Warner Bros. film chairman Toby Emmerich doesn't believe studios can hide bad movies anymore and still expect them to perform well. It's been five years since the unofficially titled DC Extended Universe began with Man of Steel and WB is still figuring out what to do. They've released five movies, but many have been subject to high levels of criticism. Only one film during this run has been received overwhelmingly positively: Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman.
That movie arrived at the perfect time and wound up being the most successful DC movie so far. Gal Gadot's solo film outperformed the first ever movie to show Batman and Superman on screen together. Not even the very first live-action Justice League movie could come anywhere close to the success of the Amazons. WB is hoping to move back in a positive direction with Aquaman later this year and one of their executives is opening up about how the critical reaction to their films has impacted the universe.
EW spoke with newly named film chairman of Warner Bros., Toby Emmerich, about the state of the superhero genre. Marvel Studios' recent outings Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War set several box office records and Emmerich sees a simple path to getting DC to similar heights. With the abundance of coverage these movies receive, there's no more hiding a bad film in his eyes.
I think the good movies work better. Somebody once said the best business strategy in motion pictures in quality. And I think in a world of Rotten Tomatoes and social media, what’s been proven the better the movie — particularly in the superhero genre — the better it performs. You can’t hide the bacon anymore.
EW pressed on about the movies' box office performance and Rotten Tomatoes scores, bringing up the question fans have debated concerning whether reviews impact a film's success. Emmerich responded:
I would say no matter what, the better the movie is the more advantage it is. Now when you’re talking about art, I do believe that it’s tough to judge art at the moment when its presented to the world. My father was very involved in the arts, he was always taking me to museums and galleries and historical buildings. He believed any kind of art — whether it’s fashion or sculpture or architecture or filmmaking or music — it takes 20 years to judge the quality of something. Twenty years after Sgt. Pepper or Born to Run comes out, then you can understand what that album was. I guess when I say “quality,” I don’t want to judge anybody’s movies completely at the moment of release. But I would say there are movies that are right for their time, that an audience is ready for, that’s in sync with the zeitgeist, and I think you need a movie whose quality is recognized at the moment of release so it’s in touch with the culture of the moment. We’re at a unique moment around the planet and certain types of movies are working better than others at this moment of time. And I do think Aquaman will sync up with the global culture zeitgeist of what’s happening right now.
It may be easy to dismiss Emmerich's comments as a bit of a no-brainer, but what he is talking about goes both ways. The DCEU may have faltered a bit so far due to the critical response to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, or even Justice League, but each of those have their fair share of supporters. The box office also isn't as simple as thinking only good movies make money. There's plenty of great films that fall by the wayside, meanwhile the Transformers franchise used to rake in $1 billion without a problem. That franchise too saw its returns diminish as social media became a larger part of society. However, the tools that hurt lower quality movies also benefit the ones that truly stand out.
It isn't a coincidence that Wonder Woman is both the best reviewed and highest grossing DCEU movie. As the DCEU moves forward (and make no mistake, this is far from over), making more films that are similar in quality to Wonder Woman will help the universe take off in the ways the studio wants. If Aquaman receives a similar response from critics as the early marketing and CinemaCon footage got, it should be well on its way to being a step in the right direction. With Emmerich and DC's Walter Hamada gearing up for Shazam!, Wonder Woman 2, The Flash, Birds of Prey, and more, there's plenty of potential for exciting and great movies - that could also make them billions at the box office.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020