Warner Bros is at a strange impasse with its DC universe. After bringing the unfortunate news that Batgirla production of 70-90 million dollars, was canceled due to poor test screenings and (arguably) a product that wasn’t up to par, it’s clear that WB is struggling to unravel the tangled web of its disjointed superhero franchise.
This is strange considering the very tangible roster of characters at the studio’s disposal, namely Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, etc. These are not your average heroes, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-Man – i.e. characters that the populace had never heard of before their introduction into the MCU – but pop culture icons with a rich history and decades of material to draw from .
Yet, outside of Batman, WB has failed to find consistent success with its heroes, haphazardly jumping from project to project without an overarching goal — without trying to emulate Marvel’s stellar achievements.
Even weirder, the studio can’t seem to decide whether to continue with the “SnyderVerse” (the characters created by Zack Snyder for Man of steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League) or go in a completely different direction. As such, we get movies like Aquaman and wonder Woman that very clearly takes place in Snyder’s darker universe juxtaposed with Shazam! and Wonder Woman 1984 – entries that call back to previous films but are so tonally different as to set them completely apart from anything that came before.
Looking back at the recent past The Suicide Squad and Birds of prey — two very R-rated superhero movies established after Snyder was kicked out to … make R-rated superhero movies — and look forward to WB’s upcoming slate — namely, Black Adam, Shazam! Wrath of the Gods, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (with Ben Affleck’s Batman), Blue Beetleand The lightning (with Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton’s Batman) – it’s clear that the studio wants to take its heroes in a different direction, but refuses to completely break ties with Snyder’s pre-established concept.
My suggestion? Make a decision Warner Bros. It’s been almost 10 years Man of steelover six years ago Batman v Supermanand five years since the debacle that was it Justice League theatrical cut. Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a huge treat for fans of the Snyder brand and offered an appropriate amount of closure to his trilogy of films. You can see Man of steel, BvSand ZSJL and (outside of the confusing future sequences) leave satisfied as long as you ignore the Darkseid stuff. At least I know I did. Either way, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.
The DCEU needs a consistent vision
One option is to reboot the DCEU, Aquaman and all…recast and start fresh without the baggage of previous entries. Establish a lighter, more kid-friendly tone and slowly build towards the ultimate team-up – ie. Justice League. Hell, bring back George Miller and let him finish what he started back in the mid-2000s, albeit with a whole new cast, or bring in someone like JJ Abrams to build the franchise from the ground up. Do something.
Alternatively, let Snyder finish his vision. Stop rambling on about the SnyderVerse. Dive headfirst into the madness. Let Ben Affleck direct his Batman movie, let Ray Fisher complete his Cyborg solo project, make Wonder Woman cool again, introduce Green Lantern, remake The lightning (with another actor), and give us more Henry Cavill. Give us one Shazam! and Black Adam starring Superman (and Sasha Calle’s Supergirl) and a Batgirl movie with Affleck’s Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker. Let Snyder drive him crazy Justice League 2.
Another option is to bring back James Gunn and let him steer the DCEU into even darker territory. Give him full control over characters like Harley Quinn and Joker. While The Suicide Squad wasn’t for everyone (as the mediocre box office performance showed), it still had the definitive vision of an auteur filmmaker. There were many interesting ideas explored in that film that would be interesting to revisit or expand upon in future adventures. The DCEU clearly needs someone with a defined vision and tone.
Where the DCEU currently stands
Right now, WB might be trying to structure the DCEU around Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam … or maybe not, since even The Rock seems confused as to why he’s not fighting Cavill’s Superman. Maybe they will be completely reset with The lightning when it hits theaters next year. Except since Michael Keaton’s Batman has been deleted and/or replaced by Ben Affleck’s Batman in Batgirl and Aquaman 2, will his character figure prominently in WB’s future plans? Why continue with Affleck if there are no plans for Affleck to continue playing Batman? What a mess.
At this point, the SnyderVerse is broken. The pieces are there though. They’re definitely broken, but they’re just there waiting to be picked up and put back together or discarded altogether. WB can’t decide.
I’m sure there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. With the recent Discovery merger, WB is clearly stuck in no man’s land, trying to fight its way out of the hole established by the previous regime (and that includes Snyder). I do not envy their position. How can you nix cash cows like Aquaman and wonder Woman after they go crazy at the box office? (Also, how can you continue a franchise like The Suicide Squad and Birds of prey when they end up at the ticket office?)
You can’t really recast Batman or Superman, which means Affleck will keep popping up randomly and Cavill’s boy wonder will continue to be hinted at but never seen unless you reset it all. But how do Aquaman, Harley Quinn, Shazam and Wonder Woman figure into a reset? Would they transform into different iterations of themselves in future films, essentially removing their previous story beats? Or would their stories remain in the previously established universe, in which case we’re stuck with the Cavill and Affleck problem until audiences decide to stop watching Aquaman and Wonder Woman?
What of Peacemaker, the HBO Max series that featured a special guest appearance by the Justice League — including Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cavill’s Superman, albeit a faceless version of the character, which was certainly odd. Does that program reset? I’m so confused.
WB, it’s time to choose a path and stay the course. Stop throwing crap at the wall and wait for something to stick. Choose a direction and drive it to the end. Call Snyder and give him all the money, or finish the current slate of movies and start over a few years down the road. Just don’t sit on the fence.