“We’ve done a reset.” That’s how Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav described DC on August 4, when it called for the closure of the $90 million HBO Max film Batgirl. Muggle said that there would now be a team that would draw up a “10-year” plan for DC, although it was unclear who was on that team.
And Zaslav took a dig at former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s strategy for developing direct-to-streaming movies. “We are going to focus on quality. We are not going to release any film before it is ready,” said the executive. “DC is something we can make better.”
Comments inside DC were not well received, according to several insiders who used the same word to describe members of the film division: “disturbing.” And DC Films president Walter Hamada nearly freaked out after learning about Batgirl’s shelving, before being convinced to at least hold off until the October 21 release of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. (That film had a June test screening, which included a new post-credits scene introducing a new element of Johnson’s place in the DC Universe.)
Before the sale of Warner to Discovery, Hamada was set to release three or four films a year. The executive was brought in in 2018 to design a new course for DC following a Zack Snyder-led road map in the wake of the disastrous release of Justice League in 2017.
Hamada’s plans are said to include a Crisis on Infinite Earths event, an original DC Comics story adapted for TV on The CW. Rumors spread about introducing the Secret Six, a villainous team that the Suicide Squad antagonists have been in the comics. More concretely, Warner had films based on Supergirl, Green Lantern Corps and Static Shock over the next few years, as well as a J.J. Black Superman film produced by Abrams by writer Ta-Nehi Coates. Growth has been slow, with none of these characteristics engaging directors.
Some key partners have received assurances that their projects are secure. Suicide Squad filmmaker James Gunn has several projects in development at DC, including season two of Peacemaker, which is moving forward. Insiders say Blue Beetle is also on track for an August 2023 release date, to topline a film starring Xolo Mariduna as DC’s first Latino superhero. After Batgirl’s cancellation, observers were apprehensive for the project, noting that it was slated for HBO Max at one point in time before being dramatically upgraded. The studio is fully moving forward with a Joker sequel, with Lady Gaga confirming she’s casting the morning of the WBD earnings call.
Zaslav turned heads when, among DC’s upcoming films, he highlighted an earnings call not only in Black Adam and Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom but also in The Flash, which starred actor Ezra Miller. “We’ve seen them. We think they’re awesome, and we think we can make them even better,” Zaslav said of those films. The optics weren’t good, days after Batgirl was axed, which would have been the first DC Extended Universe film to star a Latina, Leslie Grace.
Work continues on The Flash, which is testing well. Miller took part in regularly scheduled additional photography over the summer, apparently without incident, before being charged with theft — his third arrest this year — in Vermont on August 7. Still, neither DC nor Zaslav have indicated that the film will go ahead with a June 2023 release date, although insiders say the studio is evaluating all options.