DCEU: Why standalone DC Films might be the right strategy (for now)


In this editorial there will be a breakdown as to how the strategy of DC-related films should run at Warner Bros.

Coming off the huge success of Aquaman, it appears things are moving according to plan, though what is the plan? Do the bigwigs at Warner Bros. even know? Aside from The Batman and The Flash, which are both scheduled to come out in 2021, the only movies to look out for in the DCEU are Shazam!, which is coming in less than a month, as well as Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 are set for release next year. Here is the kicker though — there will be less interconnected movies within the DCEU moving forward. Well, at least, that is the plan at the moment.

Why, you ask? As reported by The LA Times, the former CEO of Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara, clarified this during an interview weeks back. Among other things that were discussed such as AT&T, their new streaming service Warner Media and the current climate of the entertainment industry, Tsujihara spoke about their comeback with the DC Universe franchise with Aquaman. When asked about whether their strategy has succeeded, Tsujihara said:

"“The upcoming slate, with Shazam!, Joker, Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey feels like we’re on the right track. We have the right people in the right jobs working on it.”"

When quizzed about what “clicked” he responded:

"“What Patty Jenkins did on Wonder Woman illustrated to us what you could do with these characters who are not Batman and Superman. Obviously, we want to get those two in the right place, and we want strong movies around Batman and Superman. But Aquaman is a perfect example of what we can do. They’re each unique and the tone’s different in each movie.”"

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While Bam Smack Pow previously covered the highlight of the DCEU in which standalone films such as Wonder Woman and to a lesser extent Man of Steel was the means in which they were more successful, it is their best strategy for now. Since the release of Justice League, many changes have been implemented, including a bit of restructuring at Warner Bros. and some key players being demoted, moved to a different site or outright fired or “stepped down.” Geoff Johns, who is consulting with Walter Hamada at DC Films and is more active in producing live-action cinema and television for Warner/DC, pushed for Aquaman to receive the greenlight. As previously discussed, the film was more of a soft reboot of the entire DC franchise, with only the bare minimum of references to previous films.

There is speculation that Hamada’s first moves in his reign as President of DC Films were to green light the projects Shazam!, Joker; a standalone film under New Line Cinema centered on the Crown Prince of Crime, and Birds of Prey. It remains to be seen how these films will pan out, provided they stick to the approach that made Wonder Woman and Aquaman successful. The reason DC should possibly rely a lot less on having movies connect as much as they did pre–Justice League is because they have yet to find a consistent formula that works, no matter how Aquaman had been received.

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How they should do this is by waiting until the Hamada green-lit films (Shazam!, Joker, etc.) get screened before WW84, work on the proceeds from there and finally chart an in-continuity narrative in a greater tapestry that worked in The Conjuring Universe. That way, the producers involved can gather better control over the expansive universe they created and retool the setting from the backend with a little structure. This remains a challenge, as we are still left with the stigma of the old regime Zack Snyder established.