With the announcement of Supergirl changing networks from CBS to join its sister shows on the CW, there comes a timely moment to discuss the sudden explosion of superheroes on television. Cynics often complain that the genre has taken over the box office at the expense of smaller, more mature films--not to mention movies that would actually be cheaper to make. Now it appears television has wandered into the same peril. Though the Marvel shows have barely scratched the surface of the zeitgeist, at least as far as network TV goes, the DC heroes have assembled a juggernaut franchise which, thus far, has expanded much faster than its Marvel counterparts.
The DC heroes, in general, have much greater name recognition than their Marvel rivals. After all, prior to the MCU, how many people on the street had even heard of Hawkeye or Black Widow? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are among the most iconic characters in all human history, on par with Zeus, Odysseus and even Jesus (No, I'm not saying Batman is as influential as Jesus, or that Superman is some kind of religious figure. Keep your pipe bombs to yourself for goodness sake.). Their pop culture status and serialized origins make them a natural fit for television.
That doesn't make the shows actually good, however. On the contrary, while Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Vixen and now Legends of Tomorrow boast strong fanbases, this writer and avowed fan of superhero comics can't stand to look at a single frame. Why, you ask? Don't I love "fun," colorful, silly, inconsequential tripe with pretty people? Sit down, and let me explain...
15 Everybody Is Pretty
14 Nobody Can Act
13 They're All Cartoons
12 They're Giant Soap Operas
11 They Go On Too Long
Ok, so Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow are new, and Arrow and The Flash have less than five seasons apiece under their utility belts. Still, if precedent is any indicator, the CW will try to milk every last possible episode out of every title, just as they did with Smallville.
10 The Special Effects Suck
Ok, so it's television, and despite the recent advances in computer technology that allowed shows like Battlestar Galactica to have near-feature level quality special effects, most shows can't hold a proverbial candle to visual effects on the big screen. Moreover, budgeting twenty-some-odd episodes spread out over 20 hours to have major effects is very, very different than allotting funds for a two hour film. That explains the poor effects of the Arrowverse, but doesn't excuse them.
9 They're Jr. Heroes
8 They Don't Represent Real Incarnations Of Their Characters
7 Dawson's Geek
6 It's Softcore Entertainment
Pretty people, hormones, soap opera plots and lots of T&A. What's the difference between the CW Arrowverse and softcore adult entertainment? No, really, tell me. I'm asking.
5 They Ruin Movie Expectations
4 The Supporting Characters Suck
Jesse L. Martin is a fine actor. Besides highly acclaimed work on stage in the original production of Rent, he spent nine years playing cop Ed Green on Law & Order, becoming one of the signature characters of the long-running show. Adding him to the cast of The Flash seemed like a good idea, except for one thing: he's basically playing the same character again! Even worse, Martin's Detective Joe West, while a variation on Ed Green, comes off boring on the CW series.
3 Product Placement
2 The "Fun" Factor
An Intermission: while at a recent cocktail party I struck up a conversation with a big fan of the MCU and CW Arrowverse. He whined and complained about the DC films being so dark, and wondered aloud why they couldn't just be fun like the Marvel films. Why did superheroes have to be so mopey?
1 Not So Secret Formula
The formula approach of the CW Arrowverse has granted it superratings for sure, but couldn't they stand to do something original? Do they always have to have the same format? Credit Greg Berlanti for at least trying out some tonal differences, letting Arrow take a darker approach while Supergirl and The Flash aspire to be Saturday Morning Cartoons. Couldn't the next CW superhero show try something new? Why not cast an older lead, and have a middle-aged hero for once? The shows could also try a new setting, a 1940s-set Green Lantern for example, or a live-action Vixen at least partially set in Africa. Not everything should look and feel the same, in particular, that it was shot in Toronto and employs a bunch of pretty former models. Do something of substance for a change. In 2016, writer T Campbell over at ScreenRant named once hot Smallville as one of the worst Superman stories ever told. Unless the folks behind the Arrowverse can do something fresh and bold, their hit shows too will fade to black, forgotten relics of another time.
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