The word “plan” in relation to the film industry, particularly as it pertains to IP blockbusters, is a dirty word at this point. Executives have used it so often that it’s not only lost all meaning, it can actively kill any excitement you may have for an upcoming film, because it’s basically advertising that something in that movie will take up way too much time in order to set up a franchise that only exists in the mind’s eye of someone who’d like to keep their job for the next few years.
Yet here’s Warner Bros using the word “plan” again, once again related to adapting DC Comics to film. During its investor call earlier in the week, WB Discovery CEO David Zaslav said that the company’s built a team that’ll set up a 10-year plan for DC. The aim is to finally give DC its own Kevin Feige, or rather, its own Kevin Feige who the company will actually put faith in for longer than two-and-a-half movies. This is partially why Batgirl got canned, according to Zaslav: it didn’t fit with the plan, and since WB is now concerned with protecting the DC brand, that involves a reset that hinges entirely on an upcoming movie whose lead actor has become such a PR nightmare, the sensible thing would be for WB to just drop the thing on HBO Max and call it a mulligan.
There’ve been enough would-be cinematic universes that have publicly failed that you’d think studios would quit trying to chase Marvel’s success of currently diminishing returns. It’s especially damning for Warner Bros., of all companies, to try this shtick again: even if you don’t want to talk about Zack Snyder’s divisive tenure with DC, the company is clearly not suited to the long-term game. They weren’t back in 2011 when Ryan Reynolds wore that Green Lantern suit, and they weren’t in 2017 when they decided to bring in Joss Whedon and try to right the ship and only served to highlight how out of their depth they were with their superheroes. At this point, Warner Bros. has pissed away so much goodwill that they couldn’t pass an insultingly easy drug test.
Know what Warner Bros. is good at, the short term game. After Justice League 2017, the fractured nature of the DC Extended Universe became a boon and allowed the movies to just be self-contained affairs. Aquaman, Shazam, and Harley Quinn were all great in their own various ways that allowed their respective directors to not worry about how the films line up with everything else and just have some fun. If Marvel movies all feel like they’re largely from the same guy, DC movies post-2017 have, for better or worse, felt uniquely individualistic. Crack jokes all you wish, it’s easy to tell how Nolan’s Batman is different from Snyder’s Batman and the new Batman from Matt Reeves earlier in the year.
It’s the human element of DC movies that Warner Bros. needs to focus on for the next decade. Damn cinematic universes, fuck plans with a hypothetical endgame in mind, none of that is interesting anymore. If we’re fated to be stuck in this IP-heavy blockbuster era, at least let it be a playground for directors and writers to do what they do best. You’d think that by now, WB’s plan would be to learn and internalize such a simple concept.
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