So, it seems the Warner Bros has maybe, perhaps, finally found someone to lead DC Studios (films, television, etc.) moving forward. Essentially, as they and the press put it, they have found their own ‘Kevin Feige’ to lead DC properties and productions into a more cogent, comprehensive, and successful universe and production studio like Marvel has done. Granted, they have said the same thing in the past (twice if memory serves) to middling to poor results. Still, I want WB and DC to succeed because I want the DC Trinity and the Justice League and the tier 3 and 4 and 5 characters to have their live action moments worthy of their history. However, current leadership and plans do not inspire much confidence in that possibility.
There are many reasons for this belief, but I will try to focus on the main ones I see. First, the difference in caliber of characters. In this instance, the notoriety of DC’s catalogue, at least for the characters they are trying to launch their cinematic universe with, works against them. When Marvel got started, they didn’t have their heavy hitters because other studios had the rights to them (some still do). They were forced to use their lesser known and popular characters which gave the more freedom to experiment with tone, development, and narrative. DC keeps trying to use its most iconic and popular properties, but those come with expectations on tone, character development, personalities, etc. from the audience. Add to that, DC keeps trying to make their characters and films more “grounded in reality” with unnecessarily huge stakes for every film and you get an incoherent universe that is at odds between its characters.
Second, but perhaps more important, DC, and WB at large, is struggling. Due to decisions from higher up execs and past performances, DC is in a financial downturn. They need to make money ASAP; thus, they keep using the properties they know will make money, in theory. Accordingly, there will probably be four more Batman based films before we ever see a Plastic Man or Legion of Superheroes live action film. Which is great if you are a Batman fan, but kind of sucks if you are a DC comics fan and especially love the tier 3 or 4 characters. This constant returning to the proverbial well might work short term, but, just as it has in the past, will make the overall DC future a negative prospect.
Third, the new DC owners don’t seem to get that a lot of Marvel’s success was due to a willingness to take risks, keep a course, and just dumb luck. In the entirety of the MCU, only one project has been cancelled (technically two if we count New Warriors but that one had barely shot a pilot that wasn’t even screened so…), and even that one is now available on DisneyPlus. Has every film and television show been beloved? No. Have some been panned? Absolutely. Yet, Feige and crew kept the course and continued with their plans, or lack thereof, regardless of the audience reception. Yes, there were some misses and a few underperformers, but they kept the faith, trusted the talent they had hired, and kept moving forward. Now, there are summits where the team plans each phase, but those are more outlines of films with the flexibility to make alterations to serve the greater overall project. And even so, a lot of the MCU success was a bit of luck of simply having the right films for the right time and audience until, eventually, gaining enough goodwill and trust from the fans to afford the big swings and eccentric choices. DC doesn’t seem willing to put in that work, and won’t succeed until they are.