The success of Aquaman and Wonder Woman shows that DC is making the right move retooling its game plan to focus on solo films.
Back in its infancy, the DC Films universe started out with the Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer-produced Man of Steel. Warner Bros. landed visionary director Zack Snyder to helm the Superman reboot and eventually cast Henry Cavill to be the next Man of Tomorrow. In June 2013, Man of Steel was released to mostly positive reviews, but with a great divide on the fact that Superman’s journey throughout the entire film had him morose and even forced him to become a murderer.
Although audiences were divided on how Superman should be portrayed, Man of Steel garnered enough of a profit for Warner Bros. to green-light a sequel. A month after the release of Man of Steel, Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder made a surprise appearance at San Diego Comic-Con to announce that Batman v Superman would be the next installment and the next chapter of the DC Extended Universe. Time went on, and it was eventually announced that Ben Affleck would be the new Batman. It was also revealed that Wonder Woman would be included in the film, with Gal Gadot portraying the heroine. It was clear that Batman v Superman would be DC’s launching pad to really expand its cinematic universe after Man of Steel.
With Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in motion, Warner Bros. felt confident enough to make a solidified slated that included Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, Shazam! and Green Lantern. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were greeted with horrendous reviews upon release but gained just enough at the box office for the DC Extended Universe to limp on to its future, and that future just so happened to be Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman and DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers, Justice League, were officially green-lit after the introductions of Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the team in Batman v Superman were a success.
When Wonder Woman was released there were a lot of skittish fans. A lot of people thought Warner Bros. and DC didn’t have it in them to make another great film after The Dark Knight. The film was screened to the press early on and low and behold it quickly became the DC Extended Universe’s crown jewel. The film was critically acclaimed. It was fresh. It was the first superhero film in decades that focused on a female hero and it showed studios that the world was ready to break from the normative standards of what a hero is.
Wonder Woman was masterful from beginning to end. It had heart, charisma and the acting was off the charts. But, most importantly, the plot had focus. The film focused on Wonder Woman, giving us her story and a reason to care about her. This was brilliant, as opposed to how Warner Bros. and DC gave us Suicide Squad and Justice League by throwing characters in a group, trying their best to force us to feel something for them that we just can’t and hoping for the best.
Wonder Woman was DC Films’ first great movie and it made a hell of a lot of money at the box office because of it. The final tally has the film at $821 million worldwide. The studio green-lit and fast-tracked a sequel titled Wonder Woman 1984 that is set to wrap soon and hit theaters in June 2020. Now, Aquaman looks to do the same thing as Wonder Woman and I expect it will have even greater results.
Like Wonder Woman, Aquaman is hitting theaters following the release of another dumpster fire from DC Films, Justice League. Although the DC team-up was a critical disgrace, Jason Momoa’s portrayal of the future King of the Seven Seas was definitely the biggest standout from the film. The nervousness for DC to get another hit with Aquaman was at an all-time high. The trailers were doing a great job getting people invested. Fans were probably more skittish about Aquaman than Wonder Woman, but it’s a movie helmed by mastermind horror director James Wan and that easily won them over. Closer to its release, Aquaman began receiving a ton of positive buzz as it slowly started screening for critics and fans. All of the reactions from the film are mostly positive and while it wasn’t as welcomed as Wonder Woman, Aquaman’s consensus is that it’s a really fun time at the movies.
Aquaman is a tried and true tale of the hero’s journey. It’s about a man who comes from two worlds. That rings true for the character and the actor who plays Arthur Curry, an Atlantean and Human, as Jason Momoa is also of mixed race. Arthur Curry has pretty much given up on Atlantis as they have shunned him and taken his mother from him. That is until something happens that leads him on an adventure to become the hero and king he is meant to be. The film is fun, focused, breathtakingly beautiful and it’s the most unique superhero film I have ever witnessed.
Warner Bros. made the brilliant decision to release Aquaman early in China and the rest of the world. The film is already breaking records and every major box office analyst is predicting it could cross the $1 billion mark. Aquaman made its debut in North America this past Thursday and though it has a lot of competition, it will more than likely become the king of the box office this holiday weekend. There are already early talks of a sequel, and with the way things are going, Warner Bros. and DC will have a major franchise on their hands and may want to fast-track it as they did with the Princess of Themyscira.
With all of the proven results critically and financially that DC Films has made off of solo films like Man of Steel, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Warner Bros. may want to focus on these more self-contained stories going forward as this is where this cinematic universe’s success lays. Warner Bros. and DC Films may have gotten the hint as their efforts have seemed to drift towards developing films like Zatanna, Blue Beetle, Supergirl, The Flash, The Batman, Batgirl, Booster Gold and even Plastic Man. But, there may be a few stagnant pieces with The Flash and Superman being put on the back-burner, as both are going through quite a lot of behind-the-scenes issues.
The Flash was delayed due to Ezra Miller’s involvement in another Warner Bros. franchise, Fantastic Beasts, and adjustments were needed for the film’s script, which was initially expected to adapt the popular Flashpoint story arc by Geoff Johns. Superman is a much different case due to the fact that there is simply no deal between Henry Cavill and the studio for the movie. Warner Bros. believes the best bet is to focus on Supergirl going forward with a new actor as the Man of Steel. Of course, the whole Superman situation might just be negotiating in the press for the studio or Cavill to score the right deal. And as the DC fan base waits for that to work itself out, the start date for The Batman seems to keep getting pushed back as Matt Reeves looks to get the script right, though the studio hopes to get the ball rolling in 2019. With Ben Affleck out, 2019 should also be the year Warner Bros. finds its next Caped Crusader.
The solution to Warner Bros’ problem is very simple. Instead of sidetracking heroes like The Flash and Superman they should be putting them at the forefront and fast-tracking them into production. WB should heavily invest in the heroes they have given us and own their mistakes as opposed to developing a variety of new adaptations. This will allow new personal stories about the characters we’ve gotten to know and will give us a sense of emotional attachment. Only then will Warner Bros. and DC Films will earn the right to launch the team-up film we’ve always wanted.
Aquaman is now playing in theaters.