Ezra Miller stars as Barry Allen in Warner Bros. “The Lightning.”
Warner Bros. Discovery
“The Flash” is a failure. “Black Adam” was a bust. Does anyone remember “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”?
DC Studios needs more than a hero, it needs a new strategy – something different from even the recently established reboot plan.
DC and its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, are the envy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s easy to see why. The MCU movies, including those not released by Disneyhave grossed around $30 billion worldwide since 2008. The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav directed DC Studios co-executives James Gunn and Peter Safran to create their own shared universe featuring iconic characters like Batman and Superman.
The problem is that Warner Bros. and DC are already working on ending a previous – and failed – attempt to tie their characters together through multiple movies and shows. In the cinema, DC’s Justice League just can’t measure up to Marvel’s Avengers.
The likely answer to the problems of Warner Bros. and DC, however, is right in front of them: Character-specific franchises that adhere to a single director’s vision, not a TV-style writers’ room. Basically, let your characters fly on their own.
It worked for DC properties before, even recently.
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Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which ended in 2012, was very well-reviewed at the box office. And while both were tied to DC’s previous attempt at creating a cinematic universe, 2017’s Wonder Woman and 2018’s Aquaman focused mainly on their title characters and raked in big bucks and praise in the process.
To put an even finer point on this, look no further than the financial and critical success of Todd Phillips’ Joker and Matt Reeves’ Batman. None of the films are related to an expanded universe.
Joker, released in 2019, grossed more than $1 billion worldwide despite being rated R, while also winning a best actor Oscar for star Joaquin Phoenix. Last year’s “Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader at the start of his career, grossed about $750 million worldwide. Sequels to both films are in the works.
But so is “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” from “Flash” director Andy Muschietti. It won’t star Pattinson and will instead serve as an “introduction to the DCU Batman,” according to Gunn. How many different Batmans does an already superhero-saturated movie-going public need? Especially after “The Flash,” which featured four different Dark Knights from previous movies and shows.
Fun vs homework
Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Comics were once a refuge from homework. Now, to keep up with everything that’s going on in Disney’s MCU and Sony’s Spider-Verse, which is also related to the MCU, you need to have watched pretty much everything that came before to get up to speed. That’s dozens of movies and shows going all the way back to Robert Downey Jr.’s original Iron Man.
The Flash, meanwhile, might be the most intense pop quiz out of comics, even though the DC Cinematic Universe is all over the place. It’s full of cameos (some real, some CGI-generated) from past DC movies and shows, going all the way back to George Reeves’ black-and-white Superman.
But to understand all the blunders, you have to be really into this stuff. Unless you’re a big fan of “Clerks” director Kevin Smith — big enough to have seen his promo specials, that is. “Flash” series featuring Nicolas Cage’s version of Superman’s fight with a giant spider, You Can Be Lost. The film’s plotline, featuring George Clooney returning as Bruce Wayne 26 years after the poorly received Batman & Robin, is clearly aimed at Gen-Xers and older Millennials, not today’s younger audiences.
Even the MCU model stumbles sometimes. Disney CEO Bob Iger himself suggested that the studio was going to the well too often with certain characters after the fourth Thor movie and the third Ant-Man installment underperformed at the box office. This should be another warning sign for DC Studios.
For his part, DC’s Gunn recently admitted that there are “too many” superhero movies and shows. If anyone can come up with a creative way to change course, it’s him.
After working with schlock factory Troma Films early on, Gunn built a steady Hollywood career as a writer and director, alternating between R-rated films like Slither and mainstream stuff like his Guardians of the Galaxy films for Marvel and Disney. The third entry in this series brought the MCU out of its mini funk. So far, it’s the second-highest-grossing film of 2023 behind Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”
And he already has several DC works on his resume: the 2020 film The Suicide Squad and its 2022 companion series Peacemaker, both of which won widespread acclaim.
Gunn wrote and directed “Superman: Legacy,” due out in 2025. It aims to usher in DC’s new shared universe. But there’s still time for him to rethink his approach and let the Man of Steel — and all the other DC heroes — be super alone.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal and CNBC.