Warner Bros. affirms that they've found the right strategy by focusing on individual DC superhero films, rather than a universe. In 2008, Marvel's Iron Man started the studio's extended universe franchise, which has gone on to gross billions in the decade since. Pressure for DC films to compete emerged following the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy in 2012, and started over with Zack Snyder's Man of Steel in 2013.
Snyder's initial installment departed from the Christopher Reeve Superman series through much darker storytelling, and was especially well-received by audiences who felt that Bryan Singer's Superman Returns in 2006 lacked such ingenuity. While many long-time DC fans appreciated the uncompromisingly grim approach to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the inconsistency of tones in Justice League resulted in disappointing returns. Snyder's version of the film was re-cut by Joss Whedon, though fragments of the director's vision for the DC extended universe are still coming to light. The studio did still manage to achieve considerable success with standalone installments, mostly notably 2017's Women Woman and last year's Aquaman. The studio has now spoken out about how these wins have influenced their ongoing direction.
Chief Executive of Film and TV at Warner Bros. Kevin Tsujihara has been in the role since Man of Steel was released in 2013. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, he elaborated on what the studio learned from past DC superhero flicks and why audiences are getting excited for upcoming ones.
The upcoming slate, with Shazam, Joker, Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey, feels like we’re on the right track. We have the right people in the right jobs working on it. The universe isn’t as connected as we thought it was going to be five years ago. You’re seeing much more focus on individual experiences around individual characters. That’s not to say we won’t at some point come back to that notion of a more connected universe. But it feels like that’s the right strategy for us right now.
Tsujihara also pointed to the film that informed the studio they were on the right track and implied the overabundance of Batman and Superman-centered movies as a point of fatigue for moviegoers. More than a dozen feature-length, live-action films about the two respective comic book giants have been released over more than 50 years:
What Patty Jenkins did on “Wonder Woman” illustrated to us what you could do with these characters who are not Batman and Superman. Obviously, we want to get those two in the right place, and we want strong movies around Batman and Superman. But “Aquaman” is a perfect example of what we can do. They’re each unique and the tone’s different in each movie.
While the 2017 Wonder Woman film wasn't the character's first on-screen appearance, it marked the first blockbuster-grade female-oriented superhero movie to dominate the box office with a genre that's generally skewed towards men. Likewise, Birds of Prey offers a first-time cinematic adventure with an all-female group of anti-heroes, while Shazam! is posed to introduce one of the many renowned superheroes who've predominately been seen in the comics, or group-focused TV shows like Young Justice.
While appearances from Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, or Jason Momoa in future films would almost certainly be welcomed among fans, DC may be onto untapped greatness by prioritizing their lesser known but no less phenomenal characters. With Shazam! just around the corner, so too are more clues about where the studio is headed.
Source: Los Angeles Times
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022