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Mark Millar Argues That the DCEU Has Struggled Because DC Characters “Aren’t Cinematic”

Image of the cast of Justice League, including Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill as Superman, and Ben Affleck as Batman

In a recent interview with Yahoo! Movies, writer Mark Millar was asked for his thoughts about the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films—specifically, interviewer Hanna Flint asked, “Apart from Wonder Woman, what is Warner Bros. doing wrong?”

Millar’s answer focused on the origins of the characters, and what their stories center on. (Note: I updated the punctuation of Millar’s answers slightly for readability.)

“I think it’s really simple: the characters aren’t cinematic, and I say this as a massive DC fan who much prefers their characters to Marvel’s. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are some of my favourites, but I think these characters, with the exception of Batman, they aren’t based around their secret identity; they are based around their super power. Whereas the Marvel characters tend to be based around the personality of Matt Murdock or Peter Parker or the individual X-Men, it’s all about the character.”

“DC, outside of Batman, is not about the character,” he continued. “With Batman, you can understand him and you can worry about him but someone like Green Lantern, he has this ring that allows him to create 3D physical manifestations and green plasma with the thoughts in his head but he’s allergic to the colour yellow! How do you make a movie with that? In 1952 that made perfect sense, but now the audience have no idea what that’s all about.”

“People will slam me for this but I think the evidence is there,” he said. “We’ve seen great directors, great writers and great actors, tonnes of money thrown at them, but these films aren’t working. I think they are all too far away from when they were created. Something feels a little old about them: kids look at these characters and they don’t feel that cool. Even Superman, I love Superman, but he belongs to an America that doesn’t exist anymore. He represents 20th Century America and I think he peaked then.”

Now, I think there are some valid points here. One of the geniuses of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was to give heroes like Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four more struggles that came from their own character flaws and human needs, rather than simply from an adversary. That was a genuine innovation that helped to set them apart from DC. However, I do think shows like the animated Justice League have shown just how much character the different DC heroes can have when they play off each other, and I absolutely believe an ensemble piece like that could make for a great film. Plus, many of the DC characters have evolved and developed really distinct personalities, and DC Comics has written plenty of character-driven arcs over the year – and plenty of successful DC films have also been made in the past. (The Dark Knight, Superman, etc.)

That said, while I definitely think the question of the DCEU is more complicated that Millar suggested, I do agree with him that DC faces some fundamentally different challenges in bringing some of its characters to the screen. Superman and Wonder Woman have larger iconic and symbolic meaning outside of themselves, in ways that Iron Man or Thor do not, and that does create different questions and concerns when adapting them for the big screen.

What do you think of Millar’s analysis, though? Do you think it was way too general, or was there some small kernel of truth there?

(via io9; image: Warner Bros.)

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