Finally, after months and months of anticipation, the Justice League movie we have all been waiting for has been released to positive reviews! No, I’m not talking about Justice League here; I’m talking about DC’s 4 part crossover, Crisis on Earth-X. The 2 night, 4 hour event proved to be everything Arrowverse fans wanted out of the yearly crossover between CW shows (Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow). After being promised a crossover event between the 4 shows last year, many fans were left disappointed over the fact it wasn’t really a 4-part event. While Supergirl did set up the crossover during the last few minutes of its episode, for the most part, it was just a regular episode of Supergirl.
This year, fans finally got the crossover they deserved on the small screen. While not completely perfect, Crisis on Earth-X delivered on many fronts where Justice League faltered. While DC will take the good press that came from the annual crossover, there is still much work to be done in the future for DC’s separate television and cinematic universes. When crossover events like Crisis on Earth-X are a hit, other franchises will look to replicate the success in their own form. In this article I will discuss what DC can learn from Crisis on Earth-X.
Spoilers Ahead ***
Rosters Don’t Need To Revolve Solely Around A-List Characters (But They Do Need Them)
Before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe or an Arrowverse there was a movie named Ironman that changed the game. While not the most popular character Marvel had in its arsenal, Ironman’s relative obscurity didn’t matter to audiences. Robert Downey Jr’s performance as Tony Stark was spot on and helped transcend the comic book movie genre to what it is today. It’s funny now to think that there was a time where an Ironman movie wasn’t a lock to be a hit but that’s only because we have come so far since those days. Now that Marvel has had instant hits with The Avengers, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange, does it matter how obscure a character is anymore? The MCU didn’t start with its most notable heroes, it took chances, and we had 2 Iron Man films and a Thor movie before we ever got to see Captain America. As the MCU got bigger did we get to see these A-list heroes, it didn’t just throw them in as gratuitous cameos, it built a solid foundation and narrative core before they were added to its universe.
Over to the CW, the Arrowverse started with Arrow, a relatively obscure comic book character at the time. Over the years the Arrowverse has added many obscure characters to its sister shows. Looking at the roster of characters that appeared in Crisis on Earth-X only one character stands out as an A-list super hero, it’s The Flash. With 5 seasons of Arrow, 3 seasons of The Flash, 2 seasons of Supergirl, and 2 seasons of Legends of Tomorrow already completed, fans of the DC shows have gotten to know these characters at a more personal level for some time, and that is what allows these crossover events to be so successful. Each moment in Crisis has context to it and feels earned. Each show in the Arrowverse is ever so different but in Crisis each individual episode feels organic between all the shows and its characters.
While Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern have all been founding members of the Justice League, you won’t find any of these characters in Crisis on Earth-X and that’s fine because it works great without them. There will always be a need for Batman and Superman, but simply sticking them on everything because they are a “name” doesn’t always make the property any better. Look at Suicide Squad as an example, the premise was neat, instead of heroes saving the world, we got a bunch of villains coming together as a team to save the world, but adding Batman to the film neither made it better or worse. As the most notable face of DC, sometimes Batman doesn’t make everything better. This gets me to my next point.
NO BATMAN, NO PROBLEM
It seems like it’s been almost a decade since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy ended on the big screen. Since then DC has launched its own Cinematic Universe starting with Man of Steel in 2013 and a separate television universe airing on the CW with the premiere of Arrow in 2012. Christopher Nolan’s successful, but grounded and gritty take on The Dark Knight ushered in a new era for DC. The success of the gritty, street level, Dark Knight Films led to the creation of Arrow.
In the beginning of Arrow’s run, the Green Arrow in the show was more like Batman then the liberal, social justice warrior, fans were used to in the comics. Arrow’s gritty tone was a success and years later the CW would spin-off multiple shows creating its new Universe, named the “Arrowverse” by its fans. The Green Arrow played by Stephen Amell, has acted as the de-facto Batman character throughout the history of the Arrowverse. Though recently Bruce Wayne’s name has come up in an episode of Arrow, we have yet to see Batman pop up in the “Arrowverse,” and that is quite okay. With the amount of characters sharing the screen in Crisis, never once did I wonder if there was a Batman out there somewhere. Often Batman will show up and steal the spot light of the lesser known heroes, but for once it was great to see all these heroes come together without the large shadow of Batman looming over top.
Arrowverse Batman / DCEU Batman
Over on the big screen in the DCEU however we do have a Batman, played by divisive actor Ben Affleck. Regardless of how you feel about Affleck, his Batman has been one of the few bright spots so far in the DCEU. Originating in the critically panned Superman V Batman: Dawn of Justice, Affleck’s Batman has also appeared for a cameo in Suicide Squad and as the star again in Justice League. While Affleck’s performance has been fine, it’s been the other members of the Justice League that have flat out stolen the show. The biggest winner from Justice League was its resident speedster The Flash, played by actor Ezra Miller. His humorous and awkward take as the scarlet speedster added some much needed comedy to the DCEU. Combined with the burly Aquaman played by Jason Momoa and the innocent Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot, the DCEU now has a stable of fresh characters to build around. With the DCEU trending away from the darker, dour universe Zach Snyder set in motion from the start in Man of Steel , I have to ask the question, does the DCEU need a strong Batman presence anymore?
There are more Batman comic books than any other, and other than Superman, Batman is the most prolific and well known character in DC’s stable. Since Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, Batman has starred in or appeared in 10 different live-action movies by 5 different actors, including his own trilogy ending in 2012 starring Christian Bale. I have to ask, are fan’s getting fatigued by too much Dark Knight? Is he reaching Spiderman type levels where too much turn-over and rebooting of the character has turned fans off? I’m starting to think so. Look, I’m a huge fan of the Dark Knight, I’m not going to discredit the impact he’s had on my life, but it’s fair to ask if he needs to be involved in the majority of DC projects moving forward. As the DCEU tries to right the ship with a lighter tone to their movies, does Batman still fit that vision? I’m not so sure. Does less Batman, make Batman better? That’s a question DC may need to ask themselves down the road.
A New Trinity?
Long time comic book fans finally got to see the Trinity unite on the big screen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and again in Justice League. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have long been DC’s Trinity but is it time to pass the torch on to a new set of heroes?
On Earth-X we met the doppelgangers of two of our favorite heroes (Dark Arrow, Overgirl) and the team-up with an old favorite villain, the Reverse Flash. As Green Arrow, Supergirl and The Flash confront the Nazi versions of themselves, a new trinity may have been formed. During this scene we find out that Dark Arrow and Overgirl of Earth-X are a couple, much to Kara’s surprise. Green Arrow then shoots Overgirl with a Kryptonite arrow cementing his status as the Batman of the Arrowverse before the evil doppelgangers and Reverse Flash flee the scene. Our new trinities then are tasked with saving a collapsing building in one of the best sequences of Crisis. While the Arrowverse’s new currently un-named Justice League is lead by Green Arrow, Supergirl and the Flash, the DCEU may have introduced us to a new trinity of their own.
One of the things Justice League did do well was finally unite the Meta-humans introduced in Batman-Superman. New guys The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg teamed together with Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman to take on Steppenwolf and his army of Para-demons. Along the way we met bad-ass Arthur Curry as Aquaman and awkward, loner Barry Allen as The Flash. While not all the characters introduced in Justice League were a hit, the DCEU may have found its saving grace with 2 of those characters. Combined with the hit of Wonder Woman and the unknown status of Ben Affleck as Batman, DC may have its new Trinity in Aquaman, Wonder Woman and The Flash. If Superman and Batman are now the old guards of the DCEU, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash represent the hope for the next phase of the DCEU. Pending the success of solo films for Aquaman and The Flash’s Flash-point and the already successful Wonder Woman, the DCEU has found a new trio of characters to build around. If DC can play its card right with this new Trinity, the future of the DCEU will look much brighter.
More Crossovers Please
After watching all my favorite characters from the Arrowverse unite for 2 hours and 40 minutes worth of un adulterated fun, there was still one thing on my mind. This may seem like old news but in the moment I still had to question, why can’t both Marvel and DC connect both their movie universes and television universes together? You’re probably saying to yourself, well Marvel’s Universes are connected together, yes I know, but it really doesn’t seem like it, does it? In my opinion, both companies are missing a huge opportunity when it comes to crossovers. I get that the logistics of keeping everything connected together is just so hard to do, but it’s not impossible.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will always take precedent over their television universes just as the DCEU will always take precedent over the Arrowverse. As a fan, it’s not too much to ask for these things, is it? Most have accepted that they will never see Chris Evans’ Captain America show up on Agents of Shield or Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow in a Justice League Movie, but as comic book fans we love to be pandered to, if comic book fan’s want something they need to really voice their opinion. I think it’s time Marvel and DC find a way to connect their universes together better. I’m not saying I need to see Ben Affleck show up on Legends of Tomorrow, which would be cool, but good luck getting any of the main actors in the DCEU on the CW. More than a nod, more than a cameo, there are plenty of ways to connect the universes together. As Coulson was a way to connect the MCU to Agents of Shield, DC needs to find a way to connect the DCEU to the Arrowverse. DC created an entire multiverse so these things could potentially happen. With the DCEU being in the state it is, a crossover between it’s 2 universes could go a long way into differentiating itself from the MCU, which it will always be compared to (fair or not).
The DCEU hasn’t lived up to expectations, but what the CW did on the limited budget they had with Crisis On Earth-X, was nothing short of epic. We can sit here and talk about how the tone of DCEU and the Arrowverse are two completely different things, but as fan’s all we want is to see the characters we love interact with characters they normally never get to see, isn’t that what makes crossover events so exciting?