During the climax of “The Flash”, Barry Allen played by Ezra Miller is helpless as he witnesses his timeline disrupt causing several superhero universes to clash into one another and disintegrate with it. The Warner Bro. is also in the midst of a similar issue, while the stakes are extremely dangerous.
This year, Warner Bro. has already released two of the four adaptations of the DC Comics this year. All four movies, starting from “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” released in March and “The Flash” released in June, have been helmed by an executive team that has left the studio. “Blue Beetle” will be released in August and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” in December. The new team consists of James Gunn and Peter Safran who will be the new chiefs of DC Studios. They confirmed that the DC franchise will be rebooted in 2025 with Gun’s “Superman: Legacy”.
Warners have hit rock bottom as it’s yet to be released DC films are left stray in a fading cinematic universe, but the studio still expects moviegoers to see them in a large way. According to experts, the cost of the production and marketing for these four movies lies between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion completely.
A source from a competing studio said, “It’s a perhaps unavoidable but terrible case of timing. Audiences don’t feel like they must invest two hours of their life because it’s not going to matter going forward.”
However, “Shazam! 2” has successfully grossed $133 million worldwide, and “The Flash” expectedly opened with $55 million in the US and Canada, earning up to $135.7 million globally on June 19, and nowhere a film of this standard and cost is required to rival the costs.
A veteran who has contributed to a large number of projects said, “The movie should be opening at $120 million domestic. This is an unmitigated disaster.”
The “Flash” franchise alone has undergone several controversies due to its starring actor, Ezra Miller. At the photos-only premiere this month, Miller hasn’t come before the public since August, when he expressed his regret to “everyone that I have alarmed and upset with my past behaviour” as he worked accused of misconduct, abuse and assault due to “complex mental health issues.” Replacing Christopher Plummer with Miller was a financial nonstarter for Warners. In the film, Miller plays two versions of Barry and in almost every sequence of the film he was the only one to be seen. The studio was cautioned; as they already had Miller’s video of choking a woman in Iceland on April 20 which was much after the production of “The Flash” began.
To control the damage, Warners spent on TV spots at the NBA finals, as well as director Andy Muschietti gave several interviews to preserve Miller’s reputation. In January, Gun expressed the film as “one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen”, while at the CinemaCon organized in April, David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, did not encourage “The Flash” as “the best superhero movie.”
“When they called it ‘the greatest superhero movie’ — if it’s not correct, you’re setting yourself up to fail. In this environment, it’s better to under promise and over deliver”, said the executive of a competing studio.
The biggest threat for the Warners is the possibility that the fans are uninterested in the entire DC Cinematic Universe.
In the past 10 years, the studio has made about 55 movies adapting to the DC Comics, most of which are mega-franchises depending on what fans like despite the superhero in the title. “The Flash” is associated with events and characters from “Justice League” to “Aquaman,” and, for its own closing act, it is highly dependent on the climax of 2013’s “Man of Steel”.
Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock said, “When you have a film set in a multiverse, it’s asking the audience to recall past films instead of shutting off their brain and enjoying what’s in front of them.” Domestically on its opening weekend, “The Flash” joined other titles that are a part of the extended DC universe, including “Black Adam” ($67 million) and “Aquaman” ($68 million), while “Joker” grossing $96 million and “The Batman” $134 million, are Warner’s stand-alone films with no relation to anything.
Bock said, “Batman is so strong on its own, it doesn’t really need to be tied down with these other characters.” Although Gunn and Safran are preparing for the same; ‘Batman: The brave and the bold’ is to be directed by Muschietti, which is among one of 10 movies and TV DC titles to make a Cinematic Universe roughly by 2027 including Gun’s supermajority “Superman.”
Moreover, Warners and DC are set on a very tight path. Gunn recently stated that the titular character of “Blue Beetle” is “the first DCU character” capable of saving the movie from failure and yet makes into a cinematic universe that could interest the audience. Further, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” will be the final instalment of the old DC universe for the better, but the question remains whether it could approach the $1.1 billion global box office of 2018’s “Aquaman”.
In the end, quality is considered to be the ice-breaking factor. One executive said, “There can be audience fatigue when it comes to the obligation of having to watch 20 movies to understand a new one. But it doesn’t matter when the movie is good.”