Remember that moment at San Diego Comic Con 2013 when Zack Snyder took to the stage to announce a supposed Man of Steel sequel that turned out to be the first tease for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? That moment caused the internet to explode and earlier this week Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros. CEO, decided to see if he could pull off the same thing at an investors meeting. I’ve been up to my knees in liquid internet ever since.
Tsujihara announced nine, yes nine, DC Comics based films including Wonder Woman, Justice League parts 1 and 2, The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg, Suicide Squad and a Green Lantern reboot. All of that in addition to the currently-filming Batman v Superman film and mentioned but not scheduled solo films for Superman and Batman. You’d think that would have been something to give the New York Comic Con audience last weekend, but what can you do?
I’d like to think that maybe somebody over at Warner Bros. read my Wonder Woman column and at least managed to schedule her before the first Justice League film, so that’s what I’m doing…it’s nice to have one’s opinion considered and appreciated. So, with that in mind, I’m unpacking this a little and putting some other thoughts out there for everyone at WB, DC Comics and whoever you are reading this right now.
It’s great that WB got rolling on this and that, from the looks of that schmorgesborg of DC Comics heroes, they’re taking this effort seriously. And it’s quite a variety of film types, too. No doubt the decision to reboot Green Lantern had something to do with the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. If WB is really smart, they’ll take note of that film’s tone and direction, but maybe with a smaller team of GL’s to keep things focused.
But, there might be a bigger issue here and it’s that all of this is hinging on a fairly sizable gamble. What if Batman v Superman doesn’t work? What if Wonder Woman flops? How about a Justice League movie that bombs with critics and audiences? All of that could derail the 2019-2020 plans quickly. A lot is riding on the success of Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman. If BvS fails, you might see WW plans quickly dashed along with all the other future films with the exception of Shazam, which could exist outside of the rest anyway and Dwayne Johnson is too bankable a star not to give his film a shot. And let’s face it, if ever there was an opportunity to make up for the oncoming lack of Harry Potter this is it (and yes, I know there’s a whole new trilogy that takes place in that world coming up too).
If you’ll remember there was a Justice League movie in development a few years ago that was going to be directed by George Miller. It was scrapped (likely for the best) at the last minute. That film was through the casting phase, had a finished script and had gotten to costume tests and set construction, but it still got canned. So it’s hard to consider all of these announcements as done deals given how easily they can fall apart at the last minute.
All of that being said, the odds of this iteration of Justice League making it to the big screen are much better than the Miller version. The production team involved in this film universe already has one success under its belt (Man of Steel) and will likely have a huge opening weekend for Batman v Superman. If BvS outdoes Man of Steel (which it kind of has to) then Justice League is all but assured. Wonder Woman will need to do well for a sequel to be considered, but even if it fails miserably it shouldn’t completely derail JL, though a flop of that magnitude would give the studio pause and it could hinder other DC hero films, most certainly Green Lantern. GL already flopped once and any one of these movie flopping could make studio execs and investors nervous about taking any sort of chances.
What this film slate hopefully represents is a lot of careful and calculated planning and not just a desperate attempt to catch up to Marvel Studios. That ship sailed, WB. Time to just make good movies. And all of the movies listed on that slate could be more than good. Some could be great. I mean, has Marvel Studios had a female-lead superhero film yet? Or an African American solo hero movie? Nope on both counts. And WB announced both already, with Cyborg being a much bigger risk than WW as he’s a much more obscure character even though he’s now considered a founding member of the Justice League. Cyborg getting a solo movie is great, but his list of villains is extremely light so some fancy footwork may have to be done here. But with Geoff Johns, DC Comics Chief Creative Officer, helping to shepherd all of these movies, that shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
There are real opportunities to do out-of-the-box superhero movies with Flash and Aquaman, but more on those (and Wonder Woman, GL, Shazam, Cyborg and Justice League) later. For now, fans, just remember that all of this is still subject to change and it’s O.K. to be excited by the possibilities. We’ve been waiting a long time for all of this and seeing it play out over the next five years will either bring our dreams to life or crush us in a way that only a disappointing, highly anticipated movie could. I might still be hurting a little from 2011. It wasn’t easy to get over, and don’t think I didn’t try.