DC movie universe hit with fallout from 'Batman v Superman' disappointment
Posted May 23, 2016
The debate over the quality of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” will likely rage on at least until the next time the super-duo (or trio, to give Wonder Woman her due) appear on the big screen together again, but quality aside, Zack Snyder’s long, dark preamble to the Justice League was hardly the home run Warner Bros. or DC hoped for.
Early opening weekend box-office predictions had the film pegged to break all sorts of records — best ever opening weekend for a Warner Bros. movie, best ever March opening weekend, etc. However, when the dust settled, the haul was about $4 million less than anticipated, leaving almost all of the records still intact, according to Collider.
One record “Batman v Superman” did set, though? According to Forbes, the biggest Friday to Sunday drop for a modern superhero movie.
Worse still, the film was positively savaged by critics. Currently, its Rotten Tomatoes score sits at an abysmal 27 percent. (For comparison, Marvel’s worst-reviewed movie, “Thor: The Dark World,” has a 66 percent Fresh rating, according to the review aggregator website.)
As British GQ’s headline put it, “‘Batman v Superman’ will make you hate Batman, Superman and the Justice League.”
Now, it seems that the fallout from the grim and gritty superhero brawl's less-than-stellar reception might be starting to hit — especially now that Marvel's own "Civil War" has outperformed it in nearly every way imaginable — as the DC Extended Universe (or DCEU, as it’s being called) undergoes some potentially major internal shakeups.
First off, one of the Justice League’s core members was left director-less after Seth Grahame-Smith bolted from the standalone Flash movie, allegedly due to the oft-cited issue of “creative differences.”
According to The Wrap, however, the departure had less to do with creative vision and more to do with Grahame-Smith’s filmography — or relative lack thereof. A major contributor to Warner Bros.' upcoming slate of films as a writer, including on “The Flash,” Grahame-Smith was set to make his feature directorial debut with the superhero tentpole. His only previous experience as a director was two episodes of MTV’s “The Hard Times of RJ Berger,” which he co-created. With hundreds of millions of dollars on the line and the DCEU in a somewhat precarious position after “Batman v Superman,” it seems Warner Bros. may have reevaluated the idea of hiring an untested filmmaker.
“Warner Bros. is said to be pleased with Grahame-Smith’s script, but ultimately wanted a more experienced filmmaker guiding the production,” explained The Wrap.
Just days later, even more troubling rumors surfaced that director James Wan may also be contemplating jumping ship on DC’s upcoming Aquaman movie. According to Birth.Death.Movies, which cites “multiple reliable sources,” the “Conjuring” and “Furious 7” filmmaker is “feeling a tremendous amount of trepidation” about the comic book adaptation.
Part of that, say the reports, is due to Warner Bros.’ more hands-on involvement in the direction of the DC movie universe. The studio has “doubled down on all DC projects,” according to ComicBook.com, in an effort to right the ship before the whole thing breaks apart.
Wan responded to the rumors by tweeting a picture of himself leaning up against a mural depicting the Atlantean superhero, which has generally been interpreted as indication that — at least for now — he's still onboard.
Finally, in an attempt to rescue its already-in-development projects, Warner Bros. has appointed a few recognizable names to key executive positions. Deadline reports that Ben Affleck, who nabbed Warners a Best Picture win with "Argo," has been given an expanded role as an executive producer on the Snyder-directed "Justice League," joining his "Argo" scribe Chris Terrio as part of a brain trust to help steer the film.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' executive vice president, Jon Berg, and DC's chief creative officer, Geoff Johns, have stepped up to co-run the newly minted DC Films, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The two will oversee all future DC adaptations in a way very similar to Kevin Feige at Marvel.
But the real test of DC’s vision for its superhero megaverse may end up being this summer’s “Suicide Squad,” directed by David Ayer (“Fury”). This will be the first movie in the DCEU proper not helmed by Snyder or featuring a DC A-lister such as Superman or Batman. In that sense, it’s safe to compare it to one of Marvel’s riskiest movies to date, 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Unlike that movie, though, which proved to be a major hit with fans and critics alike, if “Suicide Squad” fails to win over audiences with its ragtag team of anti-heroes, DC doesn’t have much of a safety net in terms of other viable franchises.
Because of that, reports (via Slashfilm) that DC sent Ayer and his all-star cast back for millions of dollars’ worth of reshoots in order to tweak “Suicide Squad's” tone and lighten the mood are not altogether surprising — and not altogether inspiring, either.
“Suicide Squad” is slated to hit theaters Aug. 5. A Seth Grahame-Smith-less “The Flash” and a possibly James Wan-less “Aquaman” are, as of right now, still scheduled for release in March and July of 2018, respectively.
For an overview of what’s next for the DC cinematic universe, see “What’s next for the DC Cinematic Universe?"
Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website TheMovieScrutineer.com.