Why the Arrowverse is better than the DCEU
The DCEU has had somewhat of a rocky road over the years. With the exception of Wonder Woman very few of their movies have had critical or financial success. However, what people overlook is that DC has shown that it is capable of doing right in creating a full-fledged universe through its TV shows Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, etc. known as the Arrowverse. While it is much smaller than what the DCEU tries to offer and far from flawless it shows a vast amount of effort in its creation and is better. Why? Well it comes down to a variety of reasons
The first among these reasons is taking their time with the superheroes. When it came to the Arrowverse every superhero was introduced one at a time. Whether they debuted in their own show or a crossover, each show spent time with their respective character in their respective worlds. It dedicated time to building their character development and relationships with not only other superheroes but also secondary characters (e.g. Felicity Smoak from Arrow, Supergirl’s adopted sister Alex, Martian Manhunter, etc.). Crossovers in the Arrowverse would happen but only on occasion. Batman V. Superman on the other hand merely provided a brief scene with Bruce Wayne discovering Lex Luthor’s files of all the other Justice League superheroes giving little to nothing else on them before coming out with Justice League (again with the exception of Wonder Woman).
The second reason is having fun with the heroes. When the heroes in the Arrowverse do their thing they are allowed to have some sense of humor in their duties. It does not shy away however from the adult themes and deep and emotional character moments. The DCEU on the other hand paints many of their superheroes with the same dark and murky colors and takes them too seriously. This is particularly shown in Batman V. Superman. Superman is normally kind and lighthearted whereas Batman is dark and brooding. However, given that both are dark and brooding it is difficult for them to contrast with one another and thus making their clash forced.
The third reason is emotional connection with the heroes. This once again goes back to the first reason of taking time. While it is important to see the superhero doing action for most of the movie (especially if their names are in the title) it is also important to spend some time showing who they are outside of the costume; the connection they share to friends, family, etc. The Arrowverse does this showing that it is not simply superpowers and abilities that define a character but rather those who they are as people that defines their heroism. Examples of this include Martin Stein’s relationship with Jefferson in the Legends of Tomorrow (making the former’s demise in the Crisis on Earth-X crossover all the more devastating), The Flash’s relationship with his father, and Supergirl’s relationship with her Aunt and other members of her biological family. The DCEU particularly did this wrong with Superman mostly building him up as a god-like symbol. Wonder Woman did this right through the character building a connection with those around her including Steve Trevor, the people he recruits to fight with him, and others leading to the amazing action scene in No Man’s Land.
The fourth and final reason comes down to a better handling of the villains. While Wonder Woman was a well-made movie its primary villain Ares was one of its weaker points with him being miscast, not very good special effects, and his dialogue being nothing short of cliché. The Arrowverse also has had its fair share of not so great villains itself such as Savitar and Metallo who not only stray great from their comic counterparts but aren’t anything more than just henchmen or just have confusing motives. They have however shown us villains with great stories and performances such as Maxwell Lord, Reign, Reverse Flash, Lillian Luthor, etc. who make the threat the heroes face all the more intimidating. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman V. Superman was too over the top and goofy making it hard to take him or any of his actions seriously. Justice League’s Steppenwolf lacked depth or charm making him somewhat forgettable. The aforementioned villains in the Arrowverse do have depth by showing they are first and foremost human which goes back to the third reason. They are evil but will relent their wrath if necessary.
The DCEU may be bigger but it is not better. The Arrowverse shows that it can do just as much with less through character driven stories, engaging plotlines, and a well-built team that work not only together but also on their own.