Even the fanboyest of fanboys has to admit that DC's cinematic universe didn't exactly turn out like everyone hoped it would. Within a decade, Marvel managed to turn the word "Avengers" into a synonym for "awesome people doing awesome shit together," whereas "Justice League" is now most commonly used as a phrase you have to mute on Twitter if you don't want to see 200 randos yelling about Zack Snyder at any given moment. DC had a loooong head start over Marvel when it came to movies, but they blew it on plastic nipples and awkward Jesus poses. (Just like our college years.)
Point is, the DC movie-verse isn't in good shape. And, based on recent news -- like both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton showing up as Batmen in the upcoming Flash movie -- it sure looks like DC is about to do the same thing they do in the comics whenever one of their universes isn't working out: flush the cosmic toilet and Crisis it all away.
For those unfamiliar, Crisis on Infinite Earths was the way DC tried to simplify their gloriously convoluted mess of a continuity in 1985. For decades, DC had been hoarding multiple versions of their characters who lived in different "Earths" -- parallel realities in which the characters were older, or evil-er, or more rabbit-shaped. With the Crisis, they streamlined the DC Universe into a single Earth at the small cost of killing off billions of fictional people (and pissing off a similar number of older fans).
But DC's editors were toying with forces beyond their understanding or control. Pretty soon, this new "streamlined" Earth began filling up with more and more continuity problems, because chaos and insanity are in the DC Universe's very DNA. If the DCU is indeed a sentient organism as some like writer Grant Morrison posit, it must live in a permanent state of stoner-like confusion, constantly forgetting where it left its phone or why it walked into the kitchen. That's why DC ended up having to pull another Crisis that re-fixed their timeline in 1994 ... and another one in 2005, and 2011, and 2015, and 2019. It's only a matter of time before we get a Crisis on Infinite Crises in which all these comics become sentient too and have to fight each other.
So DC's M.O. in the comics is pretty well established: when their current reality is starting to stink and the fans get antsy, they conjure some sort of cosmic menace and use it as an in-story excuse to remake/remodel their entire universe. That's the sort of thing you could only get away with in comics, where the budgets aren't huge, there are no actors to recast, and the audience is nerdy and used to metatextual shenanigans.
But now, this insane universe-killing strategy is bleeding into our flesh world. It already started in The CW's loose adaptation of the original Crisis, which mostly dealt with TV universes, but also included this scene of CW Flash (Grant Gustin) and movie Flash (Ezra Miller) looking baffled and slightly aroused by each other.
That could just be a throwaway cameo ... or it could be yet another sign that the Flash movie will serve as the DCEU's own Crisis event. That movie, by the way, was originally supposed to come out in 2018 (with Justice League 2, Cyborg, and Green Lantern coming by 2020) and has gone through four different directors, which exemplifies why DC would want to push the reboot button on their film division. Only, instead of abruptly firing a bunch of people as is Hollywood tradition, they're making a whole movie to justify the changeover.
The most bizarre part is that, by complete accident, Marvel and DC's movie universes have ended up perfectly matching their comic counterparts in the way they deal with continuity. Marvel is focused on one timeline. They might have a couple of branches on the side (all-ages output for your Spider-Man-obsessed nephew, grittier and edgier lines that inevitably get cancelled, etc.), but it's clear that the MCU and the mainstream Marvel comics are the thing most people are supposed to give a crap about. There are expansions and deviations, but it always comes down to the same characters Stan Lee once wrote.
DC, on the other hand, is the result of a couple of publishers merging in the '40s, and they continued assimilating other companies over the decades, from Fawcett Comics in the '70s to Charlton in the '80s to Wildstorm in the '90s. As a result, the DC "universe" is actually several wildly different groups of characters forced to live in the same house, and trying to turn it into a coherent reality is a losing battle -- but they keep trying, bless them.
The DCEU reflects that chaos. There's no sense of an actual shared universe or common vision between movies like Birds of Prey and Dawn of Justice, or Man of Steel and Shazam!, or one half of Justice League and the other half of Justice League. The TV shows are their own mess that might or might not be connected to the movies now through Flash. We might have three active cinematic Batman at the same time between Keaton, Affleck, and Pattinson, which feels unholy, like having three Popes.
And here's the thing: If the Flash movie does pull a Crisis and simplify the DCEU ... it will inevitably degrade into confusing nonsense again. Because that's the nature of DC. Embrace the insanity instead of half-assedly trying to ward it off, and give us our goddamn Lobo movie already.
Top Image: Warner Bros. Pictures