Many of us watched the recent first episode of DC Daily, live streamed on YouTube and hosted by Kevin Smith. It finally gave us a ton of new details about the DC Universe streaming service that we now know is officially going to launch on Batman Day, September 15, and since this show is being touted as a daily source of official information and announcements from DC about their upcoming projects and productions, many of us are hoping that the days of being strung along by scoops from bloggers and insiders that are not always right and are frequently wrong, are either over or at least about to be severely disrupted.
That's not what I want to talk about here though. For right now, I want to focus on something that happened in the middle of the show that caused some major teeth gnashing and furled eyebrows on social media. No, it wasn't the appearance of Hector Navarro, though many DC Extended Universe fans were none too pleased that he showed up during the show. Honestly, there are some that don't even like that Kevin Smith hosted the show, given his past sentiments about prior DCEU movies to this point.
I've had my own incident with Navarro on Twitter as he and I were having what I though was a relatively peaceful disagreement over some disparaging comments he had made about the DCEU in particular. Then I found out hours later after amicably ending the discussion that he blocked me, which was unfortunate. I can't say I hold him in the highest regard after that but I didn't let it bug me that much during the show.
What DID catch my attention was one of the segments introducing other members of the DC Daily team, specifically Brian Tong, who directly spoke about how he feels the future of the DCEU (he DID refer to it as that, so now it's pretty much official) will bring some people back because of the tone of the next few films, specifically Aquaman and Shazam. Kevin Smith further elaborated on this, saying that he agreed and that the trailers for both movies were "incredibly strong steps in the absolute right direction."
Ok, here we go. They avoided making any commentary about the DCEU for over an hour, but now they're getting into it. Smith went on further, saying that even though there are all kinds of movies out there, "sometimes you just want to escape."
Great, he used the "escape clause." That's the same argument my boss gave me about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. "Two hours of pure escapism" he called it. To be fair, I've never prayed that hard for an ejector seat escape in a movie theater before. That was inflammatory and slightly off topic, I digress.
Smith then said that the Shazam trailer "puts the fun back and more importantly, the kids back into comics."
He used the dreaded F-word. Say it ain't so.
Alright look, I'm clearly being a bit facetious here but you see what I'm getting at, and so did many on Twitter that took exception to what was said in the show. Since BvS and Suicide Squad, calls for the outright reboot of the DCEU have been loud, obnoxious and insulting on many levels to those of us who enjoyed what was happening on screen. Then Wonder Woman gained critical acclaim and we spent months telling people "no, it's not a Marvel movie." Then the Justice League debacle happens and we're faced with the reality that WB actually did try to make a Marvel movie, and failed spectacularly at it.
To their credit though, they're not rebooting the franchise. They just put Walter Hamada in charge of it and are moving forward with new plans, but there is still debate and consternation over exactly what that new plan is and where the franchise is headed. You've still got a decent amount of DCEU fans that are convinced the franchise is headed straight for MCU territory in tone and setting because WB wants mainstream money and success with less risky comic book films. Then you have fans like me, who think that all they are doing is finding a balance between what they were allowing Zack Snyder to do at first and what the MCU is currently doing now, while still allowing creative freedom and control with the directors. Wonder Woman is the best most recent example of this and it would be logical to assume that future DCEU movies will tend to lean toward that structure.
So is that the "absolute right direction" that Kevin Smith was talking about? On the one hand, I get why his words are irritating because it blatantly implies that films like Man of Steel, BvS and Suicide Squad were the "wrong" direction and that sucks if you really like those movies and their more adult deconstructionist tone like I do. It was telling that throughout the show Smith and the other guests got so nostalgic for Superman '78, Batman '89, Justice League Unlimited and even Batman '66, showing that they do truly hold those on screen examples of the characters in high regard.
On the other hand, there's really nothing wrong with that perspective. One of the things that Smith also said was that it is important to pass on the legacy and enjoyment of comics and the DC characters to our kids, and he's not wrong about that at all. So once again you get into the argument of what should a child be exposed to when it comes to an interpretation of Superman or Wonder Woman or some other character. Does DC have an obligation to make movies that a parent can take their kids to see and is THAT the "absolute right direction?" Many believe so, likely including Kevin Smith who of course named his daughter Harley after Harley Quinn, which then prompts another discussion about what characters should be role models for kids or not.
The thing is, I don't get the impression that Smith or Brian Tong are being inflammatory here because as always, it's all subjective. Kevin Smith is a lifelong DC fan that grew up with the comics and loves seeing his favorite characters come to life, but he's also a father and I've had enough discussions with fathers in the past year about ratings, tones and character expectations to know that a lot of them don't want to see more grounded comic book movies that come anywhere close to an R rating, and if those movies exist, just don't involve Superman in them. They want their kids to enjoy the movies and there's nothing inherently wrong with that......except that it completely craps all over my grounded adult-themed enjoyment whenever I happen to get it.
In a business sense, there's far less of me than there is of the parents though, and my dollars are already locked in to whatever movie DC puts out. To get the families back though, you can't do the polarizing deconstructionist act much, and definitely not with Superman. So there's SOME truth to what Smith and Tong are saying here as the "absolute right direction" is the one that appeals to the widest possible audience.
What does that do for those of us who embrace the "absolute wrong direction" though? Are we just out of luck in getting any comic book movies with deeper themes, adult sensibilities and grounded nature? No, I don't think so. Otherwise the Joker movie wouldn't be happening and creatives like Matt Reeves and Cathy Yan wouldn't be signing on to do DCEU films. As long as creative freedom is maintained for the directors, the potential for deeper themes in the material is always there and I think that's something we can count on as fans of the DCEU to this point. In reality, our preferred direction isn't any more wrong than theirs is right, but it seems like the franchise is headed for the middle ground, at least one would hope.
So don't get too irritated when people like Kevin Smith talk about the "absolute right direction" for DCEU movies. They are only speaking for and from their personal standpoint for what they want to see out of the franchise, and a lot of people do agree with them. Some people may see that as losing the battle to lesser, dumbed down filmmaking and you have every right to feel that way, but then you have to ask yourself if that's how you feel about a movie like Wonder Woman. If you do, then case closed for you. If you don't, then perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing that the "right" direction for DCEU is likely not as lesser or dumbed down as you might think.