Creative freedom has never been a guarantee when it comes to the entertainment industry. While we’re blessed with brilliant minds of people who can fill the creative quota and producer side of things in Kathleen Kennedy and Kevin Feige, not all franchises have their heads screwed on straight. The Marvel side of things is less interested in primetime TV since Netflix and their Cinematic universe is firing on all cylinders. Agents of SHIELD, while vastly improved, can never truly have game-changing stakes until whenever that Inhumans movie comes around. There’s a reason they have strict creative freedom. Jeph Loeb constantly spouts, “It’s all connected.” Whether or not it feels like it’s all connected is another story entirely (references only go so far).
The DC version of a shared cinematic universe is somehow even less cohesive with less direction. Reports have constantly been noting how all the movies tied to the Justice League films will be unconnected to the TV universe. It was a ridiculous notion to me as Arrow and The Flash are popular shows (with Flash possibly being the best live-action superhero iteration ever). Then some well-spoken arguments convinced me to embrace the idea of separate universes so they could both have full creative freedom to use whichever stories and whatever characters they so pleased.
Spoilers for Arrow onwards.
Season 3 of Arrow took a major dip in quality from trying to throw too much at the audience plot wise without any pertinence to characters. They lost sight of who Team Arrow was and turned them into writing checklists. As the kids say, it was “hella” disappointing. Remember the first season villain/master manipulator Malcolm Merlyn and how he brainwashed Thea? It’s okay. He actually loves his daughter and his city even though he’s responsible for killing hundreds of people. And that might have been the least of this season’s problems.
One of the bigger disappointments was the use of the Suicide Squad (Task Force X in this iteration) and Amanda Waller. They had a random Suicide Squad adventure in the middle of a cold war with Ra’s Al Ghul only to kill off Deadshot because of reasons (cheesy flashback and all). Waller only appeared in flashbacks and we last see her bleeding to death. We know she survives her ordeal because she’s in the present but it’s like she just stopped mattering in the grand scheme of things. She did but not by choice.
Willa Holland spoke to Flicks and the City and mentioned plans for A.R.G.U.S., Suicide Squad, and Harley Quinn all had to be cut in light of Suicide Squad being released in 2016.
I’m not going to say Season 3 of Arrow would have benefited from creative restraint here but maybe they wouldn’t have felt pressure to include these elements one last time. Maybe they should have thought about doing something right or not doing it at all. But I get it; having your toys ripped away from you because a bigger kid wants to play with them hurts. Only this bigger kid is 15 years old and has a twisted mentality of what makes these toys fun in the first place. He painted Superman grey and black instead of bright red and blue. He thought the underwear on the outside was too dumb so he made Superman fight in a densely populated city. Now he wants Superman and Batman to fight in a dreary, unsaturated Metropolis.
Arrow and The Flash were never going to use Batman. Because he’s the most popular solo superhero, movies will never let TV use Gotham’s dark knight. Even Gotham the TV show can only use the characters until Bruce Wayne comes of age (you will never see Batman on TV). That’s perfectly fine, if sort of ridiculous since audiences are smart enough to know the difference between which actors are playing which character in what medium.
The real fear here is when does it stop? The Flash just finished a stellar first season, with the weakest episodes being stronger than anything in Man of Steel, and, at its best, on par with heroic sense of wonder in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. With The Flash supposedly having a cameo in BvS (I refuse to type the full title) before being in the full-fledged Justice League movie in 2017 and his standalone in 2018, what happens to Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen? It’s the most popular CW program so I’m sure they have some pull with what they can get away with. But at what point do these two universes just stop and do whatever the hell they want?
I’m glad the DC TV and movie universes are separate. Let me see our proto-Justice League in Legends of Tomorrow fight giant robots and a villain over a million years old. Just don’t make the TV guys stop using certain characters when movies decide they want to play too. There’s more than enough room for multiple iterations of characters. Don’t get greedy.