How DC’s Film Industry Could Be Rebuilt To Take On Marvel
- Warner Bros. Discovery wants to overhaul the DC movie franchise.
- The company wants to revitalize Superman and find a new executive to oversee the movies.
- A comics industry insider has shared his thoughts on how best to do this.
While Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to stamp its mark on the assets of WarnerMedia, the newly formed company has made DC a priority.
The comics and entertainment giant is responsible for some of Warner Bros.’ hottest IPs. Discovery, from Batman and Wonder Woman. But on the big screen, movies based on DC characters – which are released by film studio Warner Bros. – have been inconsistent both critically and financially.
The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, would like to change that.
Variety recently reported that Zaslav wanted to revitalize underutilized characters like Superman. And DC-Based Film Production will be a separate division within Warner Bros. Picture Group under new co-chairs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. Walter Hamada, the current president of DC’s film division, could be ousted, according to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
A comics industry insider, who wished to remain anonymous to protect business relationships, said the key to DC’s success in Hollywood was to adopt a strategy and stick to it, without getting distracted by what Marvel was doing. and to remember what made characters, like Superman, popular in the first place.
“DC reacted to what Marvel is doing,” a comics industry source close to DC said. “Marvel did that, so they felt they had to do something else. I hope the new regime is more proactive. They have to trust their characters.”
DC movies need to be connected, without sacrificing the filmmakers’ vision
This wouldn’t be the first revamp of DC movies in recent years.
‘Justice League,’ which was supposed to be WB and DC’s answer to Disney and Marvel’s ‘Avengers,’ disappointed at the box office, prompting a move away from a Marvel-like cinematic universe to focus on stories autonomous.
The comics industry source thinks future DC movies should have “some connectivity to better translate the comic book universe to the screen – but not at the risk of personal storytelling.” He noted that the difference with the MCU is that it feels like a “showrunner’s vision” because the movies are all connected.
“I hope they can balance auteur cinema and a cohesive universe,” he said.
DC and Warner Bros. will likely continue to tell standalone stories for the foreseeable future, though “The Batman” sequel, as well as an HBO Max spin-off series, have been greenlit. And a “Joker” sequel is in the works.
The upcoming “Flash” movie could provide some connective tissue, though, as it showcases DC’s “multiverse” and features multiple versions of Batman.
Hamada, the DC-based movies chief since 2018, has successfully moved away from interconnected films. Some films since “Justice League” have been hits, such as “Aquaman”, “Joker” and, more recently, “The Batman”. Others were critical favorites, like “Shazam!” and “The Suicide Squad,” but had lukewarm box office results.
Overall, DC films haven’t offered the same reliability as Marvel’s, and now Hamada’s job could be in jeopardy. Zaslav wants to find his version of DC’s Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and creative head of Marvel.
The most prominent name that comes to mind for the comics industry source is Jim Lee, DC’s current publisher and chief creative officer – someone of similar stature, “with an acquaintance depth of the DC Universe, which can establish a relationship with the creators”.
“I really like Walter and I’m not sure he can’t be that person,” the person also said. “He’s done some remarkable things, but there’s always a desire to find a savior. I think it’s more about making the decision to move forward in a certain way [and sticking to it].”
Warner Bros. and DC want to understand Superman
One of DC’s crown jewels, Superman, which Warner Bros. Discovery wants to revitalize, particularly suffered from creative inconsistencies.
Director Zack Snyder rebooted the character in 2013 with star Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel,” then followed it up in 2016 with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” But those movies were criticized for their brooding take on the character, and after the “Justice League” debacle, Cavill’s iteration was seemingly scrapped. Now Warner Bros. is developing a film starring a Black Superman, written by author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“They should trust the quality of the character and not wonder if the audience will react to that quality,” the comics industry source said.
But it all starts with comic books, which laid the foundation for Warner Bros. DC movie franchise. The comic book division has encountered immense disruption during the pandemic, including heavy staff reductions and a reduction in printing.
DC’s comic book line has since been dominated by the Dark Knight and related characters, leaving little room for other characters to shine. DC has “doubled down on key characters” like Batman since downsizing in 2020, said Milton Griepp, the founder and CEO of ICv2an online publication that covers the comics industry.
“It hurts the long-term development of intellectual property,” Griepp told Insider in April.
Still, the other comics industry source said the future of DC movies is bright.
“The library has unlimited potential,” he said. “There’s a reason you can wear a Superman ‘S’ anywhere in the world and people know exactly what that means. I only see opportunity.”