– by David Kozlowski

Warner Bros. mission to replicate Marvel’s cinematic universe (MCU) is failing, and the latest executive shakeup at DC Films won’t save it. Justice League‘s struggles at the box office all but erased the strides made by Wonder Woman earlier in the year. Aquaman is the only DC film hitting theaters in 2018 — a full year after Justice League‘s release. And Shazam is about to begin filming, but I’d wager there’s more excitement for Aquaman (that’s some faint praise). Does this feel like a plan to anyone?

Take your best guess where DC is headed in the short-term (and their long-term prospects are almost certainly in-flux). Obviously, this is not what fans want to hear, but it’s where we’re at. Let’s discuss.

Related – Suicide Squad’s Negative Reception Was A Blow To Director David Ayer

First, WB is hoping that some new blood is what’s needed. DC Films just hired a new president, Walter Hamada, a highly-successful executive with a track record for incredibly tight budgets and low-fi filmmaking. If we assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that the future of DC’s Extended Universe (DCEU) is a giant question mark, what can Hamada do to change or reverse course?

Let’s start with a little background. Who is Walter Hamada and what does he bring to the table? According to Deadline, he’s responsible for multiple, recent successes at New Line — The Conjuring franchise and Stephen King’s It — micro-budget productions that made exceptional money at the box office. Given the $300 million production of Justice League (and it’s expected $100 million loss for the studio), frugality and discipline are powerful traits for a WB exec to possess these days.

Should we therefore expect Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 2 or Matt Reeves’ Batman to be mid-budget affairs (like Fox’s Deadpool)? Why not? Stephen King’s It was made for $35 million, a dark, character-focused project with few household names — if Reeves casts an unknown as Batman and leans on practical effects, it’s absolutely conceivable that we could get the gritty Dark Knight detective story we’ve all been dreaming about. Wonder Woman 2 is reportedly set in the 1980s, a low-tech period that could also allow Jenkins to shoot on-the-relative-cheap.

I’m not suggesting Hamada’s going to mandate sub-hundred-million-dollar budgets for all future DC Films, but the solo films could (and probably should) err on the side of the lower production costs. DC’s big team-up movies likely still warrant large budgets, but until DC Films can produce a string of Wonder Woman type successes, maybe Suicide Squad 2 and Justice League 2 should be put on ice for the time being. In other words, Hamada probably isn’t going to sign-off on another $300 million production until DC Films proves it can repeat the kinds of cost-to-revenue successes he enjoyed with It and The Conjuring — that’s just good business sense.

While Hamada has overseen several very successful projects — all as producer or EP — none of these films were in the superhero genre. In addition to It and The Conjuring, Hamada’s films include: Annabelle: Creation, Lights Out, Into the Storm, The Gallows. Spotting a trend? All are extremely low-budget horror films with (mostly) no-name stars; however, Hamada is responsible for the big-budget flop 47 Ronin, which was made for $175 million in 2013. Fortunately, WB held onto Geoff Johns, a subject-matter expert who came up as a DC Comics writer. So while superheroes aren’t necessarily Hamada’s expertise, he’s got that in spades with Johns. But it does beg the question: what kind of films will Hamada greenlight and what will their budgets be?

Speaking of the DC slate, the announced list of upcoming DC films still includes: Nightwing, Black Adam, Lobo, Metal Men, Green Lantern Corps — try to find five people who know anything about these characters (although some will remember that the previous Suicide Squad and Green Lantern movies were terrible). Sure, a single movie can totally realign expectations, as Wonder Woman did last summer, but so too can a single film shatter expectations (see: Justice League). Here’s the thing, Wonder Woman was well-entrenched within American pop culture, thanks largely to the 1970s Lynda Carter TV series. The rest of the announced DC slate, not so much.

Additionally, what is DC Films identity and who’s their anchor? Aquaman and Shazam aren’t going to save DC’s bacon. (Does anyone think otherwise?) It wasn’t that long ago that Aquaman was a punchline, although Jason Mamoa does bring something fresh and exciting to the role. What about his other Justice League teammates? Ben Affleck has one foot out the door (it’s more and more dubious that he’ll appear in Reeve’s Batman movie); Henry Cavill is only signed for one more go as the Man of Steel; Ezra Miller’s Flash was a bright spot in Justice League, but his solo movie is in total limbo; Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is due for a solo outing too, but try to find five people who are excited about this character (you’ll have five more than me). Wonder Woman is clearly where DC is focusing, and she’s a fine anchor for the studio to build around.

Finally, this brings us back to the DCEU as a whole and whether there’s merit, need, or desire for a connected universe going forward. Let’s be honest, fans simply want good superhero movies with characters that look, sound, and act like their comic book counterparts. Does it matter if these films are linked? Also, Deadpool and Logan proved that “what if” or “elseworld” tales enable filmmakers to tell awesome stories, rather than pound the next link into the DCEU chain. Stop getting over your skies with trilogies, franchises, universes; instead, make Wonder Woman 2 and Batman the best possible films they can be, independent of anything else, and only then plan the next one or two movies.

Hopefully, Hamada has his ear to the ground and elects to wipe the DCEU whiteboard clean. Marvel has proven that successfully shared universes are the exception, not the rule. (Ask Universal about the state of their “Dark Universe.”) The best thing that Hamada can do is drop the DCEU entirely and focus on Wonder Woman 2 and Batman, and I guess Shazam too, since this is clearly happening. Thereafter, just make one movie at a time, independent of any other film or shared connections, and only consider a bigger (and more costly) team film like Suicide Squad 2 or Justice League 2 when you’ve got a truly killer script that demands to be made, not because there’s a gaping hole in the calendar begging to be filled.

Hamada clearly has the street cred and leadership tools to bring order to DC’s chaos; he’d be a fool to keep making the same films the same way as his predecessors, and I doubt that’s why they hired him. There’s a lot of time between now and Aquaman, and we’ll be watching for the next series of DC Films announcements to gauge where they’re headed. Let’s hope it begins with the death of the DCEU.

What do you think the new DC Films president should do with the DCEU? Let us know in the comments down below!

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SOURCE: Deadline

  • Kindofabigdeal

    I don’t care if they cast an unknown actor as long as Kevin Conroy does the voice.

    • We’re all going to be replaced by robots and CG anyway, so why not.

      • Victor Roa

        thanks our robot overlords

    • Victor Roa

      wow, you sound like me 25 years ago

  • Deathstroke936

    When David claims that folks just want cbm that sound and act like their counterparts but then praises Thor… just proves how clueless (or bias) he really is…

    My personal take is that for better or worse anything with Snyder’s name will be “bashed”. Now that he’s no longer around… let’s see what Wan and Sandberg actually deliver… But surely Aquaman and Shazam can’t save DCU’s bacon… yeah…lets not forget it was the geniuses here at LRM that were certain WW was going to be a flop…

    And nobody is talking about universe building with these new movies… well nobody but the geniuses at LRM… There is no plan to repeat BvS… The plan is to make them as Wonder Womany as possible. And if they bring a frugal guy to over look these, well … about time…!!!

    The truth is the expectations were set high because of the success of Marvel… but even it they are not as profitable … the lowest DCU film so far has over 650,000 million WW (any movie with a 150 million budget would be a win)

    The best DC can do is ignore Marvel, and let them make as many comedies they want and how all the critics will love them, and they’ll make all the money … and let the their film makers make the best movie they can, no movie time mandates, or micro-managing and keep them “frugal”. When IT has better CGI than JL… then the Hamada thing makes sense…

    And David …just write a paragraph about how much you hate DC and I would respect it more…

    • Aww, does somebody need a great big hug? Cheer up little guy, Christmas is just 354 days away!

      • Deathstroke936

        Hey…I’m not the one hoping for the death of anything… on the contrary… I’m quite excited for what’s next.

        Seems to me that some Debbie Downer needs to turn his little frown …upside down.

        • I appreciate your criticisms and opinions, just keep the personal attacks out of it.

  • Eric Erickson

    Finish Aquaman and WW 2 as lead in films to Flashpoint (nobody seems to be sure how connected Shazam is so let’s put that aside.) If the Batman film does happen (Reeves’ just signed that Netflix deal… hmmmm….) then make it a sort of standalone. Wipe everything else after Flashpoint.

    Make Flashpoint a huge blow out, stick to the comic as much as possible. Bring in Cavil to finish his contract. (You think his mustache looked crazy, think what they could do to replicate the Flashpoint Superman!) Do what ever you have to do to bring in every character on a level of Infinity War. Have the last shot ambiguous to what world Flash is returning to and… end of film. Close down the DCEU. Take a few years off and figure it all out.

    • Flashpoint could be the key to a soft reboot, I agree. That said, I think they need to establish the character before Flashpoint, because this particular storyline is so much bigger than just Flash (I fear we lose Flash or lessen his impact). Give us a full-on Flash vs. Rogues solo movie first, then Flashpoint.

      • RedSpeedster34

        I disagree. If the new minds feel they need to course correct, them use Flashpoint as a soft reboot for the DCEU. They can change tone and look of the universe, keep/change whatever existing actors they want, keep/change the appearance of whichever characters they want … and use Flashpoint as they backdrop.

  • Tonk99

    Why bother reading the article when the opening sentence underscores the bias here? Of course Aquaman and Shazam can ‘save’ the DCEU (if it needs saving, JL was my fave film of the year). I mean who would have thought Iron Man couldve kicked off the MCU? And don’t forget the Incredible Hulk which was Marvel’s second shared Universe movie, which seems to be conventiantly forgotten when discussing the ‘success’ of the early MCU, not to mention first Thor which was abysmal. WB/DC are course correcting, sure, but why assume it will go tits up? Surely this is for the better, an attempt to pull back some of Marvel’s market share. What concerns me is that WB/DC may be being too reactionary; perhaps they should just stay the current course and let audiences come around. When studios react too much to audience demand/expectation you wind up with an Alien Covenant.

    • Justice League is going to lose $100 million. It’s probably many people’s favorite movie, but the reality is that it failed to break even, which is a flop by any definition.

  • Deathstroke936

    Reboot or Flashpoint or whatever you call it, would be the biggest mistake DC can make. As rocky the road has been to get here… it’s done. No need to retread anything. Complain as much as you like… JL proved the team worked.

    No need to jump into Injustice right away… just concentrate on making a great Aquaman, a fun Shazam, a worthy WW2…win the fans over with good movies. Good stories. Let them learn how CG works… and not every movie costs 200+ million…

    A good (Matt Vaughn) Superman movie is a requirement before a JL sequel.

    • I agree with you re: Flashpoint. This is a cool, far-ranging story that is too big for Flash’s first solo film. I also agree that not every movie needs to be $200 million — a non-CG Batman that focuses on the power of his mind and fists rather than another Bond-like films focusing on his gadgets would be fantastic.

    • Victor Roa

      well, the interesting thing is……. what is Flashpoint’s status? Aquaman is finished filming, Shazam and Nightwing look on track, even suicide squad 2/gotham sirens the David Ayer productions looks like it could happen. But what is Flashpoint at this time, like there’s no writer, no producer, no director, just a few actors saying things and then fanboys making theory videos
      on the level of the whole Snyder Cut of Justice League.

  • Victor Roa

    a diet on the budget is probably the best solution, but the thing is still WB is just leasing out the license of DC to everything. And these films are always will be one shot, the director, the actors, the writing….. and the president needs to not have them all fall apart after one film. “Yes, an ad team came in and re-edited everything with a new budget but your name is still on it smile to the camera and be a team player and then your next project will be okay”
    I do worry that this is another musical chair producer, because of the success of IT, but I do hope that lower budgets help control things.

  • SgtMAD

    no, they cannot save the dceu,as long as Warners is in the mix, the suits at the company will not give them the autonomy they need to make great cbms,the bean counters are the problem here and they are not going to get out of the way

  • Food4Thought

    If they’re not willing to put in the work like Marvel which took a decade then don’t bother.

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.