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DC’s Plan to Compete With Marvel Movies Is Facing Roadblocks

  • Warner Bros. Discovery wants to rebuild the DC universe in the mold of Marvel movies.
  • But it’s already facing roadblocks, with many different parties in the mix with their own visions.
  • The company has arguably done its own damage to the DC brand it says it wants to “protect.”

When Discovery and WarnerMedia merged this year to form Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, CEO of the new company, made rebuilding the DC movie franchise a priority.

“We have done a reset,” Zaslav said during an earnings call in August. “We’ve restructured the business where there will be a team with a 10-year plan focusing just on DC. It’s very similar to the structure that Alan Horn and Bob Iger put together very effectively with Kevin Feige at Disney.”

But since Warner Bros. Discovery took over, DC’s woes seem to be piling up. Forging a path to better compete with Marvel may be easier said than done, especially when it seems like there are so many different parties in the mix.

  • The Hollywood Reporter reported on Monday that “The Suicide Squad” director James Gunn is in talks for a secret movie with Warner Bros.
  • “The Batman” director Matt Reeves is looking to expand the world of the movie with villain-centric films, according to THR.
  • “Black Adam” star Dwayne Johnson has said he wants his character to fight Superman in a future movie, which would compete with a Black Superman movie written by essayist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
  • Warner Bros. confirmed a sequel to “Joker,” which exists outside the universes of any of those other projects.

DC has had some success in recent years, most recently with “The Batman,” which earned over $700 million worldwide. But if Warner Bros. Discovery wants to Marvel-ize DC and create a cohesive universe, the franchise is in a chaotic place to do so right now, with countless different projects in development that have nothing to do with one another and no clear vision for the future.

In other words, more of the same.

Dwayne Johnson in "Black Adam."

Dwayne Johnson in “Black Adam.”

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures



The DC movie universe is a mess right now

WBD didn’t take long to raise eyebrows, when it scrapped a $90 million “Batgirl” movie that was slated for HBO Max. Zaslav said during that earnings call that it’s the company’s job to “protect the DC brand” and defended theatrical releases, suggesting a streaming-first DC movie didn’t fit into the company’s plans.

At best, the move could be seen as a chance for a clean slate and to focus on the big-screen, bigger-budget movies that are the main priority for WBD. But those are causing their fair share of headaches already.

First up: “Black Adam” hits theaters this weekend, but is already receiving poor reviews with a 54% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. 

Johnson doesn’t seem to be vibing with Warner Bros. Discovery’s grand vision for the DC movie universe. 

“We don’t want to be Marvel, in my opinion,” Johnson told The New York Times in an interview published Monday. “We want to be DC and we want to do it our way.”

But Zaslav clearly wants to model DC after Marvel, and even hired Alan Horn — who was chair of Disney’s film studio during the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s past decade of domination — as a consultant.

Zaslav still hasn’t found his own Kevin Feige, though. The Marvel Studios president has shepherded the biggest movie franchise of all time, and by comparison, DC’s movies haven’t had the same kind of consistency at the box office.

The search for such an executive put DC movies president Walter Hamada on the outskirts, and Deadline reported on Wednesday that he had exited. But it wasn’t before Johnson reportedly riled the executive by going around him to get a high-profile cameo into “Black Adam” that Hamada had said no to.

That’s a lot of drama and upheaval. And I haven’t even mentioned “The Flash” yet.

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Ezra Miller as the Flash in “Justice League.”

Warner Bros.



The movie’s star, Ezra Miller, is facing up to 26 years in prison if convicted on charges of burglary and petit larceny, which they pleaded not guilty to in a Vermont court this week. 

But Warner Bros. is going full steam ahead with the $200 million movie. THR reported that a sequel script is already being written in case the movie performs well at the box office when it opens in June.

It’s fair to argue that Warner Bros. Discovery inherited much of this mess, and that it was always going to be an uphill, long-game battle to rebuild the DC franchise.

But by scrapping “Batgirl,” ousting Hamada, and backing “The Flash” and Miller so fervently, the company has done its own damage to the DC brand it so desperately wants to protect.


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