We all heard the big news yesterday as Warner Bros. announced a huge slate of movies for the next few years, including an entire array of DC Comics movies going right through 2020 (and that doesn’t include the possibilities for more solo Batman or Superman movies either.)
Some might remember a few years back when I gave Warner Bros. a few tips on catching up to Marvel Studios in terms of capitalizing on their huge library of characters to work with. Unlike Marvel Comics, they still have all their characters in one place, which means they can create a shared universe just like in the comics.
Over two years after my article, Warner Bros. finally made their biggest announcement since last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reveal at Comic-Con, and it had a similar effect on those who have been hoping that Warner Bros. would stop cowering in the corner and being reactive in the ongoing Marvel vs. DC wars. Man of Steel was such a huge hit for them after Christopher Nolan wrapped up his “Dark Knight” trilogy and DC fans needed to be given some sort of message of hope that Warner Bros. knew what they were doing in terms of continuing on with their plans.
Problem solved? Maybe.
I certainly don’t mean to be a “Debbie Downer” and if it makes you sleep better, you can file this editorial under “satire” or “humor,” but there are some aspects of the announcement that should be addressed in a logical and sensible way.
First of all, if you’re going to hog up release dates for the next five years then yeah, I think it’s a good idea for you to actually announce your gameplan of what movies you plan to release and when. Maybe it’s fine for Marvel’s Kevin Feige to say they have a gameplan but not tell us what it is, but the pressure is now on Marvel for them to unveil some of those plans rather than waiting until San Diego Comic-Con next year. Right now, they’ve only announced through 2017 and that’s only one of their dates (the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy) with nothing about when the next “Avengers” movie might be released. (Of course, there’s all sorts of conjecture out there, some of it trying to disguise itself as “news.”)
Some of the announced DC movies make more sense than others. We all knew that 2016’s Batman v Superman is meant as a lead-in to the first Justice League movie directed by Zack Snyder and sure, it’s probably safe to expect that movie will be successful enough to warrant a sequel. Fair enough.
We’ve known for a while that Warner Bros. had been developing some of the planned solo movies like The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. We even knew that Gal Gadot was being introduced in “BvS” to get moviegoers acclimated to her in the role before spinning her off into a solo movie and Justice League. We also had heard that Jason Momoa was up for the role of Aquaman although we hadn’t seen any pictures of the “Game of Thrones” actor from the movie as we had Gadot. The Ezra Miller casting for The Flash came from out of the blue as there were none of the usual casting rumors surrounding that movie which has been the case with so many others. (It’s actually funny when you go back and reread some of the casting rumors for the new Batman, which never even mentioned Affleck, which just goes to show you how much bullsh*t out there is being reported as news.)
WB has been developing movies based on Wonder Woman and The Flash for a long time, so clearly they feel they’ve finally cracked the nut and have something worth moving forward on. Supposedly, this solo Wonder Woman will precede Justice League, so what will that be? Will that be an origin movie? Same question about The Flash and Aquaman, which will follow the first Justice League movie.
Very little is known about Shazam, the Captain Marvel movie planned for 2019, except that Dwayne Johnson will play his main villain Black Adam. There isn’t much surprise there because there’s been talk about a Shazam movie for over seven years now when Get Smart director Peter Segal was developing one. Don’t remember that one? Here’s an interview I did seven years ago. Who knows if this planned movie will tie into any of the other movies or is introducing the character for the Justice League sequel? Shazam has always been a fun character and like Cyborg (more on him below) is a favorite of DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
Personally, I’d love to see a Suicide Squad movie directed by David Ayer (who was pretty cagey about his involvement when I interviewed him earlier this week), but that’s because I know the history of those characters and what potential they have. But not everyone will know those characters when they were villains in other comics, nor will they have read John Ostrander’s great run on the book in the late ’80s. To just introduce them in a movie as this gang of supervillains being used by the government could be interesting except that most people won’t even know about the individual characters, let alone be familiar with the group.
I’m sure you’re all saying, “but it worked for Guardians of the Galaxy.” Yeah, but that was also from the already-successful Marvel Studios with an amazing marketing campaign by Walt Disney Pictures. Not to mention the fact that it was a funny and entertaining space movie that harked back to the original “Star Wars.” It was literally lightning in the bottle that no one expected to be so big and trying to replicate that magic in a very different movie scheduled for release in less than two years… Good luck with that.
Everyone talks about diversity in superhero movies and are pointing to Wonder Woman and Cyborg as steps in the right direction, saying that Warner Bros. have fired the first shot across the bow of “white boy superheroics” in some big groundbreaking way, but are they really?
It’s not like there haven’t been superhero movies with African-American of female leads. Have we all forgotten the hugely successful “Blade” series starring Wesley Snipes or Will Smith as Hancock? There also were bonafide bombs like 1997’s Steel starring Shaquile O’Neal as the character introduced during the hugely successful “Death and Return of Superman,” which really blew up comic sales at a time when they were deteriorating. Our selective memories seem to have also forgotten Catwoman, which starred Halle Berry, who is very much a woman AND black AND she won an Oscar a few years prior. And then there’s 1984’s Supergirl, which was introduced with the same logic that people thought it was time for more movies based on female superheroes.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a huge fan of many runs of Wonder Woman’s comics and probably have read more of them than 90% of the fanboy bloggers who keep harping on Warner Bros. to make a Wonder Woman movie. I’m fully behind that prospect and I hope that they have a strong script to back up this effort.
But does anyone really think that Gal Gadot of the “Fast and Furious” franchise has what it takes to lead a movie? What about Cyborg star Ray Fisher, who you may know from a short you couldn’t possibly have seen called “The Good, The Bad and the Confused”… no, really, that’s his only credit before getting the gig as Cyborg for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!
And if you’re still laughing at how bad that title is (as I am), do you really think Warner Bros. are just going to go with Wonder Woman or The Flash or anything simple like that? No, it’s probably going to be The Flash: The Fastest Justice Leaguer or Aquaman, King of Atlantis or Wonder Woman: Shut Up Already or something similarly inane. Movie titles has not been the greatest strength of the studio that brought us Edge of Tomorrow or whatever it’s called these days. (I fully expect the Tom Cruise movie to get a 20th Anniversary rerelease under the title All You Need is Kill, which is what they should have called the movie in the first place.)
I’ve lived in New York City for decades and I know and have talked to more than a few black and Latino comic book fans in comic shops and on the subway in that time, and I don’t think any of them have ever said, “Man, I wish they’d give Cyborg his own movie!” No, it’s more than likely that long-time comic readers see Black Panther and Luke Cage and in some ways, The Falcon, as the black superheroes that deserve their own movies or shows. Warner Bros. announcing a movie starring Cyborg is not going to push Marvel to move any faster on a Black Panther movie than they already have been. Trust me on this. Maybe a younger generation has embraced Cyborg from the Teen Titans cartoon that I don’t know about, but it still seems like an odd choice. (The same can be said for Ms. Marvel who isn’t nearly as well known as Wonder Woman among the general populace.)
I’m not even going to comment too much on the 2020 plan for a new Green Lantern movie, presumably a reboot with whichever poor actor whose agent doesn’t remember how starring in the previous Green Lantern movie hurt Ryan Reynolds’ career. If nine years is the statute of limitations on trying to revive a character on the big screen for new audiences after a bad movie, then we’re eight years behind on a new Steel movie. (At this point, we don’t even know if the Green Lantern in question is Hal Jordan or John Stewart, who would in fact appeal to an urban audience, probably more than Cyborg.)
And let’s not forget that it’s easy to grab release dates and announce movies, but who knows how many of these movies actually have scripts in development? I wouldn’t even be remotely surprised if one or two of the announced DC movies are systematically cancelled, especially when one of the more daring attempts fails to find an audience. Warner Bros. seem to be hoping that the “Avengers factor” will be in effect when Justice League is so popular that spinning all the separate characters off into solo movies will mean success for all of them.
Marvel Studios really went for broke by introducing characters like Thor and Iron Man in their own individual movies before bringing them together for The Avengers, but most of these characters (like The Hulk) already had decades of appearances in other media besides comics, too. That can’t be said for Ant-Man and yet Marvel are still going through with that plan and you know what? They’ll probably make it work. Many of DC’s characters have also had their own cartoons over the years like the Justice League in “Super Friends” and others since then, so maybe these movies can capitalize on those audiences even if the comic books themselves may not be that popular among non-readers.
Another thing that some are forgetting is that not everyone loved Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and if that’s meant to be the benchmark for future DC movies, there are going to be a lot of angry comic book fans. Again, it’s all about selective memory and Hollywood’s revisionist history, but no one will know anything for roughly 17 months until the release of “BvS.” By that time, Warner Bros. will already be well into development or production on at least five of those announced movies.
As a lifelong comic book fan, I want all of these movies to be great superhero movies on par with The Dark Knight or anything from Marvel, and I hope they all do just as well at the box office. But as someone who has been analyzing the highs and lows of the box office and the domino effect that a hit or a bomb creates, I’m dubious that things will play out exactly like planned.
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