Has DC Films Accepted That They Have Deep-Seated Problems, Or Are They Shifting Deck Chairs? Part I

The jury is still out, though what makes the most recent reorganization of DC Films not a bad thing in and of itself in that Warner Bros clearly sees that there’s a problem with their organizational structure and are working to address it.

Unfortunately, it reminds me somewhat of rearranging desk chairs on a little ship that was supposedly unsinkable.

And we all know how well that went.

And I think one of the problems is the dual management system that seems in vogue at DC Films (and by extension, Warner Bros).

In this instance we have Geoff Johns as co-president of the shingle–and let’s be clear.  DC Films isn’t strictly speaking a film studio (like Marvel Studios).  They may have a physical location, but most of the heavy lifting in making a movie is actually done by Warner Bros–and someone to be determined due to John Berg’s departure from the position.

I assume Warners does things this way because Johns brings knowledge of DC Comics, while the second president brings deeper knowledge of Warner’s corporate culture and the knowledge to navigate it to direct resources and systems effectively.

And that’s not a great way to do things. What would be more effective would be a single president of DC Films –and  importantly one who’s well-versed in the comics, though their knowledge has to be by no means encyclopedic because there are plenty of people on DC Comics’ end to supplement it–though the ability to navigate Warner Bros (and the companies that deal with them being more essential).

And let’s look at a crucial reason why.

DC Films movies tend to be significantly more expensive than those from Marvel Studios.  Justice League, before the reshoots by Joss Whedon, had a production budget somewhere in the ballpark if $220-250 million, but can you see all the money on screen (despite the copious–or excessive, depending upon how you look at such things use of green screen)?

Thor: Ragnarök released a few weeks earlier, looks just as expensive, but guess what?  It clocked in at $180 million, which means it has a significantly lower threshold to profitability, something Justice League could really, really use.

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Wrong Lessons Learned from the Justice League Brouhaha

 

And while ‘brouhaha’ may be a little melodramatic for a film that’s earned over $570 million at the worldwide box office the story surrounding the development of the movie is far more interesting than the movie itself.

You may have heard about a petition to release a Zach Snyder-cut of Justice League (despite there being no evidence there’s enough footage to make a complete movie) and a counter petition to release a Joss Whedon-cut of the same movie (who filmed significantly less than Snyder, making the idea even sillier) and quickly realized that they are way too many people not quite understanding the nature of the problem.

And that problem is that the DCEU, as it currently exists, is based on a very shaky foundation, one of Zach Snyder’s making (and that’s not to solely put all the blame on his shoulders, especially considering there’s more than enough to go around.  That being said, if the movie were a critical and financial success Snyder would likely have no problem accepting the kudos.  Conversely, when a movie doesn’t do well the director gets the blame).

And while his approach has its fans, what it doesn’t have is enough to make it viable (or Warner Bros would have likely not have had Whedon reshoot a portion of the entire movie.  And as terrible as the death of a child is, I don’t buy that he stepped down for that reason exclusively, especially when the movie was almost finished).

If that weren’t enough of a reason, this whole petition nonsense triples down on an approach proven NOT TO WORK!  Man of Steel underperformed.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did as well.  Suicide Squad, despite being the worse of the three–and interestingly not directed by Snyder, despite his visual dynamic in full-effect, didn’t.

The same applies to Wonder Woman.

As I alluded to earlier, it’s not that Justice League isn’t profitable, it’s that it production budget is so high–before reshoots it was somewhere in the ballpark of $250 million there’s little likelihood Warners would throw good money after bad.

 

Avengers: Infinity War Teaser Trailer Tomorrow!

If Justice League left you a bit underwhelmed, Marvel Studios has the perfect holiday gift!  The teaser trailer for Avengers: Infinity War premieres tomorrow (and while I still think a teaser for a trailer is a dopey idea the trend didn’t start with this movie, and isn’t likely to end anytime soon)!

Avengers: Infinity War (and it’s so far unnamed sequel) are the culmination of  Phase Three of the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic  Universe, and supposedly revolves around Thanos taking a more active role in retrieving the Infinity Stones, which when he gets them would make him a god with the power to make–or unmake–the universe.

Standing against him and his Black Order (I hope they go by their name in the comics, the Cull Obsidian) are every hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as old greviances are forgotten in the face of the greatest threat the world, and the universe has ever known.

Why Is Anyone Shocked Justice League Underperformed?

I was watching a lot of YouTube this weekend, deliberately looking for videos about the shocking–for some–weekend box office returns for Warner Bros/DC Entertainment’s Justice League.

Though what I find most shocking is their their shock because the writing has been on the wall for literally years.

While none of the movies that make up the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) have yet to fail financially, they’ve certainly done so critically (with the exception of Wonder Woman, the first DCEU movie under the supervision of Geoff Johns and Diane Lane, co-heads of DC Entertainment, that was both financially and critically successful), which is an indicator that critics were not too crazy about how DC was interpreting its own characters.

The declining box office was a sign moviegoers felt similarly, a change in sentiment was seemingly slow to respond to.

Snyder’s first movie under the DCEU banner was 2013’s Man of Steel, a nihilistic– some could say cynical–take on Superman which it could be argued underperformed (for a movie featuring literally one of the most iconic characters in comic history).

Suicide Squad (despite being written and directed by David Ayer, stuck faithfully to Snyder’s template of visual ugliness and moral murkiness; which perhaps ironically better fit the property, since we’re talking about a team composed of villains) actually over performed at the box office, despite being savaged by critics.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was literally the nail in the coffin for Synder’s version of the DCEU (and I honestly believe that if his daughter had not committed suicide–which resulted in him moving away from directing Jusrice League–Warner Bros would have had to find some other pretext for replacing him because when a movie featuring two of the most iconic characters in history fails to break a billion at the box office, something is very wrong.

Which brings us to Justice League, the movie that literally was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many viewers.  Despite brining in Joss Whedon to change the feel and tone of the movie, it’s apparently resulted in a clash of styles as opposed to the clarity of one person’s vision, which is problematic for entirely different reasons.

Luckily–for comic book movies–this appears less a problem with them in general than the DCEU in particular which means that as long as other studios continue to push the envelope and develop new and interesting characters there’s little chance of the same happening to them

 

Does Sony Really Understand Their Marvel Properties?

Screenshot 2017-11-13 13.43.21Let’s see if I understand…Sony is moving full-steam ahead on their own corner of the Marvel Comics universe and recently announced features based on Venom, Silver Sable, Black Cat and most recently Morbius, the Living Vampire?

And let’s forget for a moment that Sony doesn’t exactly have a stellar record with managing their Marvel properties (Spider-Man 1 & 2?  Pretty good.  The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2?  Not so much) which is why I approach their latest development with such reticence.

And writers MATTER because what ruined The Amazing Spider-Man movies was not the direction, but the writing by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless are in negotiations to write Morbius.  If you’re not familiar with Sazama and Sharpless, they worked on Dracula Untold, The Last Witch Hunter, and Gods of Egypt, and Power Rangers.

What do all those movies have in common?  Every single one (arguably excluding Power Rangers) tanked at the box office.

And that’s not to say that the Morbius adaptation can’t be absolutely brilliant, though I wouldn’t hold my breath on it.

Lightning Strikes, Thor: Ragnarök Roars!

img_0536And Yes, ‘Ragnarök’ has an umlaut and it’s lazy not to include it.

Anyway, last week I made the audacious claim that Thor: Ragnarök would likely join the Billion Dollar Club, the hallowed ground where movies that earn at least a billion dollars go during their theatrical runs roam.

And profits matter because as much as some want to make it all about the quality and watchability of a movie–which are important–Hollywood isn’t a charity and if these expensive tentpoles aren’t going to bring adequate returns, they’re going to stop making them.

And it goes without saying that that’s a bit of a double-edged sword because what applies to the original Star Wars trilogy also applied to the Transformers movies 😭.

I mention this because Thor: Ragnarök has crossed the $500 million mark ($502.3 m) not even two weeks into its box office run though it has to be mentioned that it has done so with little in the way of competition–A Bad Mom’s Christmas is less a genuine alternative than cagey counter-programming–till Justice League comes out in about a week’s time.

It’s worth looking at where Thor: Ragnarök is making its money.  Over $350 million of the $503 million it has earned thus far has come from the international box office–$354 million versus $150 million domestically.

That domestic figure is problematic, though I suspect if it reaches $400 million on this end of the pond a billion dollar run is assured, and ironically Justice League could help as much as hinder that from happening.

Expect moviegoers to initially flock to the latest from Warner Bros and DC Entertainment (ironically enough, on the strength of Wonder Woman, a fortuitous accident because there’s no sign Warner Bros expected her to resonate with audiences as much as she did) but that should only slow Thor’s momentum, not stop it outright.

And if Justice League doesn’t meet audience expectations–all those rewrites and reshoots weren’t made out of overwhelming confidence–which has the side effect of increasing the budget to a rumored $300 million.

That’s problematic because if it makes anything under a billion it’s a well-intentioned failure, while Thor: Ragnarök at a budget of $180 million can reach $800 million and be comfortably profitable.

Though as I have written, I see it going higher.

Welcome To Millarworld?

Screenshot 2017-11-08 02.38.43I thought the benefit of Netflix buying Millarworld (the publisher of comics like Kick-Ass and The Golden Circle) was to provide competition to Marvel and DC (especially when you consider that Disney is starting their own streaming service sometime in 2019 and taking their content–Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar–with them.

According to Vulture, Netflix is planning to launch a new comic via Millarworld, The Magic Order, about a bunch of magician families that come together to protect the world against a threat potentially more powerful than themselves.

Which is interesting because I’m no longer certain what direction Netflix is taking with Millarworld, and perhaps more importantly, why (other than to keep the comic publisher out of someone else’s hands)?