What Does The WarnerMedia/Discovery Inc. Merger Mean For DC And Warner Bros.?

The news that AT&T divested its ownership of WarnerMedia to Discovery, Inc. for $43 billion to form a new, merged entertainment company may not sound as exciting as when The Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019, but it is just as important.

Ever since AT&T acquired Time Warner for $85 billion in 2018. there were many concerns in the entertainment industry, which turned out to be justified. Renamed, WarnerMedia, the entertainment conglomerate was owned by a telecommunications giant that did not have any experience with entertainment media and this resulted in questionable moves by AT&T. The most impactful were the creation of the HBO Max streaming service and fractured relationships with notable genre directors like Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve and James Gunn.

In AT&T’s quest to push HBO Max to be competitive with other streaming apps, all of the films slated for release this year by the movie studio, Warner Bros., were released simultaneously in theaters and the streaming service. On the surface, this took into account the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that most movie theaters were closed. However, now that the pandemic seems to be winding down (at least in the United States and Europe), this strategy has been questioned. Not only did this move result in diminished box office returns, but it alienated many of Warner Bros.’ top talent.

This first began when Wonder Woman 1984 was streamed on Christmas Day in 2020 instead of delaying the film’s release because of the pandemic. This worked in that it attracted attention (and subscribers) to the streaming app but the film received negative reactions from critics and fans who did not find much original content on HBO Max. Unlike Disney+ or Apple+, HBO Max lacked an attention-grabbing genre TV show like The Mandalorian or For All Mankind to entice fans to stay with the service. The app did stream TV shows that once exclusively streamed on the DC Universe app like Titans and Doom Patrol. But it is baffling that throughout all of the development of the app, no one thought to have an original DC TV show ready. The closest thing to semi-original content being Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which did not stream until this year, months after the app was launched. While Disney+ already streamed the Marvel properties WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, HBO Max has yet to stream original DC content. Its announced Green Lantern TV show seems to be forever in development.

It shoud be noted HBO Max premiered the sci-fi TV show Raised by Wolves when it launched and while it was well done the TV show did not capture much attention. It is a shame because the streaming service is quite good with plenty of content, but its launch was botched and confused people who already subscribed to HBO or used its then-existing apps HBO Now and HBO Go.

Filmmakers such as Nolan and Villeneuve were incensed that films they specifically shot for large screens were to be directly streamed on HBO Max. Not only would this lead to low box office returns but the decision robbed audiences of seeing films meant for the large screens. Denis Villeneuve and Legendary Pictures (the production company which bankrolled Villeneuve’s Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong and other recent genre films) expressed their dissatisfaction to push the streaming service over Warner Bros.’ film schedule. After all, in light of the pandemic, if one is able to access the app, why bother going to the theaters? As it now stands the following genre films either streamed already will do so later this year:

  • Wonder Woman 1984
  • Godzilla vs. Kong
  • Mortal Kombat
  • The Witches
  • Superintelligience
  • The Suicide Squad
  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
  • Malignant
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy
  • Reminiscence
  • Dune
  • the fourth Matrix film

WarnerMedia recently announced that starting in 2022, its films would be released solely in theaters before coming to HBO Max. But the damage has been done as many filmmakers openly expressed their dissatisfaction with WarnerMedia and some were no longer willing to do films for Warner Bros.

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The Last Hurrah For The Snyderverse

As much as fans of the DC films were thrilled over the release of the Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max, many others lamented over the news that it will be the last hurrah for the Snyderverse.

The so-called Snyderverse of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has always had a rocky existence ever since the release of its first film, Man of Steel. Most of the films in the DCEU received mixed reception and box office results. After the original cut of Justice League did not perform well in theaters the film studio, Warner Bros., began to pull back on the concept of a shared cinematic universe.

At first, many thought this was a good idea as the films Shazam!, Aquaman, Birds of Prey (or the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and Wonder Woman 1984 largely were standalone films without direct connections to the DCEU. However, that standalone nature also leads to problems such as the lack of continuity or coordination for other films. The best example of this is Wonder Woman 1984. In that film, which takes place well before the proper DCEU, you see the world undergoing massive events from the machinations of Maxwell Lord such as a third World War, huge walls appearing in the Middle East and mass deaths and destruction. Yet, even though these calamaties are undone, the collective memories of them still appeared to remain and was never referenced once in other films.

Then of course there is Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The way the film plays out contrasts severely with the original version of the film. In fact, Warner Bros. has come out and said Zack Snyder’s Justice League for better or worse is to be considered a “cul-de-sac”, a one-off or for a live-action Elseworlds. For non-DC fans that is an imprint of DC Comics that take place in alternate realities. That’s all well in good and Warner Bros. should continue pursuing more Elseworlds stories such as what they did with Joker and with next year’s The Batman. They should also pursue Justice League Mortal by George Miller or even Joss Whedon’s Justice League and give the director the chance to correct the fake upper lip travesty!

However, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was very well received and with the way it ended, the film left fans wanting more. Of course, it does not help that the ending of the film clearly set up future films and spinoffs. For Aquaman that is fine since his solo film did take place after Justice League, but for Superman. Well, Warner Bros. cannot get its act together and put out a proper Man of Steel sequel. Instead, they hired J.J. Abrams to reboot the character.

Now there are outcries not just for the DCEU but for the Snyderverse established in the new version of Justice League. People want to know what was going on with Batman’s Knightmare vision which featured him teamed up with the Joker. Was Lois Lane pregnant for certain? What is the future for Wonder Woman (her films take place in the past)? Snyder himself said he would love to continue these films but relations between him and Warner Bros. are not exactly great now.

Even if Warner Bros. relented and agreed to more films set in this alternate DCEU there are the logistical hurdles of reuniting the cast. Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg, one of the pivotal characters in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, has had a bad falling out with the film studio. Ben Affleck left the role of Batman after creative differences in the direction of the next Batman film. Instead we are getting another standalone Batman film that features the Caped Crusader as a younger man. And Warner Bros. and Superman actor, Henry Cavill, cannot seem to agree on a venue for him to return. So this is most likely the last hurrah for the Snyderverse. To transition away from the Snydervere an idea would be to have the Flash solo film use its rumored Flashpoint storyline to reboot the DCEU. It makes the most sense. Still it is nice to hope against hope that we have not seen the last of the Snyderverse.

Zack Snyder Presents His Idealized Vision Of Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the culmination of over three years of an internet campaign that started soon after the release of the much-maligned Justice League from 2017, a movie that I personally liked, but that was seen as not in tune with the previous two movies directed by Snyder that came before it, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Joss Whedon was brought on to finish and reshoot much of what Snyder had done after he left the project due to the death of his daughter. The rise of streaming services, in this case HBO Max has allowed this long-awaited version to be completed and finally see the light of day.

The basic plot points from the theatrical version of Justice League are the same here. Batman gathers together the Justice League by seeking out Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg with the help of Wonder Woman, resurrecting Superman and confronting Steppenwolf. He is an alien attempting to steal ancient technology called the Mother Box, which is hidden throughout the world in three parts and if the parts are united he will be able to conquer Earth in the name of his master, Darkseid.

The differences between Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the theatrical Justice League are the fact that the Snyder cut is a much deeper experience with backstory added for each character, especially Cyborg whose relationship with his father is given center stage on many occasions, as well as The Flash rescuing his future love interest Iris West, and Aquaman speaking with his mentor Vulko, who was previously seen in the Aquaman standalone movie. We had glimpses of these backstories in the theatrical version, but with its studio-mandated two-hour running time, things had to move at a quicker pace. The extra time in the Snyder cut allows for more of these characters to be established which makes it an enjoyable experience, provided you have four hours to spare. The fact that this is meant to be seen at home is a big plus since you can stop and start at anytime. This is helpful due to the fact that the first two hours set everything up, which can make the film seem slow.

The action picks up at the halfway point in an underground tunnel battle, which shows the League fighting as a group for the first time. The fight scenes are more visceral in this version and are a highlight. This is also true for the other action scenes, such as Superman’s resurrection and battle with the other League members, and the final showdown with Steppenwolf. Speaking of which, the main villain has undergone a redesign and has a kind of flowing metal armor which is more interesting and menacing than his design in theatrical cut. Another highlight is the on-screen, live-action premiere of DC supervlillain Darkseid, who is shown in his home world directing Steppenwolf in his quest to unify three Mother Boxes to conquer Earth. This whole plot point is fleshed out in this extended version and explains Steppenwolf’s obsessive desire to acquire these artifacts and sets up Darkseid’s attempt to conquer all of existence. This is one of several other plots that are hinted at in the original version, such as Lex Luthor teaming up with Deathstroke to take on Batman, as well as the onscreen debut of Martian Manhunter, who warns Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, of Darkseid’s coming invasion. Lastly, some new scenes showcase the anticipated Knightmare sequence of a future world ruled by Darkseid and an evil Superman similar to the Injustice storyline. Here Batman is leading a resistance and allying with his nemesis the Joker, played by Jared Leto. This finally gives viewers these two versions of the iconic rivals interacting for the first time.

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Top Ten Most Anticipated Films & TV Shows of 2021

Alright, time to put 2020 behind us with its bleak film landscape (and boom for television) and look ahead to this year. Obviously, after undegoing a drought we are in for a rich offering of genre films to make up for the lost year of 2020. Meanwhile, the television field will continue enthralling with even more new programs. Bear in mind, with the COVID-19 still going on, it’s not guaranteed these films or TV shows will come out this year, but they will if the pandemic subsides as we all get our vaccinations. Here are the most highly anticipated films and TV shows of 2021:

Films

10. The Matrix 4

Keanu Reeves and others stars from the original films return in The Matrix 4. Given the definitive ending of the less-than-well-recieved third film, it is a puzzle on how Neo and his human freedom fighters will return to battle once more against their AI oppressors in virtual reality. But it should be entertaining.

9. The Tomorrow War

A holdover from 2020, this sci-fi military film stars Chris Pratt as a soldier drafted into a future war against aliens. According to its premise, humanity in the future is losing a war and must recruit warriors from the past to help turn the tide against the aliens. It sounds like a great concept, hopefully the film will deliver thrills, action, and memorable sci-fi trappings.

8. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

The first Venom was a terrific guilty pleasure that surprised many audiences. It was an enjoyable superhero/anti-hero film thanks to Tom Hardy’s performance and for delivering genuine excitement. The Venom sequel hopes to capture that same excitement with Woody Harrelson featured as Carnage, Venom’s greatest nemesis. And if Spider-Man appears in the film as many think then all bets are off!

7. Little Fish

A young couple struggle to hold onto their memories of each other and their relationship after contracting a virus that causes people to lose their memories. Sounds like a great compromise film to watch for geeks and their dates. If it is anything like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, then this romance with a relevant sci-fi twist will be just a memorable.

6. BIOS

Tom Hanks stars in another 2020 holdover as a dying scientist who has to train an android on how to care for his dog.  Miguel Sapochnik, a Game of Thrones director, helms this sci-fi film which might evoke the retrospective nature of Hanks’ classic Cast Away.

5. The Suicide Squad

James Gunn directs this sequel/soft reboot of the original Suicide Squad but now with more flavor! After he was temporarily fired by Disney, Warner Bros. scooped him up and he picked this film about captured DC supervillains forced to undertake a secret mission for the U.S. but now The Suicide Squad will be more brazen and outrageous since the film will boast Gunn’s comedic tone that made his Guardians of the Galaxy films so beloved.

4. A Quiet Place, Part II

One of the most highly anticipated films of 2020 was delayed just as the COVID-19 pandemic took effect, which frustrated many who were anxious to see the sequel to the successful sci-fi/horror film from actor/director John Krasinski. The sequel showcases the further adventures of the lone family struggling to survive after savage aliens have overrun Earth and as hinted in the trailers they also have other humans to worry about.

3. Godzilla Vs. Kong

Frankly, who cares if this film will debut on HBO Max at the same time as it’s released in theaters? This film must be seen on the ginormous silver screen as is befitting the two legendary behemoths starring in the film! Not much is known about the film except that it will be the conclusion of Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse saga that culminates in an epic showdown between the silver screen’s greatest giant monsters.

2. The third untitled MCU Spider-Man film

Whatever the third film featuring Spider-Man (Tom Holland) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) winds up being called, it does not matter at this point. Not only will we finally get a followup to the cliffhanger ending that Spider-Man: Far From Home left us, with Spider-Man’s identity revealed to the world, but the the film will deliver much more. Apparently, it will be a live-action version of sorts to the Spider-Verse saga, meaning it will probably focus on different realities.

It’s already a fact that villains from the previous incarnations of the Spider-Man film will turn up, as well as Doctor Strange (played once more by Benedict Cumberbatch), but the hottest rumors have it that the previous actors who played Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) will reprise their roles. Now throw in live-action versions of Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen and we will have a bonafide treat for Spider-Man fans. BTW, the third MCU Spider-Man film allegedly is tied to the WandaVision TV show and next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. 

1. Dune

Even though there have been two previous adaptations of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi masterpiece novel, this version by director Denis Villeneuve might be the definitive and most faithful version. This version of Dune was originally supposed to be the big release for the holidays last year but has been bumped to later this year and a guaranteed theatrical release. No HBO Max for Villeneuve’s Dune, thankfully. 

For anyone who has not read the book or seen the previous film and TV mini-series, Dune is truly an epic sci-fi story of  political intrigue and how a young man became a messianic figure and upends the universe. The look of the film is just stunning and meticulous and its subject matter and adult themes elevates Dune above the standard sci-fi fare of action scenes. This could be one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time and we cannot wait to see if it lives up to the anticipation. 

Other Noteworthy Films

Black Widow, Eternals, Free Guy, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Infinite, Last Night in Soho, Luca, Malignant, Morbius, Old, Raya and the Last Dragon, Samaritan, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

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DC FanDome Brings The DC Universe To Fans

 

We were robbed of Comic-Con this year thanks to the ongoing pandemic (the less said about their virtual convention, the better). However, comic book and DC fans were entreated to the virtual event DC FanDome which showcase all that is going on with the DC Universe in comics, film, TV, video games and much more.

There were many highlights in the virtual event and many avenues for fans to explore. Visiting the website, one could see there were different sections to view such as the Hall of Heroes, WatchVerse, KidsVerse, InsiderVerse, and so on. The most talked about highlights of course were the exclusive looks at the upcoming DC films and TV shows seen in the Hall of Heroes. For example, we were treated with a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 and a glimpse at Wonder Woman’s chief villain, the Cheetah (a bit too CGish but that’s fine). Other clicks revealed the first look at the re-designed Flash suit for the upcoming film of the Scarlet Speedster. Looking at the sleeker suit, it is obvious the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) version of the Flash was clearly inspired by his brief encounter with The CW version of the Flash as seen in his cameo in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” TV crossover event. Frankly, the new suit is a great improvement as it looks more aerodynamic and befitting of the character.

There also was a lively panel of The Suicide Squad hosted by the film’s director, James Gunn. For the first time the roster of supervillains was revealed and what a motley crew! Leave it to Gunn to pick some of the most obscure and goofy villains for The Suicide Squad. Comic book speculators and collectors will have their hands full trying to hunt down the comics that debuted the likes of the Polka-Dot Man or the Weasel. The panel itself was quite funny and gives fans who were disappointed by the previous Suicide Squad that the sequel will be injected with James Gunn’s humor and be reverant to the original comic book as he promised in the panel.

The suicide squad panel

Director Zack Snyder presided over a presentation of his original vision for Justice League. Featuring appearances from the film’s stars like Ben Affleck (who made news recently when it was revealed he would reprise his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming film, The Flash) and Henry Cavill, who looked really buffed out–a hint that he will return to the DCEU as Superman? After taking questions from fans who championed for his original cut, Zack Snyder unveiled a teaser trailer for Justice League. What stood out is the huge amount of original footage including a new and better version of Steppenwolf, Darkseid and Superman in his black suit. With a running time of four hours, the original vision of Justice League promises to be a true superhero epic.

The other big movie news was the premiere trailer for next year’s film The Batman. What can be said that has not already been written online about this first look at the new Batman film? As it has been said everywhere, this film looks awesome. Easily one of the most anticipated films next year, The Batman seems to be a spiritual successor to the Christopher Nolan Batman films, especially Batman Begins. The film looks gritty and promises to be more of a crime thriller peppered with intimidating scenes with the Caped Crusader.

Aside from giving us previews and first looks at upcoming property, DC FanDome was a celebration of all things DC. The event showcased brilliant and imaginative fan art and cosplayers, which captured the spirit of past conventions. Visitors got to see how influential and widespread DC was as videos showcased fans and creators from all over the globe. The Celebration of DC Pets was really cute, by the way. It was impressive to see how DC captured our imagination. DC FanDome also took time to celebrate the rich and vast history of DC with clips and images from past incarnations of its superheroes and villains.

On a technical level, there were the usual technical glitches that we are all experiencing these days with our Zoom meetings and other video calls, but for the most part, the event went off smoothly and was slickly produced. Their online store, there should have had more variety of merchandise because the only thing on sale were different kinds of t-shirts. But fans were able to read online comics and check out all the things related to DC, whether it be the latest with the DCEU or the thrilling video game Gotham Knights.

The DC FanDome was a great success and was actually better than what could have been done at Comic-Con. For a long while, Comic-Con was too exclusive as tickets to the yearly event were rare and expensive and frustrated nearly all of the fan community who were not privy to view first looks at trailers or concept art. We were forced to scour online for amateur videos taken at Hall H for just a glimpse or an upcoming film. The way DC FanDome was done should be continued in the future and can be done by other companies (hint, hint Marvel) as a way to better reach fans.