Over the course of the last two years, there’s been tons of Doom and Gloom coverage of the DC Universe and its films. It was right around this time in 2016 that we started hearing murmurs that the studio was worried that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn’t going to go over well with studio audiences, then shortly after that news broke that Suicide Squad was undergoing some major and costly reshoots, then there was disgruntled employee who shared their public outrage over the state of Wonder Woman, and Justice League…do I even have to recount what happened with Justice League?
Through it all, there’s been chatter about the franchise’s survival, whether or not it’s going to get soft rebooted, or hard rebooted, or scrapped altogether. During most of those conversations, the debate has centered on things like the franchise’s creative output and its reception by fans, critics, and accountants.
Through it all, the DCU has persisted. The behind-the-scenes drama has, at times, gotten ugly; The films reception of the films has been all over the place; The WB brass calling the shots has transformed considerably; And yet here we are, with Aquaman ready to unveil a trailer by the end of the month, with Shazam! in principal photography (you catch those leaked pics of Zachary Levi in costume?), and with Wonder Woman 2 shoring up its cast.
Yes, for some bright-eyed optimists out there- myself included- it feels like the DCU has survived a brutal couple of years, is getting itself back up off the ground, dusting itself off, and getting ready to soar.
And yet, the whole thing could end up dead for completely disconnected reasons.
At the moment, there’s a concerted effort by AT&T to purchase Time Warner, but the ramifications should the deal fall apart, could be seismic. According to a new report making the rounds, if the deal stalls out it could lead to Time Warner breaking up its assets into smaller chunks and selling them off individually- as Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner Broadcasting. DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros., and has been for nearly 50 years, so it’s likely that the property would end up where ever WB ends up.
In the event that someone else purchases WB/DC, the fate of franchise will now rest on who ever the new owner is. If it’s someone who has been watching from the sidelines as DC Entertainment has been getting publicly kicked around these last few years, they could very well step in and say they want to do something way more drastic than the gentle course-correction they’re currently amidst. To an outsider, the fact that Justice League fell so far short of what either Avengers movie did could make them think the entire franchise needs to be re-thought once the current crop of films are finished.
While there’s no telling how this situation is going to play out, this is a startling What If? scenario that we must all keep on our radars.
In recent years, we’ve seen major corporations pull the plug on franchises that were way better off than the DCU. Just look at Sony and their Amazing Spider-Man series. Neither one of those films flopped (TASM 2 made over $700 Million, something not even JL managed to do!) , they’d spent considerable time and resources mapping out an extensive expansion of the Spidey Universe, and they still decided to pull the plug and make a deal to reboot the character with Marvel Studios.
So things can be pretty cut-throat out there, and corporate hierarchies can have extremely short fuses.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out. At the moment, it’s safe to assume that Aquaman, Shazam!, and Wonder Woman 2 won’t be affected by anything regarding the sale if/when it takes place, and if they all turn a nice profit and are received well by the masses, then it’s highly unlikely we have anything to worry about. But if these movies start coming out and they’re rejected like certain other DCU projects, it could spell the end of the franchise as we know it.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.
This uncertainty, by the way, is why we’re unlikely to see any of the riskier DC films we’ve heard of for a while. I wouldn’t expect a Batgirl, Nightwing, Lobo, or anything like that until Batman, Superman, and The Flash get their next solo ventures up and running. And yes, I know I haven’t mentioned Suicide Squad 2 anywhere in this report, but that’s still on the way. The particulars are still unclear at the moment, but the last I heard it was still set to film later this year.