They say that “necessity is the mother of all invention.” Warner Bros. is sending the message that reinvention is the mother of all necessities and that message is being delivered by Walter Hamada.
This story begins way back in 2014, four years before Hamada was announced DC Films President. It was a heady time at Warner Bros. Two years after Disney/Marvel made $1.5 billion on Avengers at the worldwide box office, the original superhero juggernaut revealed their counter-offensive. That year, they announced their movie slate through 2020, which included Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League: Part 1, The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam (starring The Rock), Justice League: Part 2, Cyborg and Green Lantern.
In addition to films they announced, Warner/DC was developing other projects like Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, Nightwing, Deadshot, Justice League Dark, Lobo, Joker (Leto) and several others. With the exception of Justice League Dark, all of these films were rumored or announced after comic-con.
Of the 5 movies that have actually been released, only 2 were received well by both critics and audiences. To say that there was critical dissonance would be an understatement.
January 2018, enter Walter Hamada. It has allegedly been said by insiders that Hamada walked into a shit show when he took over DC film production at Warner Bros. He’s spent the last year course correcting. As a result, some of the comic-con announced and all of the post-comic-con announced films have either been outright canceled or stuck in some form of development hell.
Depending on who you believe, the production budget of Justice League was a “little” as $300 million and as high as $650 million against a worldwide box office gross of $656 million. It looks quite grim, especially considering that IT, budgeted at $35 million, made $696 worldwide.
Looking at Hamada’s producing track record, if you think of this purely from a business perspective, it’s easy to see why he was put in charge of the DC slate: The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation and The Nun were budgeted at $20 million, $40 million, $6.5 million, $15 million and $55 million respectively. They also combine to comprise the highest grossing horror franchise of all time at $1.5 billion. Throw in IT, which he also executive produced, and everything becomes quite clear.
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Looking ahead, Hamada seems to have a few rules going forward. The upcoming Joker film allegedly has a $55 million budget and Margot Robbie has reported that her Birds of Prey movie will have a “lower budget.” There have also been rumors that a Superman sequel has been shelved in order to give Supergirl the limelight. Lastly, we have the recent announcements of an Aquaman sequel and then spinoff about the Trench.
Tying it all together, the priorities are significantly lower budgets, sequels for the successful, spinoffs of the lore and letting the women have a turn. Hamada’s equation is a low risk and high reward formula that has worked for him in the past and has the benefit of not being concerned with what Marvel or anyone else is doing.
The DC Films boss has quite a job ahead of him. He must right the ship, satiate the fans and also green-light the right films that will sustain the division. SHAZAM! was in late production when Hamada took over, so it’ll be interesting to see how the film’s reception impacts his plans and potentially, the goodwill Aquaman has recently bought the company. The trailers haven’t done much for me, personally. Further out, I would be more than surprised if Jenkins disappointed with Wonder Woman 1984. Lastly is the Phillips Joker movie out later this year. While it’s reported that Phoenix killed his performance, I’m waiting to see a trailer.
I’m one of those practical people that Ledger’s Joker disliked. While I’m not a fan of “horrifying plans,” I feel slightly better knowing that there is one. It allows for debugging, after action reviews and tweaking. If you’re simply reactionary, as DC had been, disaster ensues. It’s sad that the company that essentially invented the superhero film business has been struggling so much. Perhaps it’s for the best, as reinvention is a necessity. I’m looking forward to what this new path brings
What do you think? Is DC on the right path with this new plan and leadership? Let us know your thoughts down below or on twitter @lrm_exclusive and @sirjonesiest.