This past week Discovery officially took over Warner Bros. and its properties including DC Comics and DC Entertainment. After doing so, the company (rebranded as WB Discovery) announced they were radically overhauling DC Entertainment and its superheroes, specifically their films and TV shows including those of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Even though there have been very successful DCEU efforts like Aquaman and Peacemaker, other releases did not exactly hit the high bar when it came to box office sales or critical/fan reception (Wonder Woman 1984). The goal of the restructuring is to make the DCEU genuinely competitive with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
This would mean that a head honcho would be hired to oversee the production of DCEU films and TV shows in the same manner that Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, does with the MCU. This also implies that the DC films and TV shows will be more coherent and less disjointed, while some once-prominent properties will get more attention. In fact, WB Discovery stated that Warner Bros. allowed top tier properties like Superman “languish” to the detriment of the DCEU and DC.
The Snyderverse and Stalled Efforts
Frankly, the coming changes are a much needed shot in the arm for DC and the DCEU, which has lacked a strong visionary leader. Previous leaders like Walter Hamada, Geoff Johns and Zack Snyder proved to be unable to present a clear direction for their films. Only Snyder came the closest to presenting a vision that was coherent. Unfortunately, Snyder is also a film director and when his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did not impress critics and fans, and Justice League failed to reach the success of The Avengers, he was ushered out of the door by Warner Bros. and the DCEU that he helped create basically fell apart. Part of the problem with Zack Snyder being in charge with the DCEU (or the Snyderverse as some fans called the early films) is that although Snyder is a gifted director, what was needed to oversee the films was a producer in the mold of Kevin Feige. A producer is tasked with the production of films or TV shows and brings a guided vision to entire productions. Directors are focused on individual films first and bring their own stamp to what they film. It is not possible given a director’s schedule to expect him or her to oversee the vision of several films at once.
Even before Snyder’s exit, projects were stalled after big announcements, while conflict occured with many actors and filmmakers. Directors and writers joined and left projects. Then there were the casting headaches Warner Bros. faced from the fact that Henry Cavill, cast as Superman in the Snyderverse, was for all purposes, dismissed to the outlandish and criminal behavior of Ezra Miller, whose film The Flash has not even come out yet. Then there is the fact that The Flash was in perpetual development hell for the longest time as directors and writers exited the film left and right. Now, there are rumors that Miller will be fired from his role and in his situation it would be easy. Since The Flash deals with the title hero time traveling and alternate universes, just reshoot the ending to replace Miller with a new actor. Even Grant Gustin from the TV version of The Flash would be a better choice, although that casting may be too confusing for some.
Superman in Languishment
The fact that DC allowed Superman to whither away as a prominent property is downright criminal. Sure, he is not as popular as Batman but he is the first DC superhero and Superman helped usher in the modern age of superhero films. He should never have languished. Admittedly, the character has proven to be difficult for filmmakers to craft an interesting story and the best evidence of that is Superman Returns, but the right writer and visionary director can make a compelling Superman film or TV show. In fact, that has turned out to be the case with Superman & Lois, one of the best live-action Superman properties with compelling characters, solid stories and acting and superior production values. It’s just a shame it is part of the cheaply produced Arrowverse. On that note, WB Discovery should wrap up any remaining TV shows, aside from Superman & Lois, and put the Arrowverse to bed. While the early Arrowverse TV shows had their merits, lately most of the shows have been subpar with obviously cheap effects, uninspiring scripts and a feeling that everyone involved is just going through the motions. The Arrowverse has been hampered too long creatively and a good example is how the shows are not allowed to include Green Lantern or Batman.
Then again, for too long, Warner Bros. and DC focused on Batman to the point that other prominent heroes have been forgotten. Putting aside Superman, whatever happened to Green Lantern? They have been announcing a TV series for HBO Max since forever, yet nothing has happened. Remember all the hoopla over Justice League Dark? Right, nothing came of that announcement. As for Batman, it’s true he is the most popular superhero in DC but he is way overexposed. DC has to stop relying on Batman and have faith in their other properties. This has gotten to the point that the box office for The Batman suffered as a result. As great as it was, too many people grumbled that there have been to many and similar Batman films, which could be why the film did not make as much money as expected. Then again, there is misguided decision to air the film on HBO Max weeks after its theatrical release. Meanwhile, there has not been a sequel to Man of Steel and announced Superman projects by J.J. Abrams and others that imply the role being recast seem dead in the water.
None of this means that the any upcoming DCEU projects and related properties are doomed. Nor should WB Discovery feel shackled to the DCEU given the success of Joker and The Batman. neither of which do not take place in the DCEU. Instead, the company needs to and will hire the right person who will have a vision and execute it. But who will be their Kevin Feige? Disney CEO Bob Chapek should do everything in his power to keep Feige happy otherwise…
Let’s face it, the DC properties deserve better and this goes for the DCEU. There is true potential there for the DCEU to be a genuine rival to the MCU. Or the film studio can use The Flash to introduce a new universe of DC heroes and villains under a strong hand that will bring exciting products to many fans. Whatever is decided by WB Discovery, there is a reason to be optimistic.