Oh wow. Just as Black Adam is about to open – the second DC film of the year but the last one for a while with a firm release plan – Borys Kit has delivered a report that reveals a chaotic state of play for DCEU plans. There are so many sentences in this piece that are just wild – the franchise that has a sequel in the works while the star is pleading not guilty; the wrestler turned superstar who had to sneak Superman into his movie – all that is missing is someone covered in blood eating a muffin to make it the wildest drama of the year. Every sentence of this piece is now its own article on The Direct.
“Right now it’s the Wild West,” says one insider. “Everyone is trying to grab as much as they can. And this is exactly what happens in a leadership vacuum.”
But of course, the history of the DCEU is replete with drama – but the tumult and uncertainties of the Zaslav Era has cranked up the drama even more. As they say in screenwriting school: conflict, conflict, conflict!
You must read the whole story of course, but here’s a summation with some analysis of my own thrown in. The basic story is that, with former DCEU head Walter Hamada departing the studio this week, a Game of Thrones type IP grab is on with some of Hollywood’s biggest nerd kings (and a queen or two ) furiously staking their claims.
Let’s run down the players!
• Hamada is out this week, without even a production shingle to break his landing. Thus ends a pretty good run with films that were generally well received, taking Snyder-Era castings – Momoa, Gadot, Levi – and making them canon, and letting auteurs win Oscars with their Batman interpretations. He deserved a better ending.
• Perhaps most surprisingly, Dwayne Johnson is taking the occasion of his Black Adam press ops to become a “shadow Feige,” 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.”
He’s even said he’d love to help with the search for a new DCEU Czar – concern trolling at its finest. But maybe they should listen to him, since he’s done something people have been asking for for a while, bringing back Henry Cavill as Superman. Reportedly there is a Cavill cameo in Black Adam – a move that was actively ruled out by Hamada. But showing his GoT style guile, Johnson went around Hamada to studio heads Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, and got the reshoots done just a month ago. Johnson is also publicly stumping for a “Black Adam vs Superman” movie, and let’s face it, that’s not a bad idea. The Rock and Henry Cavill tussling around the world – the imagination runs wild. Adding to the coziness: the Rock’s manager, Dany Garcia, is also Cavill’s manager.
• Okay and what about Superman? The greatest superhero of them all has been languishing on film (although quite busy on the small screen with Superman and Lois, etc.) But execs at WBD are said to have “an intense desire to reprise the Cavill iteration of the hero.” It’s about time. DCEU veteran Charles Roven is reportedly on board to produce Man of Steel 2.
And of course, the comics ends of things (we’ll get back to that) recently announced a push for Superman themselves, a move that would speak of some of that old time studio synergy in more structured times – and who knows, maybe it is?
• But this is not the only Superman! JJ Abrams and Ta-nehisi Coates have been cooking up their own Black Superman movie that would be, like Joker, outside of “DCEU continuity.” Abrams has been taking some L’s lately – Demimonde, his expensive show at HBO, was not greenlit; streamers for Constantine and Madame X(anadu) were scrapped (but are being shopped around); and the animated Batman: Caped Crusader is also looking for a home. He signed a massive deal with HBO back in the before times of AT&T but is working more outside the studio. But he’s a Hollywood powerhouse so don’t count him out. He’s got a horse in this fight!
• But we’re just getting started! James Gunn, whose distinct vision with The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker met with critical acclaim, is also said to be moving up on the outside, pitching a new, unknown movie project of his own.
Sources tell THR that Gunn and producer Peter Safran are in talks with Warners for a mystery movie, possibly more, that Gunn would tackle. (Safran is already in the DC business, being a producer on Shazam! and its upcoming sequel, as well as Aquaman and that movie’s sequel.)
Gunn is pretty much the most beloved figure in superhero movie land, now that Taika Waititi gave up the crown, so this sounds promising.
• And then there’s Matt Reeves, who delivered a successful new Batman earlier this year and has a sequel to Battinson in the works, as well as that Colin Farrell Penguin series which, incredibly, has not been cancelled or shopped around. And just to stay up to date, he has his OWN secret plans!
The filmmaker is meeting with writers and directors to build out movies — yes movies, not just series — focused on Batman rogue’s gallery, both established and more obscure, with characters ranging from the Scarecrow to Clayface to Professor Pyg. All those projects are in the very early stages of gestation.
• In case you forgot, there are actual movies in the works. WBD actually has two movies already basically finished, but languishing in release date limbo, Aquaman 2 and the ever troubled The Flash. And Patty Jenkins is working on Wonder Woman 3.
• As for the Flash, there have been renewed calls for the movie to be scrapped because of star Ezra Miller’s issues, but the people calling for the scrapping seem to forget that the movie has already been made. Filming began in April 2021, and ended in October, 2021. Ezra’s troubles really didn’t become public until earlier this year, even though it feels like they’ve been a one-person rogues gallery since time began. Anyway, I personally don’t think Miller should return for the sequel that is reportedly already underway, but given the heartache over the scrapping of Batgirl, maybe we should applaud the work of the OTHER 499 people who worked on The Flash. It’s a bad situation and no answer is perfect.
• Although I hesitate to use the word finally on all of this, following the failed search for The Chosen One, when producer Dan Lin turned down the job of “DCEU’s Feige”, maybe The One was in your own backyard all along. According to Kit, co-WB studio head Michael DeLuca is….a big comics fan! And he might just be filling the void.
For now, De Luca, who is known for his fanboy roots and displays a deep knowledge of esoteric comic lore, remains firmly in charge of DC. He greenlit Joker 2, has been making decisions on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and The Flash, and has been meeting with filmmakers. Rumors abound that his role could evolve into one with a more permanent and even exclusive oversight of DC.
• While writing about all this mishegoss is a reward in itself, let’s not forget the little people who made it all possible: DC Comics. What is going on at the open plan office where DC logos are not even prominently displayed? Well, as noted, DC’s presence at NYCC was limited to panels, with some promising announcements, and lots of signings by Jim Lee.
Waves of layoffs continue to hit WBD, but while observers continually fear that DC will be the victim of a new bloodbath, they’ve been spared for now. The latest wave mostly cut out Cartoon Network, merging its operations with WB Animation, a move that either spells the end of the home of some of the most iconic entertainment of this century (Adventure Time), or just changes.
The most optimistic thoughts about DC Comics center on the fact that it’s already been cut to the bone, and there is no one left to cut while keeping things going. That’s never really stopped corporate America, but I am told that division head Pam Lifford, who seems to have taken an intense dislike to DC ever since she started at WB, isn’t focused so much on stripping it down any more. Be thankful for small favors.