Nick Picks | What the DC Extended Universe Can Learn from the Arrowverse

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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.

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Whoever wins, the audience loses.

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:

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Your move, Ezra Miller.

  1. 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.

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Arrow always hits its target.

  1. 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.

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Now this is what a superhero team looks like!

  1. 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.

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The Green Arrow and the Flash get animated in Vixen.

  1. 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.

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  1. The Arrowverse Has Felicity Smoak

Felicity Smoak > All of the other characters in the Arrowverse >>> All of the characters in the DC Extended Universe.

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Sorry Batman and Superman, but you’re no longer the world’s finest.

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!

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This entry was posted in Features on by .

About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

18 comments on “Nick Picks | What the DC Extended Universe Can Learn from the Arrowverse

  1. Dan

    Love Arrow and this is an awesome article! Personally I think Marvel films suffer from a similar affliction in which they try packing far too much into a limited timeframe. TV is the way to go when it comes to comic-genre adaptations because there’s such a rich history to these characters and films don’t allow enough time to explore them. And sometimes it’s good to take a step back and see where comic canon can be bent or disregarded. Otherwise you’d never get a gem like Felicity Smoak! Point 5 had me giving you a standing ovation!! Too bad there’s only one Emily Bett and DCEU seems adamant against bringing their tv actors to the big screen?.

  2. Arrowfan3

    Awesome article! All such good points. Arrow is a very underappreciated but amazing show! Great spinoffs too. So glad to see the Arrowverse getting some much deserved recognition. I agree with the commenter above me, Dan, standing ovation for point number 5! Felicity Smoak is an awesome badass superhero (and Emily Bett Rickards is an awesome person and actress!) and Arrow is so lucky to have her! So love seeing her get the love and praise she deserves! Kudos on the awesome article!

  3. Ajay Kumar

    DC will find success without Felicity. All the movies will make more money than all the DC TV shows put together. DC doesn’t give ten shits about Felicity or Olicity because she is not in DC:Rebirth and won’t live on past Arrow. Superman as a character has evolved he is no longer the boy scout he once was. The world is no longer Black and White. Did you even watch BvS or read comics? BvS is literally a comic book fans wet dream. The Dark Knight returns basically inspired the premise, Darkseid wars, Injustice Gods Among us, Batman: Death in the Family and Death of Superman all inspire the film to some degree. Marc Guggenheim openly admits to not taking an inspiration from the comics so you are really confused. In fact Arrow seems more like a romantic drama than a comic book show. So it seems Arrow is the one ashamed of its comic book roots. Stop taking the success of Flash and projecting on to Arrow when Flash is the one that actually respects its own source material.

    DCEU does not need to learn anything from the Arrowverse when its retelling decades of great stories and legacies. No one outside of Arrow gives 2 shits about Felicity aka Mary Sue. Clearly the writer is an Olicity fanboy.

  4. Lyla

    Completely agree with the compliments on the Arrowverse. Arrow particularly learned a lot from it’s first season mistakes and season 2 was spectacular. The villains are diverse and don’t repeat themselves. Flash, although can be a tad repetitive with its ”always getting faster” agenda, is very high up in the quality humor department. What is especially interesting is that besides having cast truly appropriate lead actors for both super heroes, it is more often than not the little remarks or subplots of the ”team members” that sparkle on screen. Top examples would be Carlos Valdes as Cisco and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity.
    The critique on the BvS is a tad harsh, but mostly agree. Producers have to make tough decisions as to when listen to the fans and when not to. Mostly I would suggest they do, ESPECIALLY when it comes to comic properties. The only case when I agree they made a good call going against the obvious choice, is casting Ben Affleck.

  5. Bazza

    I can’t tell if this is meant to be satire or if you actually think Felicity Smoak is in any way a good character.

  6. PinkLassie

    Fantastic!!! Excellent article!

    I completely agree, DC needs to lighten up. Sitting in the theater with my family watching Batman v Superman, I kept asking myself, why is everything so dark? To me, Batman was the villain for the first 2/3 of the movie, was that their intention to have the Dark Knight so dark that his motivation was suspect?

    Arrow can be dark and tackle moody subjects, but there is usually several moments of levity that allow us to reconnect to Oliver and his team. It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that Felicity Smoak is the best! She increases our connection to each member of the team, Oliver in particular. He was so dark and dreary at the beginning, so much so, that he was somewhat unapproachable for audience members. Felicity brings out the lighter side of the hero and allows us to see his charm. In addition to her ability to lighten all those around her, the skills she brings to the team are unique and interesting. She is a great role model for girls who value intellect and wit!

  7. black canary! claudia

    this has to be a belated april fool joke. laurel lance is by far the best character in the arrowverse, which is ironic considering how much they butchered her and disrespected her comic book roots. the arrowverse is a disgrace to all things dc, & katie cassidy deserved better than being tossed aside for a fan service character. because yes, when a show is based off of a series of comics, it SHOULD follow canon, and not what a bunch of thirteen year-olds on tumblr think the show should be like.

  8. Starlord

    So in your books, Felicity or a Felicity type character needs to be in every DC property? She can just get the actual main female character killed off for the sake of a terrible love story? Sure, just throw in Felicity into a Justice League movie, have her get Wonder Woman killed off because we don’t need her right? Felicity’s character has become exponentially worse since season 2 ended. The fact anyone would consider her character better than any DC TV or movie character is depressing and insulting.
    All she’s done, in my opinion, is take away screen time and much needed character development from everyone else in the show. This season has a barely there villain and it’s looking more and more like the actual main story line will be more about if her and Oliver get together and less about if Star City or Darkh even matter anymore.
    Now, as a result, the show’s quality has nose dived and, with the latest episode killing off Laurel, has no hope to ever reclaim it’s so-called glory from season 1. There’s no possible argument to rationally explain how Felicity is, in any way, a good thing to the show. The only hope I have left for this show is to give justice for ruining Black Canary and have Felicity die like she should’ve in the mid season finale. I don’t have very high hopes for that to happen since the writers love her way more than the other characters. Also, as for the suggestion that Arrow is better than BvS, just, no. If anyone were to ever ask about watching Arrow or BvS, I will always whole-heartedly tell them that Arrow is abysmal after season 2 and BvS at least won’t kill off its lead female. Feel free to try and convince me otherwise on Felicity though. I’m always up for a little debate.
    Sincerely, a very disappointed fan

  9. Earthprime

    {The Arrowverse Has Felicity Smoak
    Felicity Smoak > All of the other characters in the Arrowverse >>> All of the characters in the DC Extended Universe}

    You are officially an idiot

  10. DCnation

    You must be a bitter Marvel fanboy, Batman Vs Superman was awesome and a sucess too. And dont compare it too CW soap opera

  11. FTthoseBout

    Mmm… Odd article.

    1. DCEU is rushed?
    The show isn’t rushed, true. That may be the case but it has become repetitive and extremely boring.
    The entire BvS film was to mark the beginning of the Justice League and honestly, I would’ve been pretty damn upset if they hadn’t completed the Trinity in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman is so important and it made sense to bring her in. Two films to introduce three main characters? That doesn’t seem too rushed to me, especially when EVERYONE KNOWS BATMAN AND SUPERMAN. So really, they’ve had two films to introduce one character that was merely a supporting character in one film… If they had excluded Wonder Woman, you would’ve been complaining about how it’s always about Batman and Superman and that it’s boring because they didn’t show her.
    The cameos had to’ve added up to two minutes total. I don’t see how that’s a problem. For me, that was part of the highlight of the movie considering just how much I love The Flash and how much I look forward to seeing this new Aquaman and Cyborg. It was exciting and I’m thankful they included those cameos. Were there other cameos? Yes. Were they excessive? No. They weren’t really the focus of any scene and I doubt they’ll really be the focus of anything (considering how one of them – Jimmy Olsen – was killed. KGBeast might make an appearance in Suicide Squad 2, but I doubt it). I appreciate the nod in fact. It means they’ve paid attention to the comics. Had the amount of cameos occurred in a Marvel film, everyone would’ve freaked out, excited that the screenwriters have paid attention to the comics. Honestly, I’m disappointed there wasn’t another cameo; the final Justice League member, Green Lantern.
    It’s also fairly obvious why Lex wanted Batman and Superman to fight: he saw Superman as a godly figure, one that he felt shouldn’t exist because his father was abusive and God was never around to help him as a kid. It’s clear he didn’t like his dad by the way he spoke nor does he like anything having to do with God. He despises God and anything like him. Batman was simply the best weapon he had barring the kryptonite.
    2. They didn’t listen to fans?
    That it was too “gloomy”? No DC fan complained about that after Man of Steel. That is merely all of the Marvel fans and media that expected an Avengers/Iron Man film. Anyone that reads the comics knows that DC is not happy-go-lucky and fun. Superman may be filled with hope an optimism but he also knows how the world works. Hope and optimism isn’t correlated with jolly, especially when the entire country doesn’t want him to exist. He displayed hope throughout the film as well, even if it wasn’t pouring out of his system. He had hope that Batman was a good man with the right intentions (why would he tell Batman to save his mother? Which we won’t even get into the Martha thing and everyone’s ignorance to it). I prefer to see Superman more of a gritty character anyway, it makes him more relatable.
    The whole thing with Felicity and Laurel is aggravating and shouldn’t be included in this argument especially when number four is a thing. In the comics, Oliver Queen has more chemistry and relations with Black Canary. Personally, as a fan of the comics, I would prefer Oliver and Laurel. That’s a casting issue. That’s a script issue. Cast actresses/actors that have good chemistry together.
    3. More diverse characters?
    You’re able to judge that by one film that’s centered around only two characters, comparing it to several seasons of multiple shows? They packed in too many cameos but should’ve had more diverse characters? Wait until the Justice League comes out, you’ll get that diversity, both in character and racial. Then again though, there will probably be too many characters for your liking in that film, packing it with TOO much diversity. I suggest not watching it.
    The actors on TV are honestly flat and I am more than thankful that they are not connected to the cinematic universe; most of their acting is subpar. I love Grant Gustin but he has never been Barry material. I would’ve preferred him as a GL actually, or a secondary character.
    4. Comic roots.
    In what way has BvS been “ashamed” to admit it has comic roots? It brought in several easter eggs and had the heartbeat of the comics. I’m sorry, but I’d much rather Superman give up the red undies and be “ashamed” than him have them and say he’s “embracing” his roots. I would imagine that The Flash’s costume will be red and Green Lantern’s will have plenty of that color you are looking for. Wonder Woman’s costume is beautiful, much better than Supergirl’s disgusting costume.
    Why was Jimmy Olsen in there if there weren’t embracing their comic roots? KGBeast? The Motherbox? Don’t even start with that “it’s nothing like the comics” bit. Arrow has changed so many things from the comics (The Flash too – Wally is not Iris’ brother, but his nephew. Don’t touch my speedsters. I don’t appreciate the meddling).
    5. Felicity Smoak.
    Terrible character, terrible acting. And to put every single character in the DCEU below her when Wonder Woman has made more than just an appearance is just ridiculous and frankly insulting.

    The only major complaint I have about BvS (and even Man of Steel) was all of the fighting sequences. They could’ve easily shaved off five to ten minutes of fighting and both films would’ve been a lot better. Anything after that is people just complaining that they weren’t in a superhero-comedy film.

    You can’t enjoy a film if you go in expecting it to be terrible, as every single person that does not know the comics has. It’s honestly tiring seeing the same, empty arguments.

  12. Red Queen

    I can’t really tell if this is for real or just a very bad joke.
    I’m thrilled that “Felicity and Friends” will never be a part of the DCEU. That is the very last thing we need!

  13. Jessie

    The only thing the DCEU could learn for the Olicityverse is how to not let fanservice ruin a show. You’re saying “It has Felicity Smoak” as if that is a good thing. It’s not. At all.

  14. Nathan

    What Grende lot of shit, Arrow is one of the worst adaptations , has several characters presented in a bad way , besides the Felicity super Marysue forced and bland , a character who gains a company having sex and drops a bandit with a kick to the knee does not should not even exist , not to mention Stephen Amell which is the worst possible green Arrow.

  15. Gray

    I’ve never been able to get into the CW shows but I did watch the crossovers Invasion and Crisis on Earth-X and thought they did a great job with both. They’re basically Justice League movies in all but name.

    I loved Man of Steel and I liked Batman v Superman (loved Wonder Woman, obviously) but I have to say that Invasion and Crisis both felt more Justice League-y than the big screen Justice League movie.

  16. Lee Jones

    I’m a fan of the DCEU. I’m a fan of Arrowverse. I’m a fan of the MCU. I’m a fan of the X-Men Movieverse. This article is bullshit. I don’t need for the DCEU to copy Arrowverse or the MCU. I would prefer for it to march to the beat of its own drum, thank you very much.

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