The Harry Potter film series is, by all accounts, one of the most successful in cinematic history. Warner Bros. became so enamored with it, as a matter of fact, that when it began to wind down they were rather desperate to fill the “blockbuster void,” since the entire film series grossed an incredibly massive $7.7 billion worldwide. When WB started looking in earnest towards what the future might hold, they settled on what you might think would be a relatively safe bet.
With superhero films doing the business that they do for the likes of Marvel Studios, 20th Century Fox, Sony, and even in-house at Warner Bros with Batman, it looked like they had finally settled on opening the floodgates to the DC Universe that they had been so timid about in years past. The perception was that many DC characters would now be getting a shot on the big screen. And what was the first DC Comics film that would represent WB’s newfound interest in their long-held DC Comics properties? Green Lantern. A massive investment with a heavy amount of visual effects, and the result was a critical and commercial disappointment.
Since then, WB has been extraordinarily timid to greenlight any DC Comics films, save for the conclusion to the already established Dark Knight Trilogy, and a promising reboot for an already-established former franchise in Man of Steel. Other characters, like the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or the scores of other heroes and villains haven’t been as lucky. As any DC fan can tell you, WB has often invested in Batman and Superman. Any characters beyond those, though, have been slighted at practically every turn.
While rumors have persisted recently about characters like Aquaman and Wonder Woman, and the rumors of DC films being announced this past summer at the San Diego Comic-Con, we’ve only seen forward momentum on the Superman sequel coming in 2015, and the news of Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman. Again, WB demonstrates their confidence in little beyond the World’s Finest heroes.
As if that weren’t bad enough news for DC fans beyond just Superman and Batman, now word comes down that J.K. Rowling herself is writing the first Harry Potter spinoff movie, and that it will reportedly lead to a new film series based on the world of the boy wizard. I can’t help but thinking that this will only reinforce the timidity of Warner Bros. in embracing more DC films, and instead divert their resources to the proven money of the Potter franchise. While it’s hard not to get excited about the first DC team-up film between Batman and Superman coming in a couple of years, now the ever-present risk of the studio settling for success with their two proven cinematic DC characters seems to be more pronounced.
WB’s aforementioned timidity is difficult to explain, unless the executives in charge lump all DC characters and their potential on film together. While you’d think that the executive structure at DC Entertainment (including president Diane Nelson, who ironically helped to bring the Potter franchise to the forefront at the studio) would be able to make them understand that DC is more than just a specific type of superhero film, the failure of Green Lantern seems to have done a significant amount of damage to the studio’s willingness to expand its lineup of DC films.
Now that they are apparently getting another chance at expanding the world of Harry Potter, I think that asking the question about the DC Comics brand’s viability in future feature films (at least from the perspective of the studio) is a valid one. While it’s fun to speculate exactly what Man of Steel 2 might lead to, there’s never been any semblance of guarantees when it comes to the creation of new films based on the characters of the Justice League. Hopefully any private plans put in place by the studio beyond the 2015 team-up film will remain in place. Given WB’s perpetually cold feet in the realm of comics films, though, I’m sure you could at least understand a more pessimistic viewpoint.
What do you think? Does the train started by Affleck’s Batman casting have too much momentum to stop an expanded DC Universe from making it to theaters? Or, will J.K. Rowling’s direct involvement in expanding the lucrative Potter franchise delay the Justice League’s time even further?
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