and sizes, races and religions. They are the ones their friends come to first whenever anything superhero pops up in the media. There are a ton of these fans who are influencing their friends, family, and coworkers’ brain when it comes to superheroes. Not in a bad way either. They are telling (and getting) their friends to read comics. These people usually don’t like the DCEU either. At all. The problem most of the comic scholars (and me) have with the DCEU is the constant, ongoing interpretation Warner Brothers is doing with these characters. Changing them to fit their universe, but swaying almost too far from who the characters are to the core. I’m not just going to make this point without giving examples. The two biggest are Batman and Superman. Batman first
–World’s Greatest Detective?
In Batman v. Superman, I didn’t recognize that character. Sure, his name was Bruce Wayne and everything, but there were too many things he did, that wasn’t Batman. In BvS, he didn’t do much detective work at all. He let Superman, or Lex rather, get into his head without analyzing the situation. And what was Warner Bros. excuse for his unstoppable anger? This is a broken, beaten Batman. A weak excuse to have him lose IQ points in front of our eyes. While I don’t like the Batman they chose to portray for the entirety of that film, I came to accept it. Then, the trailer for Justice League comes out. Bruce Wayne goes from lonely, broken man, to Nick Fury all because Superman died? But he wanted to kill Superman not too long ago. And the only reason he didn’t is because he realized Superman had a mother, that he wasn’t a monster. Lois Lane found out who he was in Man of Steel, you’re spitting in the face of comic book scholars everywhere by saying anger prevented him from finding out who Superman was. All of this isn’t who Batman is to his core. Yes, the warehouse scene was something special. One of the best fight scenes in comic book film history, but I don’t care about fight scenes. I want Batman to be dark, but not dark enough that he becomes something completely different. If you change his demeanor, give the character the respect he deserves and let him go through that change by himself. Because it’s almost impossible to handle a difficult character arc with their first movie.
–Hope? I thought “No one stays good in this world?”
Zack Snyder was quoted saying he wanted the character of Superman to “grow up.” Which is weird to me because Superman does the most grown up thing anyone can do by sticking to his beliefs no matter what. Believing there is good in people no matter what. That’s who Clark Kent is and always will be. Man of Steel did a decent job of showing that side of him. Henry Cavill is white, muscular, tall, and has black hair. Other than that, he doesn’t act like any Superman I’ve seen in a comic or TV show. He doesn’t talk like one either. You need to come with a better excuse for his lack of dialogue and facial expressions than “This is a different version of the character.” Maintaining Superman’s eloquence and drive to help people isn’t hard to do. The DCEU Superman underwent solid character development in Man of Steel. But in Batman v. Superman, those lessons, values, and character traits we saw in the first movie, disappeared. And the only thing people seem to say when defending this weak Superman is this is a “realistic” approach to the Son of Krypton. Containing my laughter is hard because BvS made him look ineffective and dumb.
If Superman hated Batman so much in that movie, why didn’t he arrest him the very first time he met Batman? Or did Superman not notice the people Batman had just murdered and the destruction he just caused. Why not, instead of hitting his car in anger, did he not just put Batman in a head lock and take him to the local precinct. He had been watching the news recently. Even though he’s a reporter, he let biased articles and news reports sway his opinion. So, when Superman went to confront Batman, there is no reason someone who wants to protect people would not arrest someone they think is a criminal. And if he didn’t think Batman was a criminal, no dialogue confirmed those beliefs. Three things that make Superman the character he is. Eloquent, thoughtful dialogue, intelligence, and staying true to his beliefs. All three things neglected in BvS. Clouded by a cheap death that may not even last a full movie.
I don’t know if the DCEU will grow from their interpretation problem, but they might not. Warner Brothers seems to be very reactionary in how they’re handling these characters. I don’t know how I feel about Flash yet, and unless Cyborg saves the world in Justice League, I hate the direction they’ve gone with his character in the past five years. Aquaman seems different from Arthur Curry in the comics, but we’ll see. I’m not entirely optimistic about these characters in the DCEU, but I do think they can be saved. While I do think they can be saved, I don’t think they will be. Fool me once, shame on me, you know the saying. That’s the entire point of this piece. This series is going to talk about characters that can save the DCEU. Characters you can’t interpret because the slightest change takes them away from who they are. Characters like that (Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Black Panther, Captain America, etc.) are the backbone of comic books. Dick Grayson is one of those characters. The DCEU needs him, but from what they’ve shown us so far, they don’t deserve him yet.
THE ORIGINAL BOY WONDER
A brief history on Nightwing. He started as the first sidekick to Batman. He was Robin, the boy wonder. Created in 1940, he’s one of the oldest DC Comics characters. For years, Dick was Batman’s sidekick. In pop culture, he became famous and in the comics, he was loved. Then in 1984, he made the transition over to Nightwing. Why though? Dick wanted to become his own hero. He started to sway a bit from the morality of his mentor. Batman taught Dick everything he knows, but Dick started to realize he didn’t want to be a sidekick forever. There’s a famous scene from Batman: The Animated Series where Dick punches Batman before quitting. He’s his own person. That’s exactly why he would immediately fix the DCEU. There is no interpretation on his character. There are no alternate versions of him. When you read a Nightwing story, you know what you’re going to get.
Just like his mentor, Dick Grayson is a genius. When he was younger, he witnesses the murder of his parents. His parents were a part of the circus. They were flying acrobats. Dick was a part of that group as well. A gangster killed them and after, Bruce Wayne took him in. Dick is extremely acrobatic and uses those abilities when fighting. The main difference between Dick and Bruce Wayne are their outlooks on life. Their personalities are miles apart as well. Batman is cool, but he is boring. He doesn’t crack many jokes. I love that about Batman because he is a realist. Batman holds on to a lot of emotions. He’s guilt ridden and has been for much of his life. Nightwing doesn’t act that way. He doesn’t sulk. Nightwing is full of life, always cracking jokes, always trying to make the best out of any situation. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. Everyone who deals with Dick knows he’s an emotional guy. Along with that emotion, comes his unwavering, undying loyalty to the people he loves. Nightwing used to be the leader of the Teen Titans. As Robin, he was their unquestioned leader. In both the comics and television show, Dick was the glue that held the team together. As he got older and became Nightwing, that bond only got stronger. The Teen Titans are currently called the “Titans” in the comics. Their Rebirth run has been fun and exciting. The best thing about it is the love these characters share for one another. They argue sometimes, like most friends do, but that love will never fade. Nightwing isn’t shy about the love he has for his friends and his Bat-family (Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne.) If he was in the DCEU, this wouldn’t be up for debate. Loyalty and friendship drive Dick Grayson. Whenever his friends are in trouble, he takes it to another level. I love him for it and I think movie fans would too.
If you’ve read any Nightwing comics, especially his New 52 run, you know that Dick is a talkative person. Whether he’s fighting or hanging with friends, he always has something to say. You couldn’t make a Nightwing film and have him frown the whole time. He speaks his mind. The person it’s comparable to in Marvel would be Spider-Man. The thing I enjoy about Nightwing however is that he’s an adult. DC is doing their best right now to keep him in that sidekick role, but he’s a grown man. His humor isn’t as corny as Spidey’s, but not as vulgar as Deadpool’s. Nightwing also thinks a lot. I’m not a huge fan of narration, but Nightwing has profound thoughts. If they ever do a film with Nightwing, narration would be welcomed because of how much he likes to talk. It wouldn’t be a needed aspect of his story, but dialogue cannot be mediocre. I’ve said it multiple times, this is who the character is. DC needs characters they can’t interpret. Nightwing’s witty banter isn’t up for debate.
I love Nightwing. He’s in my top 5 superheroes list no matter how often it changes. Dick Grayson is Batman’s most trusted partner. Other than Alfred, there isn’t anyone Batman trusts more. They have ideological differences sure, but that word, loyalty, drives Dick. It doesn’t matter what team he’s on our who he’s looking out for. If you’re friends with Nightwing, he’ll be there. Loyalty and positivity. I think those two words sum Dick up well. I’m already annoyed at the lack of respect he’s gotten in the DCEU. He’s one of the oldest, most fleshed out characters in comics. Yet, we’re getting a Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Black Adam film before Nightwing. Typing that makes me furious because I wonder if this would be the case if Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson weren’t attached to those characters. We can only wonder right now but the DCEU can make all the money they want. Without good pacing, character development, and well thought out plots, they’ll always be second fiddle to the MCU.
Now I’ve talked a lot about putting Nightwing in the DCEU. How though? How does he fit in? Out of all the characters I’ll talk about, this is the easiest one. In Batman v. Superman, Bruce looks at the suit of a former Robin. The suit has Joker’s writing on it. If they’re going down the normal comic book route, that suit belonged to Jason Todd. If Jason Todd was Robin for any amount of time in the DCEU, that means Dick Grayson definitely exists. The idea of Robins isn’t some wild fantasy we have to dream about. Robins are real in the DCEU. If Robins are real, then there is NO reason Dick Grayson doesn’t exist.
The DCEU is already weird. They’ve made weird decision’s regarding story building. I don’t see why a Nightwing movie can’t happen. They could follow his N52 run and put him Chicago, or they can put him in Bluhaven. You could put him up against the Joker (since we don’t have any spots for Joker confirmed for a long time.) Nightwing is deep enough to carry his own film franchise. If they don’t want to go down that route, why not do a DCEU prequel film. “The Teen Titans.” Here, you could put Robin, Aqualad, Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash on the team. They could mix it up if they wanted to, but have Dick Grayson be the leader. This film could lead into a Nightwing film later, or a Titans sequel with him as Nightwing. And since they now have Deathstroke confirmed for the DCEU, they could draw inspiration from the Teen Titans television show in a movie. Either way, the possibilities are there.
I hope they realize what they’re missing out on. Maybe they have plans for Dick. Maybe not. I don’t care who they get to play him. If they got an athletic looking white guy with flowing black hair, then great. If they got a black guy with dreadlocks, I don’t care. I just need the character to have the aforementioned traits and I’ll be satisfied. They do that, along with adding the other characters that are a part of my series, and the DCEU will start to heal. Until then, we’ll get solo films where we hardly recognize the characters and overcrowded “event” films that are a muddled mess.
I really hope you enjoyed this piece. Next Monday, I talk about another hero the DCEU desperately needs. You may have heard of him, you may have not. I’m talking about the African Batman, Batwing. Not Lucius Fox’s son, but the original Batwing, David Zavimbe. Until then, like and share this piece to get the word out about Nightwing. Follow me @Hero_Review on Twitter for updates on my other reviews as well. Until next time!