Has Warner Bros. Bitten Off More Than They Can Chew With DC Films?

Fanboys will say it’s not fair to compare Marvel and DC Films, and while the aesthetics might be different, let’s face it, Warner Bros. wants the kind of success that Disney is currently basking in with their comic-book brand. Marvel is a well-oiled blockbuster machine, with Kevin Feige finely tuning the wheels so that nothing is announced until it’s ready, and creating picture after picture with very few big creative blow-ups. While some filmmakers like “Thor: The Dark World” helmer Alan Taylor might’ve groused about the process afterwards, Edgar Wright’s departure from “Ant-Man” remains the only major fallout Marvel has experienced. Actors and directors have a very good idea of what they’re getting into when it comes to Marvel, whereas at DC/WB, it’s a different story…

I won’t rehash the history you already know, but the short version is that, eager to play catchup with Marvel, DC/WB hastily pushed ahead with “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” two massive team-up movies that would immediately populate their desired cinematic universe with a plethora of heroes and villains without the time-consuming, multiple-phase-style rollout that Marvel had. The problem? The movies may have made some money, but they were critical and creative failures. The DC Films brand remains stained, and only the most devoted fanboys can’t see that they have yet to hit one truly out of the park.

The impression that nobody is at the wheel also lingers, even as Geoff Johns seemingly steps into the Kevin Feige position at DC, with upcoming movies rotating through directors, and WB’s approach of using competing scripts as part of the development process not endearing any kind of loyalty or solid creative vision. And it’s a problem that’s exacerbated by the fact that they keep piling movies onto their slate, with Nightwing” added this week to an already overflowing pile. It seems more like they’re throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks than following a cohesive plan.

READ MORE: How Warner Bros. Turned The DC Movie Universe Into A Franchise Problem Child

So, what’s the status of all these upcoming pictures? Let’s take a quick look.

Wonder Woman” (Release date: June 2nd)
Fingers are crossed that “Wonder Woman” will finally see critics and fans on the same page. Patty Jenkins directs, stepping in after Michelle MacLaren exited over creative issues. Aesthetically, the film seems to have the same color palette and speed-ramping action found in “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” but let’s hope it has some other tricks up its sleeve.

Justice League” (Release date: November 17th)
Kicking off production just weeks after ‘Batman v Superman’ was eaten alive by critics, the movie is being seen as Zack Snyder‘s corrective to the mistakes he made in his previous film. Indeed, the first trailer shown at San Diego Comic Con last summer featured a lighter tone and more quips while retaining Snyder’s grittiness. But one wonders if a few more jokes will be enough, and with plenty of time until its fall release, I will not be surprised if some measure of reshoots and additional photography takes place over the summer. Of all their upcoming projects, this is one that WB and DC cannot afford to screw up.

READ MORE: What Will Be The Biggest Box Office Blockbuster Of 2017?

Aquaman” (Release date: October 5, 2018)
While James Wan briefly considered leaving the project, who would’ve thought that “Aquaman” would be the least troubled DC Films production so far?

Shazam”/“Black Adam” (Release date: TBD)
In development for a quite a while, the creative pieces are starting to come together. “Lights Out” director David F. Sandberg has been tapped to direct “Shazam,” and in a rather bold movie, Dwayne Johnson‘s villain Black Adam is also getting his own movie, with a script by Henry Gayden (“Earth To Echo“). WB seems to want to maximize their use of one of the biggest stars on the planet, and who could blame them?

Cyborg” (Release date: TBD)
First announced as part of the initial wave of DC Films, this also has seen the least action around it. Initially slated to arrive on April 3, 2020, given the amount of movies that have been put into the DC machine since, it seems unlikely to land on that date. Ray Fisher‘s character is expected to pop up in “The Flash” whenever that movie gets made, but as for a standalone, I wouldn’t expect Warner Bros. to put much heat on it until they see how people react to the character in “Justice League.”

Green Lantern Corps” (Release date: TBD)
Also part of the DC Films’ first wave of titles, things are starting to move on the movie that’s said to have a Lethal Weapon“-esque vibe. An ambitious list of names is being tossed around for the role of Hal Jordan including Tom Cruise, Joel McHaleBradley Cooper, Armie Hammer, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Reynolds. But these seem like far more fantasy than reality choices. No director is attached yet either.

The Batman” (Release date: TBD)
Matt Reeves is finally locked down to direct, after much drama involving Ben Affleck exiting from behind the camera, with rumors he doesn’t even want to play the title role anymore. For now, he’s still attached to star and produce, and while everyone is apparently happy with the script he penned with Geoff Johns, it’s probably a safe bet Reeves will at least give it a polish.

READ MORE: Can Matt Reeves Save Batman & The DC Universe?

Dark Universe” (Release date: TBD)
Also known as “Justice League Dark,”  this antihero team-up movie is not unlike “Suicide Squad,” and has been brewing for a while, with Guillermo del Toro initially slated to direct. He’s since exited, but his script remains, and Doug Liman signed up to helm the picture last summer.

The Flash” (Release date: TBD)
Easily the most problem-plagued movie on the DC Films slate, “The Flash” has gone through multiple filmmakers — Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who pivoted to their Han Solo movie at Disney), Seth Grahame-Smith (who left over creative differences), Rick Famuyiwa (who also left over creative differences) — and you may have forgotten that James Wan once eyeballed it before choosing “Aquaman” instead. With star Ezra Miller spending the summer making “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them 2,” this one is going to be a least a year or two off, which, if anything, gives WB/DC time to finally figure out what they’re doing with this.

Gotham City Sirens” (Release date: TBD)
It’s not a big surprise that Warner Bros. decided to make Margot Robbie‘s fan favorite Harley Quinn a franchise priority following the otherwise dreadful “Suicide Squad.” Even more, Robbie herself pitched the studio on the idea, and she’s producing the project, which will bring “Suicide Squad” director David Ayer back into the fold as he gets behind the camera here. This is also one with high expectations of success on its shoulders.

Deadshot” (Release date: TBD)
In development, but given Will Smith‘s schedule, which sees him pretty busy for the next couple of years, and his slow decision-making process in general, don’t be surprised if this movie never happens.

READ MORE: ‘Suicide Squad’: Morally Murky Villains Are Mildly Reluctant Heroes With Few Satisfying Goals [Review]

Justice League 2” (Release date: TBD)
Originally, Zack Snyder was going to ‘Infinity War’ his “Justice League” project, but somewhere along the way, it was decided to pare down those ambitions. Snyder’s future with DC Films is uncertain, but he’s definitely taking a break as his next project will be the Afghan war drama “The Last Photograph.” My guess is that any continued involvement with DC’s superheroes will likely rely on the reception to “Justice League.”

Man Of Steel 2” (Release date: TBD)
While “Man Of Steel” technically marks the first film in the new DC universe of movies, the treatment of the beloved Superman has been head-scratching, to say the least. Morose and reluctant at best, what should be the beacon of hope in the series is now…dead. Well, until he inevitably returns in “Justice League,” which presumably will pave the way for the next standalone movie for Superman. There’s no word yet on a screenwriter or director, but apparently, the project is in the works.

Suicide Squad 2” (Release date: TBD)
In development, but “Suicide Squad” didn’t leave anyone clamoring for more, and the lone highlight — Harley Quinn — now has her own franchise cooking.

If there is one takeaway, it’s the amount of TBD found on this list. Marvel may have just as many projects in various states of development, but again, they do a very good job of keeping that under wraps. As for DC Films, it’s hard to really tell what their game plan is, though it’s a safe bet not all of these projects will see the inside of a multiplex. It certainly seems like they’re moving in too many directions at once, going at full speed, but still trying to find the road they’re on. Ultimately, the proof will be in the movies themselves, but so far, the track record hasn’t been great, and the continued creative clashes don’t inspire confidence. But as it goes in Hollywood, perceptions will certainly change once they have one, unequivocal, and undeniable hit.