Warner Brothers is looking to step up their game with DC Comics-based films. In an interview in the New York Times today, DC Films President Walter Hamada stated that they are aiming to release four theatrical films featuring superhero characters from the popular comic book publisher for 2022 along with having two more films exclusive to the company’s HBO Max steaming service. Additionally, they are looking at developing a number of spinoff television series that could also run on the streamer.
Among this glut of new material moving forward through and past 2022 will be two separate franchises dealing with different interpretations of the iconic caped crusader, Batman.
As of right now, we know that there are three DC Comics films already on Warners’s release calendar for 2022 – The Batman from director Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattison is set to hit theaters on March 4, while The Flash with Ezra Miller playing the super fast superhero will speed into theaters on November 2 and the Jason Momoa-starring sequel Aquaman 2 following a month later on December 16. Most likely, the final film of this quartet is set for a release at some point during the late spring or early summer time frame in order to space out all the releases while still keeping the brand fresh in moviegoers’ minds.
Meanwhile, Marvel Studios, Warners/DC’s biggest rival in the superhero space right now, already has four theatrical films scheduled for 2022 as well as at least two series lined up for the Disney+ streaming service.
Most interesting through, is Hamada’s revelation that the studio is looking to have two different versions of Batman in theaters at approximately the same time.
To make all the story lines work, DC Films will introduce movie audiences to a comics concept known as the multiverse: parallel worlds where different versions of the same character exist simultaneously. Coming up, for instance, Warner Bros. will have two different film sagas involving Batman — played by two different actors — running at the same time.
Although the author of the piece, Brooks Barnes, doesn’t specify, it seems as if Hamada is differentiating Reeves’s Batman film, and its prequel spinoff TV series centering on the Gotham City police department currently being developed for HBO Max, and the appearance of not one but two Batmans (Batmen?) in the upcoming Flash Movie – former Batman actor Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck, who played the caped crusader more recently in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Justice League.
In addition to the aggressive theatrical film release schedule Hamada is committing the studio to, there is also the HBO Max component to their plans for more DC Comics-based content.
Hamada states that he is looking to have at two films premiering on the streaming app exclusively, with the speculation then added “perhaps focused on riskier characters like Batgirl and Static Shock.” Relegating characters that the studio deems to be “risky” may sound like a prudent business move, but actually could be a bad idea.I’m not suggesting that these films will be failures. but I am suggesting that Warner Brothers could potentially loose money by keeping them out of theaters.
When director Todd Phillips brought his idea for the film Joker to the studio, executives were hesitant to give the film a greenlight. They thought that the idea of a film centering on a Batman villain without actually featuring Batman at al was a risky idea. They even low-balled the amount of money they would be willing to give Phillips in an effort to discourage him from going forward with the project. But Phillips, took their reduced budget of $70 million and returned to them a film that made a little over $1 billion. It’s hard to believe that with the right director and take on the material, a Batgirl film could be made at a smaller budget but could still generate a strong return.
A Static Shock movie does not seem like a big risk too, if one were to look at the wider expanse of comic book films. True, the character of Static, an African American teenager with lightening and electricity-based powers, isn’t a household name, but he did feature in his own animated series which ran for four seasons in the early aughts. You don’t have to look too far to find another animated example of a teenage African American superhero that has proved popular with the public – Miles Morales, the hero at the center of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, which grossed $375 million against its $90 million budget and happened to win the Best Animated Feature Academy Award. Again, done well, no character is inherently “risky.”
But in addition to the potential movies that could land on the streaming service, Hamada noted that HBO Ma could be the home to a number of spinoff TV series as well.
With every movie that we’re looking at now, we are thinking, ‘What’s the potential Max spinoff?’
As of now, the only publicly acknowledged HBO Max series in development is the aforementioned Gotham City police series.
The announcement indicates that the studio’s move to a simultaneous theatrical and streaming via HBO Max day-and-date release for all of the their films for 2021 may indeed be a one-time release strategy motivated by coronavirus. Some critics of the move have suggested that when the studio was being perhaps less than honest when they stated that the simultaneous releases would only be for 2021 until the theatrical exhibition landscape achieves some sort of normality following the coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s face it, theater shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to a lot of films being pushed back into the latter part of 2021. That of course has created a ripple effect that is seeing the releases of 2021 planned films getting shifted even further down the calendar. In other words, 2022 is already looking to be a potentially crowded year for film releases. If Hamada’s plan comes to full fruition, the company will be finding themselves fighting with a number of other franchises looking to get back in the game for screen space at your local cineplex.