If you thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would be too long, pack in too many cameos, and fail to live up to the monumental hype, you were unfortunately right. Zack Snyder’s film bombed with critics, currently having a score of only 28% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. Although some audiences have been a little more forgiving, nobody is really defending Batman v Superman as a great movie. While Ben Affleck’s Batman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, and a few other elements have received praise, most people agree that there was a lot wrong with the superhero crossover. Even if you liked the film overall, nobody can deny it could have been so much more.
Due to the film’s poor reception, it isn’t surprising that Batman v Superman has been plummeting at the box office. After a strong opening weekend, the film took a nosedive during its second week. This past weekend, Batman v Superman was beat out at the domestic box office by The Boss, a Melissa McCarthy comedy that received even worse reviews. Taking the film’s huge budget and marketing campaign into consideration, it’s possible that Batman v Superman will be less profitable than Man of Steel, which commenced the DC Extended Universe. Although Man of Steel was a financial success, it didn’t exactly set the box office on fire either. With two films that have underperformed, the DCEU may crash and burn before it even gets off the ground.
If Warner Bros. wants the DCEU to endure, they could certainly learn a thing or two from another superhero universe. No, I’m not talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although Batman v Superman might have been a better film with Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, or the Russo Brothers behind the camera. I’m talking about the slew of DC shows on the CW Network: Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. All three of these series are part of the same continuity and regularly crossover. They’ve even had crossovers with DC programs on other networks, such as CBS’s Supergirl and NBC’s Constantine. Where the Arrowverse continues to hit bull’s-eyes, the DC movies keep missing the mark.
But how could a couple of shows on the CW possibly be more epic than a multi-million dollar film where Batman and Superman beat the living hell out of each other? Well, here are five reasons why:
- The Arrowverse Doesn’t Feel Rushed
One of the biggest complaints with the DC Extended Universe is that Warner Bros. is trying to give us too much, too fast. Over the course of only two films, they’ve already introduced Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. They’ve additionally given us a sneak peak at several more heroes to come. Batman v Superman in particular was so overstuffed that it barely felt like we got to know anybody or came to fully understand their motivations. Why exactly did Lex Luthor want Batman and Superman to fight anyway? Apparently just because he’s evil and crazy!
The Arrowverse, however, took its time establishing its characters and world. When Arrow kicked things off in 2012, the creators didn’t focus too heavily on universe building. They just wanted to tell a good standalone story. By the end of season one, they had figured out what worked and what didn’t work. Because of this, they were able to go into season two with a much clearer vision. In 2015, the showrunners took everything they learned from Arrow and applied it to their follow-up show, The Flash. In 2016, several characters from both of these shows were brought together in Legends of Tomorrow. The Arrowverse has naturally grown over the years, while the DCEU feels like its taking steroids to catch up with its competitors.
Sure, most TV series air 20-something episodes per year, while most movies are only two and a half hours max. Since TV shows have more time to experiment and explore, they’re naturally going to have more character development. Of course, this isn’t always the case. For example, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film worked in a lot more character development than the Adam West show did in three seasons. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman could have been successful films with more focus and better pacing. Unlike the Arrowverse, though, Warner Bros. is jumping the gun without thinking matters through.
- The Arrowverse Listens to Fan Feedback
When Man of Steel came out, many people complained that Superman was too gloomy and the film’s tone was totally humorless. Rather than learning their lesson, Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder just made the same mistakes in Batman v Superman. Superman barely even smiled, and the same could be said about the audience. To be fair, fans don’t always know what’s best. Everyone initially protested casting Ben Affleck as Batman, but he ended up being one of the best aspects of the film. If the Arrowverse has proven anything, though, it’s that fan feedback can be quite helpful.
While Arrow started strong, the first several episodes were far from perfect. Oliver Queen’s inner monologue was pointless, several characters served little purpose, and the romance could also feel forced. As season one went on, the showrunners took these complaints into consideration. Outside of the opening to every episode, Oliver never narrates anymore. Arrow’s less interesting characters were either killed off or given more to do later on. The biggest improvement the show made, though, was in the love story department.
Nobody was really rooting for Oliver to end up with Laurel Lance, who would eventually become Black Canary. Usually when a show decides to get two characters together, the creators stick to their guns no matter what. The people behind Arrow realized that Oliver and Laurel just weren’t right for each other, however. Instead, Oliver had much better chemistry with Emily Bett Rickards’s Felicity Smoak, a guest star who later became a series regular. While Oliver and Felicity’s will-they-won’t-they romance could get tiresome in season three, at least we cared if they ultimately lived happily ever after. In the DCEU, we really don’t care what happens because the filmmakers obviously don’t care what the fan’s think.
- The Arrowverse Has More Diverse Characters
Part of what makes the relationship between Batman and Superman so interesting is that they’re so different and yet so similar. To some extent, Batman v Superman addresses this dynamic. There’s one major thing they missed, however. Superman is supposed to be full of hope and optimism, while Batman is supposed to be dark and grim. The filmmakers certainly nailed Batman’s brooding nature, but they totally missed the point of Superman. The Man of Steel was so damn stern and solemn that he actually felt more like Batman. Since Superman and Batman are virtually the same here, watching them clash just isn’t as interesting.
In the Arrowverse, the main characters are infinitely more diverse. Much like Batman/Bruce Wayne, Oliver Queen/The Green Arrow is a rich playboy by day and a hard-hitting vigilante by night. Like Superman/Cark Kent, Barry Allen/The Flash is a mild-mannered nerd who secretly fights crime with superhuman speed and enhanced strength. Oliver and Barry aren’t one-dimensional characters either. Although Oliver is a complicated, tortured soul, he can also be funny at times. Barry is a wisecracking young man, but also has plenty of inner demons. They perfectly compliment one another, which is why their crossover episodes are always a blast.
Currently in its first season, Legends of Tomorrow hasn’t been quite as successful as Arrow or The Flash. The story can admittedly be kind of muddled and all over the place, but the show’s appeal lies in its diverse ensemble. While Legends of Tomorrow arguably has one too many characters, they all have fleshed out personalities and everybody brings something unique to the table. The cast has great chemistry, at times even calling to mind Firefly or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even if Legends of Tomorrow is still finding its voice, the showrunners know how ensemble pieces function, which is more than can be said about Zack Snyder.
- The Arrowverse Isn’t Afraid to Embrace Its Comic Book Roots
After Batman & Robin nearly killed the superhero genre in the late 90’s, studios realized that audiences wanted serious comic book adaptations as apposed to campy fair. As a result, we got X-Men, Spider-Man, and the MCU. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, in particular, demonstrated just how sophisticated, realistic, and important superhero movies could be. As gritty as The Dark Knight could get, though, Nolan didn’t deprive the film or humor or wit. With Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Zack Snyder tried so hard to be taken seriously that he forgot why people to go to superhero movies: to have fun. Would it have killed the screenwriters to throw in a couple of choice quips? They’re not making The Passion of the Christ here!
Where Batman v Superman almost seems ashamed to admit that it’s a superhero movie, the Arrowverse isn’t afraid to embrace its comic book roots. All of these shows make great use of color, with Arrow being draped in green and The Flash decorating itself in red. They almost feel like graphic novels brought to life. Meanwhile, the muted colors in Batman v Superman just make the experience depressing and joyless.
The Arrowverse also isn’t afraid to incorporate some comedy and pop culture references. The showrunners never go too over-the-top with the humor, though. For every cartoony bad guy, such as Mark Hamill’s Trickster, there’s a legitimately intimidating villain, such as Tom Cavanagh’s Harrison Wells. Much like Batman: The Animated Series, these shows know when to let a character’s turmoil shine through, and when to inject a little lightheartedness. It’s all about finding just the right balance. The Arrowverse has found that balance, but the DCEU is simply one-note.
- The Arrowverse Has Felicity Smoak
Felicity Smoak > All of the other characters in the Arrowverse >>> All of the characters in the DC Extended Universe.
This all just goes to show why we’re in a golden age of television, while mainstream blockbusters are very hit and miss. Since the DC Extended Universe has only put out two movies so far, there’s still hope for this franchise. Maybe Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, or even Aquaman will finally turn matters around. Until then, at least audiences we have the Arrowverse to fill the void. As for all those studio heads at Warner Bros., watch the CW and take notes!