The past few years have resulted in a very mixed bag for DC superhero fans. We’ve seen Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson sharing their takes on Batman. Joaquin Phoenix and Heath Ledger won Academy Awards for two very different Jokers. Jared Leto became a punchline for his “Suicide Squad” take on the clown prince of crime. The DC universe has offered films that are silly or scary, light or dark, standalone or seemingly connected. Even a film like “Justice League” was essentially made twice, with very different outcomes.
If Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is to be believed, those days are over. The company has a team working on a 10-year plan for the DC superhero group. Each movie will be released theatrically, with none of them going direct-to-streaming.
During the company’s Q2 earnings call, Zaslav could barely hide his disdain for the state of the franchise.
“We think that we could build a long-term much stronger, sustainable growth business out of DC,” Zaslav said. “And as part of that, we’re going to focus on quality, we’re not going to release any film before it’s ready, we’re not going to release a film to make a quarter. The focus is going to be: how do we make each of these films… as good as possible? But DC is something that we think we could make better and we’re focused on it now. “
“We have some great DC films coming up: 'Black Adam,' 'Shazam,' and 'Flash.' And we’re working on all of those, we’re very excited about him. We’ve seen them, we think they’re terrific. And we think we can make them even better.”
Zaslav addressed the now-canceled “Batgirl” and “Wonder Twins” projects. “We’re not going to put a movie out unless we believe in it. And that’s it. I mean particularly with DC where we think we want to pivot and we want to elevate and we want to focus,” Zaslav said.
Is it possible to replicate the outsized success of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe? It’s impossible to say, but Marvel had the benefit of Jon Favreau setting the tone with 2008’s “Iron Man” and the careful stewardship of Kevin Feige as the various franchises built toward the apex of “Avengers: Endgame.” Even the MCU may be showing some wear and tear in the post-Thanos era, with some franchise fatigue setting in as Disney+ milks the genre with so many limited series.
If Warner Bros. Discovery has the right team and can give them enough leeway to find their stride, we could be entering the next great era of superhero films. But given the history of David Zaslav, the cash register will matter significantly more than the critical reception.
“Our job is to protect the DC brand,” Zaslav said, “and that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Recent DC Superhero Films
March 1, 2022
In his second year of fighting crime, Batman (Robert Pattinson) uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano).
The cast includes Zoë Kravitz (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Jeffrey Wright (James Gordon), Colin Farrell (Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot/Penguin), and Andy Serkis (Alfred Pennyworth).
The film was directed and written by Matt Reeves.
July 28, 2021
Supervillains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.
March 18, 2021
Determined to ensure Superman’s ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne aligns forces with Diana Prince with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions.
February 5, 2020
Harley Quinn joins forces with a singer, an assassin and a police detective to help a young girl who had a hit placed on her after she stole a rare diamond from a crime lord.
July 6, 2018
Once home to the most advanced civilization on Earth, Atlantis is now an underwater kingdom ruled by the power-hungry King Orm. With a vast army at his disposal, Orm plans to conquer the remaining oceanic people and then the surface world. Standing in his way is Arthur Curry, Orm’s half-human, half-Atlantean brother and true heir to the throne.
November 15, 2017
Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince assemble a team of metahumans consisting of Barry Allen, Arthur Curry and Victor Stone to face the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and the Parademons who are on the hunt for three Mother Boxes on Earth.
August 3, 2016
From DC Comics comes the Suicide Squad, an antihero team of incarcerated supervillains who act as deniable assets for the United States government, undertaking high-risk black ops missions in exchange for commuted prison sentences.