Batgirl is canceled, The wonder Twins is canceled (again thank goodness), David Sazlav President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery is looking for a 10-year plan for DC comics-based films and according to recent reports is leaning towards building on the universe that started with Zack Snyder. Fresh reporting is that a proposed Super Girl Movie is probably not happening and I would seriously not hold your breath for the proposed multiverse adventure of a black Superman.
These moves are being painted by some as an assault on diversity. Did you know the actor who was set to play Batgirl is Latina? And that the same is true of Supergirl? If you think that David Sazlav really focussed on the ethnicity of the actors involved when making budget and studio direction decisions, then I think you are looking for something to be upset about. The owners of Warner Brothers Studios have no obligation to release movies that it does not feel are up to standard or fit within a narrative simply for the sake of featuring Latina actors.
When the studio changed hands it should have been expected that some of the plans in place for new series and movie development would be put on hold. It happens all the time. Do you know how many Batman movies have been proposed and dropped before they got to the development stage? Do you think that the proposed Superman film starring Nicholas Cage didn’t get off the ground because Cage is white? No. It’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
Warner Brothers had seemingly no idea what it was doing with the DC Universe on the big screen and only a passing idea of what was going on via the small screen. While no company is beholden to use the same strategy that Disney/Marvel has in order to market comic-book characters one thing is for sure. Their approach worked. Starting Iron Man Marvel Studios built what is undoubtedly the most successful franchise in movie history, The MCU. And Since the launch of Disney+ fans have seen it expanded upon further on the small screen. Every story bleeds into the other building an interconnected universe that mirrors what fans see on the printed page. Aside from the mess that is the Sony Universe. Every character from any show or movie can interact without having to explain why, because they all live in the same place.
In that same time period, DC’s valuable IP has been a terribly utilized asset. Over at DC the past 10 years and more has seen a number of spitball approaches that neither built its brand or momentum. Projects like Pennyworth (an origin story about Batman’s butler), Krypton (an origin story about Superman’s bloodline), Gotham (an origin story for Batman and Commissioner Gordan), The CW’s Arrowverse featuring Superman, Batwoman (with non-cannon stars) Green Arrow and the Flash. And let’s not forget The Doom Patrol, Titans, Star Girl, Super Girl, and Constantine. Many of these projects started off completely separately from each other, on separate networks and apps, and were unrelated to each other. After years of disconnected stories, the studio tried mightily to connect their various storyline via the Crisis on Infinite Earths TV crossover. DC seemed in general to feel that there was no need for continuity. And you know what that did? It created deep confusion. DCs approach to movies was pilloried in a self-aware parody during the Teen Titans Go movie. The studio has fired its executives and creative people so often new hires may as well have written their names on the door in pencil. Under new management, this is set to change.
David Sazlav, who is firmly in charge of Warner Brothers Discovery, is looking to take better care of the DC Comics brand going forward. Will he make the right decisions? Time will tell. But his decision to stop some of the proposed series and movies in their tracks after evaluating them is hardly uncommon for Hollywood. Keep in mind, it was not Sazlav that screwed the pooch with the director shakeup on Justice League, not Sazlav that totally changed the direction of Batman from the proposed Ben Affleck-led project to a complete reboot. These were all things the studio did before he brought out his proverbial red pen.
The result of all of DCs stopping and starting is two Superman movies that were poorly received, two completely different versions of Batman, two different versions of the same blasted Justice League movie, two poorly received Suicide Squad movies, a Harley Quin movie that could not figure out its own title, a version of Green Lantern that the star of the movie disavows, one beloved Wonder Women film with one panned sequel, along with Aqua Man and Shazam.
Maybe it was time for someone to slam on the brakes and say “what the hell are doing here?”
If the performance of Black Adam matches the buzz and the Shazam sequel captures the imagination of the movie viewing public then DC will have some building blocks to work with. Outside of the fact that its star seems to be a total psycho, The Flashpoint movie seems to be set for success. So far it appears that the Jason Memoa-led Aqua Man sequel is going to hit the screens as well. And by stopping the release of Batgirl, which reportedly had poor test screenings, the studio might be able to stop the whiplash effect that dogged it before the merger with a strong performer being followed up by something that failed to deliver. DC executives will also not have to explain where Batgirl fits in with Ben Affleck’s Batman or if it is related to Matt Reeve’s The Batman universe etc. or if it is a totally separate story.
David Sazlav may have a good idea going forward, or he might bring in the wrong people and continue to build on the narrative of confounding decisions and unmet potential. But he deserves a chance to try and right the ship without being pilloried in the media and put up with finger-wagging about what a “Bad look” it is to cancel Latina-led projects. Let’s see where they go from here. Warning though. Do not expect to see any DC-related project that it not already airing and drawing an audience to go forward. It looks like the new plan is quality over quantity. WB does not have to make DC-based movies and TV shows. But if it is going to, it needs to stop fooling around and haphazardly releasing projects that fail. Because it paints a narrative that movies based on DC are no good. Let’s see what these guys have in mind before blasting them and virtue signaling.