While Marvel continues to thrive at the multiplex — most recently with the $1.34 billion-grossing Black Panther and $2 billion-earning Avengers: Infinity War — things have been far less rosy for Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ own movie universe. Hoping to counter the negative feedback received for 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the franchise’s most recent entry, last November’s Justice League, attempted to take a more lighthearted approach to its spandex-clad do-gooders. Alas, with a disappointing $658 million global haul, the team-up proved to be DC’s least lucrative endeavor to date. And that, in turn, has led to a massive shakeup that puts DC’s cinematic future in flux.
Earlier this week, the Hollywood Reporter published an ominous piece about the turmoil currently taking place at DC, which includes saying goodbye to longtime president Diane Nelson and creative head honcho Geoff Johns. All this follows last year’s departure of Zack Snyder, who had been the architect of the so-called DC Extended Universe, whose gritty superhero vision didn’t sit well with critics. More importantly to fans, THR’s report also announced that Matt Reeves had handed in a first draft of his upcoming standalone Batman movie, and it apparently focuses on a younger caped crusader. This, in turn, means that after years of back-and-forth rumors, Ben Affleck is on the verge of being replaced in the role. Batfleck, we hardly knew you.
As if that weren’t enough of a seismic shakeup, the studio is also planning to produce two separate movies focused on the Joker — one starring Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime (who was first introduced in 2016’s Suicide Squad), and the other headlined by Joaquin Phoenix, directed by Todd Phillips, and executive-produced by Martin Scorsese. Presumably, Leto’s film will be connected to the greater (and ongoing) DC movie universe that also features Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel and Gal Gadot’s Amazonian warrior. Phoenix’s vehicle, on the other hand, will remain outside that framework à la Reeves’s aforementioned young-Batman movies, and thus help DC establish a spinoff brand (THR says it may be called “DC Dark” or “DC Black”) for its most famous figures.
Such tumultuousness is hardly a reassuring sign that the DC powers that be have figured out how to handle their cinematic series going forward. Still, projects remain on the horizon — both in reality and in theory. A rundown of what’s ahead:
James Wan’s take on Jason Momoa’s king of the deep (co-starring Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, and Nicole Kidman) is set to debut in theaters on Dec. 21. Though it’s been largely kept under wraps (save for a few standard publicity stills), the DC team is beginning to tout its “big, bright, colorful action” — a clear sign that it’s intent on differentiating it from the more aesthetically and tonally dour Zack Snyder entries in the franchise.
Starring Zachary Levi as the superheroic version of young boy Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel), and directed by Lights Out’s David F. Sandberg, DC’s origin story for its mythic lightning-bolt-decorated character will fly into theaters on April 5, 2019. Not much is known about the plot right now, although Levi told us earlier this year that he considers the project to be akin to the Tom Hanks classic Big.
Wonder Woman 1984
On Wednesday, we finally learned the title of Patty Jenkins’s eagerly anticipated sequel to last year’s $822 million-grossing blockbuster, which has just started production and will premiere on Nov. 1, 2019. Given the original’s enthusiastic reception, and the return of basically every creative principal for this ’80s-set follow-up — including, mysteriously, Chris Pine as the killed-in-action Steve Trevor — hopes are exceedingly high.
From there, the DC slate gets far murkier.
Next April, cameras may finally start rolling on a standalone Flash movie starring Ezra Miller, which will take a more Back to the Future-style approach to its action than the darker version initially conceived by Snyder. In the classic comics storyline, Flashpoint served to reboot the entire DC Universe. Could the film have a similar role in the cinematic universe?
Birds of Prey
The Harley Quinn-led girl-gang film starring Margot Robbie, Birds of Prey (which teams her with fellow female baddies Catwoman and Poison Ivy), recently hired Cathy Yan to direct, but no further details have yet materialized.
After original director Joss Whedon walked away from the film, Batgirl is still in development, and has hired Christina Hodson — who wrote the aforementioned Birds of Prey movie, as well as this December’s Bumblebee — to pen a new script.
Green Lantern Corps
Having given up his executive post at DC, Johns is now hard at work writing a Green Lantern Corps film that, we can safely assume, will have no connection to 2011’s Ryan Reynolds-led bomb, which Reynolds pokes merciless fun at in Deadpool 2.
Justice League Dark
Director Doug Liman bailed on the project last year due to a scheduling snafu, and so far no new helmer has been named for the film originally conceived by Guillermo del Toro. Justice League Dark involves a completely different roster of the team that handles supernatural threats. The lineup was going to feature less-known characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Deadman, Zatanna, and Etrigan the Demon.
Suicide Squad 2/Justice League 2
Then, of course, there are the expected sequels to Suicide Squad and Justice League. The former will be shepherded to the screen by Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant), and may introduce the world to Shazam nemesis Black Adam, who’ll be played by Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. The latter, as of now, seems off the radar — and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future, as DC tries to figure out what to do with Affleck and Batman.
One thing’s for sure — the path ahead remains rocky, and things may still change for any of these projects at a moment’s notice. But DC isn’t giving up yet on its blockbuster dreams, so fans can be sure more superhero offerings are on the way.
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