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DC’s Unshared Universe Dilemma

*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of hullabaloo from fans of Warner Bros./DC Comics about the TV universe being a separate entity from the film universe. I’m going to be clear about this: I haven’t seen Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and I’ve only see two episodes of Gotham, which I really liked. One would think that would put me at a disadvantage talking about them – not so. I’m not emotionally connected to any of this. I look at everything here as a possibility, not as realities that I’m personally experiencing. I only know that fans really like most of these shows. Liking these shows means they really like the actors playing the characters.

On the film side, we’ve seen all of these characters recast with film stars, from The Flash movie to Suicide Squad. Arrow’s lead, Stephen Amell, even got into the mix by calling out the WB on announcing the film’s new Flash actor exactly when the TV series got the highest ratings for its second episode than has been seen on the WB. To be fair, no one forgot that the Flash TV series was doing extremely well with the announcement. I’m sure they meant to bolster one and the other with each other.

It’s frustrating. I understand. Fans have the right to be frustrated by the film industry and how it works. Filmmakers are frustrated by the film industry and how it works.

Marvel has set up certain expectations for fans and the entirety of entertainment that are difficult to match on the fly. No one knew Marvel’s entire game plan when Iron Man came out. They started to see a pattern with Thor, but it wasn’t until The Avengers danced into theatres singing, “Nyah-nya-nyahnyah-nyah,” that every fan became blissfully aware of the joy that was being fed to them, and everyone else in the superhero industry would pound their heads on the table in unison, because they didn’t have the inspiration to do this first. Now, fans and nerds alike will follow Marvel through WWIII and won’t even open the car door for anyone else. They will forgive Marvel for accidentally burning down their house and scream at DC for knocking over a glass of milk. Balance has been lost. Why would DC have been concerned about this? Just a couple years earlier their The Dark Knight was hailed as the greatest comic book movie ever made, and for good reason. At that time, Marvel had . . . The Hulk?

There are realities here in catching up to what Marvel has wrought that affect what WB/DC (and others) feels like they have to do with their movie franchises in creating a shared universe. They need big-named stars for overseas sales. This is a reality. Especially for characters that aren’t as well known. For Suicide Squad, someone like Will Smith is a huge find as Deadshot for this film, especially since a lot of the other actors aren’t as well known in foreign territories. Jared Leto is not a name brand in China – though he could be a great Joker. And, Michael Rowe, who played Deadshot on the Arrow TV series, is virtually unknown beyond the watery boundaries of our bio-system. On the other hand, someone like Will Smith would cost far too much to bring onto a TV series. So, it’s most likely that money is a huge thing that keeps their TV and film universes segregated.

Creatively speaking, if they combined the two worlds, the creators of the TV series would lose a lot of control over where they specifically want things to go, because more money would become involved. Do you want that to happen? Do you want idiotic producers waving their broken ego wands over the magic that you sit down to watch in front of your TV every week?

For DC, it makes sense. There are people who don’t have the money or time to go and see movies or they have kids, but have tons of time to watch and indulge in TV. And, there are people who hate TV but will go and see a film multiple times. There are many who will do both! WB/DC wins. Fans won’t feel like they’re missing something, because they don’t have time to follow every single frigging story being churned out every week. And, with Marvels’ Netflix series coming out, with more S.H.I.E.L.D. TV spin offs. I personally won’t have time for every minute of Marvel TV! I still have to see Iron Man 3.

Is it still frustrating? Do fans have every right to be frustrated? Yes. Especially if you look at things only through the spectrum of what Marvel is doing. Let me ask this: Why do we want the next thing we see to be exactly the same as the last thing we loved? It’s safe. It means they won’t screw something up, or so we tell ourselves. Deep down, we know that isn’t the case. It just isn’t. With a shared universe or a contained universe, it’s all about how well the story is told. So, instead of asking for the last thing, we simply ask for something that’s good enough to love.

Do we need a button at the end of the film in order to create a shared universe? No. Half of Marvel’s buttons have been fun but unnecessary to the story. They could have been elements revealed in the next movie. Does it make it fun? Yes.

I look at what WB/DC is doing and see this: If the film universe fails, we’ll still have the TV universe. If the TV universe fails, we’ll still have the film universe. If they both succeed, then we have two amazing DC story universes that we can enjoy. What is wrong with that? Why is that a failure? If they both fail, then they need to go back to the drawing board, and most likely will.

Where WB/DC has to start getting it right is not holding one up over the other, but treating these worlds as equally important, and if they ever decide to combine the universes, they can. The DC comic book universe (as well as Marvel’s) has multiverses built in. So, when fans complain that WB/DC isn’t conjoining the Marvel and TV universe, I say, well, why couldn’t they?




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