Post-JUSTICE LEAGUE: Where Does WB Go From Here? Author: Connor Behrens (@CONNORFILM)
Date: November 20, 2017
Industry experts and fans alike were taken aback to find the highly anticipated JUSTICE LEAGUE underperformed with a middling $96 million at the domestic box office on its opening weekend.
With these troubling numbers hanging over WB’s head as Thanksgiving week starts, one has to ask the question: Where does the company go from here?
There are a multitude of possibilities that could explain the troubling opening weekend numbers. Lackluster marketing, the bad word of mouth from 2016’s BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE rearing its ugly head, opening just two weeks after Marvel’s THOR: RAGNAROK. Regardless, the studio will now have to pump the brakes and take a step back to examine the situation.
WB is in a unique position, however. With the upcoming AQUAMAN film by director James Wan in the bag and director Patty Jenkins already planning a sequel to her successful WONDER WOMAN, the studio can’t entirely scrap their plans and reboot the entire universe in a few years.
Well, at least not yet.
There have been talks from industry experts saying that Warner Bros. is considering taking a step back from the connected universe angle and going to focus more on solo properties like SHAZAM! and FLASHPOINT. Given the mixed to negative response of JUSTICE LEAGUE from critics and fan reaction decidedly lukewarm, the studio will have to determine if they want to continue to sell these team films that continue to receive divisive reactions.
Or, does the studio take a page from Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY and separate these characters. Patty Jenkins smartly decided the only connection to a larger universe would be a letter from Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne to Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, allowing her film to breathe and thrive on its own.
Nonetheless, if Warner Bros. decides to focus more on solo properties or continues to experiment with team films, a change in management is key. While the situation of JUSTICE LEAGUE is wholly unique, the decisions made are astounding.
Warner Bros. knew the type of director Zack Snyder was and they knew how divisive his films had been. Instead of delaying the film and finding another director (after BvS), they went through with production anyway. Then, they were “shocked” when the same director shows them a cut of his film and they don’t like it.
So, what do they do?
Delay the film’s release and try to properly salvage it?
No. They grab Joss Whedon, throw money at him and tell him to fix the film over the span of a summer. It’s a complete mess and it’s no surprise that the reshoots are so glaring in the final theatrical product.
Going forward, the studio needs to prove they are truly interested in director-driven films. Assuming he stays in power, Kevin Tsujihara (as well as others) will have to make a solid decision for their DC properties in 2018. You cannot keep switching plans and throw everything on the wall to see if it sticks. If the studio is not careful, this universe will be coming to an end far quicker than the studio wanted.
If they don’t strategize soon, they will continue to have mediocre reviews and average opening weekends for their superhero properties.
JUSTICE LEAGUE was expected to be the culmination of the past four films in the DCEU and an event that many fans have been waiting decades for. Instead, it’s just another superhero film and has the weakest opening of a DCEU film (thus far).
Concise and calculated decisions need to be made very soon. The company’s superhero properties are an embarrassment right now compared to other studios like Marvel and Fox. It shouldn’t be this hard, and yet here we are.
We are at a crossroads moment, and Warner Bros. will have to think very carefully how they want to proceed next.
Connor is a journalist and writer from Houston, Texas.
Film has had a profound impact on his life, and he decided to mesh his love of film
with journalism three years ago in community college.
He has recently achieved a BA in Print/Digital Media Journalism this summer at the University of Houston,
and is writing for publications such as the
Washington Post and Galveston Daily News.
As an entertainment writer, Connor spends his time actively watching all types of film and television.
He is inspired by the power of media like film to influence and motivate all walks of life.
Some of his favorite films include CHINATOWN, THE DARK KNIGHT, and JAWS.