Can DC Studios Still Build A Successful Franchise Universe?

The Flash was supposed to be the big DC event film that brought one era of the franchise to an end (the DCEU or "SnyderVerse") and ushered in the new era of DC Studios and its DC Universe Chapter One: Gods and Monsters storyline. However, even with modest success over its two weeks in theaters, The Flash isn't feeling like the massive shift that the DC Movie franchise needed. 

(SPOILERS) The Flash ends with the SnyderVerse still very much intact; fans are perplexed (if not upset) about a final gag that replaces Ben Affleck's Batman with George Clooney; Snyder loyalists are upset about how the movie plays with past works like Man of Steel; and there's growing backlash to The Flash's poor visual effects and the 'ghoulish' way the film uses the likenesses of several dead actors to digitally recreate their DC screen roles. 

In short: The Flash seems to have upset every different camp of DC movie fans in some way while doing nothing to make the franchise feel more cohesive or unite the splintered fandom in any meaningful way. This is now the uneven ground that James Gunn and Peter Safran have to build the DC Studios reboot on, and it's looking very unsure whether or not its even an achievable goal. 

How To Make The New DCU Work

(Photo: DC)

During a Bonus Round episode of our ComicBook Nation podcast, the topic of whether or not DC Studios has a chance in hell of building a TV/movie universe to rival Marvel's was discussed in depth (see video above). Hosts Kofi Outlaw and Connor Casey both agreed that DC has lost mainstream fans with more than a decade of start, stops, and franchise reboots – DC Studios simply being the latest. Even before James Gunn took over, there were divisive splits in the fandom between the style of work Gunn was doing with The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, and Snyder's Batman v Superman and Justice League films. 

At this point, it seems clear that there is no goodwill left in the idea of a massive interconnected DC franchise universe – from hardcore fans and mainstream viewers alike – and reference-heavy multiverse stories like The Flash are only making things more confusing (if not off-putting). 

The answer seems clear, if a bit cliched: treat each new DC Studios project as its own thing, and make it the most entertaining (and fun) thing it can be, and leave all the big crossover/cameo/team-up concerns for way, way, way, down the line. Superman: Legacy needs to be a milestone (and overwhelmingly well-received) new vision of DC's core character; The Brave and the Bold needs to establish a whole Batman Universe and family as its own pocket; the Paradise Island TV series should make ancient mythology and Amazon culture big lures before we ever see Wonder Woman; James Mangold is already talking about Swamp Thing being more standalone in nature, etc... DC's biggest misstep has arguably been repeatedly trying to rush its universe onto the screen through team-ups and event films – this time, a methodical piece-by-sturdy-piece approach is the route to go.  Is it the Marvel move? Maybe, yes. But the other ways have been tried, and debated, and don't seem to lead to the Succe$$ Warner Bros. has been after.

Finally, DC needs to also lean into the one advantage it's maintained in the TV/movie space: variety. The DCU is just one facet of the brand; standalone franchises like The Batman and Joker arguably tend to be the franchise's biggest and most consistent success stories. So why stop? Marvel has been boxed in by the idea that everything MUST connect in its franchise: DC has no such mandate. Get weird with it – take more swings at unique visions, and independent character stories done in stylistically risky ways, with a larger range of genre influences and character possibilities than a blockbuster movie or premium TV show can afford to offer. Even Marvel is starting to look wobbly when it comes to sustaining fan interest in the ever-sprawling lien of films and shows they must watch; if the franchise universe model starts to crumble, DC"s standalone projects may suddenly become the best port in the storm of changing tastes. 

What do you want to see from the new era of DC Studios' projects and strategy? Let us know in the comments! 

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