Yesterday, Warner Brothers announced their upcoming slate of films adapting DC Comics’ superhero properties. Between 2016 and 2020, the studio plans to release ten films: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in 2016; Wonder Woman and Justice League Part One in 2017; The Flash and Aquaman in 2018; Shazam and Justice League Part Two in 2019; and Cyborg and Green Lantern in 2020. Dave and James respond in this roundtable.
DAVE: Right now, I feel really bad for anyone who is excited by this news, because their hearts are inevitably going to be broken within a few years time when this schedule never comes to pass.
Look, as much as I would love to see a series of great films based on DC Comics’ characters, I don’t think for one second that Warner Brothers has the ability to pull off their grand plan. This is a plan which is built entirely upon the hoped for success of Batman v Superman: Desperate Cash Grab, a follow-up to a movie which has deeply divided audiences and which is being made by people whose every comment seems to put fans on edge. If Batman v Superman under performs and/or is considered a disappointment comparable to this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, you can kiss this entire plan goodbye.
Besides, based on the order in which these films are supposedly going to be released, it is not as if the studio really seems dedicated to making some of these films. Warner Brothers saying they are developing a Cyborg movie and that they already have a star for it looks positive on the surface, and it is sure to help the studio avoid the criticism of a lack of racial diversity in its superhero films. The release date six years from now however makes it clear that Cyborg isn’t really a priority for the company, and that its chances of actually being made are slim. Honestly, it feels like an insult to the character, his fans, and most of all to actor Ray Fisher.
More than anything else, I think this news reveals just how behind the eight-ball Warner Brothers is when it comes to the superhero market. Right now, their television division has launched what has thus far been an extremely successful version of The Flash, so why they hell are they planning a standalone film starring a different actor? I get wanting—or, as is more likely the case, having—to keep the film and television projects separate from one another. I get the film division wanting to have its own Flash for the Justice League films. What I don’t get is why Warner Brothers would set up a competing Flash film franchise. If people can see the adventures of The Flash on television for free, who is going to want to pay to see the film? More importantly, by the time Warner Brothers’ film Flash pops up in 2016 in a cameo role, Grant Gustin will have had two years in the role in his own show to win fans over, if he already hasn’t already done so at this point. It doesn’t help that supposed film star Ezra Miller is around the same age as Gustin, suggesting that the film take will be similar to the television version anyway.
At the end of the day, this whole announcement reeks of being a business plan rather than a creative one, and while we are talking about the film business, that business plan is only going to work if the creative plan works. Right now, I am not sure that there really is a creative plan in place.
What about you, James? What do you make of all this?
JAMES: I am positively optimistic compared to you, Dave. While DC and WB’s efforts to get this thing off the ground have been shaky at best, I’m very fascinated by what this signals and the direction this universe goes in. First and foremost, though, I am glad we’re finally getting a Wonder Woman film. How that looks, of course, remains to be seen; it could ultimately end up like Supergirl (shameless plug: listen to us talk about that film on the next episode), or worse, Catwoman.
The other films interest me too: Suicide Squad is a left-field choice (particularly with David Ayer directing) and I’ve always wanted to see a Shazam film, though something tells me it won’t be the Brad Bird-directed one from my dreams. I certainly don’t share your cynicism towards Cyborg. Who knows exactly how these characters are going to be developed throughout the various films.
To your point, Dave, about the rival Flash series on television, I don’t think anyone will really care. There was some pre-release hoopla over Smallville and Superman Returns, but it really amounted to nothing and both carried on alongside each other just fine. Besides, no one’s made a stink about how Gotham or LEGO Batman are going to fit in.
Of course, dropping this huge, aggressive slate of films means a lot of their direction will hinge not only Batman v Superman, but its reception. And its a lot of weight to put on that film, so it better be able to hold. The other downside is that its reception will be entirely focussed on the framework it builds for the universe, which is an unfortunate byproduct of multi-film universes; no one particularly dwells on what’s current, but clamours for the next one. (Side note: we’ve already gotten over Avengers 2 and moved on to Captain America 3.)
All I can hope for is to be mildly entertained.