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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Warner Brothers announces 10 DC Comics movies in 5 Years…Don’t Believe The Hype

Warner Brothers announced on Thursday they’d make 10 DC Comics superhero movies in the next five years.

I doubt they make it to the third one. And with the dysfunctional way Batman V. Superman is going story wise, I doubt they make anything past that pathetic little movie. 

I remember the ambitious plans Warner Brothers had in the when they were on top of their game in the 1990’s. Michelle Pfiffer was to have her own Catwoman movie. Nick Cage was to star in a Superman movie.

Then Batman and Robin happened. And in 2004, Catwoman coughed up a hairball that derailed DC’s ambitious plans until the successful Nolan/Goyer Dark Knight trilogy.

Warner Brothers always has big plans for it’s DC Comics superhero franchises. The big problem for them has always been execution.

I can’t honestly belive Warner Brothers is going to be able to make 10 superhero movies when they can’t even consistently keep a catalog of 52 comic titles in print. Over the last three years almost all 52 of their New 52 comic book titles have been cancelled.

Heck, they can’t even keep their comic book universe consistent. Batgirl has gone from 30 something to 19 or 20 in the last few months. Bad guys like Lex Luthor and Captain Cold are on the Justice League with Batman and Superman. And Wonder Woman acts more like Conan the Barbarian these days than the ambassador of peace and goodwill established in comics 75 years ago.

If a company can’t even keep its characters consistent in its comic books, then how can that company be trusted to adapt said characters to film?

I look at the schedule for DC Comics superhero movies and what I see a MESS. The entire movie schedule sounds like someone throwing shit on a wall and seeing what will stick, not a well-thought out plan for building a cinematic universe.

I mean, DC announced a Cyborg movie. Run that through your head. A Cyborg Movie. A movie revolving around a supporting character in the Teen Titans. A character who in his 30-year-history has NO archenemies of his own and no definitive story to build a screenplay around.

Also in their schedule Warner Brothers announces a Green Lantern movie. I have to ask: why make a movie based on a concept that BOMBED at the box-office just a few years ago? Why not let the audience wash the STINK of the first movie out of their minds before tackling said character again?

And in addition to these movies Warner Brothers announces an Aquaman movie. Aquaman? Really? Yeah, he’s an interesting character. But I don’t think he is appealing enough to carry a movie on his own. I don’t see people coming out in droves to spend $15 on a character most people believe only talks to fish.

Then there’s the Wonder Woman movie Warner has planned. I’ve gone into her numerous problems related to adapting her character to film in several other blogs such as her shaky rogues gallery and lack of “voice”, but Warner thinks it can make a movie in spite of these problems. But based on what I’m seeing with Batman V. Superman and Man of Steel, I doubt it.

Finally, Warner Brothers announce a Flash movie. While they have a new hit TV series on the air, they cast a new actor to play the role while said TV show just came to air.

Isn’t that redundant? And Isn’t that a SLAP in the face to that cast and their hard work? Why not graduate TV’s Flash into the role and save a few dollars?

And I have to wonder: Will the audience come back to watch a Flash movie with a Flash TV show on the air? I know comic fans are a passionate bunch. But there comes a point where even they’d get tired of seeing the same thing over and over.

And that’s the danger of Warner Brothers’ plan. Right now there are too many superhero movies. The market is struggling to find an audience for the flood of films currently on the market right now. Movies like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Warners’ own Man of Steel underperformed at the box office.

It’s that rocky foundation that could undermine Warner Brothers’ ambitioius plans. The entire Warner Brothers’ franchise is based on the foundation of Man of Steel, a movie that not only underperformed at the box office worldwide, but split its audience afterward. And they’re building on that foundation with a sequel featuring Batman fighting Superman and possibly Wonder Woman. A movie guaranteed to further split the audience even further.

In the entertainment business, splitting the audience is BAD. And today’s DC Comics Superhero movies are often so polarizing that they turn off over half the comic fans they target. More people ARGUE about DC Superhero movies then get excited about them.

That’s not the kind of energy a smart studio executive wants because angry people don’t spend money on movie tickets. Comic fans should be UNITED and EXCITED about an upcoming DC Comics movie like they were for Batman in 1989 and Superman: The Movie in 1978.

Warner Brothers has yet to find a way to light that spark in their fanbase in the last 25 years. They haven’t figured out how to build that enthusiasm and anticipation in comic fans. They haven’t figured out to make the chatter for their products positive on message boards and social media where superhero movie tickets are sold through word-of-mouth. With employees like Dan Didio, Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder making numerous negative comments about beloved characters behind the scenes, it’s hard for longtime comic fans to get excited about films featuring DC Comics characters.

The way I see it Warner Brothers shouldn’t be announcing so many superhero movies. It’s clear from the cinematic mess known as Man of Steel Warner hasn’t figured out the formula for success when it comes to superhero movies. From what I’ve seen so far, Warner Brothers NEEDS to work on its story model for superhero movies, its marketing plan for selling superhero movies, and its plan merchandising for merchandising superhero becaue they are NOT ready for prime time.

Warner’s plan for 10 superhero movies in 5 years reminds me of Hollywood’s ambitious plans for musicals and epics in the late 1960’s. Studios like MGM and FOX thought it could go on financing these big budget movies for years.

Then the Vietnam War came. And the audience shifted. Studios like MGM and FOX not ready for the social changes transpiring around them suffered a series of flops like Cleopatra and Tora! Tora! Tora! that almost bankrupted them in the 1970s.

From the looks of things that kind of paradigm shift could be coming sooner than later considering how many movies superhero and non-superhero underperformed this year. Gen-X is in its 40s. And Gen-Y and Millenials are getting older. And many of them are looking for something other than superheroes to watch. There’s only so many movies an audience is willing to watch before they get bored with them.

Yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy was the #1 movie of the summer. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the #2 superhero movie. And Warner Brothers and DC Comics are desperately playing catch-up. But I have to wonder if they’re too little, too late. From the looks of things the superhero genre is starting to head toward a peak sooner rather than later. Like the big-budget musicals, westerns, and epics of the 1960s the increasing costs of these films are slowly encroaching on profit margins. I truly doubt a movie featuring second-tier and third-tier characters like Aquaman and Cyborg can justify getting a $100-$200 million budget most superhero movies cost these days. And I seriously doubt they’d even be able to pull the $300 to $600 million at the box office needed just to break even on a production of that size.

All it takes is one audience shift and Warner Brothers or even Disney’s Marvel Studios could wind up just as bankrupt as MGM and 20th Century Fox were back in the 1970’s. And I believe that could possibly happen in the next five years if 2014’s lackluster summer is an indicator to the future.

I doubt Warner will even make three of the movies its announced in its 10-movie schedule. Seriously I have to wonder if Marvel Studios will even finish its Phase 2 or even start Phase 3. In the movie business, nothing is guraunteed. Audiences are fickle and can change its interest in films on a whim. So Warner Brothers may announce big plans today, I’ve learned not to expect much from them five years later. The world is changing and the plans of the movie studios may change with it. 

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