Lest anyone think that Marvel is the only film studio with multiyear plans to keep moviegoers thigh-deep in capes and spandex, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced his studio’s upcoming slate of DC Comics adapted properties, a plan that stretches out to 2020. And so the eternal war between DC and Marvel — which both companies pretend isn’t a thing but totally is a thing — continues apace.
Despite the critical and box office success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, one gets the sense that Warners was caught flat-footed by the stupefying success of The Avengers and the obvious-in-retrospect idea that characters that team up in the comics might find success teaming up on the big screen. Nolan’s Batman Begins hit theaters in the summer of 2005. Iron Man, the movie that began Marvel Studios’ eventual march to The Avengers and beyond, dropped in 2008. 2011’s Green Lantern was Warners’ first attempt at widening the scope of its DC Universe, but that movie was such a disappointment that its sequels were quietly shelved and Warners reportedly instituted a “no jokes” policy partially as a response to it. (Which should probably just be a “No Ryan Reynolds” policy, but that is neither here nor there.) By the time Green Lantern came out, Marvel had already released an Iron Man sequel (it sucked, but was a hit), a Hulk movie, and a Thor movie, and was just about to release a Captain America movie.
What I’m saying — and what I’m sure Warners Bros. execs say to themselves now that they’re getting laid off and have all sorts of time to rue missed opportunities — is that Warners should’ve beaten Marvel1 to that sweet superhero team-up cash and should’ve done so by several years.
Both Marvel and Grantland are owned by the Walt Disney Co.
Seeking to engender the same creative nimbleness that Marvel Studios has by being, essentially, Marvel Comics’ in-house movie studio, Warners is in the process of transporting DC Comics root and stem and branch from New York City to Los Angeles, a move that should be completed by 2015. In the meantime, if you live in L.A. and have 15 years’ experience in the comics industry and a BA in marketing, you can apply to be DC’s vice-president of sales. Feel free to use me as a reference. All I ask in return is free comic books.
But enough sausage-making: Let’s run through the next few years and talk about these movies.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
We all know about this one: directed by the king of understatement, Zack Snyder; Affleck as a crusty, middle-aged Bruce Wayne; Henry Cavill reprising his role as dreamboat-alien Jesus; the long-awaited first screen appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. (Aside: My favorite line from the Fast & Furious series is Gal Gadot purring, “This is who we are,” then firing a grappling hook at a cargo plane while hanging halfway out of the passenger-side window of a sports car. No way anything she does as Wonder Woman is even half as turnt as that scene.)
This was a surprise! The Suicide Squad has had a few different incarnations in DC lore, but the most influential was the John Ostrander–penned series that ran for 66 issues starting in 1987. The Suicide Squad is essentially the superhero version of the Dirty Dozen, a rotating collection of super-criminals, ne’er-do-wells, and mercenary scum, assembled and managed by black-ops desk jockey Amanda Waller and tasked with taking covert missions too dangerous for anyone else. If you need a job done, and you don’t need the whole team to come back alive, you send the Suicide Squad. Classic members include Deadshot, the ultimate killer for hire; Rick Flag Jr., military man and the Squad’s field leader; Bronze Tiger, a crack martial artist; and Captain Boomerang, a sleazeball Aussie criminal racist asshole who wears what looks like a naval uniform festooned with boomerangs. Fury’s David Ayer will direct, which is interesting because, like, can David Ayer make a PG-13 movie?
Warners/DC beats Marvel to a stand-alone vehicle for a female superhero! And loooooooong overdue. This is a nice development for a company that’s stumbled from self-inflicted sexist controversy to licensee-inflicted sexist controversy in recent years. Heck, recent weeks. Film Diana (Gal Gadot) will apparently be adapted from DC’s New 52 version of the classic character, meaning that instead of being an Amazonian princess, she will be the demigod daughter of the Greek god Zeus. No word on the invisible plane. This would be a good point to recall that Avengers writer/director and general nerd bodhisattva Joss Whedon spent two years on a Wonder Woman script back in the mid-aughts only to have Warners pull the plug.
The Justice League Part One
Zack Snyder in the house and so many buildings are going to be destroyed, y’all! This is Warners’ answer to The Avengers, and better late than never. Affleck and Cavill reprise their roles as Batman and Superman. Amy Adams is the intrepid Lois Lane. No word on which non-Superman/Batman members will appear in the film, but one can safely assume the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg, because they all have movies coming up after this. Unless something goes very, very wrong, this movie will make all kinds of money.
The Flash has actually found a nice home on the CW, spinning out of Arrow into his own series, which stars Grant Gustin as speedster Barry Allen. The Flash was the third-highest-rated show in its Tuesday-night time slot, behind The Voice and NCIS, a show no one I know has ever seen. Warners decided against vertical integration, however, and recast the role with Ezra Miller, probably best known for playing Patrick in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the spree murderer Kevin in the chilling-as-fuck We Need to Talk About Kevin. Hopefully this movie will answer, once and for all, who is faster: the Flash or Superman. (It’s the Flash.)
I never thought I’d see the day that someone would make an honest-to-god Aquaman movie considering the humiliating meta-ethering the character received at the hands of Entourage. From a non-comics perspective, the character is a joke. The whole reason you pick Aquaman as the fictional star vehicle for the execrable dumb-fuck ur-dude-bro Vincent Chase is because Aquaman just seems lame. He speaks to fish. He’s a good swimmer. Wow. The guy probably smells like rotten ass, sea salt, and barnacles.
Those are misconceptions. He’s the king of Atlantis and gets to wield the magical Trident of Neptune. In recent iterations he variously had a harpoon for a hand and a hand made of magical water. He’s extremely strong as his body is perfectly at home in the darkest ocean depths. Also, casting ex–Khal Drogo Jason Momoa should help Aquaman shed his weak-ass underwater Beach Boy dolphin-riding image.
My dream for Aquaman in the DC movies is for David S. Goyer to write him as a militant environmentalist who’s always trying to convince the Justice League to attack SeaWorld (“By Neptune, it’s a concentration camp!”) and who refuses to speak to Batman because he detonated Bane’s nuclear bomb over the ocean at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.
I went deep on Shazam here. Lots of Shazams.
The Justice League Part Two
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Zack Snyder returns to destroy whatever is left.
Cyborg! In his original comics iteration, Cyborg is the former entirely organic human Victor Stone. One day, Victor was terribly mauled by a monster from another dimension, as is wont to happen in comic books. His father, an accomplished scientist, saved Victor’s life by implanting various cybernetic prostheses into his body, thus creating Cyborg. Which raises the question: Isn’t Cyborg’s dad the real superhero? Usually associated with the Teen Titans, Cyborg is a member of the Justice League as of DC’s New 52 universe-wide reboot. His mechanical body can change shape and he can interface with and communicate with computers. Relative unknown stage actor Ray Fisher will play Victor and will reportedly also appear in Batman v. Superman. This will be the first stand-alone superhero movie featuring an African American lead since Blade, which kind of makes one wonder if Marvel is ever going to sack up and make the Black Panther movie.
This has been placed as far away in time from the Reynolds bomb as possible so as not to be associated with it. There are several comics Lanterns to choose from, but I’m guessing Warners goes, again, with Hal Jordan, arguably the most famous of all the Green Lanterns. Full disclosure: I’ve always hated Green Lantern. He’s essentially a space cop and for me will always be the quasi-fascist ignorant dweeb of the landmark Green Lantern/Green Arrow series by Dennis O’Neil. Also, his powers just kind of suck. He can create stuff from his ring. Big deal. Basically his power is Minecraft.