Why the DCEU and Star Wars Prequels are worth your time.........
I admit, I’m very new to the Star Wars game. In the lead up to the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I still hadn’t watched a single Star Wars movie. I know, I know, settle down people, I have since rectified that by watching all 8, so please put down the pitchforks. When I finally decided to watch the movies, I had asked Star Wars fans for their opinion on the correct order in which to watch the movies. The majority of people told me to “watch the original trilogy, ignore the prequels” (except Tim and Troy).
So, I took their advice, ignored the prequels, and only watched the original trilogy. This blockade of the prequels lasted until just this week when I finally decided to watch all 3 of the prequels. My ignoring of the prequels may have lasted forever if it wasn’t for a small vocal minority which had actually praised the prequels (Tim, Troy, and the SWC!). With that said, I’m very glad I took a chance as I ended up greatly enjoying the prequels. The prequels had some amazing fight scenes and a great narrative (including the origins of Darth Vader). I even believe that it’s one of the few trilogies out there that gets better with each film. Did the films have flaws? Of course, most films do. Were they as good as the original trilogy? No. However, since the original Star Wars films were released, can you name any Sci-Fi franchise that can match it in terms of quality, critic & audience adoration, and cultural impact? Of course not, because none exist! Don’t get me wrong, there have been some great Sci-Fi movies since Star Wars; Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, Independence Day, The Matrix, and 2009’s Star Trek, but they all failed to maintain that quality throughout their respective franchises. Although they were excellent one-off films; they all fall short when compared to Star Wars. However, each of the films I previously mentioned are seen as brilliant cinema and are some of the most popular films ever made. Part of the reason is when they were released audiences judged them as their own separate film, with no pre-conceived notions of what to expect.
The hype before Star Wars Episode I was so enormous, given that 16 years had passed between Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace, that fans would buy movie tickets to movies that were showing trailers for the Phantom Menace and then leave the theatre once the trailer played. I admit, upon first viewing of the Phantom Menace, that there are obvious flaws with the film. It’s my least favorite of the entire Star Wars franchise and I’m sure I’m not alone in that thinking. The film was expected to be perfect because in fans heads the original trilogy is perfect. Fans had seen each of those 3 films numerous times, memorizing dialogue, scenes and characters to the point where every little detail had been dissected and analyzed. Anything short of brilliance and The Phantom Menace would be seen as a letdown. Upon release of the other two films in the prequel trilogy, we got more of the same, and over time everything associated with the prequels became toxic, and some fans wanted the films swept under the rug and forgotten. They failed to see the fun and excitement that these films brought. The prequel films, in their own right, are imaginative, brilliant works of Sci-Fi, which should be watched by all Star Wars fans.
Now, what does all this Star Wars talk have to do with the first 3 films of the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, and Suicide Squad)? Let’s go back in time to 2012, with the release of The Dark Knight Rises which capped off the brilliant Batman trilogy from director Christopher Nolan. That trilogy would go on to re-define the superhero genre, make over $2 Billion worldwide with ground breaking movies, that still stand the test of time today. As well, this trilogy gave us what is perhaps the greatest character portrayal in any superhero film ever with Heath Ledger’s Joker. With Nolan vowing to never make another Batman film, WB thought it was finally time to build their own connected universe of films similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Starting with Man of Steel, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) had taken shape, crafting out a universe in which it can spin into multiple movies and finally compete with Mavel in theatres. Anticipation was high before Man of Steel was released, as Christopher Nolan had worked on the screenplay with David Goyer (the same writer of the The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises). Much like the reaction from audiences with the Star Wars Prequels, the DCEU films did not receive the same box office numbers or acclaim as the movies that came before it. Fans began touting that the movie as awful, the character portrayal was not true to Superman, and the action in the film was overly destructive.
Those who listen to our podcast know that I’m a big supporter of the DCEU and love each film, as I believe they do a great job giving us a realistic depiction of a world where Superman exists. These films are dark and gritty and have a different feel than the bright and fun Marvel Cinematic films. I’m not saying one style is better than the other, but I am saying having two distinct styles is better for everyone. It gives viewers a choice of different tones and they are not forced to watch the same thing. Do these 3 DCEU films have flaws? Of course! Were they as good as the Dark Knight trilogy? No. But can you name any Superhero trilogy that can match the Dark Knight in terms of quality, critic & audience adoration and cultural impact? No? Again didn’t think so. That’s because none exist. The Superhero genre is still new but we have already been spoiled with some fantastic films like Captain America The Winter Soldier, The Avengers and Logan. These films are all unique and brought something different to the genre, but all fail in at least one area when being compared to the Dark Knight trilogy. While The Winter Soldier and Logan did fairly well at the box office, neither film approached 1 Billion dollars. And The Avengers certainly didn’t have any Oscar winning performances. Just like the Star Wars prequels, we are getting the same swift and negative reaction with the DCEU. Everything about the first three films is now considered awful and people want us to forget them and sweep them under the rug to be forgotten by history. I can already hear people say if you want to catch up with the DCEU start with Wonder Woman and ignore the first three films.
Part of the reason popular opinion labeled both trilogies as a failure is because of what preceded them. Instead of comparing to previous installments, I advise to watch these films in isolation as their own universe. It’s only when watching these films in isolation and free from comparison that we begin to see what each offers. I found both introduced us to engaging characters used to spin a narrative which spans vibrant locations and unique settings. They each tell an engaging story as they each set up their own unique universe. The prequels are all about Anakin Skywalker and they do a good job portraying his turn to the dark side and humanizing one of cinemas greatest villains in Darth Vader. The first 3 DCEU films are all about Superman, and his journey to the light. They did a good job portraying his rise, death and the world’s reaction to his death. In the prequels we get some spectacular light sabre fight scenes, fighting against a backdrop of energetic colors and an underrated score, even Episode I brings us a spectacular light sabre battle to end the film. The end battle in Episode III between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar, is one of the most beautiful fights ever on film, set against a backdrop of pulsating reds, yellows and orange which serve to enhance the fight. In the DCEU, for the first time we get a Superman who doesn’t hold back, fighting General Zod across Metropolis in an epic final battle that literally brings down the house. We also get something that Christopher Nolan never gave us; the greatest Batman fight ever recorded, in what is simply dubbed the warehouse scene. In the Prequels we get great villains like Darth Maul and Emperor Palpatine, and in the DCEU we see great heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman. Each trilogy is essential watching if you want to dive deeper in each respective universe.
I’m glad I finally gave the Prequels a chance, watching them helped me to gain a deeper understanding of Star Wars mythology and it makes me more excited to re-watch Star Wars Episodes 4, 5 and 6 now. Your experience at Wonder Woman is made more enjoyable after seeing her kick ass debut in Batman V Superman. I’m not saying all 6 films are masterpieces, or you will enjoy each film (honestly I didn’t enjoy Episode 1 or Jar Jar Binks and I recognize the short comings of Suicide Squad and Enchantress), however, they are still worth a watch. If you give them a chance, you will certainly be entertained and hopefully pleasantly surprised.
Now who’s ready for a DCEU marathon before Justice League?
Thanks for reading,