I Have To Disagree With James Gunn About DC Movies’ Main Problem
James, I don't think the problem was too many voice actors.
When announcing the 8-10 year plan for the DC Universe, James Gunn stated that part of the issue with DC previously was the variability in characters across mediums. As such, he’s made his intention clear that going forward, characters will be played/voiced by one actor. Any appearances not played by these main actors will be deemed ‘Elseworlds’ (basically DC’s version of Marvel’s variants).
However, this all-or-nothing approach to continuity may be more restricting than structured.
Issue 1: Continuity vs creativity
Continuity is vital to storytelling, but with comic adaptations, having variety frequently works in favor of keeping the character relevant and exploring new aspects of them.
With the exception of the occasional hard reboot, most comic continuities are meant to have been continuous over decades in print. But that doesn’t mean everything has to conform to one tone. Rather it means the comedy and drama inherent in comics is heightened by the fact that you have these uber-grimdark plotlines happening to characters who have also appeared on cereal boxes. The Darkseid that ravages star systems is also the one who gets a lump of coal hand-delivered from Santa Claus every year on Christmas (yes, that is a real thing in DC comics).
While Gunn has proven himself capable of balancing both camp and drama, I hope he’s able to maintain that in future DC projects.
Issue 2: Disrespect to standing actors
One Twitter user pointed out that this negatively affects voice actors in particular, some of whom have been voicing these characters for decades. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill may not be voicing Batman and the Joker anymore, but that doesn’t mean other voice actors shouldn’t be given the respect they deserve for bringing these characters to life.
Imagine if every version of Batman (cartoon, video game, etc) had to be consistent with the movie versions. Or if every version of Harley Quinn since 2016 could only be Margot Robbie. If Margot Robbie were the only one playing Harley Quinn, we wouldn’t have gotten Tara Strong as Injustice!Harley or Kaley Kucoco as Harley in her cartoon show. That’s a worse crime than anything Harley’s committed!
Issue 3: Fatigue
There’s also the fact that some audiences are getting ‘Expanded Universe Fatigue.’ Many fans have complained that movies like Multiverse of Madness require audiences to watch multiple movies and shows to understand the characters (and these are MARVEL fans who can sit through 3-hour superhero epics that were a decade in the making).
Rather than move away from that and focus on telling stand-alone but slightly connected stories, DC is putting all its chips into building a multimedia universe that will require fans to stay up-to-date with movies, TV shows, cartoons, and video games. Aspirational, perhaps, but a lofty goal too.
Issue 4: Confusion with mediums
In addition to fatigue, I doubt that spreading this universe out over multiple mediums will help deal with confused audience members who can’t tell what is and isn’t ‘canon’ to the main universe. I think DC has yet to fully understand that a majority of audience members have never read a comic. Even then, audiences shouldn’t need to watch a 20+ minute recap video every time you want to watch a comic-book movie.
Issue 5: Other problems
This scapegoating of other DC properties also doesn’t address the main problems with the previous DC expanded universe where they tried too much too quickly. They ‘killed’ Superman in his second movie, and almost no heroes had solo introductory movies before the first Justice League movie.
Their main problem was that they tried to make their cinematic universe in reverse (big world ending event first, individual storylines second), which ultimately made it a mess. Even their best expanded universe, the DC animated universe, wasn’t build in a day. They waited until they had 5 seasons of Batman and Superman cartoons before building their Justice League.
To be fair to James Gunn, this thinking has plagued DC/WB for a long time. It’s what led to the creation of the ‘Bat-embargo,’ which mandated that Batman characters could only appear in one major property at a time. That’s why Justice League Unlimited never got Batgirl, Nightwing, or Robin, much less some of the main Batman villains as antagonists (these characters were being used in Teen Titans or The Batman cartoon show).
Theoretically, the ‘Elseworlds’ label does mean that DC will continue to create content that does not fall under the umbrella of the main universe. But considering a lot of DC’s best content in the past decade has been from those Elseworld stories, I am concerned for the future of DC’s universe.
(featured image via: DC/Warner Bros)
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