DC Extended Universe Management
The DC Extended Universe (or DCEU for short), is a series of superhero movies based on characters from DC comics, that interconnect with each other. Hype and interest for the DCEU were initially very strong, as DC was essentially doing their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, most movies in the series have received very negative reception due to a series of mismanagement problems and extensive meddling from Warner Bros.
Plans for a shared universe for DC characters had begun as early as the Green Lantern movie, which was planned to have a Superman cameo portrayed by Henry Cavil. However, the Superman cameo was removed and Green Lantern bombed terribly. With the failure of Green Lantern, the massive success of the Dark Knight trilogy, and Warner Bros. being dismissive of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which at the time was still very young, Warner Bros. decided to scrap their planned universe and instead make a trilogy of Superman movies. However, due to the mixed-to-negative reception that the first movie Man of Steel got and the massive success of Marvel's The Avengers, Warner Bros. decided to change plans once again and turn the second Man of Steel movie into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a starting point for a cinematic universe with DC characters similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While excitement from fans was initially high, the second DCEU movie, Batman v Superman was panned by both fans and critics due to its overly dark tone, shoved-in plot elements that served no purpose other than setting up sequels, a bizarre depiction of Lex Luthor as a character more reminiscent of The Joker, and the very controversial choice of including the Death of Superman plot arc in the third act of the movie which on itself was completely unrelated to the rest of the movie. Fan perception of the DCEU quickly became sour, with many accusing Warner Bros. of rushing the movies without proper world-building to "catch up" to the MCU as quickly as possible.
The third movie, Suicide Squad was reported to be rushed to production and was completely re-edited at the last minute following the backlash against Batman v Superman's dark tone and positive reception to early Suicide Squad trailers. As a result, the movie put out in theaters was a hacked-to-pieces cut of the film that was very inconsistent, poorly paced, horrible characterizations, and got even worse reception than Batman v Superman. Suicide Squad's failure also made it clear that executive meddling was a recurring problem for the DCEU.
Wonder Woman's positive reception temporarily improved opinion of the DCEU, as the movie was unaffected by any form of meddling from Warner Bros. and director Patty Jenkins was allowed to make the movie as she wanted. The character of Wonder Woman was also liked because she showed more personality and character traits compared to the previous protagonists, and the movie overall avoided the dull, overly-dark tone that audiences had made clear they didn't like.
Unfortunately, the improved reception from audiences was short-lived as Justice League was yet again a victim of extensive meddling and post-production problems. Director Zack Snyder initially planned Justice League to be a two-part movie, where Steppenwolf would be the villain of Part One followed by Darkseid appearing as the true villain in Part Two. However during filming the movie quickly ran into trouble, causing the two-part plan to be scrapped and the script had to be drastically changed so it would fit into a single movie, in particular, Darkseid was completely cut. The situation was made worse when Snyder had to step down after his daughter committed suicide. Joss Whedon, director of The Avengers, had to take over the project. Justice League had a large number of scenes cut because the studio mandated that the movie had to be shorter and Whedon made a large number of reshoots to compensate when the movie was already very close to the release date. Ultimately, Justice League was yet again poorly received over the obvious edits, generic forgettable plot, awful villain, and the fact that three of the team's members had no proper introduction beforehand. Large amounts of scenes shown in the trailers were nowhere to be found in the final cut of the movie.
Shortly before the release of Justice League, Warner Bros. had announced a massive amount of DCEU movies, including Shazam!, Aquaman, Flashpoint, Cyborg, Sirens of Gotham, Nightwing, Batman, sequels for Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Justice League, among others. Most, if not all of these movies have not even begun production and the studio has lost many writers and directors.
A few months after the release of Justice League, it was revealed that Zack Snyder was fired from the movie mid-production and Warner Brothers used the suicide of Snyder's daughter to cover up the real reason he left the project (although his daughter's death was indeed a factor as well, but not the main reason). The reason Snyder was fired was that Warner Bros. tested Snyder's cut of Justice League and described it as "unwatchable". Both Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon urged Warner Bros. to delay the movie so that Whedon could have the proper time to reshoot the movie, but Warner Bros. refused to do so.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2018, Warner Bros. announced that the DC Extended Universe will be rebranded as "Worlds of DC". This will be treated as a soft reboot where movies still take place in the same continuity but will strictly focus on standalone movies, for the most part, elements of DCEU movies will also be either ignored or retconned moving forward. The release of Aquaman was successful, with audiences praising the movie and it having a very strong opening week.
In early 2019, details about Zack Snyder's vision for the Justice League movie were leaked. According to the leaks, the plan was to make a trilogy of Justice League movies, the first movie would have the team be formed and revive Superman to defeat Steppenwolf, the second movie would involve Darkseid invading Earth and the League going to Apokolips, the third movie would involve the League facing Darkseid to prevent the post-apocalyptic future that Batman saw in Batman v Superman. There are also several hints that Batman would die in a suicide mission during the trilogy. Any hints of a sequel involving Darkseid were removed from the theatrical cut of Justice League and Warner Bros. stated that there are no plans to make crossover movies in the near future, therefore the intended Justice League trilogy as Zack Snyder had planned most likely won't happen.
Most viewers have been very critical of the DCEU for how most iconic DC characters like Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor, the Joker, Harley Quinn, and the Flash are portrayed very negatively compared to their traditional counterparts. The movies have also been very harshly criticized because some of the movies have copied elements from the MCU but made it worse, such as Generic villains like Enchantress. almost none of the characters get any proper introduction or backstory besides very rushed flashbacks; this problem was most prominent in Suicide Squad where the entire cast had little to no backstory. Shazam, Superman, and Wonder Woman are currently the only characters with a proper backstory.
Several movies had the theatrical version watered down and with missing scenes, so an "ultimate edition" could be sold later when the "ultimate" edition was the version that was supposed to be in theaters in the first place. This angered viewers that watched the theatrical versions.
Justice League was declared a box office disappointment, falling below expectations and getting a mixed reception from audiences. Afterward, it was confirmed that several movies planned for the DCEU mentioned above have been cancelled and Warner Bros. will focus more on standalone movies unrelated to the DCEU, making fans worry that the DCEU could be cancelled.
Director Zack Snyder has been heavily criticized by both DC fans and those more generally opposed to the DCEU, who often blame him for "ruining" DC characters. While it can be argued that Snyder's take on the DC characters and the tone of his films wasn't the best, it has been noted multiple times that the bigger problem that affected the franchise has been the mismanagement and frequent meddling from Warner Bros. that Snyder's films were also a victim of, best seen with Justice League.
There's been a large amount of DCEU fans demanding the so-called "Snyder Cut" of Justice League be released, however, it's been pointed out many times that while a mid-production rough cut by Snyder does indeed exist, it is too unfinished to be watchable, Warner Bros. has no interest in finishing it, and Snyder no longer has permission to work on it. However, by 2020, Snyder revealed that he is finishing his version of Justice League called Zack Snyder's Justice League.
The announcement of "Worlds of DC", along with trailers for Aquaman and Shazam!, was well received by the audience as it seems DC movies are moving in a different direction from the previously established DCEU without outright rebooting it. Aquaman received positive reviews and large amounts of praise from both critics and fans. Most of the praise came from the movie moving away from the dark gritty humorless tone of the previous DCEU entries. It was also a hit at the box office, receiving over $1 billion and outgrossing Justice League in 2 weeks despite starring a character commonly regarded as a joke.