From Ezra Miller’s allegations to Amber Heard’s legal battles, the DC Cinematic Universe is cursed

A movie based on the Flash, starring Ezra Miller as DC’s titular hypersonic superhero, is set to hit theaters 13 months from now. Everything was going according to plan-the trailers have arrived on the Internet, a cartoon link is about to be printed– until it is no longer the case.

Earlier this spring, Miller racked up an impressive string of criminal charges, including disorderly conduct, harassment and second-degree assault amid one of the weirdest career-altering fiascos in recent memory for celebrities. Since several weeks, news came out of Hawaii, where all of these incidents took place, portraying Miller as an unhinged, Joker-like supervillain terrorizing the islanders.

In March, the actor was convicted of “shouting obscenities” at patrons of a karaoke bar and allegedly “pushing” towards a man who was playing darts. (A high-risk maneuver! Miller did not object.) A month later, the actor apparently threw a chair at a woman attend a private meeting, leaving a gash on his forehead.

It wasn’t even the first time Miller had made headlines for an alleged assault, either. Last April, videos of them apparently choking a woman surfaced online, just before the release of HBO Max’s buzzy Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguea.k.a “The Snyder Cut.”

Three Strikes and Miller could be missing, however, with reports following that DC may have suspended any future projects with the actor.

All of this left Warner Bros. in another unfortunate situation. Tasked with bringing DC to the big screen, the studio has spent decades trying to conjure up the same international resonance and tons of box office cash the MCU has generated for its own pantheon of high-value superheroes. And now his latest high-profile attempt is being held hostage by a very public, potentially fatal meltdown. years of building billion dollar franchises.

This is an eventuality that no one could have prepared for. And if you’ve been following DC’s recent cinematic endeavors closely, you know there’s always another disaster just around the corner.

Where do you even start with these setbacks? I tend to think the original sin was the 2011 The Green Lantern adaptation: a turgid mess that barely broke even and critically bombed. The failure sent all the DC brass back to the drawing board, causing Ryan Reynolds to defect to the hallway, where he stepped into Deadpool’s costume and brought a truckload of dollars from Sony’s overflowing coffers.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. attempted to rebrand the DC Universe with the help of the perpetually brooding Zach Snyder, who was hired to bless the canon with his dark, funereal candor. The result? 2013 is totally vibration free Steel man, followed by batman versus superman, which accumulates a horrible 29 percent on rotten tomatoes. More importantly, it gave us a ben affleck immortal meme during the press tour – which documents his reaction when he learns, to his horror, that the film is receiving “mixed reviews”. (Affleck would only play Batman once before leaving the DC ecosystem altogether.)

This was all supposed to culminate in 2017 Justice League, an intra-universe mashup of every iconic figure in DC cosmology, as a way to shock the apathetic franchise into relevance. Warner Bros. originally had Snyder on set, but he walked away from the film in post-production, following the tragic death of his daughter.

Production was replaced by Joss Whedon, who managed to incorporate a sense of carillon and family levity into The Avengers five years ago. He scrapped almost everything with a multitude of covers, forging Justice League in a slick, joke-filled game that completely evaporated on impact and seemingly left everyone involved feeling dissatisfied.

Ray Fisher as Cyborg in Justice League. After the film’s release, Fisher spoke out against director Joss Whedon, who Fisher said was “abusive” of the cast and crew on set.

Warner Bros. through The Everett Collection

The controversy continued long after the release of this film.

Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg, allegedly had a massive argument with studio executives, and Whedon in particular, whom he claimed was extremely unprofessional and abusive. And Fisher was not alone. A number of his Justice League colleagues corroborated his accusations.

In 2020, Whedon was accused of workplace harassment by several former associates, including buffy the vampire slayer star Michelle Trachtenberg who said there was a rule on set that she couldn’t be alone with Whedon. Trachtenberg was a teenager at the height of Buffy, so the implications of this accusation are chilling. After burning almost all of his bridges – not to mention critics’ and fans’ contempt for the film – it was clear that Whedon do not run more DC businesses.

I don’t know if the decision makers at Warner Bros. were aware of Whedon’s reputation before bringing him in for Justice League, but DC’s patchy track record of attendees speaks for itself.

We’ve already covered Ezra Miller, Maui Menace. There’s Amber Heard, who plays Mera in the very good Aquaman and is currently brigadied by a legion of radicalized and conspiratorial Johnny Depp fans. (Each day, they break down the lawsuit ticker between the two with near-QAnon level of thoroughness.)

“There is a telling identity crisis here. It’s that Marvel movies tend to be either just good or just bad, with little behind-the-scenes dirt coloring the on-screen action. DC, on the other hand, is all drama all the time.”

Additionally, Gal Gadot, better known as Wonder Woman, is responsible for the “Imagine” video – which is perhaps the most bizarre relic of the first era of the pandemic. And we mustn’t forget director Todd Phillips, who made incredibly stupid comments about cancel culture and briefly derailed the discourse around the also-in-really-very-good Joker.

There is a telling identity crisis here. It’s that Marvel movies tend to be either just good or just bad, with little behind-the-scenes dirt coloring the on-screen action. DC, on the other hand, is all drama all the time. You have to be familiar with Reddit’s many aggrieved fan theories to understand why a “Snyder Cut” was needed to Justice League in the first place. In that sense, the DCEU is just as tense and convoluted as the average comic book story.

It’s especially striking when you consider how much more iconic DC’s stable is. Honestly, we’ve grown a little numb to Marvel’s unprecedented cultural dominance. The idea that Iron Man – of all the characters! — would somehow become more beloved than Superman was utterly unthinkable as recently as 2005.

The MCU bends more and more with each passing year, taking on bolder and bolder marketing challenges, to the point where it’s able to turn Rocket Raccoon and Moon Knight into household names. (I can only assume a Squirrel Girl series is just around the corner.) DC, meanwhile, has a century of Batman stories to pull from and still can’t stray from its own path.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in Aquaman.

Jason Momoa (left) and Amber Heard as Aquaman and Mera in 2018 Aquaman. The sequel is slated for release in March 2023, but Heard recently said her role has been significantly reduced due to her legal battles with ex-husband Johnny Depp.

Warner Bros. through The Everett Collection

You can say Marvel got lucky; after all, it doesn’t have to contain a raging neighborhood agitator who will soon be playing one of their first superheroes. (All that Disney money surely helps, too.) But the MCU has also absorbed a Scarlett Johansson royalty lawsuit, some really bad movies, and most importantly, the literal death by Chadwick Boseman, who starred in the greatest Marvel movie ever made.

The MCU persevered through the sheer power of its brand, while DC is stuck in the mud, with WB wondering if he should recast The Flash as the flash.

I think the moral here is that cinematic universes were probably never meant to exist. The MCU is an unprecedented feat of meta-storytelling, engineered by a voracious fanbase, suffocating contracts, and a veritable star-making machine at its heart. So much had to go right for Marvel to achieve greatness, and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the house of cards inevitably comes crashing down. (To remember the dark universe?)

The DCEU is in tumult, meanwhile, because the flash is in turmoil. The Miller drama will naturally lead to countless other consequences down the line, as Warner Bros. continues to swell the mouth with extrapolative content. The demands only grow darker as the tendrils grow, and one day soon I’m sure the MCU will be thrown into chaos as well due to factors beyond its control – the man chosen to play Galactus bringing a gun in a nightclub or something.

Some of the greatest genre films ever made have been condensed into a trilogy, including the best stories from the dark knight himself. And I don’t think anyone is surprised that the DC inputs that existed outside the canopy (Joker, The Batman, etc.) were relatively meteoric successes. I’m sure there’s a lot of frustration inside Warner Bros. as he watches the ever-increasing pace of release, hoping Miller doesn’t downgrade again before the movie’s trailer debuts.

But maybe it will also cause a memory of how the movies used be before everything is in service towards half a dozen interrelated sequels already in the works. Maybe all you really needed was a superhero and a supervillain, even if that villain is Gorilla Grodd.

Comments are closed.