We knew that change was coming to the DCEU, and now Warner Bros. has made it official. Following the box office and critical disappointment of Justice League last fall—a film that was intended to be the biggest DC movie yet—reports swirled that Warner Bros. would be making some major changes to who was overseeing DC Films. The studio had set DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns and executive Jon Berg to oversee things in the wake of Batman v Superman’s disappointment, but last month Berg exited his post to become a production partner with WB staple Roy Lee (The LEGO Movie), and Johns has been moved to “more of an advisory role.”
So who’s in charge? Variety reports that WB has selected Walter Hamada to oversee DC Films production, essentially serving as president of production in charge of the DC movies. Hamada was previously a production executive at New Line, a Warner Bros. arm, where he shepherded huge hits like The Conjuring, Annabelle, and of course IT, the horror smash that has outgrossed Justice League.
Hamada already has a strong connection to the DCEU in his relationship with Aquaman director James Wan, having worked with the filmmaker on the Conjuring franchise and its spinoffs. Hamada will now be leaving New Line and in addition to overseeing the DC films, he’ll oversee other types of comic book movies that the studio produces outside of the DC canon (which I assume means things like Akira, which is courting Taika Waititi to direct).
This is the second major shakeup for the DCEU, as the interconnected franchise has created four films thus far, but only one of them—Wonder Woman—is an unqualified success. Man of Steel didn’t hit the box office heights WB was hoping for; Batman v Superman suffered a strong negative critical reaction and failed to crack $1 billion at the box office; ditto Justice League, which was intended to be huge. Honestly, Suicide Squad is the closest thing to a “success” the studio has outside of Wonder Woman (in that it was a franchise-starter that grossed nearly $800 million), but even then the film still suffered from bad reviews.
According to reports from last month, investors and stockholders have been less than pleased with the way things have gone, so the installation of Hamada is intended to ease concerns that the DC trajectory is on the right track. WB hitched its horse to Zack Snyder early in the creation of the DCEU, but after exiting Justice League earlier this year it appears they have no plans to bring him back for future films, either as a director or producer (he’s still an executive producer on Aquaman, which he developed and obviously cast).
The big questions now are A. Can Hamada right the ship? and B. How will he go about doing so? There’s still no tried and true formula for the DCEU just yet, and WB is exploring creating DC adaptations separate from the DCEU that can attract auteur filmmakers to make one-off movies unconcerned with franchise connectivity. Shazam is about to go into production as one of the first DCEU movies not overseen by Snyder, and in fact the film is under the New Line umbrella so Hamada already has experience developing a superhero adaptation, so it’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out. Elsewhere Aquaman is in post-production and on track to hit theaters next November, and Wonder Woman 2 is in active development with a 2019 release date.
The future could be bright for the DCEU, if the right decisions are made. At the very least, a significant change has been made, so it’ll be curious to see where this leads.