About a decade ago, the folks at Marvel changed the way superheroes worked forever. They intentionally set out to create a “cinematic universe” which encompassed all their heroes and tied all their stories together. I’ll give them a lot of credit because it was a very ambitious move and obviously it worked out for them. Although, I’ll also say it got to be a pretty heavy burden if all you wanted to do was watch a movie. Read more of my opinion about that here.
Inspired by this, the folks at DC tried the same thing. After decades of ignoring Superman in the Batman movies and vice versa, they finally started to build the Justice League. The only problem: the movies weren’t well reviewed so the poor showings from one leaked into the next one. Justice League wasn’t well-regarded at all, so much so that HBO Max let the original director take a crack at them. The “Snyder Cut” is expected on that service next year.
The new DC universe (officially called the DC Expanded Universe, because Marvel used “cinematic universe” and DC already had a product called “DC Universe”) basically ignored all the Superman and Batman movies from before. It also ignored the Flash and Arrow TV shows, which evolved into their own universe called the “Arrowverse.”
Anyone else have a headache yet?
Well, this year DC announced that they’re going to fix all of this with a plan so immense, it’s even more immense than the Marvel Universe yet promises to be more accessible. Hey, I’m up for it.
So, what they’re saying is, in the next Flash movie, which is a spinoff of the current Justice League movie, Flash goes back in time and messes things up so that all these different versions of the characters exist. In other words, the Superman from the 1950s TV shows exists, and so does Adam West’s Batman, Michael Keaton’s Batman, Val Kilmer’s Batman, George Clooney’s Batman, Christian Bale’s Batman… you get the idea.
In fact Mr. Keaton himself will be returning as Batman for this latest flick. Here’s a video which attempts to explain it.
The idea’s not as new as it seems
In the 1960s and 1970s, the DC Comics acknowledged that its current slate of heroes, all reinvented, could coexist with its older slate of heroes with the same name. They continued to develop this idea until the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline which killed off most of the alternate universe heroes. It seems that was only temporary.
This latest rejiggering, though, does two things. It quiets “canon trolls” who want to complain about how something in a TV show from 40 years ago invalidates something today. It also means that DC can keep making standalone films that have very little to do with each other and that’s ok. For example, they can make Joker as a ripoff/homage to Scorsese films like The King of Comedy, while making Suicide Squad films where Joker’s girlfriend exists and Batman only slightly does, to the upcoming The Batman where we see yet another look at the Caped Crusader. All these can exist and there could also be a space where they all intersect. Or, you can just watch one movie and be reasonably satisfied.
But will it fix Supergirl?
I’m not talking about the acceptably fun TV show from the last few years. Many people would like to forget the 1984 Supergirl with fresh-faced Helen Slater taking on the role. It was absurd, with poor-quality effects even for the day, and made practically no sense. Coming as it did only a year after the campy Superman III, it was looked at as the low point in the super-franchise… until Superman IV came out and easily stole the title.
I recently tried to rewatch this film because it’s on HBO Max and I couldn’t even make it halfway. That should tell you something. The film is so bad it’s still spawning videos about how bad it is. Here’s one I found.
Here’s my idea
I think it would be fun to introduce a universe where the absolute campiest, trashiest, stupidest characters in the DC canon live. Where Superman from Superman IV and Supergirl from Supergirl hang out with George Clooney and Alicia Silverstone from Batman & Robin. it would be the place where everyone has dorky polyester tights instead of muscle-suits that look like awesome leather. It would feature some of the most ridiculous villains from the 1960s Batman series and Wonder Woman would look like this:
which, in case you’re unaware, is from the 1974 TV-movie. That could be a lot of fun.
Will it work?
I don’t know and truth is I don’t care. I wonder if the whole superhero thing is kind of “played” anyway, especially since it seems like studios won’t be able to count on big movie theater releases for a while anyway. But hey, I have to give it to the folks at DC for trying.