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The Good and Evil to DC Animation's New Universe

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Feb 03, 2014 | 7:37pm EST

Justice League: WarAlex Garner/Warner Bros. Animation

Marvel and Disney have created the de facto blueprint for building super hero franchises, and the latest projects to get in on the shared universe plan are DC Entertainment's animated films. Warner Bros. has been steadily releasing stand-alone animated versions of classic DC comics storylines for the past few years, but now the studio is interested in giving its animated films their own shared universe. The upcoming film, Justice League: War will start a line of films that will share the same continuity, and the studio is planning to release two films each year in this shared universe. While the studio says that they still plan on releasing stand-alone films along with the new series, there is clearly a shift in focus happening here. So what are some pros and cons of moving towards serialized films.

Pro: It gives people incentive to keep up with the various films
If the box office receipts from the Marvel movies are any proof, people love cinematic universes. Not much is stronger than the allure of interlocking movies. There's something special about having your superhero characters buzzing around the same universe and the idea that each and every movie feeds into the next, even when they focus on different characters. They are hoping to tap into the same question that keeps readers crowding into comic book stores every Wednesday: "What happens next?"

Con: But it might limit creativity
The best thing about DC's animated films were that they could create faithful adaptation of some of DC comics' most legendary storylines without having to worry about canon or continuity. Since the movies were stand-alone, every release hit the reset button, which meant that the movies could  change their style of storytelling or animation to better suit whatever classic comic book story they were adapting. No comic book story was off limits.  Now that the studio is more focused on creating series of films with the same versions of characters, it limits the freedom of each movie to change things up, and freely adapt a comic book story without being slave to other movies in the series.

Pro: It allows the movies to more closely resemble comic books
The best thing about reading actual comic books month to month is knowing that what happens in one superhero's book can send ripples throughout the entire line of comics, and Marvel has, in a small sense, captured that phenomenon in their films. DC is looking to gain that same feeling with its animated projects.

Con: But not everything needs to be a huge sprawling franchise
Marvel, to their credit, has garnered much success with their franchise of superhero films and the connected universe that they all share, but that doesn't mean that every single superhero film needs to be a part of some epic saga. Having one-shot superhero films that weren't connected to a larger framework of films gave DC's animated films a certain freedom to play with the different characters in ways they couldn't in a series of films that rely to heavily on each other.

Pro: It allows for more developed superheroes
There's a limit to the amount of character development that can be made in an hour and a half. Creating a series of movies that follows the same version of the characters from film to film will create a richer portrait of who these people are under their masks and capes. One that wouldn't be possible to create through a single film.

Con: But too bad if you get tired of them
The one-shot nature of the earlier films gave you a new version of your favorite superhero with every release so if you didn't love the way Batman was depicted in one film, the next one would give you a whole new depiction of Batman. If the Batman in their upcoming series isn't to your liking, then that's too bad because you're stuck with him.


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