There are, once again, major shakeups at Warner Bros. regarding the DC film universe, but this time it feels like things are actually going to stick. While the studio began its DCEU with essentially Zack Snyder at the helm of the series of DC films, that approach was abandoned after the disappointing reception of Batman v Superman. They tried elevating Geoff Johns to a more hands-on role, but he’s now leaving DC Entertainment for a simple producing deal at Warner Bros. The new person in charge is Walter Hamada, who successfully carved out a number of hits at sister studio New Line, including The Conjuring universe, and details on his DCEU plans are starting to surface.
As part of a lengthy report over at THR, it’s revealed that Hamada has spent months sifting through the potential DC projects to decide how to proceed. One project that he has seemingly elevated is Todd Phillips’ Joker standalone movie, which may star Joaquin Phoenix. THR says that film could start shooting as early as this fall, and it’ll carry a budget in the range of $55 million—a fraction of what DC films like Wonder Woman or Aquaman cost. It’s part of a new label at WB/DC that will allow filmmakers to create unique takes on DC characters without worrying about the shared universe, and THR says it could go by the name “DC Dark” or “DC Black.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as THR says The Flash movie is finally on track to begin filming in early 2019, and the project has gone through a significant evolution since it was first announced. The “somber themes” it had been expected to explore have now been abandoned, and the film is looking towards Back to the Future as a touchstone. This makes sense given that WB hired Game Night and Vacation filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein to take the helm, and it sounds like perhaps the Flashpoint storyline—in which Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen goes back in time to save his mom’s life—has been abandoned, or at the very least lightened up.
As for The Batman, well Matt Reeves continues working on the script, but THR says his current plan is for the story to focus on a “young caped crusader,” which means Ben Affleck’s days as the Dark Knight are likely over.
Refreshingly, THR says Hamada will not be assembling writers rooms to help craft future DC films. That practice has now become common at studios, with places like Paramount assembling a team of writers to hash out storylines and films for the Transformers franchise and then choosing how to proceed afterwards. It’s the same track that Universal took on its Dark Universe of monster movies, and by the looks of things it hasn’t really worked out as expected for either studio.
Instead, it sounds like Hamada is focused on finding interesting filmmakers—like Cathy Yan on the female-centric Birds of Prey—and allowing the to put their stamp on the material. Whether it fits into the DCEU like The Flash or is more suited to a lower budget Joker movie like Todd Philips’ film, it sounds like Hamada is making plenty of room to explore.
Hamada has also reportedly lobbied successfully to not announce released dates for a slew of films in advance, something he and his team think worked against the DCEU after the release of Man of Steel triggered an announcement of a series of DC films planned through 2020. So, uh, don’t hold your breath for that Cyborg movie.