by Tanner Kinney
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
Warner Bros. has a problem. The market is booming with superheroes and superhero accessories, with Marvel making a killing, and pseudo-superhero films fairing pretty well too. Meanwhile, DC was recently coming off the Christopher Nolan Batman films when this trend started, and so they attempted to keep that style. As it turns out, audiences don’t react well to dark, gritty, confusing, and boring superhero films. They managed to squander one of the most anticipated film concepts with Batman v. Superman, and not even their big ensemble Justice League movie did well. Now, with news of various characters like Batman, Superman, and The Joker getting recast due to their original actors abandoning the project, it seems like DC’s ship has holes that can’t be plugged by CGI lips and reshoots.
Can Warner Bros. still save their superhero goldmine? Or has it already gone too far towards collapse that it can’t be saved? Let’s examine what DC has coming up soon, and if there’s even a slim chance that they can start making money again.
Aquaman: Everyone’s favorite superhero?
The first thing DC has coming up is their Aquaman movie. This was one of the first movies teased to join Man of Steel in DC’s own superhero cinematic universe, along with Wonder Woman. Considering Aquaman was one of the core Superfriends, along with Batman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Robin (for some reason), it’s no surprise. Although an Aquaman film was in the works beforehand, this new iteration actually hasn’t gone through too much in the way of production hell (as far as we know); just a confusing mess of writers.
Over the course of four years, the movie went through four different writers who all cycled in and out of the project like they were going through a revolving door. Initially, in 2014, Will Beall and Kurt Johnstad were set to write two different scripts at the same time, with the better one being chosen for production. Then, Warner Bros decided to bring on director James Wan to write his own script in 2015. Deciding that was a bad idea, later in 2015 WB then brought in David Leslie Johnson to work with James Wan to write the script (either that or write his own version, it’s not clear). Then, in 2016, WB burnt all of that hard work to the ground to bring back in Will Beall to rewrite the entire script with the help of Wan. Finally, in 2017, they brought David Leslie Johnson back in once again to do rewrites of the second Will Beall script. Did you follow all that? No? Imagine how the movie must look then!
Seriously though, have you ever had to do a “group essay?” It’s a mess, with everyone constantly butting heads and one person (me) eventually just saying “frick y’all” and doing it themselves. That’s how this Aquaman movie must be looking. Also, coincidentally, isn’t it funny how the major scriptwriter changes came about after criticism (or praise) from previous DC films? 2016 saw the first major change only four months after the release of Batman v. Superman. After that, 2017 saw a major change after the success of Wonder Woman, and likely during the period of time when WB knew that Justice League was going to be a disaster. This really doesn’t provide confidence that DC has an actual vision for their movies, as opposed to just throwing things out at random and seeing what works. They did bring in professional hypocrite Joss Whedon to direct reshoots for Justice League, hoping that he would make the movie more palatable. It didn’t help.
Shazam!: DC’s dark horse
A movie based on the hero Captain Marvel (no, not that Captain Marvel, DC’s Captain Marvel. It’s a long story) has been in the works for a very long time. I remember hearing about tons of different people set to play Shazam for the past decade, with people like Dwayne “I willingly starred in Rampage” Johnson being eyed for both Shazam and the villain, Black Adam, at different points. The film has definitely gone through production hell, but that was before the modern era of DC movies, so in my mind it doesn’t really count. Well, at least before 2014 it doesn’t count.
Why do I say that? Well, because this film was announced alongside Justice League in 2014, and was allegedly set to release around 2016, but was pushed back. There certainly isn’t some multi-million dollar reason to why it had to be shelved for a bit, but for now let’s just say it was Batman v. Superman’s fault. So, after a little more time for DC to try and find their direction, does this film at all resemble past projects? Is it at all consistent with the established universe? Nope, and really, that’s what makes Shazam the most interesting thing DC has coming out.
This film looks cheap. Certainly cheaper than Aquaman, which looks super expensive with all of its CGI. Shazam, as of right now, is just a guy in a suit. We’ve seen very little to indicate extensive budgeting has gone into CGI. There has also not been any huge marketing pushes yet, aside from the one trailer shown at Comic Con. DC has clearly decided to aim for a more Deadpool-esque budget, and are hoping for Deadpool-esque results. If DC’s gamble pays off, I wouldn’t be surprised if it pays back the major losses from Justice League and (most likely) Aquaman. If it doesn’t pay off? Well, DC has one last chance.
Wonder Woman 1984: The last hope
A sequel for Wonder Woman was a no-brainer after it scored DC’s first critical and commercial success. So far in production, we’ve heard nothing but success stories in how things have gone. Does that make this film a winner? Possibly, but it’ll have to follow up two potential disasters if DC decides to continue with it. Maybe DC will just start calling it the Wonder Woman Extended Universe, which would be shortened down simply to WWE Universe. It’ll be a smash hit, but will make people irrationally angry for no reason other than that the booking was terrible or some other strange thing they don’t like. There’s not much else to say about Wonder Woman 1984, other than that I really hope DC doesn’t go under before it at gets released. Please don’t sell your franchise to Disney yet, I want to get this film before Disney gives it to Joss Whedon to actually direct for real. I don’t want Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman, him screwing it up would be quite an easy feet. He’d write dialogue that would put his foot in his mouth. You following me? Because that’s how what we’d get.
Image from Entertainment Weekly
DC’s properties are so strange because their CW-verse (Arrowverse? Is that what you call it?) is completely stable and, although a little bit samey, all really well received. Where did they screw up the movies? And why, OH WHY are we having Titans? We don’t need that, no one asked for gritty Teen Titans. The only people who really wanted it are the “release the Snyder-cut” people who really think the train-wreck of Justice League would be fixed if it contained entirely the worst parts of the film. If anything, the quickest way to establish a connected film universe is to just turn the CW shows into feature-length films with real budgets. I don’t know how that would translate, but it has got to be better than what they’re bringing to us right now.
Sources: YouTube, Entertainment Weekly
Images: YouTube, Entertainment Weekly
Featured Image: The Blemish
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.