The three most successful DC Films in the current shared universe, in order of release date, are Man of Steel, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. What do they all have in common? They each are, for the most part, standalone solo films that don’t rely on anything but themselves.
Man of Steel had a lot of cool Easter eggs, including a Wayne satellite, but the story didn’t hinge on anything but Superman’s origin. Wonder Woman was book-ended by some scenes regarding her photo from Batman v Superman, but again, the film as a whole didn’t need you to know that to enjoy it. Aquaman had a throwaway line regarding Steppenwolf in Justice League, but it didn’t effect the events happening in that film.
It seems like Warner Bros. is finally recognizing this trend and is planning on making more solo films that aren’t linked the shared universe.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, WB boss Toby Emmerich had this to say:
We all feel like we’ve turned a corner now. We’re playing by the DC playbook, which is very different than the Marvel playbook. We are far less focused on a shared universe. We take it one movie at a time. Each movie is its own equation and own creative entity. If you had to say one thing about us, it’s that it always has to be about the directors.
This is the approach that WB had with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. He had a vision of what he wanted to do with the character and they let him do it. Patty Jenkins has a vision for Wonder Woman and they let her do it. James Wan had a vision for Aquaman and they let him do it. Matt Reeves wants to do a certain thing with Batman and it seems like they are going to let him do it.
If you try to fit all the heroes into the puzzle of a shared universe, then directors won’t get to do what they want, because it’ll mess with what other directors are doing with their films. You can’t have Aquaman doing that because in the Wonder Woman film he’s doing this. How could Superman be doing that when in the Batman film he’s doing this?
The shared universe model has obviously done wonders for Marvel, but that doesn’t mean it should be a copy and paste method of film making for DC.
The DC Universe and its characters flow differently, so the films should too. Christopher Nolan would pour everything into a film and wouldn’t hold anything back and then, should a sequel present itself, deal with that separately. He infamously was going to save the Harvey Two-Face transformation for a third film, but decided to just put everything into The Dark Knight. He then sorted out what to do in the sequel afterwards, when he decided to make one.
Let’s keep that train going. Make Aquaman 2, make Matt Reeves’ Batman film, make a Flash film. Make their sequels. If another Justice League team-up film makes sense down the road, after these characters are established, we can worry about it then. It will feel like a major event and special instead of forced and rushed.
This is good news for DC fans. WB focusing on director-driven films will only make the films better. If you love team-up films, like I said, maybe they’ll try again down the line. For now, let’s be happy they’re focusing on making good, quality solo films first. After all, would you rather have good, quality individual movies, or mediocre to bad shared universe films? While I enjoy seeing my favorite characters interact, I’d prefer the former.