In general, finding the “next Kevin Feige” to oversee Warner Bros.’s film and television adaptations of DC Comics. Discovery is a bit like declaring that you only want to make hits. If only desire could do it!
Feige’s reign as chief creative officer of Marvel Studios — overseeing the unique Marvel Cinematic Universe for movies since 2006 and streaming TV since 2018 — has earned Disney more than $25 billion in worldwide box office revenue to date and helped reach Disney+ to more than 152 million subscribers worldwide. Of course, WBD CEO David Zaslav wants to emulate that success.
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Dan Lin, the producer of “The Lego Batman” has emerged as a possible DC chief, as has Emma Watts, a veteran executive with stints at Paramount and 20th Century Fox. Both are highly respected with deep connections throughout Hollywood.
But Feige carved out a unique path to becoming the most successful creative executive in Hollywood that afforded him the time, patience, and sheer luck to build the MCU pretty much from the ground up and on his terms. Whoever takes on the equivalent of Feige’s job at DC will instead inherit a “Justice League”-sized set of assumptions, entrenched systems, and PR headaches, on top of the staggering task of creating a series of film and TV titles that could they are equivalent to the MCU. Here are some of the challenges we face.
Dealing with the fallout from the cancellation of ‘Batgirl’.
Canceling “Batgirl” might have made sense in terms of dollars and cents. Zaslav is committed to making streaming movies, for a price, and “Batgirl” with its $90 million budget was deemed too expensive to fit neatly into that mold. The film also, sources say, wasn’t in good enough shape to justify the $50 million it took to buy it and release it in theaters. So now Zaslav gets a tax write off. Successful comic book universes, however, are not run by accountants. You need great filmmakers, visionary writers and talented stars. This is a team that might not feel so hot about all things Warner Bros. Discovery. To thrive, DC’s next head will need to mend relationships with talent who fear their next project could go the way of “Batgirl” and be rudely rejected.
The newly formed heads of Warner Bros. Pictures, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, are working to improve the situation, possibly finding a new project for “Batgirl” star Leslie Grace and the film’s directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi. However, trust with the wider talent community is broken. It will take much longer to repair than to break it.
Management of ongoing — and unrelated — film and television projects
Okay, deep breath.
The only DC film currently greenlit after the merger is “Joker: Folie à Deux,” Todd Phillips’ follow-up to his $1 billion Oscar-winning sensation, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga. Matt Reeves, meanwhile, is currently working on a sequel to the 2022 blockbuster “The Batman” with Robert Pattinson (which hasn’t been officially greenlit yet, but who are we kidding? It could be a slice of life of the Bruce drama Wayne’s Journey to Gotham Home Goods and will likely happen) as well as a spin-off TV series centered on Colin Farrell’s Penguin and written by Lauren LeFranc. Reeves is also developing another spin-off set in the “Arkham Asylum” world, but this one is further away. Then there’s the second season of “Peacemaker” from writer-director James Gunn, which Gunn says is still moving forward. The future of the animated series “Harley Quinn” and the live-action shows “Titans” and “Doom Patrol” — all new seasons premiering this year on HBO Max — is less clear, as is what will happen to “Constantine.” and “Madame”. Xanadu” is currently showing in JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot.
Some of these titles do interact, but — by design — none of them are part of a single DC Cinematic Universe, especially “Joker 2” and “The Batman 2,” which each exist in their own, completely separate ways. narrative fields.
Zaslav, however, has made it clear that he wants his own MCU for DC. Ironically, that’s what the current head of DC’s film unit, Walter Hamada, was trying to accomplish by harnessing the multiverse’s expansive potential in a movie that was meant to hit the reset button for DC’s big screen storytelling.
This movie, unfortunately, stars Ezra Miller.
Find out what to do with ‘The Flash’
On the Aug. 4 earnings call for WBD, Zaslav said he still planned to move forward with the theatrical release of “The Flash,” despite repeated, troubling headlines about alleged abusive behavior by Miller (who, to I’m clear, it started in April 2020, months before “The Flash” ever started filming). Miller has since issued an apology for “my past behavior” and says they are seeking “ongoing treatment” for “complex mental health issues.” While this statement temporarily calmed the storm surrounding the star, it is not certain that clear skies are on the horizon. At the very least, it means Miller’s off-screen issues may mean he won’t be part of the promotional release for “The Flash,” and the rest of the cast and creative team will be left answering tough questions for the star instead of, you know, carrying the big, copper and runaway film for the red speedster.
And that’s a point, because “The Flash,” which any executive who’s seen it will tell you is pretty good, is all about cleaning up all the narrative threads left dangling by its stop-and-start approach. DCU in building the cinematic universe. The film uses time travel and the multiverse to bring the DC timeline back from where it started with 2013’s “Man of Steel” and set it on a new course. If the movie does come out, though, will that plan hold true or will it be some sort of swan song before an even harder reset button is hit?
Which would have to wait anyway, because “The Flash” is no longer the latest DC old-regime movie currently in the WB.
You understand what to do post “The Flash” (and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”)
“The Flash” was meant to usher in a whole new era for the DCU, but now “Aquaman 2,” which was originally meant to precede that movie, is coming after it. It is possible that there will be some concessions related to “Aquaman 2” in the adjustments of the cinema schedule. But there may be some ongoing modifications. Michael Keaton was originally supposed to appear as Batman at the end of “Aquaman 2,” following the character’s return in “The Flash.” But now that Ben Affleck is also slated to appear in the Atlantis adventure, that might be one ex-Batman too many.
However this is resolved, DC’s new leader must find a new way to revive Superman. There are already several schools of thought out there. One is to simply bring back Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel. Another would be to go ahead with a JJ Abrams-produced film, which was supposed to be written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and would be the first to feature a Black Superman. The third option is to start from scratch or go with both the Abrams-Coates and Cavill versions of Supes at the same time.
Then there’s the desire to start a third Wonder Woman project after the second one was killed with critics. Obviously that would involve Gal Gadot wielding the lasso of truth again. That’s to say nothing of plans for movies featuring Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter and a host of other Justice Leaguers.
Navigating established fiefdoms on Warner Bros., HBO Max and WB TV
At Disney, Feige runs Marvel Studios as a completely separate unit from the rest of the company. Conversely, anything released under the Warner Bros. banner. Pictures has traditionally flowed through the studio head’s office — which was recently occupied by De Luca and Abdy, taking over from Toby Emmerich. Ditto for HBO and HBO Max (led by Casey Bloys) and Warner Bros. Television (directed by Channing Dungey). That means the new head of DC likely won’t have the broad authority that Feige enjoys. Instead, this person should be adept at navigating the egos and ambitions of other executives, whose interests may not always align. This could require an almost superhuman ability.
Winning the fans
Privately, studio insiders have complained that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” should never have happened. Instead of silencing the relentless online campaign to #ReleasetheSnyderCut, the four-hour HBO Max feature further cemented the vocal and highly online fanbase of the “Snyderverse” in opposition to studio leadership in general and DC in particular.
This team might be hard to beat, but DC needs to do a better job of cultivating the kind of exciting franchises that will allow them to build the kind of passionate, dedicated, and excited fanbase that can drown out the haters. That requires patience, which has often been in short supply at DC, where the corporate overlords have long made it clear they want their own internal adversary in the MCU, but they didn’t realize the kind of blood, sweat and tears it might take. to build this kind of juggernaut.
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