More Genre Film Delays?

Looks like we are heading back to square one with the COVID-19 pandemic. The delta variant of the coronavirus has raised infection numbers worldwide just as it was recovering from the pandemic (thanks maskholes, covidiots, and other morons who either won’t mask up or get vaccinated for stupid reasons). As the COVID-19 cases began to explode in alarming numbers this development seems to be causing film studios to reconsider their release schedule. We all know how severely their original film schedules were thrown out the window when the pandemic first happened last year.

Already, Paramount Pictures announced that they canceled the September 17, 2021 release of Clifford the Big Red Dog to no date certain. While many adult genre fans would not care about that they have to realize the precedent this is setting. The same thing happened last year when the James Bond film No Time to Die had its release date canceled. It was the first major film to be delayed. This eventually caused a ripple effect as the pandemic worsened as we saw that Marvel Studios’ Black Widow was yanked from its May release date with just weeks to go. Can history repeat itself if the film release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is delayed from September 3, 2021 to who knows when? What about Eternals? What about Spider-Man: No Way Home?

That Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures production is the most eagerly awaited offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for the year. But we have yet to see a trailer or even acknowledgement about what it is about or who appears in the film. So the speculation about Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will continue. This is concerning for Spider-Man fans because the film is supposed to come out this December and by this time there should have been a trailer, but Sony has not provided any updates on the film. This is fueling speculation that Spider-Man: No Way Home will be delayed.

Adding ammunition to this is that today’s trailer release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage did not have a release date, only the tag: “Exclusively in movie theaters this fall”. The Venom sequel is supposed to be released on September 24, 2021 but by the way things are going, it’s anyone’s guess if this will happen. If Venom: Let There Be Carnage is pushed to October or November this in turn will push Spider-Man: No Way Home’s release date to next year and further delay Sony’s Morbius film.

If Spider-Man: No Way Home is delayed this dominoe will affect the other MCU films slated for future release. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is connected to the Spider-Man film and is the first MCU film of 2022. Will this impact the Disney+ MCU TV shows, as well?

Of course, the delays will create even more tension with Marvel Studios, their parent company, Disney, and Sony. Spider-Man: No Way Home is Sony’s biggest film and they want to get the most bang out of their production so they may want to hold off until next summer. As mentioned above this will disrupt Marvel Studios plans for their films creating more delays. On top of that there are reports that Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige is not happy with Disney over the way they handled the release of Black Widow. He did not favor its simultaneous release onto Disney+ and in theaters, which caused the film to lose money in the box office. And he was sided with Black Widow’s star Scarlett Johansson, who is suing Disney. This could be the start of the unraveling of the Golden Period of the MCU. Who knows where this will end? Perhaps Feige may eventually jump ship and go work at another film studio. Warner Brothers will take him in a second!

At least for Warner Brothers, their DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films may not be as affected as The Suicide Squad is coming out this week and they don’t have any DCEU films slated for release until next summer. Hopefully by then the unvaccinated will get a clue and we’ll be able to put this disease behind us. Their other genre films like Dune and the new sequel to The Matrix, which were slated for release this year, will also stream on HBO Max. So they might stick to the schedule for the rest of the year. As we have seen throughout the pandemic this release strategy will dampen box office returns. Keep in mind, both Warner Bros. and Disney have announced they will discontinue this practice. That could change if the pandemic doesn’t abide soon.

For now, it is too soon to say where things will end. Perhaps infection and death rates will plummet or booster shots to combat the delta variant will be distributed soon to put the vaccinated at ease. There are reports that vaccination rates are increasing so hopefully by the end of the month we can see better numbers. Of course, this grousing about delayed genre film releases cannot compare to the pain and misery that the coronavirus is causing among us. We all have to do our part, which includes continuing to mask up (even if we’re vaccinated), washing up, social distancing, and the other efforts to stop the spread of the virus. OK, PSA is over, whether or not these films we love get delayed it’s more important to stay safe and enjoy the many other media that is still available for our enjoyment.

The Latest Crazy Internet Rumor: Disney Buying DC

Well, it did not take long for the wild rumors and speculation to begin once it was announced last week that Discovery, Inc. and WarnerMedia. were merging into one company called WarnerDiscovery. The wildest rumor has it that allegedly the Walt Disney Company is going to buy WarnerMedia’s DC Comics or Warner Bros. Being that Disney already owns Marvel Comics this would mean that both comic book companies can be merged into one.

Think about that for a moment.

If this was somehow true, this would be the most shattering development for comic books and related media since comic books were created nearly a century ago. Of course, fans know that DC Comics and Marvel Comics are the two biggest comic book companies with legendary superheroes and other characters. The fact that the two giants are natural rivals adds fuel to rumor fire about the possibility of this merger.

Think of the team up and crossover events. “Crisis on Infinity Secret Wars” or some other overpriced and over-printed epic spanning hundreds of issues per month with spinoff titles and one-shots cluttering comic book shelves in stores. It would blow out recent events like Dark Knights: Death Metal and King in Black in the shear scope. Imagine trying to buy all the tie-ins for that event!

This could spillover into games, books, and yes, films and TV shows. Thought Avengers: Endgame or The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths were epic? Guess again and imagine a live-action version of the last, great DC/Marvel crossover, JLA/Avengers or the 1990s’ DC vs. Marvel that pitted the Hulk against Superman or Captain America fighting Batman! Imagine further and think of the possibility of Robert Downey, Jr. sharing the silver screen as Iron Man alongside Christian Bale as Batman. Or Henry Cavill’s Superman meeting Chris Evans’ Captain America.

Let’s come back to Earth now and face reality because it is doubtful any of this will happen. Sure, it is possible, but to date there are not any credible, confirmed sources to back up this claim.

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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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Aquaman Salvages The DCEU

It’s official, Aquaman is the biggest hit for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) or the Worlds of DC. The newest superhero film released by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment has proven so successful that it has joined the lucrative billion dollar club as of this weekend. Aquaman’s success could not have come at a better time for DC and Warner Bros. as the film studio desperately needed to have a genuine supehero hit film given all the headaches they’ve had with the DCEU lately.

The DCEU has always had an uneven existence with films that either polarized audiences or just left everyone unimpressed. For every Wonder Woman there was a Suicide Squad. The DCEU was supposed to be a viable competitor to the far more successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but that did not turn out to be. For the most part, Warner Bros. was to blame with the way they micromanaged the DCEU films and their directors and never gave the people running the film universe the chance to organically develop it. In their rush to compete with the MCU, many of the DCEU films felt like rushed trailers for subsequent films. This all came to a head with Justice League last year. What was supposed to be DC’s answer to The Avengers was poorly received and flopped in theaters.

Adding to the woes were all the behind-the-scenes headaches that have been covered before such as the inability to create a proper sequel to Man of Steel, the drama of whether or not Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill would reprise their roles of Batman and Superman. Films were announced and shelved. Directors and writers came aboard for films only to depart soon afterwards.

After the failure of Justice League, not many had hope for Aquaman. After all, he was not a popular superhero and was often derided by many for being so underwhelming. His appearances in previous DCEU movies redefined the character into more of a fun-loving surfer dude type, but this did not inspire confidence that he could carry a film. Thankfully, many of us were proven wrong.

An Underwater Spectacle

Aquaman turned out to be a fun, exciting and spectacular film that just went for broke. It is outrageous with its imagery and the film created a stunning underwater world that is so richly detailed and colorful that it evokes films like Avatar or the Star War films. As with the latter films, Aquaman is one exhaustive film that constantly moves in terms of plot and action. Some parts of it, especially the scenes in Italy, recall the brisk pace of the Indiana Jones films. Much of this credit goes to director James Wan who injected needed levity and adventure to the DCEU and people reacted positively to Aquaman.

Of course, the film can be silly and goofy but it is never dull. On top of that the natural charms of the leads Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard helped sell the film to wide audiences. What also helped was the timing of its release. Unlike previous Holiday seasons, there was no Star Wars film to compete with. Audiences who are weary from all the sour news of the world want escapism and fun in their films. And Aquaman delivered that to them.

Finally, it seemed as if Warner Bros. left Wan and the other filmmakers alone and didn’t try to inject the greater DCEU to Aquaman. Aside from two references, this film could stand apart from the DCEU, and it helped since this allowed the characters to have the spotlight to themselves and for the film’s story to develop naturally. Does this mean this formula will work for future DCEU films? It’s possible, just think about it, Aquaman followed the same path of the early MCU films in that they were largely standalone affairs with lesser known characters that won over audiences. By the time the MCU expanded into team up films, people were invested in the characters. This does not mean this standalone formula will work with every film. But for now a loose affiliation with the DCEU may be the key…for now.

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Henry Cavill, Superman No More?

superman no more

When the news came out this week that Henry Cavill was done with portraying Superman in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) or Worlds of DC or whatever the hell the cinematic universe is called now, my reaction was “WTF, Warner Bros.?!”

Let’s be frank here, how can Warner Bros. and DC let one of the few bright spots in their struggling cinematic universe leave? Superman is the originator of the DCEU being that Man of Steel was the first film. It was a successful revamp of the character’s films, though it has its critics. Sure, it was not a runaway success, but it fared better than the ill-fated Superman Returns, so why isn’t there an actual, proper sequel to Man of Steel?

Most fans know that the sequel morphed into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where Superman was forced to share the spotlight with Batman in a clumsy attempt to adapt the famous comic book storylines, “The Dark Knight Returns” and “The Death of Superman”. What is frustrating is that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had the elements of a great Superman film in there. It followed the aftermath of Man of Steel where the world reacted to the existence of Superman, a powerful alien living among humanity. It showed how many people were uncomfortable with this. A proper sequel could have developed this theme more, included the Lex Luthor story, how he created something to kill Superman and end with his death. This would have had more of an impact with audiences as people would have been more explicitly remorseful over how they treated Superman and realized that he actually was a force of good. Then a third film could have adapted the entire “The Return of Superman” stories, introduce other heroes, and lead up to the Justice League.

But no, Warner Bros. felt they had to rush out their answer to The Avengers and we all know how that turned out. This is not a criticism of Justice League, which was enjoyable, but the entire DCEU by that point seemed so rushed and hastily executed.

Ever since the failure of Justice League, the DCEU has been adrift with announced then abandoned films. We still don’t know when a standalone Batman film will come out. It may be one thing if a Batman film was actively developed with Ben Affleck on board to play the Caped Crusader. This may have softened the blow of Henry Cavill no longer playing Superman. But it’s becoming clear that Affleck is done with the role and the proposed Batman film seems to be in limbo. Instead we get announcements of secondary characters and concepts like Supergirl, Gotham City Sirens and so on.

What the film studios fails to realize is that they are abandoning the heart and core of DC. Yes, Batman is the most popular DC hero, but Superman is right up there, and without those two, the DCEU now feels crippled and aimless. What is worse is that aside from the CG mess over mustache removals, Superman (and Cavill’s performance) was considered the best thing in Justice League because he was a bright beacon of hope. In other words, the proper way he should have been presented.

There are many stories and rumors circulating about what happened. It appears that Henry Cavill either wants more money and/or is getting impatient over the lack of progress over a new Superman film. Meanwhile, the film studio is hesitant to greenlight another Superman film because they think it won’t make much money. The thing is, aside from Wonder Woman, none of the DCEU films have been true blockbusters and Man of Steel is considered to be one of the best DCEU films. Plus, Cavill’s star power is on the rise thanks to his praised appearances in films like Mission: Impossible-Fallout. Now he has signed on to star in the upcoming TV series The Witcher for Netflix. This was a clear clue that he would not return to the DCEU.

Warner Bros. is being extremely short-sighted and obtuse in their unwillingness to increase Cavill’s salary and produce another Superman film. Of course, this could all be one massive and public game of chicken where the film studio and the actor are trying to negotiated the best deal. Who knows? For all we know this could be a ploy by Warner Bros. to see how much demand there is for another Superman and wanted to see what the reaction would be if it “leaked” out that Cavill was leaving.

Well, all of this certainly got our attention!

What is not helping the anxiety felt by fans are the non-answers given by Warner Bros. and the bizarre Instagram video by Cavill where he holds up a Superman figure. Is he trying to tell us that he is done with Superman? Let’s not forget the rumblings that Michael B. Jordan is allegedly being considered to take over the role.

Saying all of this is exasperating is an understatement by impatient fans who are still waiting for a proper Man of Steel sequel. If it never happens or Cavill doesn’t return, and with the Batman film in disarray, the film studio might as well pull the plug and kill the DCEU. After that, wait some time and reboot the entire thing, except this time have a clear leader who can properly guide their superhero cinematic universe. But no matter what happens, at least we got to behold Henry Cavill’s superb performances as Superman/Clark Kent. Just like Christopher Reeve, Cavill will be Superman forever in our hearts.

Lewis T. Grove