Super Specific | The DCEU is in its final death throes

Super Specific is a bi-weekly blog about superheroes in pop culture.

By Diana Velasquez, Contributing Editor

Zack Snyder fans thought almost a year ago they were about to receive everything they ever wanted. The mythical, now real, “Snyder Cut” of the 2017 film “Justice League” was released to the public on HBO Max in March 2021.

Joss Whedon, who was brought in to finish the film after Snyder had to step away from directing following his daughter’s death, had changed the movie drastically.

“Zack Synder’s Justice League” was a clear improvement on the “Justice League” box-office bomb, and though I doubt Warner Bros. would have released Snyder’s four-hour film as it was intended for a theatrical release in 2017, the differences between the two films were stark.

But better as the 2021 version might be, it’s not canon.

Snyder revealed in an interview with Deadline that a condition of releasing his film on HBO Max was that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” would be considered “non-canon.” Any future films in the DC Extended Universe would follow in the footsteps of Whedon’s version. Warner Bros. made it clear that it wanted nothing more to do with Snyder’s vision of the DCEU.

Many die-hard DCEU fans are also die-hard Snyder fans, and as Snyder directed both “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it’s no surprise that many fans saw Synder as the mastermind behind the DCEU’s continuity, equivalent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe producer Kevin Feige.

But after the box office and critical disappointment of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Warner Bros.’ faith in Snyder seemed to waver, and after the failure of “Justice League,” it seems to have cast him out entirely.

Snyder has now signed a deal with Netflix to write, direct and produce his upcoming projects like the “Army of the Dead” franchise, “Twilight of the Gods” and “Rebel Moon.”

All of this is to say that Warner Bros. has no idea what the hell it’s doing — and it’s the DCEU actors and fans who will be paying for it.

Warner Bros. sought desperately for years to reach the critical and commercial success of the MCU, but after hitting the “Justice League” brick wall, it was soon clear that it was beginning to pivot on its strategy.

If you had gone to the DCEU’s Wikipedia page before “Justice League” was released, you would find a slate of movies scheduled, just as interwoven as MCU’s sprawling multiverse. “Cyborg,” “The Flash,” “The Batman,” “Green Lantern” and a plethora of Justice League sequels seemed to be on the horizon.

But only a few of these movies are still in production, and they hardly resemble the films as they originally planned.

Ben Affleck, who was originally slated to direct the Batman movie, stepped down as director in 2017. It was clear by 2019 he would not return to play the role, which was instead offered to the “Twilight” fan-favorite Robert Pattinson. This Batman film, which will be released this March, will be entirely separate from the DCEU.

As if the DCEU was not already as beaten and battered as a street thug in Gotham, any credibility it might have held onto was thrown out the window earlier this month — when Vulture dropped an exclusive interview with Whedon.

“The Undoing of Joss Whedon” is less of an investigation of the abuses the director dealt behind the scenes of “Justice League,” and more of a way to fluff up Whedon’s bruised ego.

The director sees himself as an outcast in Hollywood, once held as a pariah of “nerd-culture,” the writer and director behind nerd-classics like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly” and “The Avengers” spent most of the interview whining about the plethora of abuse allegations he’d received.

The allegation most relevant to the DCEU comes from Ray Fisher, who starred as Cyborg in both versions of “Justice League.” Fisher first publicly condemned Whedon on Twitter in June 2020 calling his behavior on set as “gross, abusive, unprofessional.” He has since continued to demand an investigation into Whedon’s behavior, and that of “Justice League” producer Geoff Johns and DC Film president Walter Hamada.

Whedon has addressed Fisher’s accusations, claiming Fisher had been pushy with his character’s inclusion in the film when addressing his cut-down storyline after Whedon had done revisions.

Whedon, who was alleged to have purposely brushed aside the storyline of multiple characters of color, even went on to address the accusations of Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman. He claims she misunderstood his intentions and attitude on set claiming she didn’t understand him because, “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.”

The interview was highly criticized, and Whedon’s blatantly pompous and misogynistic comments only seem to have condemned him further. Hopefully, his outsider status will stick, but the damage he’s done to the DCEU can’t be corrected — particularly where Fisher is concerned. 

Fisher was slated to star in his own Cyborg film, and co-star with Ezra Miller in the upcoming “The Flash” movie. But “Cyborg” has been canceled and “The Flash” has been rewritten to make space for Michael Keaton, who will return to his ‘80s role as Batman — ousting Fisher from the DCEU in the process.

And where Warner Bros. once hoped for the DCEU to be a hulking multiverse behemoth to rival Marvel, it now claims to be more focused on “individual storytelling.”

Warner Bros. can scream that the DCEU has shifted directions all it likes. The truth of the matter is that it started its universe on shaky legs and fumbled the play once it started to get its footing, ruining what could have been a movie franchise with apparent cover-ups and multiple figures in their organization mishandling the franchise.

I like DC. I really do. Batman and Jason Todd are among my top five comic book characters. But I find it hard to connect with them much anymore.

My mother, who worked for DC in the early 2000s in their marketing department, used to tell me stories about the former DC headquarters building — 1700 Broadway in midtown Manhattan. They had a batmobile in the third-floor lobby, and superhero memorabilia of all kinds scattered around floors three through seven. I wonder how I would feel stepping in such a place now. 

While 20 years ago my mother might have walked into DC headquarters, firm in the fact that the Justice League was comics’ most renowned superhero team, today’s fans have abandoned their dreams of a DC media dominance for greener pastures settled firmly in Marvel Studios’ production lot.