The Mistake That Killed DCEU: Snyder's Love Affair with Frank Miller's Batman

The Mistake That Killed DCEU: Snyder's Love Affair with Frank Miller's Batman
Image credit: Legion-Media

After a decade of unimpressive installments of the DC Extended Universe, fans still have questions about what went wrong.

The movies came off as uninteresting, overly serious, and – worst of all – not very fun. The blame can rest on the shoulders of Zack Snyder, whose adamancy on recreating the Frank Miller Batman ruined the DCEU as soon as it began.

Snyder is a fine filmmaker, a technical genius of the industry. His cynicism and dark tones fit perfectly in his 2009 superhero film Watchmen, and he probably could have made a great solo Batman movie.

But an entire franchise based around bleakness and gloom is detrimental to the superhero genre.

For decades, DC was superior to Marvel in the superhero movie business. Everything changed with Marvel's Iron Man in 2008, and the eventual culmination of its shared universe with 2012's Avengers. Suddenly, DC was racing to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The DCEU began in 2013 with Man of Steel, followed by 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – both created by Snyder.

The Mistake That Killed DCEU: Snyder's Love Affair with Frank Miller's Batman - image 1

Ten years later, DC is floundering and rebooting while the MCU has become far and away the highest-grossing franchise of all time (three times the lifetime box office gross of the runner-up). But what's the difference?

The MCU is fun. They realized their most popular character was Spider-Man, who was sarcastic, witty, childlike, and fun. They decided to make all of their characters like that, in some way or another. Every single Avenger is funny in their own way, and every single MCU movie prioritizes being "fun" over everything else.

DC's most popular character is Batman. Snyder clearly had an attachment to the Batman series by Frank Miller, a violently dark series that dealt with adult themes and traumatic storylines. In his role in the DCEU, Snyder made sure to make every character the same. The stories are gloomy and dark – both in script and visually.

While Frank Miller's take on Batman is highly regarded, it worked well because it was unique and distinctive; it was vastly different from most of the comics we've seen. Snyder didn't understand that balance and flooded the entire DCEU with that type of story and character.

His first movie featured the darkest version of Superman we'd ever seen. Snyder created the initial backbone of the DCEU (Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, Justice League) – all of which were incredibly melancholy. There was no joy, no fun – completely unlike most of the comics upon which the films were based. Other than, of course, Frank Miller's.

While the MCU was thriving with fun storylines, bright shots, and exciting characters, the DCEU drudged through movies that took themselves too seriously and refused to be lighthearted.

With MCU veteran James Gunn now leading DC Studios as co-CEO, here's hoping the franchise can learn to lighten up.