The DC Extended Universe is in deep crisis.
With $96 million on opening weekend, Justice League is by far the weakest box office performer of all the DCEU films. This was supposed to be their Avengers. Instead, it was their Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem.
Five movies deep, with all your key heroes activated and united, is this where you want to land on the DCEU opening weekend rankings?
Batman v Superman: $166 million
Suicide Squad: $133.6
Man of Steel: $116.6 million
Wonder Woman: $103.25 million
Justice League: $96 million
What does Warner Bros. do now?
Now the studio finds itself in a real pickle
This is precisely what the studio was trying to avoid when it pointed Zack Snyder to the exits a year ago, plugging in Joss Whedon to rip out the critical movie’s guts and reshoot them with an all-new, lighter, jokier, ensembley-er tone.
The coming weeks will be worse for Justice League, as its box office returns drop like a stone. Wonder Woman may have the next-lowest domestic opening weekend, but that film had unbelievably powerful legs, holding strong for a stunning 21 weeks on its way to passing all the other DC films and landing in the Top 5 superhero movies of all time.
Justice League will be lucky to crack the Top 25.
And now the studio finds itself in a real pickle. It spent mountains of cash and political capital to pivot away from Snyder’s doleful vision that critics hated but at least was working with a loyal (and, ahem, vocal) swath of DC fans. There’s no going back to that look – that ship has sailed – but the way forward is not exactly clear, either.
Wonder Woman may be one of the most beloved superhero movies of all time; it will be shared and re-watched and talked about for generations. But melding casting, character, and director is a fussy magic, more a result of serendipity than planning or foresight. It’s safe to say that Wonder Woman succeeded in spite of its place in the DCEU, and certainly not because of it.
Aquaman was hardly the breakout character of Justice League, and yet he’s up next December. Neither Batman nor Superman has a date on the calendar, and Wonder Woman 2 is a full two years away. Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps are the only projects with spots on a calendar.
Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps? Are they serious with that game plan?
Shazam, Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps? Are they serious with that game plan?
It’s a mess, compounded by Warner Bros. desire to eject Affleck’s foibles from the Batmobile – how do you do that gracefully, keeping continuity and a straight face? – and the fact that the studio is in the midst of an ownership change. Anyone staring down the barrel of new bosses about to take over knows how paralyzing that can be.
With Suicide Squad director David Ayers out of the picture, not even it has a way forward. That movie was hot vomit but at least it made money; a sequel should’ve been a foregone conclusion the minute tracking came online.
Ahh, there’s that phrase: At least it made money. Something all the other DC films, love ’em or hate ’em, could boast. “We made it for the fans!” the studio crowed, and the fans, at least, turned out.
But for Justice League to fall below that important cosmetic nine-figures domestic opener is a big, blazing distress signal in the clouds that those fans are becoming impatient.
And you better believe someone is muttering that they should’ve just let Snyder finish this DCEU thing. At least that would’ve been a way forward.
Not so sure they have that now.