Over the last two decades, comic book movies have become the most reliable tentpoles out there. As Disney swallows up Fox and capitalizes on Sony characters, there's really only Warner Bros. out there as its direct competition. Marvel versus DC.
But Marvel has the obvious and greatest lead imaginable—20-plus movies in an interconnected universe grossing billions of dollars. Until recently, DC looked far behind. But with movies like Matt Reeves's The Batman and Todd Philip's Joker, they've swung the pendulum back a bit. Nipping at the heels. But DC lacks something huge that Marvel has had from the start: cohesive leadership.
Now, Warner Bros. is looking for someone to lead DC into the next era.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is exploring turning DC into its own vertical, and looking for a Kevin Feige-style leader to help bring cohesion to the brand. The goal is to have more of a unified voice and to revitalize characters like Superman and other members of their deep catalog. To make sure TV and films coming from the catalog can fit together and build a universe that someday might rival Marvel.
But that's a lot of words, and not an easy-moving target to hit. They have a Reeves Batman trilogy happening. They have an Aquaman sequel, a Wonder Woman sequel, a Shazam sequel, and Black Adam all coming out. Some of those movies are interconnected. Some are not.
While this can read as ambitious, I think it might be the exact wrong way to go about making this sector of WB successful.
Let's look at the movies the fans have embraced the most: The Batman, Wonder Woman, Joker, and James Gunn's Suicide Squad. These are all critically acclaimed movies that made a lot of money (or debuted on HBO Max, securing subscribers). They're not interconnected at all. and all of them have very distinct people behind the camera capturing their own visions, not trying to paint within an extended universe.
You could argue that the worst thing DC has done is trying to make movies they want to fit next to one another.
The Snyderverse failed. It was never really given a shot to succeed, and I will absolutely agree that his Justice League is far and away a better movie. But there's no going back to him running DC. It's time to move forward.
The original films they tried to thrust in a Justice League have their ups and downs. You could safely say that the DC brand didn't understand what it could be until it got rid of the chains of being tied together, and let directors branch out.
This is where I think they actually need to embrace something wholly different than Marvel. Don't force heroes to be interconnected, allow them to be anything a creative team wants.
The thing is, DC has found so much success letting directors embrace their weird and wild visions. From a Joker movie that's King of Comedy to a nihilistic Suicide Squad with a successful TV offshoot—even Birds of Prey has a determined director doing her own thing. Imagine if DC, instead of spending time trying to do team-up movies, did something like "The Year of Batman" (inspired by Batman: Black and White) where they gave four directors $100 million each and let them go off and make their own Batman movies. Give them free rein to try different things, different villains, styles, maybe even ratings.
You could have a crazy blockbuster year with standalone movies that don't owe any creativity to anything except being good.
You could still have a visionary shepherding all of this, but think about how modern comic books work. They have tons of characters across an array of genres. They tell many different stories under one banner.
Do that. Hire an executive who sees the value in unique voices. While you could argue Marvel's team-up movies made a lot of money, they also cost a ton. And the financial investment to build toward them is several billion.
Instead, you can make that money just by making a better product. Nothing is stopping DC from releasing a few hero movies a year if they have a leader who keeps budgets down and finds people who have divergent visions. Then, as they did with Batman and Suicide Squad, you can spin off stories into TV shows without worrying about where they fit in the universe. Or develop great TV under the same reasoning system.
But that's just my take. Let me know what you think in the comments.