There was great rejoicing – and even a few champagne toasts – a few weeks back, when it was announced that the DC movie-verse had found its leaders in James Gunn and Peter Safran. Of course a honeymoon period was always to be expected before the duo sat down to the hard, unpopular part: actually making plans.
Given the array of problems faced by WBD with the existing DC film slate – Ezra Miller, Snyder cultists, Superman’s absence – it was inevitable that cleaning up the mess would break a few eggs. But will we get a delicious omelette at the end? A barrage of stories about cancelled projects and roles this week has left the breakfast menu at DC Studios a big question mark.
There’s no doubt that Gunn is an amazingly skilled presence to help quell worries and advance the possibilities. Even while promoting the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Gunn used his social media to assure fans that things were happening at DC and he was on top of it.
A week ago there was this brilliant IG, using a famous Alex Ross image to impart the message “Making plans.”
A few days later there was this, reminding us that the Blue Beetle film is actually coming out, unlike its stablemate Batgirl.
While there is only One Feige, there is also only One James Gunn – he has an actual love of comics and those who make them along with a proven ability to create quirky characters who tug the heartstrings, shown once again in the Holiday Special.
But on Wednesday, Borys Kit reported that all of this plan making meant many things once planned might not be happening in yet another bombshell article with an apt lead:
Call it DC Rebirth or DC: Genesis. Maybe call it Identity Crisis or Flashpoint. These titles of past DC comics event series aptly describe the state of Warner Bros.’ DC movies, which are on the cusp of a new era but not before a potentially messy transition period.
Included in the messy:
- Wonder Woman 3 is not happening, with director Patty Jenkins’ treatment (co-written by Geoff Johns) delivered and quickly rejected for not fitting in with the Gunn/Safran vision.
- Man of Steel 2 starring Henry Cavill, just recently the source of optimism at the studio, is not happening, and even Cavill’s cameo appearance in The Flash is being debated.
- Black Adam 2 is unlikely given the film’s so-so box office returns.
- Jason Momoa will not return as Aquaman after Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
- But Momoa might be cast as Lobo.
So. As for the story yesterday in the Hollywood Reporter, some of it is true, some of it is half-true, some of it is not true, & some of it we haven’t decided yet whether it’s true or not.
Blam! How refreshing to see a major studio figure actually addressing rumors. He continued:
Although this first month at DC has been fruitful, building the next ten years of story takes time & we’re still just beginning. Peter & I chose to helm DC Studios knowing we were coming into a fractious environment, both in the stories being told & in the audience itself & there would be an unavoidable transitional period as we moved into telling a cohesive story across film, TV, animation, and gaming. But, in the end, the drawbacks of that transitional period were dwarfed by the creative possibilities & the opportunity to build upon what has worked in DC so far & to help rectify what has not. We know we are not going to make every single person happy every step of the way, but we can promise everything we do is done in the service of the STORY & in the service of the DC CHARACTERS we know you cherish and we have cherished our whole lives. As for more answers about the future of the DCU, I will sadly have to ask you to wait. We are giving these characters & the stories the time & attention they deserve & we ourselves still have a lot more questions to ask & answer.
Realistically, what else could be said? 10 years of Snyderverse crazy and studio waffling has left the DCU in need of numerous fixes. But that’s not all! Many subplots are swirling in a tangled web.
First, Wonder Woman. As Kit himself noted, on Tuesday star Gal Gadot mysteriously tweeted a thank you note to fans:
A few years ago it was announced that I was going to play Wonder Woman.I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to play such an incredible, iconic character and more than anything I’m grateful for YOU.The fans.Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you🙅🏻♀️🙌🏼💃🏻♥️ pic.twitter.com/XlzhrMx4xe
— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) December 6, 2022
“A few years ago it was announced that I was going to play Wonder Woman.I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to play such an incredible, iconic character and more than anything I’m grateful for YOU.The fans.Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you,” she wrote, eschewing the need for spaces between sentences like a pro.
The odd timing of the tweet was perhaps solved by a story from The Wrap explaining more of the demise of Wonder Woman 3. As this story goes, Warner Bros. Film Group Co-Chairpersons and CEOs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy were the ones who read the Jenkins/Johns treatment and rejected it. (Although Gunn and Safran weren’t involved in the decision, they agreed with it.) And Jenkins, who has had many ups and downs in Hollywood, had a strong reaction and that reaction didn’t include a desire to submit a new story.
To underscore her point, according to the first insider, Jenkins sent an email to De Luca that ended with a link to the Wikipedia definition of “character arc.”
Jenkins was told that if she wanted to come back and pitch a different direction for Wonder Woman, the studio would hear it. She stood firm to her vision and responded that if they didn’t want to do her treatment, she wasn’t going to do a different one and would instead just move on to her next film.
Connecting the dots here, perhaps Gadot heard about the confrontation and just wanted to remind folks that people generally think she’s an excellent Wonder Woman with a tweet, as you do. Just a guess, but it tracks. Given all the alarming and troubled attempts to get Wonder Woman on the screen over the decades – a tale so long I’m not even going to go near it except to say “ice cream sleepover” – this has to be seen as yet another setback for the greatest superheroine of them all. And yes Wonder Woman 1984 was not a good movie, but the first Wonder Woman remains a wonderful film, and Gadot and Jenkins gave the world the Amazon Princess it always needed.
So what’s to become of Wonder Woman at DC Studios? Recalculating.
MEANWHILE, because there will always be a meanwhile where DC movies are concerned, Dwayne Johnson’s long, tirelessly promoted dream of a Black Adam universe also seems to have been shot down by the Gunn/Safran New Look…and also poor box office performance. Once again, war has been waged on social media and the trades.
On Monday (oi god what a week) Variety ran a story with the headline Box Office Bust: ‘Black Adam’ Faces Theatrical Losses. The numbers seemed plain enough given the $195 million production budget and $80 million in marketing costs:
As a result, the film needed to earn around $600 million worldwide to break even and to surpass that lofty benchmark to turn a profit, according to sources familiar with the financials. Yet box office experts believe “Black Adam” will stall out with less than $400 million globally, which is problematic since movie theater owners get to keep around half of those sales. Now, the movie stands to lose $50 million to $100 million in its theatrical run, according to the estimates of insiders as well as rival executives with knowledge of similar productions. Sources at Warner Bros. dispute those numbers, saying the movie will break even at $400 million. When the film was commissioned, the break even was believed to be $450 million, but that figure has dropped given the particularities of the new home entertainment landscape, one in which “Black Adam” has over-performed projections. They also argue that these ancillary revenue streams have grown more profitable with shorter theatrical windows.
Although insiders may say this or that, they are not reckoning with the love that Johnson has for this character – playing a DC antihero is the Rock’s passion project, and he clapped back against these puny box office analysts with projections of his own!
Waited to confirm with financiers before I shared this excellent #BlackAdam news – our film will PROFIT between $52M-$72M.
At almost $400M worldwide we are building our new franchise step by step (first Captain America did $370M) for the DC future.https://t.co/GBIgsbtnkq
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) December 7, 2022
Waited to confirm with financiers before I shared this excellent #BlackAdam news – our film will PROFIT between $52M-$72M. Fact. At almost $400M worldwide we are building our new franchise step by step (first Captain America did $370M) for the DC future.
An article at Deadline tried to explain why Black Adam would break even:
Also factor in shorter theatrical windows on movies nowadays, which enables the studio to stretch their marketing dollars. PVOD for the film is hitting at a time when the pic is still in theaters and outdoor ads are still around. Black Adam is dropping on HBO Max on Dec. 16, after a 57-day window, a long-enough frame to maximize theatrical, PVOD and sellthrough dollars. The swing factor in the net profit here on Black Adam: Warners contends that it spent $80M on global P&A, which would get the pic to a $72M surplus, whereas the $100M contended by other sources lands the pic at a $52M profit.
And the hizzum to the blizzum…sure, Jan. But the stakes here are high. As Borys Kit reported just a few days before the new DC Studios plan was announced, previously the DCEU/DCU was in a wild state of play, and as I noted, Johnson was using the Black Adam publicity tour to position himself as a “Shadow Feige” with his own film slate:
promoting his own ideas and plans for a slew – yes a slew – of DC projects – telling the New York Times that they should look beyond the Big Three: “there’s some really cool characters there. You’ve just got to give it a shot and trust the investment.”
Johnson had some very ambitious plans for his own end of the DCU – while I doubt Gunn and Safran want to totally alienate the “world’s biggest movie star,” I doubt they want a rival Black Adam-led universe, either. Just spitballing here, but when a story in the trades quotes a lot of “insiders” it’s often a plant – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had given all the BO numbers to Variety in hopes of quashing the Black Adam faction, while Johnson’s own insiders went to Deadline. More conflict!
Well, I’m nearly 2000 words into this analysis of a single week’s news and I haven’t even gotten to Superman and Jason Momoa! The idea of Momoa reappearing in the NüDCU as Lobo is very odd…I mean it’s perfect casting and many actors have played multiple comics characters, with Chris Evans probably holding the record. But it’s noteworthy that Momoa as Aquaman and Gadot as Wonder Woman are pretty popular with the average movie goer – they’re lovable stars who are generally classy and gracious. A totally new direction for this is needed but scary and unfamiliar.
I’ll end this with a single, terrifying word: Snyderverse. All of the turmoil this week led to the predictable social media conflagration from the Snyderists begging for his return. I’m generally a fan of Snyder’s superhero filmmaking, bombastic as it is, but there are credible reports that he himself engineered the bot army that made it look like fans were demanding The Snyder Cut – a bot army that handily gave us the Oscars moment for “The Flash Entering the Speed Force.” This, we do not forgive.
If Gunn and Safran have one task, it’s to move on from the Snyderverse once and for all. Granted it’s hard when there are FOUR movies from this timeline yet to be released, Shazam 2, The Flash, Aquaman 2 and Blue Beetle. But at some point you’ve got to just cut the cord.
And as many have pointed out: when the Flash enters the Speed Force, time and space itself are reshaped. It’s long been posited that the ending of The Flash can be used as an “Infinite/Dark/Final Crisis”-like moment to ditch Ezra Miller and set up a new timeline. As the new 10-year plan for DC’s film slate takes shape, James Gunn and Peter Safran are probably going to have to enter the Speed Force themselves.