As a Henry Cavill super fan, I was extra crushed when I read that reports of his return to the role of Superman were no longer true. After much consideration, I am here to tell you why this is good news.
But let’s start with the bad news.
The DC Movie Universe is Garbage Fire Presently
It’s fashionable to rip on DC because it’s been a holistic cinematic disaster for, well, ever. There have been stunning individual movies over the years, but unlike the competition, the DC movie universe is a confusing mess, and DC has legendary characters.
You have the infinitely reinterpretable Batman. You have one of the earliest female superheroes in Wonder Woman. And you have the movie that kicked off that whole craze with Christopher Reeve’s Superman.
With all of these compelling assets, the DC movie universe is much less than the sum of its parts.
What’s the problem?
The Feige Rules
The moment I knew the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) was taking it to the next level was in April 2014. Agents of Shield was on TV and drafting on the impressive success of the first Avengers movie. The Winter Soldier (Best MCU movie ever? Discuss) was released on April 4, 2014 date. In the following Agents of Shield episode, they incorporated Winter Soldier’s events into the TV series.
The marketing campaign at the time. “It’s all connected.” We’d never seen anything like it.
The DC movie universe is a disaster because they have not followed all of the Feige rules. They read:
For the good of all movies, you shall:
- Honor the source material, but don’t be beholden to it.
- Find new voices who bring new perspectives.
- Always remember it’s all connected sensibly.
Kevin Feige (pronounced: FY-ghee) is a producer for Marvel. Well, he’s the producer for Marvel and has overseen all five phases of the MCU, including the first three phases, which are called “The Infinity Saga,” and the last two called the “Multiverse Saga.”
For the Infinity Saga, the Feige rules have been held. The first Thor is a wildly different movie than the first Iron Man. Different directors with diverse perspectives, but in each film, there was a reminder — usually a post-credit scene — that this universe was connected and was narratively rowing in the same direction.
The intense joy of the final Avengers Assemble scene at the end of End Game is a byproduct of firm adherence to the Feige Rules. As each character appears, we remember our unique relationship with them from their unique film, but the feeling is intensely multiplied by the fact they are here… together.
It’s all connected.
Back to the Garbage Fire
DC movies have spectacle. DC movies honor source material and also riff on the material. The most recent Robert Pattison Batman was a work of art. Emo Batman FTW! Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker sets itself apart and is barely a superhero movie. Attempts to stitch Joker into a larger universe felt forced and contrary to the film’s intent.
Before that, you have the masterwork of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, the fresh perspective and historically compelling Wonder Woman (the first one, the second one was a disaster), and the goofy brutishness of an Aquaman who was no longer the butt of every DC superhero joke. (Aside: Do you want to see quality DC content? Check out the animation. Just wow.)
These movies stand independently, but the proper application of the Feige Rules have demonstrated to us that the audience can expect more. A meta-story with an eventual massive payoff where the final reveal is… everything together all at once.
Zach Snyder was tasked with this important work which eventually gave us The Justice League, but Snyder cares more about spectacle than narrative coherency. Also, he was the Director of many of these films, and an important part of the Feige Rules is they must be applied by an external human who is not motivated by one film but all of them. Bonus points if that human has little difficulty landing a coherent narrative. Watchmen? Dr. Manhattan is the villain? WTF?
The final nail in this narrative mess was the incessant demand for the Snyder Cut. The Whedon Cut was so stunningly unsatisfying we demanded a re-do. And they did it — only adding the narrative confusion.
This isn’t a narrative; this is a garbage fire burning from some of my favorite superheroes.
Firing Henry Cavill, Again & A Warning
Smart and influential people care deeply about the DC universe, including The Rock, Dwayne Johnson. His belief? Start by bringing Superman back to this universe in his best form. It is reported that he and his team pushed hard to get Cavill back to DCU. You first saw it at the end of DC League of Super-Pets (meh) with the cameo of Black Adam, followed quickly by Cavill’s surprise cameo at the end of Black Adam (phenomenal) wearing the Man of Steel suit, sporting the spit curl, and PLAYING THE CHRISTOPHER REEVE SUPERMAN THEME OMFG LOSING MY MIND.
It was a scene designed to call back to everything I loved about Superman, but I am OK with Cavill getting fired… again. Why? It’s reported the Gunn-penned Superman movie will focus on the early years of Superman, so Cavill doesn’t make for good casting for a young Supes. More importantly, it’s a strong sign of what the new regime of James Gunn and Peter Safran is willing to sacrifice to uphold the essential Feige rule:
For the good of all movies, you shall remember that it is all connected sensibly.1
- You’re right to be worried about the Multiverse Saga. It’s not following all of the Feige rules. ↩