Shit is going down at WB and the DCEU.
On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter broke the story that DCEU lead Geoff Johns is going to be moving away from the superhero extended universe and into his own producing contract with the studio. Slipping into his shoes as DC Entertainment's film President is Walter Hamada, who helped oversee a string of horror hits at New Line with The Conjuring series. It goes without saying - especially after the Justice League production/box office debacle/disappointment, that Hamada has inherited a disaster zone, and now has to clean it all up.
In a new article over at The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog, it sounds like the new Prez has been doing quite a bit of research:
"According to insiders, Hamada has spent months going over the projects in development, culling certain ones, elevating others, keeping an eye on the big marquee heroes while also developing lesser-known characters that could pop big."
There's only one entry into the DCEU hitting for the rest of 2018 - James Wan's Aquaman - before Shazam! and then Wonder Woman 2 (which the report also notes just went in front of cameras today). After that, the slate is essentially clean, with a few projects in development, but not 100% quite ready to roll.
The most obvious question is: will there still be two Joker movies or not? We've made a ton of jokes about the dueling takes on the clown prince of crime - one from supposed filmmaker Todd Phillips (inexplicably starring actual artist Joaquin Phoenix and backed by the GOAT Martin Scorsese), and another showcasing Jared Leto, in a spin-off on the character from popular cinematic turd, Suicide Squad.
It actually sounds like Phillips' Joker project has somehow found a way to push forward first, as Heat Vision notes it is:
"...expected to begin shooting in the fall, is budgeted at about $55 million, a fraction of most superhero pics, and may be launched under a new label that could be branded with a name like "DC Dark" or "DC Black."
While the budget and start date make Phillips' movie appear like it's all but a lock, the proposed "DC Dark"/"DC Black" label sounds like the "New Coke" of the superhero cinema world. Essentially, the label on the bottle may have changed, but it's still the same trash sugar water that will give you a disease that you'll end up losing a leg to.
However, the DCEU (if it still likes to be identified as such following this change-over) might be offering up a sort of "taster's challenge" for their audience, as the proposed Flash movie (which is no longer titled Flashpoint, apparently) is being helmed by Game Night directors John Francis Daly and Jonathan Goldstein, who are "looking to Back to the Future as a touchstone". Anybody who saw Game Night (which, as Andrew pointed out during our "Best of the Year Thus Far" Picks list) knows that it's one of the best studio comedies in ages, directed with an assured, slick eye, where the jokes are actually structured into the narrative, as opposed to just being a collection of long takes filled with obnoxious ad-libbing.
There's also going to a collection of female-focused projects following the overwhelming success of Wonder Woman. Margot Robbie - whose Harley Quinn has become one of the few bright spots to come out of David Ayer's otherwise putrid Suicide Squad - is going to lend her now Oscar-nominated talents to that character again, headlining Birds of Prey from director Cathy Yan (whose Dead Pigs Evan was a fan of at this year's Sundance). Meanwhile, though Batgirl lost Joss Whedon in February, it gained a screenwriter in Bumblebee's Christina Hodson. So, the studio's putting smart, talented women in to try and direct the IPs that require their worldview, which is great news.
But what the fuck's up with Batman? There have been rumors circulating that Ben Affleck is out for a while now, and his signing to make another movie with apparent Suicide Squad 2 director Gavin O'Connor makes you wonder if either are going to remain at the DCEU. Well, HV makes it sound like Reeves is putting the Batfleck debate to bed, as the writer/director just turned in the first act of a new script over Memorial Day Weekend, which is said to revolve around a "young caped crusader" (blech), which will obviously no longer involve the aging, samurai-tattooed Affleck anymore if true. No word on whether or not The Penguin will be involved (which was the rumor before), as the studio refused comment on the situation.
Here's the thing: it sounds like the projects where creators are potentially rebooting characters (Phillips' Joker, time travel Flash, Reeves' Yung Batman) are about equal in number to the spin-offs using pre-existing talent (Wonder Woman 2, Birds of Prey, Leto's Joker), with Aquaman being sort of a strange outlier (as Momoa was obviously in previous movies, but never under Wan's direction). One could picture WB and DC continuing to test with waters with each approach until audiences make them decide which direction to go - continue the old DCEU, or blow it all up and start again - simply by voting with their dollars. Honestly, that seems highly unlikely, at least in terms of having two Joker movies, as even those of us who follow this poppy cinema for a living get confused by their conflicting existences.
On a purely personal front, this writer hopes that WB/DC hits the big red "Reset" button and let some new artists become Nolanesque grandfathers of specific franchises, possibly without relying on the Extended Universe model that Marvel has mastered (though that too seems unlikely, given Hamada's success with The Conjuring, and the general affection for the business trend studios share). Reeves already proved he could craft one of the greatest reboots of all time with his two Planet of the Apes sequels (which still stands as a miracle of modern mainstream entertainment), while Goldstein and Daley had a hand penning one of the best Spider-Man entries with Homecoming. So, the pieces seem to be in place, and Hamada just has to figure out now how to cannily position them in order to create a commercially and critically successful puzzle.