Fans are nothing if not opinionated. That might be doubly so when talking about the DC Extended Universe.
For the past three years now, being a fan of that particular franchise has been tumultuous at best and downright maddening at worst, mostly for self-inflicted reasons that have been influenced by outside behavior. What that means is, we react badly to something said or done that doesn’t fall in line with what we think should be said or happening, even if some of us respect the right for that particular opinion to be shared.
I’ve said for years that I don’t care if people don’t like the DCEU, and that’s mostly true to a point. I don’t have issues with people that don’t prefer it, care for it or downright hate it because you have every right to feel that way about anything. That’s a situation for all fandoms and franchises as well, not just the comic book ones……but it would still be awesome if more people DID like it. It’d be great if I didn’t have to sift through massive amounts of snarky clickbait, insulting tweets from verified accounts and rampant attacks from single-digit follower fanboys on Twitter that can’t wait to start an argument for the sake of attention.
That’s not reality though, so we have to deal with what is actually in front of us, and the truth is that there is a perception of Hollywood and movie studios that fans appear to largely have now that is informing their opinions whenever something is announced, reported or scooped into some form of existence, and that perception isn’t exactly the most open-minded or healthiest one that we could have.
Take the Trench movie, for example. The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog posted a story that WB hired two writers to start working on a DCEU movie about The Trench, the savage, seemingly mindless monsters from the depths of Atlantis as recently featured in Aquaman. Peter Safran and James Wan himself are slated as producers.
Fandom reactions were mostly negative on this one, and it’s understandable why at first. We’ve had numerous DCEU movies reported on as in development over the past few years and there are some big ones that fans are waiting for more information on, most notably Man of Steel 2, which is seemingly on hold until the contract situation with Henry Cavill is finally sorted out, The Flash, which appears to be at the mercy of the Fantastic Beasts franchise because of Ezra Miller’s involvement in both, and Cyborg, because of the desire to see more of Ray Fisher in the role, especially given how much of his performance was removed from the theatrical version of Justice League.
There are many more. I’m personally waiting for New Gods, written and directed by Ava Duvernay. There’s Nightwing, Deathstroke, Batgirl, Gotham City Sirens, Supergirl, and that might just be the short list.
So when a Trench movie gets reported as being put into development, fans go haywire about it for a number of reasons related to this, including a few that they might not want to admit in this day and age.
Let’s break them down.
1 - FAN ENTITLEMENT
This one’s easy. Fans want to see WB working on the movie THEY want to see worked on, not the ones the studio has decided to work on. This is probably the biggest reason for angst about the Trench movie. It’s not Man of Steel 2, or The Flash, or Cyborg, or New Gods, or whatever movie a particular fan wants to see happen next, so they feel like their movie is getting tossed aside for disrespectful reasons…..which is silly to think.
WB is running a business, not a social club. Its model is dependent on an audience yes. but not to the detriment of its own practices and operation. Developing a Trench movie is a business decision, not a personal one. It’s a potential horror film, which really hasn’t been done in the comic book movie genre as of late, featuring characters that appeared in a billion-dollar movie, the most financially successful DC Comics movie adaptation in history. It would almost be silly not to develop the project, as it both brings in a new potential audience of horror fans, while still connecting to characters in the DCEU that have been largely praised for their appearance in Aquaman.
None of that means the other DCEU movies are being shelved in favor of it. A Trench movie doesn’t replace Superman or The Flash or anyone else. It’s one project spinning off of a very successful film and taking its development as some kind of personal slap in the face is illogical. Highly illogical.
So is this:
2 - LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF HOW HOLLYWOOD ACTUALLY WORKS
Heat Vision reported that WB hired two writers and had two producers developing the Trench movie. That’s it. No casting announcements, no shooting schedule, no release date. Literally nothing other than “it’s in development.”
I mentioned before how many DCEU projects are still “in development.” That’s true for all movie studios and it’s how Hollywood operates in general. This isn’t WB not knowing what to do, being incompetent or wasting resources. This is a movie studio proceeding as a movie studio proceeds. Tons of projects go in and out and in some cases back into development all the time for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with fan impatience or expectations. It took 40 years for a Wonder Woman to finally happen. The Mission Impossible franchise used to take 4 to 5 years off in between installments until Christopher McQuarrie recently made things more consistent. If you actually study Hollywood history at all, you’ll find that the number of movies that were put into development and in some cases production over the years, greatly outnumbers the ones that actually get finished and released.
So this Trench movie that has you up in arms may not even happen, and if it does, it may not even be until after all of the ones you want to happen have been released, and even if it’s sooner than those, it doesn’t take up so much of WB’s resources that they can’t work the ones you want to see worked on. Hollywood is a fluid industry with way more flexibility, schedule juggling and delays than a lot of fans want to admit or understand is there and that lack of understanding has given way to great impatience on our part.
The thing is, that impatience is understandable because of the glaring thing that a lot of DCEU fans probably will never admit is in their head:
3 - MCU ENVY (NOT THE STYLE, THE EFFICIENCY)
This one might make you uncomfortable.
For 11 years, we’ve had the Marvel Cinematic Universe as an example of how a shared cinematic universe can function effectively. Many of us, myself included, have been very critical of its style, particularly its general lack of gravitas and depth, its overabundance of humor in places, and its producer-driven uniformity with regard to appeal to all audiences, which in many ways can restrict its creativity with each individual movie.
That being said, the MCU has been extremely efficient since its inception. There are no major questions about what is coming next in the schedule because it is planned out well in advance. No one questions the next movie that is coming out because everyone assumes that it will play a part in the bigger picture and that it will be enjoyable based on the previous track record. No one debates what the franchise is trying to accomplish because its boss, Kevin Feige, does his best to communicate that intent at every turn.
If we’re really being fair, all of that is the polar opposite of what we’ve had with the DCEU since 2013. We’ve been given conflicting reports, speculation, rumors, hearsay, in some cases outright lies from all corners of social media. We’ve heard of as many as 3 to 4 different plans for it, none of them 100% confirmed or on the record. We’ve seen productions pushed back and outright halted, with directors signing on and then leaving later. Things have been cancelled, things have been brought back. There’s a great deal of uncertainty with the DCEU that we have been dealing with for awhile now and it can be frustrating for a fan of it who wants concrete answers.
So part of the angst comes from DCEU fans wanting the franchise to be more like the MCU, not in terms of what it does, but in terms of how it does it. Fans want slates that actually play out, they want concrete answers and things to look forward to. They want an iron clad plan for the next five years that builds to a point of emphasis that they rely on, and they want a PR department that “controls the narrative.”
Of course, when WB gives them that in the form of Aquaman in 2018. Shazam and Joker (Non-DCEU) in 2019, Birds of Prey(And The Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) and Wonder Woman 1984 in 2020, and The Batman and The Suicide Squad in 2021, along with Walter Hamada allowing his own creatives to control the narrative while he steers the ship behind the scenes on a course toward consistency, it’s still not enough because not only does it not feature Superman, The Flash or any other character they really want to see on screen, it’s also not building toward an “infinity Stone-type” of narrative or arc. It’s individual creator-driven projects inside of a larger shared universe where each project doesn’t have to directly lead into the next. It’s not the cinematic television structure we are used to with the MCU, and that irks a lot of DCEU fans whether they admit it or not. As much as we want the DCEU to be tonally and creatively different from the MCU, many of us want the efficiency and the adulation that the MCU gets to be heaped upon the DCEU, and things like a Trench spinoff are not what that is. It’s a very different path that is anything but assembly line assured, so fans need to decide if they really want the DCEU to have the freedom they claim they want it to, or if they have conditions on what that freedom allows them to do operationally.
As always, there is no right or wrong with any of this as it is all subjective opinion of the situation. To me, a Trench spinoff movie in the horror genre just reinforces the idea that WB is building a shared universe that all of these stories inhabit without being directly tied into each other, which doesn’t eliminate the possibility of team ups at all, but does eliminate the need for “homework” to be done when watching the franchise and does give the audience options to watch whatever they want to watch instead of feeling obligated to watch it all just to understand fully what is going on. I’m all for it, because it’s different.
You have to decide whether or not you really want that difference, and while it would be great if you do, it’s understandable if you don’t. Just try to remember that.