The company hosted a DC FanDome event on Saturday, showcasing new footage from the “Wonder Woman” sequel and “The Batman,” director Matt Reeves’ eagerly anticipated revival of the signature character starring Robert Pattinson
Almost as significantly, DC — like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia — previewed director Zack Snyder’s expanded four-hour cut of “Justice League,” which percolated up thanks to a vociferous campaign by die-hard fans. It’s being used, in essence, as an unusually responsive act of customer service, and a super-sized enticement
to lure subscribers to the company’s new streaming service, HBO Max.
For DC, which has often appeared to be enviously playing catchup to the cultural titan that Marvel has become, this confluence of titles, following the R-rated success of “Joker,” has seemingly marked its maturation after several high-profile missteps.
That included Snyder’s “Man of Steel” and racing to release “Justice League,” seemingly skipping a few steps by hastily launching the super team before having formally introduced half of its members. The movie fell short of box office expectations
as well as in the eyes of critics and fans — yielding headlines
like “Justice League Is A Major Box Office Disappointment,” followed by a management shift
that left DC at what looked like a crossroads.
But then an unexpected thing happened, as the next wave of movies, led by “Wonder Woman”
helped save the day in more ways than one. In addition, “Shazam!” and “Joker” each expanded the comic-book palette — the first into lighter comedy, the second into dark and grisly territory that, despite controversy over its tone
, won critical accolades in addition to being hugely profitable.
Even something like “Suicide Squad” — which was largely bashed by critics — is generating enthusiasm around its sequel with a shuffled cast of characters and “Guardians of Galaxy” director James Gunn at the helm.
That steadies the table for “The Batman,” the company’s most significant property from a theatrical standpoint, however iconic Superman might be.
On Saturday, Reeves said he had only shot 25% to 30% of the movie before coronavirus intervened, with plans to resume production next month. The film focuses on a younger, flawed Batman who is still learning on the job. Co-starring Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell and Andy Serkis, the plot “touches on his origins,” Reeves said, without exactly being an origin story.
Adapting Batman has always been a thorny proposition
— witness the frantic responses to casting Michael Keaton and later the “bat-lash” against Ben Affleck — but the stark footage unveiled should only stoke enthusiasm for the film, which is slated to land in October 2021.
Yet reaping the benefits of DC’s progress is going to be tantalizingly deferred, as it is for the entire film industry as it seeks to recover from the shutdown associated with Covid-19 and the gradual reopening of theaters.
Already delayed, “Wonder Woman 1984” currently has an October release date, but as Warner Bros. has seen with its plans for “Tenet,” the theatrical environment remains at best fluid.
“We’re gonna stick it out,” director Patty Jenkins told fans. “We all believe in putting it in the cinema.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for DC. The Harley Quinn movie “Birds of Prey,”
the company’s last movie before the pandemic struck, also failed to get off the ground.
Still, if the FanDome promotion was any indication, DC/Warner Bros., look ready to prove — if doubts still linger — that there’s room for another super-powered player beyond Marvel/Disney. The bigger question now is when, and if, the theatrical business will rebound to a stage that can accommodate all that muscle.