When Warner Bros. announced plans to get into the shared-universe business (namely, when the studio revealed that Man of Steel 2 was instead going to be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), it set off a war with superhero movie rival Marvel Studios in more ways than one. Release dates almost immediately became one of the biggest battlefields in the crossfire, as each company tried to out-maneuver the other for positioning and, of course, fan fervor.
However, nearly two and a half years after Warner Bros. laid out its entire release schedule through 2020 (in a shareholders’ conference call, of all places), the landscape has changed so dramatically that it’s hard to keep track of what’s still on track, and what has gotten lost in the development-hell woods.
In the wake of setbacks and changed plans, it’s worth taking stock of which DC movies still await us once this summer’s Wonder Woman and this November’s Justice League have hit theaters. What can viewers look forward to experiencing throughout 2018 – and, perhaps more importantly, what does the final lineup tell us about the current state of behind-the-scenes affairs going on at Warner Bros.?
The Flash – delayed
Originally announced all the way back in October 2014, and anticipated to release on March 16, 2018, The Flash has unfortunately been the biggest victim of developmental difficulties that the DC Extended Universe has yet seen.
The original creative team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – of The Lego Movie fame – ended up passing the project by after turning in a story treatment that, apparently, the studio wasn’t too enamored with. They were replaced by Seth Grahame-Smith (the writer of The Lego Batman Movie), who, in turn, was replaced by Rick Famuyiwa (Dope). Both left due to “creative differences” with Warner Bros. As of right now, the hunt is still on for a replacement director – a process which has so far dragged on for four months.
What makes the studio’s apparent inability to find a filmmaker with the right creative sensibilities for the movie so intriguing is that, by this particular point in time, the Flash (Ezra Miller) is a known quantity in the mega-franchise. He’s already appeared in both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad – and he’s about to be get some serious screen time thanks to his co-starring role in Justice League. All of this means that the fundamentals of Barry Allen’s character, backstory, and general disposition should be well covered, leaving the specifics of plot to be worked out (though the desire to separate this version of the superhero from his television counterpart could have something to do with the constant restarts).
With a complete rewrite having been ordered by the studio, and with no shooting start date anywhere in sight, the very soonest The Flash could now land in theaters would be 2019 – which has suddenly become much more open, given that Warner Bros. and DC Films have delayed Justice League, Part II to 2020 or beyond.
The Batman – delayed
Although never officially given an opening date at any point in time, many industry watchers and Bat-fans alike had their hopes pinned on a 2018 release window for The Batman, thanks to Warner Bros. CEO Jeff Bewkes’ comments indicating as such several months ago.
When word broke in December that the second Justice League would be ousted from its June 14, 2019 target in order to make room for The Batman, it seemed to indicate that the company had given up all hope of seeing the next solo Bat-film anytime next year. Indeed, recent developments have fully sealed this deal: first, writer-director-actor Ben Affleck dropped out of the director’s chair; then a page-one rewrite (yes, another one) was ordered up; now, there are rumors Affleck may want out of the role altogether, preferably before Batman even shoots.
That’s a stunning turn of events for what was considered to be the shared universe’s easiest sure-thing, a movie whose two Bat-predecessors each nabbed $1 billion at the global box office, and whose star is among the biggest and brightest in Hollywood. Just as with The Flash, 2019 is now the earliest the project can see the light of day; unlike Flash, which still has key elements of its cast firmly in place, it’s unknown what final form Batman will take, meaning that DC’s biggest gun is indefinitely sidelined.
Aquaman – on-track
Ironically enough, the movie that had one of the rockier starts – Warner Bros. initially commissioned two different writers to pen two different scripts, with the better one having been chosen to proceed with – is now left as the sole release for 2018.
But that doesn’t mean that Aquaman hasn’t seen its own development fits and starts over the past year. Director James Wan was rumored to want out of the job, given all the other behind-the-scenes shake-ups, though this has since been disproven; the originally-chosen screenplay was jettisoned and a brand-new one requested; and, finally (and most recently), the film has seen its own delay, being moved from July 27, 2018 to October 5.
Still, work proceeds on the project at a brisk clip – casting announcements continue to be made, and production kicks off this summer – laying to rest any concerns that Aquaman might be pushed any further back (which is good, considering that Warner Bros. would then see no DC movie releases in 2018). What’s more, given James Wan’s rather unusual resume, which ranges from Saw and The Conjuring to Furious 7, there’s much hope for a superhero movie that is unlike any other that has come before it.
Although The Batman might have been the biggest moneymaker for Warners in 2018, Aquaman just may prove to be the most creative – and the biggest possible game-changer for the clearly-in-a-rough-patch DC Extended Universe.