Warner Bros., which had begun its life in 1923 and would become one of the most important studios in Hollywood, was in an extremely vulnerable place in the mid-1960s. The once mighty studio was sold by its founder, Jack Warner, in 1966. Warner sold the studio to Seven Arts Productions, which gave way to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. In 1967,Kinney National Company- comprised of a parking and cleaning company- bought both National Periodical Publications and the fledgling Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.
National Periodical Company happened to be the parent company of DC Comics.
Three years later, in 1970, Warner Bros. rose from the ashes of all of those mergers and consolidations thanks to the successes of films like BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE WILD BUNCH. Separately, a producer named Ilya Salkind would have a bright idea in 1973, thinking that the DC character SUPERMAN would make for one hell of a movie. It was a somewhat unprecedented idea since- until that point- characters like Superman and Batman had been used for either campy TV shows, cartoons, or serials. Salkind had something far more grand in mind.
It took over a year, and Warner Bros. was so uncommitted to the idea that they only gave Salkind and his partners a Negative Pickup Deal- which, essentially says that they have to do all of the work and Warner Bros. would just write them a check and distribute it at the end of the process- but Salkind finally got the go-ahead. This meant that in 1974, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE officially entered development. The producers, for their part, put together quite a package for the film. They hired THE GODFATHER writer Mario Puzo to write the screenplay, and got Hollywood icons Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando to sign on. Remember, this was the mid-1970s. Long before folks like Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer, or Zack Snyder could put together all-star teams to create superhero flicks.
The film went into a prolonged state of development and production, as the project would evolve into a back-to-back simultaneous production for two SUPERMAN films. Director Richard Donner and his creative consultant Tom Manciewicz went back and forth with the producers, and a contentious relationship was formed between them that would eventually see Donner getting dumped from SUPERMAN II, but the fruits of their joint labors all proved to be worth it. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, to this day, is still the #1 domestic-grosser based on the character when adjusted for inflation. Yes, it tops BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE by around $170 million as of this writing.
Suddenly, making a big budget superhero movie, and getting A-list talent to attach itself to it, wasn’t that crazy of an idea anymore.
While the Man of Steel would follow up its initial triumph with a roller coaster ride of sequels for the next nine years, Warner Bros. would next turn its sights on Batman. In 1989, the studio produced a dark, gritty film based on DC’s caped crusader that was directed by Tim Burton. To this day, that film has been topped only by Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT in terms of box office returns, when adjusted for ticket inflation. It was a massive success that gave way to three sequels but, much like Superman, it petered out after a dismal fourth installment.
In 1997, exactly 10 years after the last Superman film landed with a thud, and BATMAN & ROBIN arrived and instantly became a nippled laughing stock for Warner Bros.
BATMAN AND ROBIN effectively turned what was a once promising franchise into a punchline. It was the fourth installment of that series, and it killed BATMAN almost as definitively as the fourth SUPERMAN film had grounded the Man of Steel exactly 10 years earlier.
But before we can look at how Warner Bros. planned to rebound its DC properties post-1997, we have to look at a few notable moments earlier in the 90s.
Long before we would ever get to 2006’s SUPERMAN RETURNS, Warner Bros. had five- yes, five– failed relaunches for Supes. First the Salkinds tried to get SUPERMAN V made in the early 90s, then there was SUPERMAN REBORN (93-95) which would eventually give way to SUPERMAN LIVES (96-98). Each film had wilder ideas than the last.
Some of the things we might’ve seen had any of those films gotten made:
- Superman dying and being reborn in the bottle city of Kandor
- Doomsday kills Superman, but before dying his “life force” essentially impregnates Lois Lane. This would lead to a virgin birth for Lois, who witnesses as the baby ages 21 years in just three weeks. The child assumes the mantle of Superman and saves the world
- A depowered Superman in a robotic suit
- Brainiac fighting a polar bear inside the Fortress of Solitude
- Brainiac giving Lex Luthor a “space dog”
- L-Ron: A “gay R2-D2 with attitude”
- A Superman in a black suit that cannot fly
The most famous of all of these aborted Superman films was SUPERMAN LIVES, which was going to be directed by Tim Burton and would star Nicholas Cage. The subject has been covered ad nauseam elsewhere- with a full scale documentary devoted to the infamous project. What you need to know about the Kevin Smith-written project, for the purposes of this column, is that Burton and Cage both signed pay-or-play deals. This means that, ultimately, Burton and Cage walked away with $5 million and $20 million, respectively, for a film that never happened. This doesn’t count all of the pre-production costs that went into the film that amounted to nothing because WB pulled the plug in 1998.
It’s estimated that Warner Bros. spent $30 million on the abortedfilm. Remember that.
From there, they almost went forward on a pitch for SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL by a fellow named Alex Ford. When that would also go the way of the dodo, Ford had a realization about the folks at Warner Bros. “I can tell you they don’t know much about comics. Their audience isn’t you and me who pay $7.00. It’s for the parents who spend $60 on toys and lunchboxes. It is a business, and what’s more important, the $150 million at the box office or the $600 million in merchandising?,” he said, of his brief time developing the movie.
Meanwhile, over on the Batman end of things…
Long before Christopher Nolan would reboot the series with 2005’s BATMAN BEGINS, Warner Bros. had six close shaves with a new Dark Knight movie. There was a direct Joel Schumacher sequel BATMAN UNCHAINED– which also had the alternate title BATMAN TRIUMPHANT (97-98), BATMAN: DARKNIGHT (98), a ROBIN spin-off with Chris O’Donnell, then an open competition between dueling productions of BATMAN BEYOND and BATMAN: YEAR ONE (2000-2002). Warner Bros. had both of those last two films in development, and planned to green-light the first one that came together to their liking. Ultimately, they scrapped both.
Which brings us to 2002 and BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN…
When the studio heard a pitch for a film that would pit Batman and Superman against each other, they opted to drop everything else and move forward with that film. In 2003, Warner Bros. was set to produce BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. It was going to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen (POSEIDON, TROY), and be based on a script by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind). Actors like Colin Farrell, Jude Lau, Paul Walker, James Franco, and Josh Hartnett were circling the project, and it was heading towards a summer 2004 release. However, the project fell apart. Not because of any real strife in the production itself, but because Warner Bros. decided it didnâ€™t want to rush into it. The studio decided it would rather give each character their own solo movies and then build up to the VS angle.
This brought Warner Bros. back to a J.J. Abrams-written film called SUPERMAN: FLYBY that they’d gone back and forth on. At one point, it was going to be directed by McG, then Brett Ratner. Ratner was rumored to be lining up hisRED DRAGON stars Anthony Hopkins and Ralph Fiennes for the roles of Jor-El and Lex Luthor, while all kinds of actors were approached for Superman. Included in the hunt for a new Man of Steel were actors like Henry Cavill, Matt Bomer, and Brandon Routh. However, the chaotic development of the film- which saw a ballooning budget and intense fights with producer Jon Peters- saw Ratner exit in 2003 and McG return to SUPERMAN: FLYBY.
Meanwhile, while filming Fox’s X2: X-MEN UNITED in 2002, director Bryan Singer made a direct pitch to Richard and Lauren Schuler Donner. Mrs. Donner was serving as a producer on the film, as she has for all of the X-MEN movies. The Donners greeted Singer’s idea, which would serve as a continuation of his earlier SUPERMAN films, very positively. In 2004, McG left SUPERMAN: FLYBY for a second time. Fresh off of the success of 2003’s X2, and comforted by the Donners embracing of his idea, Singer and Warner Bros. met to discuss his pitch.
In July of 2004, only a month after McG walked away from FLYBY, Singer officially signed on the dotted line andSUPERMAN RETURNS was on the way. He wouldn’t be alone, as he brought over two of the writers he’d made X2 with (Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris).
On the Batman end of things, Christopher Nolan- who was coming off of the success of MEMENTO and his remake ofINSOMNIA– was tapped to direct a dark, mature series reboot for the Dark Knight. David S. Goyer was hired to write it.
So now, Warner Bros. finally found its way forward. Both solo projects were in the works, and they’d soon be able to get to that BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN film they were so interested in.
The film’s titles mirrored each other in the way that they were messages to the audience:
Superman RETURNS: "This is the Superman you all know and love, and he’s coming back!"
Batman BEGINS: "We want you to forget about the campy, nippled George Clooney Batman so we’re hitting Reset and starting over from scratch!"
Singer’s Superman and Nolan’s Batman would eventually throw down, and DC would have something of a, um, cinematic universe on its hand. Or so they thought…
- The list of people who attempted to reboot these characters is a venerable who’s who of fanboy favorites. There’s the aforementioned Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, and J.J. Abrams. But you may be surprised to know that Joss Whedon, Darren Aronofsky, and Paul Dini also took cracks at it to no avail. Even Robert Rodriguez was ready to step up to the plate, but couldn’t because of a scheduling conflict
- The Akiva Goldsman-written I AM LEGEND threw in an easter egg for fans, based on his involvement with the aborted BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, which you can see here:
- Matt Bomer’s chance to play Superman may have gone down in flames when SUPERMAN: FLYBY was scrapped, but the actor would go on to not only play the character in a foreign car commercial but also voiced him in SUPERMAN: UNBOUND.
The first of these new films would be BATMAN BEGINS. Christopher Nolan, fresh off of critical successes with a few smaller films, was hired to direct the film. His approach, along with the script written by David S. Goyer, was to take the Batman mythos into a very grounded direction. It would explore the psychology of a man that would eventually start dressing like a bat and fighting crime in the shadows of Gotham.
They hired Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, someone who- similar to Nolan- was known for smaller, high-minded films and had a ton of street cred. They also, in a move that calls to mind the original DC superhero movie age, surrounded the lesser-known Bale with a ton of A-list talent. While Christopher Reeve got Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando, Bale got Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson. BATMAN BEGINS, from its inception, had an air of prestige about it.
The initial teaser trailer for the film boldly saved the reveal that it was even a Batman movie at all for the end, clearly positioning the film as a completely different kind of take on comic book movies.
“Brooding and dark, but also exciting and smart, Batman Begins is a film that understands the essence of one of the definitive superheroes.” - Critic Consensus on Rotten Tomatoes
The film did decent numbers at the box office (more on that later), and- financially speaking- benefitted mightily from a relatively modest budget and scaled-down expectations. More importantly, though, it got the world speaking positively about Batman again. The bat brand was now reborn, after having become the butt of many a joke after 1997’s BATMAN AND ROBIN.
So Batman was back, next on deck: Superman!
Bryan Singer, with most of his creative team from X2: X-MEN UNITED, filmed SUPERMAN RETURNS in Australia, and wanted to make a movie that would simultaneously build on the original movies while also reintroducing the character to a new generation of fans. It was a tall order, as the film vaguely wanted to position itself as a pseudo “real” SUPERMAN III while tweaking the overall design and timeline to move everything into the present day. Marketing for the film relied heavily on nostalgia, using bits of the iconic score created by John Williams, including archived voice-over narration from Marlon Brando’s Jor-El, and emphasizing the softer, more romantic nature of the first films.
“Bryan Singer's reverent and visually decadent adaptation gives the Man of Steel welcome emotional complexity. The result: a satisfying stick-to-your-ribs adaptation.” - Critic Consensus on Rotten Tomatoes
It opened slightly bigger than BEGINS did, and would- ultimately- make more than the Nolan film did. However, its high budget and extremely high expectations would put Warner Bros in a tough position moving forward (more on that later). More notable than the box office, though, was the fact that RETURNS didn’t do what BEGINS did for Batman in terms of getting the character back on firm footing and surrounded by positive buzz.
Rather than unite the fan base, it divided it. Some didn’t buy that Superman would ever drop everything and abandon earth to search for Krypton, others couldn't stomach a sequence where Superman seemingly uses his powers to stalk Lois Lane in her home, some loathed the inclusion of a son for Kal-El, while others couldn't get over the fact that Superman never punched anyone. Less fanboy-driven complaints were that the film was too long, the villain’s plot too hokey, the tone was too gloomy, and contained far too little action considering what Superman can do and the technology at Singer’s disposal.
Warner Bros. has always prided itself on being filmmaker-driven. While they wanted to create a shared world where Nolan’s Batman could one day share the screen with Singer’s Superman, they didn’t make any mandate or force either filmmaker to set that up. The focus for each film was to simply get the characters back off the ground. Nolan, wanting to focus on a smaller, more human story, didn’t include any allusions to a larger world of superheroes out there in BATMAN BEGINS. Singer, on the other hand, seemed slightly more willing to play ball with WB’s hopes for the future.
The opening titles for SUPERMAN RETURNS include a reference to Superman being “our greatest protector,” which was the first-ever implication that there are other heroes out there. The film also included a reference to Superman being spotted in Gotham City shortly after revealing himself to the world again. With BATMAN BEGINS taking place, seemingly, during Superman’s five year absence from earth, it made sense that the Man of Steel didn’t factor into Ra’s al Ghul’s attack on Gotham.
So the stage was somewhat set for an eventual crossover. However, with the perceived under-performance of SUPERMAN RETURNS at the box office, and the bickering that it led to amongst fans, Warner Bros. had a real problem on its hands. People loved Batman again, but were so-so about Superman.
Where would they go from here?
They opted to play the hot hand and proceed with Nolan’s Batman series, while putting Singer’s Superman into limbo. Seeing an opportunity to really make the story his own now, with Warner Bros. unsure if they’d continue with their world-building plans, Nolan clamped down and decided his movies would remain completely insular. Had SUPERMAN RETURNS lived up to the hype, the BATMAN BEGINS sequels might have looked very, very different.
"BEGINS" AND "RETURNS" BY THE NUMBERS
Before we proceed, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Over the years, the perception of what went on with these two films' performances at the box office has become a tad skewed. An understanding of what they actually did is important as we look at where WB went with things post-SUPERMAN RETURNS.
Reported Budget: $150 Million
Opening Weekend Domestic: $49 Million
Final Worldwide Total: $374 Million
Rank Amongst BATMAN Films When Adjusted For Inflation At The Time of Its Release: 4th
Reported Budget: $270 Million
Opening Weekend Domestic: $53 Million
Final Worldwide Total: $391 Million
Rank Amongst SUPERMAN Films When Adjusted For Inflation At The Time Of Its Release: 3rd
Now, remember last week when I told you to keep a mental note of the production costs on all of the failed SUPERMAN relaunches of 90s and early 00s? This is where that comes in handy. That insane $270 Million price tag you see for RETURNS actually includes all of the money that went into those aborted projects. That’s right: Things like the $20 million paid to Nicholas Cage to not play Superman are part of that figure. In actuality, SUPERMAN RETURNS cost $204 million to make. The rest of that bloated price tag came from productions that had nothing to do with Singer’s film, yet they helped stack the deck for what it would take for RETURNS to be a hit.
So the film was in a financial hole before Singer and co. ever placed a foot on the set.
Still, as with everything- and as some fans are learning these days- it all comes down to expectations. BATMAN BEGINS makes $374 million, is considered a hit, and the series moves forward. SUPERMAN RETURNS makes $391 million, is viewed as a disappointment, and the series goes into limbo. Nowadays, people say Warner Bros. wanted BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE to do AVENGERS numbers. Back then, it was thought that Warner Bros. wanted SUPERMAN RETURNS to do SPIDER-MAN numbers.
Expectations are a very interesting thing.
In later interviews, Bryan Singer and SUPERMAN RETURNS star Brandon Routh, would shed light on what the aftermath of that film was like.
In the period directly following the release of the film, Singer explained that the first film was always intended to be more of a romantic, nostalgic table-setter. His intentions all along were to make a sequel that was going to be more an intense action/adventure with more sci-fi elements. He famously cited that his plan was to sort of follow the path that the STAR TREK movies did. The first film in that series was a gentler, somewhat offbeat adaptation of the beloved series, while the sequel, “The Wrath of Khan,” was a total game-changer.“I plan to get all ‘Wrath of Khan’ on it,” he famously told Comic-Con goers at the time.
“What I was referring to was the fact that, when you do a first film like X-Men, for example, you’re introducing a world and a set of characters. Once those characters are introduced, once we’ve lived with them for awhile and we know them, when you get into a second film like an Empire Strikes Back, or a Wrath of Khan, you can make an action-adventure film and you don’t have to bank all that time getting to know the characters. Now you can raise the stakes, raise the jeopardy and make a leaner, meaner movie.” - Bryan Singer, September of 2006, Today Online
While he was evoking films from the STAR TREK and STAR WARS series, Singer could’ve just as easily pointed at his own X-MEN films. X2 was a far bigger, more action-packed, and overall better-received film than X-MEN was.
So Singer was intent on following that same trajectory with Superman.
The movie was going to be called MAN OF STEEL. “That was the title. Actually, my buddy, one of my two best friends, came up with that,” Singer told Empire in 2014. “We did explore it a little Just hammering out ideas. I think Darkseid was going to be the villain. It was pretty world-destroying, actually.” By all accounts, the sequel was going to have all of the action and visual flare that Singer has demonstrated in his X-Men films, while- ostensibly- setting the stage for a shared world that would’ve included Nolan’s Batman.
As for Routh, the fact that the sequel went into limbo for so long was hard on the actor.
“That will be a book someday, when I fully realize that whole experience. But I think just the lack of knowing what was going on for so long was definitely a challenge, because I felt the need to uphold an image. No one asked me to uphold one, but that's how much I cared about the character. I felt certain things might be off-limits, certain roles. At least for the first couple of years when I thought we'd be coming back.” - Brandon Routh, April of 2016, Empire Magazine
Note that Routh points out that there was no clear-cut decision for quite some time. While fans have rewritten history to say that SUPERMAN RETURNS “flopped” and was automatically thrown into a trash heap, the truth is that a sequel was still being considered for years.
Ultimately, Singer got tired of waiting for Warner Bros. to make a decision and moved on with his career. “I ended up having the opportunity to go and make Valkyrie, and I think the studio lost interest at that point. I can't say it was all the studio's fault and I can't say it was all my fault. It just fizzled out,” the director told Empire.
As recently as 2009, three years after the film’s release, there had been a cryptic tease from one of the film’s writers, Michael Dougherty, telling fans to “keep watching the skies” because a big announcement was coming at that year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Alas, we all know that nothing ended up coming from it and the SUPERMAN RETURNS sequel, MAN OF STEEL, never happened.
NOLAN BECOMES THE MAN
As was eluded to earlier, following all of the uncertainty post-RETURNS, Nolan became the Golden Goose for Warner Bros. His BATMAN BEGINS had not only reinvigorated the Batman brand, but it damn near revolutionized the industry. Suddenly everyone wanted to make gritty, “grounded” blockbusters. That film helped usher in a whole new wave of pop culture that made it okay for adults to see, love, and rave about comic book movies.
His follow-up, 2008’s THE DARK KNIGHT, was thought to be a contender for a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. While that nomination never materialized, Heath Ledger did posthumously win for his portrayal of The Joker in that film. The film also made a mint at the box office, with a final worldwide total north of $1 billion. The WB’s decision to grant Nolan full autonomy had paid off. While their BATMAN VS SUPERMAN plans were now dead as a doornail due to his insistence on keeping his films insular, the studio now had a global franchise, the love of fans, and the respect of critics.
And yet…Warner Bros. still wanted a bigger comic book landscape. Their desire gave birth to another peculiar chapter in WB/DCEU history…
JUSTICE LEAGUE MORTAL
Back in 2007, with MAN OF STEEL in limbo after SR under-performed, and with Nolan not wanting to expand his Batman world now that BEGINS had given him the clout to stand up to Warner Bros., the studio started putting together the pieces for a film called JUSTICE LEAGUE MORTAL.
They hired writers, they tapped George Miller to direct, and they eyed a 2009 release for the film. What’s interesting here is that it would’ve landed smack dab in the middle of Nolan’s eventual trilogy, yet it wasn’t going to include Nolan’s Batman. The film was going to be somewhat of a stab at creating a multiverse at your local movie theater. Had it happened, you would've had Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT in 2008 with Christian Bale as Batman and JUSTICE LEAGUE MORTAL in 2009 with Armie Hammer playing Batman in a completely unrelated movie.
MORTAL was set to go full-swing into production in 2008, with sets being constructed, costumes being created, and an entire cast of actors being put in place. What stopped the film from happening? The Writers Guild of America strike of 2007-2008. It caused such havoc on the production, which was going to need some serious work done on its script, that the whole thing got delayed and eventually scrapped. Just like SUPERMAN LIVES gave way to a full-fledged documentary film, so did JUSTICE LEAGUE MORTAL. I encourage you to check it out to witness another chapter of the WB/DC saga.
Still intent on the idea that mainstream audiences would accept the idea of a multiverse, Warner Bros. did manage to release a DC film that was meant to kick off a shared cinematic universe that had zero connection to what Nolan was doing with his Batman movies. That film was Martin Campbell’s GREEN LANTERN. It came out during the WB’s favorite month for DC releases, June of 2011.
There was hope that GREEN LANTERN would open up a whole new world for Warner Bros. Just as Marvel Studios had done in 2008 when it took a B-level hero like Iron Man and used him as the gatekeeper for a huge world of heroes and villains, the WB hoped Green Lantern would allow them to create a cinematic landscape that would include the rest of the members of the Justice League. With a director who had kickstarted not one, but two different reboots of the James Bond franchise (Campbell launched both the Brosnan and Craig eras), a likable lead actor in Ryan Reynolds, and a $200 million budget, they thought they’d given the production everything it needed to be a bonafide hit.
Unfortunately, the film landed with a thud. Ravaged by critics and fans alike, and with a final worldwide haul of only $220 million, GREEN LANTERN was a non-starter. It was back to the drawing board for Warner Bros., in terms of creating a DCEU. NOLAN WRAPS THINGS UP With Singer’s MAN OF STEEL scrapped, with JUSTICE LEAGUE MORTAL aborted, and with GREEN LANTERN dead on arrival, Warner Bros. would continue to put all of its DC Comics hopes on Christopher Nolan. Unfortunately for them, the director remained adamant that his next film, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, would not only be his final DC film in the director’s chair, but would be the end of that version of Batman as we knew it.
It’s true. 2012’s THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was the end. With a storyline that, again, made it virtually impossible for other superheroes to exist, and a conclusion that saw Bruce Wayne (Bale) fake his own death and hang up the cowl, Nolan did his best to slam the door shut on his work ever getting picked up again by another filmmaker. During this period rumors would swirl, and reports would come out that Warner Bros. made all kinds of offers to Nolan to continue his work, or at least oversee- in a Godfather capacity- the expansion of the DCEU. There was even talk that he’d consider doing so in a producer/consultant capacity, but that it was Christian Bale who ultimately killed the deal. With no Bale, and Nolan finally only agreeing to help produce a new Superman film, Warner Bros. had no choice but to hope that a movie with a familiar title would be their next big chance to create a shared world.
That film was MAN OF STEEL.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." - Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities"
In 2012, Warner Bros. found itself in a uniquely Dickensian situation. On the one hand, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES had just concluded the finest series of films based on their DC property since in 1989’s BATMAN. They were riding high, enjoying the glow of Christopher Nolan’s work in making high-minded, mature, and often fascinating movies out of comic book characters, while also enjoying the love of fans, critics, and paying customers alike. Yet on the other hand, there’s the whole matter of that series concluding.
Warner Bros. prides itself on the freedom it gives it directors, and has worked hard over the years to make itself the premiere big studio for filmmakers that don’t want a bunch of executives calling the shots and second-guessing them. So when Nolan made a conscious effort, post-BATMAN BEGINS, to make sure that his films were completely separate of any other DC project they may be cooking up, they allowed him to make that call. Yet that’s not how Hollywood typically works, is it? You don’t build a franchise that has sequels that make billions of dollars each, then just decide, “Ok, we’re done with that. Let’s start from scratch again.”
The last time Warner Bros. rebooted Batman, it was out of necessity. 1997’s had tarnished the brand so badly that the studio had no choice but to hit the Reset Button in 2005 with BEGINS. But this time around, they had to reboot Batman because of the whims of one Christopher Nolan. He wasn’t completely deaf to the studio’s needs, though. While he all but slammed the door on any sequels getting made for his Bat flicks, he did agree to help them with another nagging problem of theirs: Superman.
See, SUPERMAN RETURNS had come out in 2006 and didn’t do what they’d hoped; It didn’t “position the character” the way they’d wanted, according to then WB honcho Jeff Robinov. Remember, all this business about Batman Beginning and Superman Returning began because WB/DC was hoping to have a crossover cinematic event between the two- long before any rival studios had launched their own “Cinematic Universes.” “Had 'Superman' worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009," Robinov said in 2008. "But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a BATMAN AND SUPERMAN movie at all.”
But that’s not all… Warner Bros. and DC Comics were also facing an intense legal battle regarding Superman. The grandchildren of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had brought a lawsuit against Warner Bros., who owns DC, arguing that their grandfathers had been suckered into taking “sweetheart deals” that meant they’d never get a true taste of the prosperity that their creation generated, and neither would their heirs.
How did this lawsuit factor into the WB’s movie plans for Superman? Well, back in 2008 a federal court had ruled that not only might the rights to the character revert back to Siegel/Shuster, but that if Warner Bros. didn’t get a Superman movie into production by 2011 that they’d have the right to file another lawsuit against the company for lost revenue. This put a real premium on Warner Bros. figuring out how to get Superman off the ground and back into the sky where he belongs, and that’s where Nolan stepped in. While he refused to introduce the possibility of a flying alien in his own films, he did agree to serve as a producer, consultant, and overall “Godfather” for a new Superman film. He’d heard a pitch from his writers while working on the DARK KNIGHT movies, brought it to the executives at Warner Bros., and soon he and David S. Goyer were hard at work on MAN OF STEEL.
Who would they tap to direct this reboot “from the men who brought you THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY”? Zack Snyder. Snyder rose to fame thanks to his remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD and then made his mark on comic book fans with his faithful adaptations of Frank Miller’s 300 and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN. As far as track records go, though, his qualifications were a little slim. While DEAD and 300 had turned extremely healthy profits at the box office, WATCHMEN- which he directed for Warner Bros.- was something of a disappointment, which is notable because it was also his largest production to date. The $130 Million film only made $185 Million worldwide. Worse still, SUCKER PUNCH, which was also for Warner Bros. and was the first film Snyder directed entirely written by himself, only made $8 Million more than it’s somewhat modest budget when it came out in 2011 while also getting ravaged by critics.
It should be noted that Snyder’s relationship with critics has never been particularly strong, with the 75% DAWN OF THE DEAD scored on Rotten Tomatoes being the best he’s ever done. Still, the prevailing theory seemed to be that Snyder had an eye for taking comic book iconography and translating it beautifully to the screen. So if you paired him with the writers who helped make the BATMAN movies so great, you’d have a match made in heaven.
For the role of Superman, the filmmakers tapped Henry Cavill, someone who’d already come close to snagging the role a decade earlier when McG and Brett Ratner took turns developing SUPERMAN: FLYBY. Similar to what Nolan had done, and Richard Donner had done before him, they surrounded the relatively unknown actor with an incredible supporting cast. Laurence Fishburne, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Russell Crowe all signed onto the prestigious Nolan production.
MAN OF STEEL aimed to take a more science-fiction approach towards the source material, and wanted to ask intriguing questions about how the people of earth would actually react if a flying alien with godlike powers suddenly appeared. It had a grounded, gritty aesthetic similar to what Nolan had created for his Batman films, but with the added visual flare that Snyder was known for.
The film opened in June of 2013, and the results were somewhat varied. The film opened to a muscular $117 Million domestically, more than doubling what SUPERMAN RETURNS had done seven years prior. But the reaction from fans and critics was quick and clear to see: MAN OF STEEL was a divisive film, similar to RETURNS. Far from the love fest that the Dark Knight films had received, MOS garnered a rotten 55%. Amongst fans the action-packed reboot faired far better with an A- CinemaScore, yet online communities, message boards and Comments Sections lit up with fans arguing about the film.
Just as RETURNS had riled up fans with some of its liberties, MOS had some people very upset about a few key things: They didn’t like that this Superman was so sullen They didn’t like the somewhat cavalier attitude he displayed towards the collateral damage of his final battle against Zod and his Kryptonian forces. Outrage over Superman snapping Zod’s neck, and Pa Kent’s implication that Clark maybe should have let his peers drown on a bus that was sinking into a river created a small uproar. Less fanboy-driven critiques were things like the pacing being all over the place, the story being too disjointed, the inclusion of a convoluted MacGuffin that didn’t end up adding a whole lot to the story, and a general robotic soullessness.
When all was said and done, in terms of fans, the CinemaScore awarded to MOS was only one notch better than the B+ they gave SUPERMAN RETURNS. Also, remember that great opening weekend tally I mentioned earlier? There’s something worth mentioning about that: While the film more than doubled SR’s opening weekend haul domestically, the final stateside total for MOS- when adjusted for inflation- was only a mere $36 Million improvement over Bryan Singer’s film at home, which is where studios get the biggest cut of the profits. $36 million. That's it. So, once again, Warner Bros. found itself in an interesting situation.
MAN OF STEEL, despite being the kind of action-heavy superhero smackdown fans seemed to crave, despite putting the Golden Goose known as Christopher Nolan’s name and fingerprints all over the project, and despite that fact that the $225 Million they poured into it was actually more than the actual amount spent on SUPERMAN RETURNS, they had a movie on their hands that had only one clear leg up over the 2006 film: International box office receipts. That was the only area where MOS scored a clear and decisive victory over SR, by making $377 Million in foreign markets as opposed to the $191 Million that Singer’s film made overseas. Would that be enough for WB/DC to finally move forward on building a shared world where both BATMAN and SUPERMAN could play together- something they’d been trying to get off of the ground since 2002?
Somehow the studio, now run by Kevin Tsujihara, decided to not only proceed, but to double down on Snyder. To an outsider, and as Forbes once observed, it appeared that the studio was willing to chalk up most of MAN OF STEEL’s deficiencies to the character of Superman, himself, and not Snyder’s movie. So their answer was to run with Snyder's idea of adding Batman to the sequel- since they viewed that character as far more bankable than Superman after both SR and MOS failed to do astronomical numbers.
What came next was truly breathtaking, as Warner Bros. decided to make Snyder the de facto architect of their entire DC Extended Universe.
They gave him the green-light to finally make the kind of BATMAN/SUPERMAN crossover event that they'd been wanting to make since 2002. They gave him the reins to DC's cinematic future, since his film, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice would serve as the launchpad for an entire slate of 10 films. This means that Snyder had a hand in casting and designing every major player for Justice League- which was another of the studio's big bets. Snyder not only shaped what the modern day Superman looks/acts like, but now he'd get to create Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg as he saw fit.
Actors like Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa have recently described what the casting process was like, with Snyder not even auditioning them- or warning them that they were on his radar. Miller got an unsolicited call while on vacation in Costa Rica, offering him the part of Barry Allan, aka The Flash. Momoa got a call to come in for a meeting, and he assumed he was being considered for either Lobo or a villain, only to find out that Snyder wanted him to sign on to be Aquaman.
The super-sized sequel, initially simply titled BATMAN VS SUPERMAN, was announced at San Diego Comic-Con in July of 2013.
The following month, Ben Affleck was announced as the new cinematic Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. By October of that year, Snyder had begun filming with a football sequence for the film. In December, Chris Terrio (ARGO) was brought on to do some extensive rewrites.
The film was going to open on July 17, 2015. But then, in January of 2014, Warner Bros. halted production of the film. Here's an excerpt from the original press release by studio:
"Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that the release of Zack Snyder’s untitled Superman/Batman film has been moved to May 6, 2016, allowing the filmmakers time to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story. The decision was made following the shift of the start of production to second quarter of this year."
It's rumored that the extra time was mainly so that Snyder and the writers could figure out exactly how to make the film set up Justice League and get all the balls in play, and so that Terrio could finish up his retooling of the script. But the May 6 date didn't stick either, as it was a date that rival Marvel Studios had already staked a claim to. When Warner Bros moved to that date, despite knowing full well that their chief rival had already announced a film TBD for that day, many saw it as a high-stakes game of Chicken. Marvel fired back by revealing that May 6, 2016 would be the release date for CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. WB/DC responded by shifting BATMAN V SUPERMAN a second time. This time, the film was set to open on March 25, 2016.
Principal photography for BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE wrapped on December 5, 2014, giving Snyder and his crew 14 months to edit the movie, and for an extensive post-production period. After that point, not much news would come out of the production until February of 2016 when murmurs about test screenings started to surface online. The consensus seemed to be that the film wasn't going to be a crowd-pleaser. Whispers about Warner Bros starting to grow concerned about Snyder's film came out of those screenings, where people seemed to think it wasn't for everybody. The studio had invested somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million in the film when all of the production and promotional costs were accounted for, and they were hoping for a film that would appeal to a wide audience and make north of $1 billion worldwide.
This movie didn't seem to have the right elements to make that happen.
Just a reminder: This film that began its first real rounds in the cinematic pop culture lexicon way back in 2002, and gave birth to Batman Begins and Superman Returns despite the fact neither of those films ended up factoring into the final evolution of the project.
On top of that, ardent fans were made aware of the fact that the film was going to lay down the groundwork for aJustice League film- with appearances by The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
The movie seemed poised to be an all-time smash for Warner Bros when you factored in how loaded it was with bankable elements. During its opening weekend, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice had a heroic showing at the box office.
While all was fine and dandy on the monetary front, Batman V Superman didn’t do so well with audiences and critics. The film received a mediocre B CinemaScore from audiences (the same score they gave Green Lantern, a film mentioned earlier in this series), and critics were even less impressed. On the aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, only 95 out of 252 professional film critics gave it a “Fresh” review, meaning the film would end up saddled with only a 27% approval rating.
The critics consensus for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice [Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes]:
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice smothers a potentially powerful story â€” and some of America’s most iconic superheroes â€” in a grim whirlwind of effects-driven action.”
The film’s detractors argued that the pacing was too uneven, the editing too shoddy, the tone too grim, and that the central feud between the heroes lacked any real sense of logic or emotional investment. More fanboy-driven complaints included the fact that people found Jesse Eisenberg’s turn as Lex Luthor to be grating, they found that the film squandered Doomsday (and the Death of Superman arc), and many were upset that this new version of Batman seemed quite comfortable with shooting guns and killing people- two things that lots of fans see as a “No No” for The Dark Knight.
In the days following the film’s release, after the dust cleared, and the hype surrounding its box office performance subsided, the questions became: Would the perceived poor quality of the film have an effect on the film’s longterm viability at the box office? Or would the novelty of this superhero showdown, coupled with the powerful imagery in its promotional materials, be enough to power the film across the $1 billion mark that Christopher Nolan’s last two Dark Knight films had crossed?
Those questions saw their first real answers when the totals for Batman V Superman‘s second weekend tally came in. The movie suffered a free-fall of 68% in its second frame. That drop was about on-par with the 2009 20th Century Fox dud X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And since the film’s release was so front-loaded, there wasn’t much reason to think it would get much of a boost in the weeks to come. The biggest foreign market (China) had already weighed in, and the $57 million it had made there in its first weekend was a far cry from the $156 million they’d awarded to Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
When all was said and done, Batman V Superman fell over $100 million short of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises had each made, but surpassed Man Of Steel as it finished up its theatrical run with $873,260,194.
Deadline would ultimately determine that the film only ended up netting a profit of $105 Million for Warner Bros., creating questions about A. How the studio felt about it, and B. How they'd adjust their plans, if at all.
One surefire indication of how the studio felt about the film's performance was how quickly it moved to change directions with its DC films in the wake of Batman V Superman‘s performance. The studio hastily shifted its focus away from the film it had spent 14 years trying to make, and put all of its energy into getting people excited about Suicide Squad. The film, which had wrapped quite a while ago at that point and was in post-production when BvS came out, was set to come out on August 5.
Reports began to ring out that the film underwent some serious reshooting, and that the editing process had actually been taken out of director David Ayer’s hands. Following the drubbing that BvS took from fans and critics, there was talk that Warner Bros. wanted to tweak the tone of SS; Make it lighter, funnier, and more of a crowdpleaser. While the official reason given was that they wanted to give Ayer another action sequence to play with, the murmurs that became unavoidable were that the film was getting the “too many cooks in the kitchen” treatment in order to increase its odds of scoring with audiences.
In the meantime, as part of the studio’s ambitious plans, they had set up Justice League to enter production mere weeks after Batman V Superman premiered. This meant that the film, which would once again come from a script by Terrio and the direction of Snyder, would have no time to make the kinds of alterations that many felt it would need after BvS riled crowds up.
In an attempt to get people excited about Justice League despite some of the reservations that were voiced aboutBvS, Warner Bros. did something fairly unorthodox. They invited a bunch of members of the press to visit the the London set of the film in June (which is customary), and they actually allowed them to post all of their impressions and interviews as soon as they returned home (not customary at all) in order to put positive buzz out there. Traditionally, studios place an embargo on set visit reports and don’t allow members of the press to share what they saw until several months later.
After that strong gesture, Warner Bros. was still in a situation where they were trying to put a facelift on Suicide Squad, while making sure Justice League was a better movie, and also dealing with the fact that audiences had seemingly rejected the vision of the man they had entrusted with the entire DC Cinematic Universe: Zack Snyder.
How could they fix all this?
For starters, they decided to move away from Snyder. While he was already signed on to direct Justice League and the production timeline for that was too tight for navel-gazing, they announced on July 28 that longtime DC Comics writer Geoff Johns was promoted to the position DC President and Chief Creative Officer. From that point forward, he became the man that the industry referred to when discussing who was steering the DCEU ship.
What was notable about that, as well as the reports regarding the post-production on Suicide Squad, and the fact that the studio instantly began promoting a Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice- Ultimate Edition because of apparent tampering with Snyder’s theatrical cut of the film, was the fact that the once “filmmaker-driven” studio was suddenly becoming extremely hands-on. The actions of the 2016 Warner Bros. braintrust stood in stark contrast to the way the studio typically handled things.
On August 5, all eyes were once again transfixed on DC as Suicide Squad opened. Were the rumors of a tumultuous post-production true? Would the film end up uneven and divisive?
In short: Yes.
Suicide Squad received an even worse rating on Rotten Tomatoes than Batman V Superman did, with critics awarding it a 26% approval rating, and fans gave it a marginally better B+ CinemaScore.
The critics consensus for Suicide Squad [Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes]:
“Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren’t enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.”
Financially-speaking, the film opened to a fantastic $134 million domestically, and $133 million overseas, for a worldwide opening weekend cume of $267 million.
In the end, in terms of finances, Suicide Squad ended up being considered more of a win for Warner Bros. than BvS was. Working in its favor was the fact that it had a lower price tag ($175 million) and much lower expectations than Batman V Superman, since it centered on a ragtag group of B and C level DC rogues and not two of the most iconic fictional comic book characters of all time. And Warner Bros. also hadn’t spent a decade and a half hoping to get the film off the ground.
Suicide Squad finished up its theatrical run with $745,600,054.
The earlier reports about the film’s post-production bore fruit after the movie was released. It came to light that there were several cuts of Suicide Squad floating around and that, ultimately, director David Ayer didn’t have the final say on the cut that made it into theaters. Actor Jared Leto, who played The Joker in the film, even went so far as to publicly chastise the studio for gutting his performance. To his credit, Ayer was a team player and would only say that he was happy to collaborate with the studio because he knows these kinds of things are a team effort.
In all, 2016 was a pivotal year for Warner Bros. and their DC Extended Universe. It was the year that finally saw the arrival of their Batman/Superman movie, launched a shared universe, and demonstrated their intent to explore all kinds of corners within the DC mythology- as they did with Suicide Squad.
While both films were maligned by critics, and given only so-so endorsements from fans, they made a combined $1.6 billion, proving that the DC brand was strong enough on its own to find success even with lackluster films.
A New Sheriff In Town
Following the release of Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. was left in a uniquely fascinating position. During the lead-up to that film they had effectively changed the guard up top, in terms of who was calling the shots. Prior to promoting DC Comics guru Geoff Johns to Co-President and Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, the franchise didn't necessarily have a centralized brain.
Unlike their chief rival, Marvel Studios, which has one man that everyone has to answer to (Kevin Feige), DC Entertainment seemed to have a somewhat amorphous group made up of producers and executives calling the shots. The group seemed to follow Zack Snyder's lead, making him the de facto architect of the DCEU. With the promotion of Johns, Warner Bros. decided it was time they had a main man overseeing everything, who was officially the custodian of the brand.
What makes the situation so unique is that, due to the way that the release schedules and production timelines were initially configured, the world won't see the first film from the Geoff Johns Era until October 5, 2018. Between now and then, we'll see Wonder Woman (June of 2017) and Justice League (November of 2017), which are both relics of the Zack Snyder Era. But the changes are already being put into action, and the results so far are equally as fascinating as the situation itself.
Revolving Door of Directors
One film that has been fairly directly impacted by the behind-the-scenes creative shakeups is The Flash. Snyder had the initial say on the casting of the titular hero (Ezra Miller), came up with his overall look and feel, and the original script for the film was written during his reign as the WB's "DC architect." However, a month after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out and the studio saw how audiences reacted to Snyder's take, Seth Grahame-Smith- who wrote the aforementioned script and was set to direct it- suddenly bolted from the production.
This happened just as Warner Bros. started getting more hands-on and began questioning the state of their DC franchise, and one could argue that Grahame-Smith could see that he wasn't going to get to make the movie he had signed on to make and decided to leave.
Within six weeks, it was announced that Rick Famuyiwa had signed on to take Grahame-Smith's place as the director for The Flash. He was also tasked with rewriting Grahame-Smith's script. Three months later, Famuyiwa announced that he was done with his revision of the script and was turning it into the studio. Weeks later, he left just as suddenly as Grahame-Smith did.
The Flash isn't the only DC film to suddenly lose its director, as even The Batman would suffer that fate three months after Famuyiwa left The Flash.
The director in question is Ben Affleck, who had signed on to not only star in the film, but to write, direct, and produce it as well. His departure came mere weeks after he'd assured fans around the world that he was definitely directing the film, and left many folks stunned.
Here's a Video Essay I made about the Trials and Tribulation of the DC Films Directors:
While it's unclear what kinds of directives Geoff Johns has been issuing to the filmmakers currently assigned to DCEU movies, it's fairly obvious that something dramatic is afoot. With three directors vacating their chairs in under a year, and with folks connected to Wonder Woman speaking publicly about how the solo film based on the amazon will have a tone of "Love, Justice and Compassion," it's clear to see that DC Entertainment wants to steer away from Snyder's initial vision for the franchise.
In the weeks following the release of Batman v Superman, producer Deborah Snyder was quoted as describing what they were doing as a sort of "deconstruction" of these classic heroes, and it would appear that Johns wants no more of that. Within days of his promotion, Johns was talking about bringing "Hope and Optimism" to DC. Since then, there have been revamped logos, brighter colors, and general chatter about tonal shifts. Another clear indication that things are getting reworked in a major way came when Dwayne Johnson and his production partner Hiram Garcia made statements in January of 2017 about a massive meeting they'd just had with Johns about their long-gestating Shazam! movie.
Here's what Johnson said on January 11: "Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time. Hope, optimism & FUN. Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe."
State of The Slate
(As of May 2017)
Back on October 15, 2014, DC Entertainment announced a slate of the 10 films that would make up the DCEU for the next six years. With Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad now behind us, let's look at the remaining eight from that initial list:
- Wonder Woman: It's still set to arrive on time next month, on June 2, 2017. (Pre-Production and Production Under Snyder Era. Post-Production primarily during Johns Era)
- Justice League Part One: It's now simply Justice League and it's also set to arrive on time on November 17 (Pre-Production during Snyder Era, Production split between Snyder and Johns Eras, and Post-Production entirely during Johns Era)
- The Flash: On indefinite hold after the studio ordered a "page one rewrite" in January of 2017. Aquaman: On schedule for its October 2018 release, with James Wan at the helm. (Johns Era)
- Shazam!: Still set to happen, but is being developed alongside a similar project. One could become a priority over the other. More on that later. (Johns Era)
- Justice League Part Two: Delayed in favor of adding a solo Batman film. Will no longer arrive in 2019 as planned. Cyborg: No updates. Not expected to arrive in 2020, or possibly ever. There have been rumors that this one will be cannibalized and made part of a team-up with The Flash, or possibly get turned into Teen Titans.
- Green Lantern: It became Green Lantern Corps. It's still slated to arrive in 2020, and they've recently hired David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Justin Rhodes (Grassroots) to write it. (Johns Era)
Gotham City Sirens: This spinoff of Suicide Squad will once again find David Ayer at the helm. It's unclear when the film will come out. With no script and no production timeline, it's unlikely to come out until 2019. (Johns Era)
Man of Steel 2 (Rumored): In 2016, Henry Cavill's manager Dany Garcia caused a stir when she revealed that her client would get to star in a direct sequel to 2013's Man of Steel. There's been nothing official on this front, but it's still something that's thought to be in-the-works. The earliest it could possibly arrive, at this point, is 2019. (Johns Era)
The Batman: The aforementioned solo Batman film is currently in the writing phase, and lost its director on January 30th when Ben Affleck stepped down. Deadline says the script has gone through two drafts- One by Affleck and Johns, and one by Chris Terrio. As of now, the film seems to have no finalized script and it definitely has no director. Barring some sort of miracle, this one will also not come out until at least 2019.
Black Adam: Shortly after Johnson's enthusiastic statement about the future of the DCEU, it was announced that his villainous character from the Shazam! movie was actually getting his own standalone feature. Included in that announcement was word that it was being developed alongside Shazam!, making it seem likely that Warner Bros/New Line will put which ever one they're happiest with into production first- possibly scrapping the other one.
Notable Mentions: Suicide Squad 2, Justice League Dark, Lobo, Deadshot, and Booster Gold. These films are all sort of just floating around. As you can see, that's a total of 14 movies that Warner Bros- or reliable rumor sources- have put out into the world for fans to think about. Some are safe bets, while others seem like a toss-up. It's likely that Warner Bros. wants to see how Wonder Woman and Justice League are received before they start assigning concrete release dates for many of these, or if they just start chopping movies off of the their to-do list.
That makes 2017 a crucial year for the DCEU. A major positive in all of this is that, unlike at the start of things, Warner Bros. seems to be slowing down and focusing more on making better movies instead of just rushing from one DC movie into another. One gets the sense that they've been doing some serious soul-searching since last year, and are trying to put themselves in the best possible position moving forward, after a very frantic start.
Bearing all of this in mind, there's a reason to be very cautiously optimistic about the future of the DCEU. If Johns is able to stick to his goals, and can surround himself with likeminded filmmakers who want to steer the franchise away from the perceived-missteps of its first three entries, we may end up with a series that can be a worldwide smash both critically and financially. The only problem? As noted earlier, it's going to take quite a while for their "Phase Two" of films to arrive, and who knows how patient Warner Bros. is willing to be?
If Wonder Woman stumbles, and Justice League fails to live up to its potential as DC's answer to The Avengers, will the studio even give Johns a chance to turn things around? If you've read the other columns in this series, you'll know that the studio has a hit-or-miss record when it comes to choosing which decision to puts its weight behind. There are a few major forks in the road coming up on the horizon, and I'll be right here to examine which directions they choose.
Two reports I wrote for The Splash Report weeks after completing this will help continue this history lesson on the evolution of DC Films at Warner Bros:
May 15: "EXCLUSIVE: Extensive Reshoots To Give JUSTICE LEAGUE A Second Major Facelift"
May 23: "A Note On Our Story, Snyder's Loss, And Those JUSTICE LEAGUE Reshoots"