In 2013, Warner Bros. released not just a franchise-starter, but a brand new cinematic universe. Take that, Marvel Studios. Your MCU is so hot? Well, here’s our own thing. We’re making direct sequels, spin-offs, sequels to those spin-offs, spin-offs from other sequels. Critics are loving it. Audiences are eating it up. We’ve mastered the tonal consistency and ensured people don’t need to have seen every movie in our little cinematic universe to be able to enjoy the latest entry. Each new movie is standalone and any connective tissue is subtle and just there for the hardcore fans who will appreciate it.
Also in 2013, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel.
You probably realized I wasn’t actually talking about the DCEU in that first paragraph. If not, the “Critics are loving it”/“Audiences are eating it up” part is a dead giveaway. I was actually referring to The Conjuring universe.
In one of those supremely odd coincidences of fate, The Conjuring and Man of Steel happened to come out in the same year. The former, produced by WB subsidiary New Line, launched a cinematic universe almost by accident; the other eventually tried to jam one down our throats and is now choking on its own hubris and lack of direction. However, as luck would have it one of the people most chiefly responsible for The Conjuring universe, which just launched the marketing campaign for its latest entry, The Nun, is now in charge of the DCEU.
Meet Walter Hamada.
He joined New Line 11 years, starting in the company as Senior Vice President of Production. Prior to that, he’d spent time as a manager-producer at the production company H2F Entertainment, an assistant at TrisStar, and VP of Production at Columbia.
At New Line, he managed to do the Blumhouse horror thing just with somewhat bigger budgets and much, much bigger returns. According to Deadline, “Through four movies, The Conjuring franchise (including Annabelle) has reaped $1.2 billion worldwide off combined production costs that are under $82M. It was also a huge success for New Line and WB, raking in close to $700M off a $35M production cost following a launch during the post-Labor Day dead period at the box office.”
This, of course, is simply the latest move WB has undertaken to salvage its fledgling DC universe. After Batman v Superman, longtime DC movie producer Charles Roven was Hollywood-fired meaning he gets to continue earning ceremonial credits but is effectively done. Ben Affleck was leaned on to provide more input, not as an actor but as a director. Geoff Johns and John Berg were officially put in charge, looking to become the Kevin Feige (creative head) and David Maisel (money guy) of the DC Universe.
Two years and two movies later, one a transcendent hit (Wonder Woman), the other an embarrassment (Justice League), Affleck wants out and both Johns and Berg have been demoted. Berg was actually pushed out 7 months ago. Johns, as was reported just 2 days ago, is segueing into a producing pact with the studio, meaning he still gets to work with WB on DC movies and TV shows and maybe some non-DC properties as well, but he’s not in a leadership role anymore. That job now firmly and completely belongs to Hamada. So, what he’s planning to do?
Take it easy. Develop some of the lesser-known properties. Stop over-promising by announcing 10 different release dates years into the future. Respond to what the audience actually seems to like as well as what they don’t like. And plan for life with someone other than Affleck playing Batman.
As such, the only projects with set release dates are as follows:
- Aquaman (12/21)
- Shazam (4/5/19 )
- Wonder Woman 2 (11/1/19)
Wonder Woman 2 begins shooting today. In fact, there are already plot spoilers from the set.
Others film set to go into production soon include:
- The Todd Phillips Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix is due to start shooting in the fall. Hamada has handed them a modest $55m budget and plans to carry the film under a still-to-be-decided new banner, either “DC Dark” or “DC Black.”
- John Francis Daly and Jonathan Goldstein’s Flash movie is due to finally go before cameras early next year. The earlier talk of it being a dark, continuity-resetting Flashpoint tale has now given way to talk of making something more Back to the Future-inspired in tone.
Also still in development:
- Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey, which has a director and screenplay
- Batgirl, which lost Joss Whedon but gained Bumblebee’s Christina Hodson as the writer
- Matt Reeves Batman script is now said to be a third of the way finished and focuses on a “young caped crusader. THR elaborated: “While the studio would not comment, it’s unlikely that Ben Affleck, who has played Batman in three features, will again don the cowl”
- A Jared Leto Joker movie…for some reason.
Curiously absent in the THR report is any reference to Suicide Squad 2, Green Lantern Corps, The Rock’s Black Adam, Justice League Dark, Lobo, Man of Steel 2, Deadshot, Deathstroke, or any of the various other DC properties thought to be in development.
There will be no writer’s room, though. Walter has a specific design for the universe,” says one insider familiar with his thinking. “He has a plan.” That plan doesn’t include using the same writer’s room model that’s become so popular as Hollywood looks to turn more of its films into glorified TV show episodes.
Good for him, but does the continued existence of a proposed Jared Leto Joker movie invalidate everything Hamada has done so far? Let me know in the comments.