Last week, Toby Emmerich stepped down as the film chief of Warner Bros. and unlike Ray Fisher, I have always been an Emmerich fan. Sure, the whole Joss Whedon–Zack Snyder–Justice League mishegas might have gone down on his watch, but he did the best he could with a very bad situation — a situation that he was forced into by Snyder’s incompetence… more about that below — and his three decades at the company, a good chunk of which he spent running New Line, should be celebrated. I’ll certainly be curious to see what he does next, now that he’s leaving the studio with a prized parting gift — a lucrative production deal.
But that’s not why we’re here this week. No, friends, we’re here to talk about Emmerich’s replacements, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, and how the studio’s new leadership could impact the future of the DC Extended Universe, which needs to get back on track. There have been some positive signs of late, such as the critical, financial, and creative success of The Batman as well as James Gunn’s excellent Peacemaker series on HBO Max, but the DCEU still has a long way to go, and De Luca and Abdy will have their work cut out for them. If they pay attention to this forthcoming list of helpful suggestions, I believe that the DCEU can finally come into its own and be what it was always intended to be — a true rival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And so, without further ado, here’s my advice to the incoming regime, led by Mike, Pam, and their ambitious boss, Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
1. Hire someone to run DC Films, then leave them alone
One of the ongoing issues with the DCEU is that there has never been anything close to an autonomous leader of the division. Sure, people like Jon Berg and Geoff Johns have been hired — Fisher singled them out in his complaints about the production of Justice League — but the issue with anyone who has been brought in is always the same: corporate interference. One of the reasons why Marvel has succeeded so well over the past decade and a half is because Kevin Feige was hired to run the film division and then, when it became clear that there were too many voices involved and that he was going to quit if he wasn’t allowed to run the show his way, all the other voices were silenced and he was given absolute power. Say what you will about Marvel’s current Phase Four, but the first three phases add up to the greatest storytelling achievement in the history of cinema, and nothing else comes close. Find someone who knows and loves DC like Feige knows and loves Marvel, then empower them to create a cinematic universe that crosses mediums and allows for the kind of in-depth storytelling that fans have come to expect. And speaking of Feige…
2. Forget about Marvel
Like, completely. Don’t compare what you’re doing to Marvel, don’t use Marvel as a model, don’t try to compete with the MCU, just literally forget about that other company. You can’t catch up, so why use it as a measuring stick. Trying to do so will only end badly. Instead, pretend Marvel isn’t there, and do your own thing, on your own timeline, without any concern for any other superhero movies or TV shows. A perfect way to get that rolling? You already have it, and it’s coming soon…
3. Use The Flash movie to reboot everything
Rumor has it that the Flash’s “solo” movie is based on the popular Flashpoint comic book storyline that rebooted the DC Comics line back in 2011, and it can be used to affect change in the DCEU as well. We already know that both Michael Keaton’s Batman and Ben Affleck’s version show up in the movie, with Keaton also appearing in this year’s Batgirl flick, which is supposed to take place after The Flash, even though The Flash has now been moved to 2023. It’s confusing, yes, and that’s part of the overall issue.
But this idea of rebooting everything and then picking and choosing what actors you’re keeping and how you’re telling various stories and what versions of the characters survive has been done in the comics numerous times, so why can’t DC also do it on screen? This leads to the next two items, the first being …
4. Bring back Henry Cavill as Superman, stat
Seriously, Cavill is great as the Man of Steel, and the fact that DC managed to find him only to utterly waste him is a comic book movie crime. Get him off the bench and put him in the game. Tell a grand, sweeping, epic tale of heroism that epitomizes who Superman really is — rather than the dark, depressing, and total misunderstanding of the character we got from Snyder nine years ago — and then use him as the centerpiece around which to build. Right now, his Superman is a much better candidate to anchor a universe than the next character we’ll discuss…
5. Leave Batman out of it for now
There is not one good reason why Batman needs to be part of the DCEU over the next few years. Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson proved that earlier this year in a movie that stands on its own, and now I think you have to give them room to operate over the next few years. They’ve earned that right, and the DCEU simply doesn’t need Batman as its central character at the moment. The DCEU was in such a rush to get to Justice League that it forgot to properly establish and develop individual characters. Speaking of which…
6. Forget about any new Justice League projects for the time being
Over the next year or two, you’ve got a new Shazam! movie, a Black Adam film that will introduce multiple heroes, an Aquaman sequel, Batgirl, The Flash, a Green Lantern TV show, the second season of Peacemaker, a Justice League Dark TV series featuring lesser-known heroes who specialize in magic and the like, an Adam Strange miniseries, a TV spinoff centered around Colin Farrell’s Penguin from The Batman, an Arkham Asylum series from Matt Reeves, more Birds of Prey in one form or another, and a Viola Davis-led Suicide Squad spinoff — and that’s just the stuff that’s been confirmed. At some point, there will be a third Wonder Woman movie, too, and, if DC follows my advice, more Cavill as Superman, too.
With all of these projects in the pipeline, Warners doesn’t need Batman to be a part of the DCEU until there’s an actual storytelling need to bring all of these other superheroes together. One of the many mistakes that Zack Snyder made with Justice League was spending a big chunk of the film introducing new characters and explaining who they were and why they were there. Under the terms of my proposal, the strategy of allowing each of these heroes to come into their own on their own terms, and in their own films and series, will result in a more organic team event, perhaps as soon as 2025 or 2026. Or even later than that, if necessary. The point is that DC can’t rush its master plan in an effort to win an unwinnable race. Batman isn’t going anywhere, and he’s doing just fine on his own, in his own corner of the multiverse, so let’s leave him alone there for now.
And speaking of leaving people out, it’s time to address the elephant in the room…
7. KEEP ZACK SNYDER AS FAR AWAY FROM THIS AS POSSIBLE
Yes, the caps are intentional. Snyder screwed up literally everything he touched in the three DC movies he helmed (and I’m not counting his execrable Watchmen adaptation), and the reissued four-hour Justice League monstrosity unleashed on HBO Max was nothing more than a marketing ploy. Anyone who tries to say different is full of it.
Snyder has no idea how to tell a coherent story, but what he does have is a fundamental misunderstanding of how superheroes work and a gift for self-promotion. His legion of fans is nothing more than an army of trolls and wannabe filmmakers who bring absurd and increasingly nonsensical layers to his work that even he couldn’t have possibly imagined. I’ve tangled with some of these people (who represent a small but vocal segment of moviegoers) before when I was writing for a different website, and their devotion to this false prophet of cinema would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Let Snyder keep making his silly zombie movies, or his rejected Star Wars movie Rebel Moon, of which Lucasfilm wanted no part (which should tell you something), and allow the millions of DC fans like me enjoy these movies without having to worry about inept storytelling, desaturated color, and more slow-motion than in NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage. I mean, really, is it so much to ask for accurate representations of my favorite DC heroes? I should hope not…
This list isn’t exactly rocket science, folks. I’m not reinventing the wheel or trying to build a better mousetrap. What I’m trying to do is lay out a plan for Warner Bros. to maximize the success of its most lucrative properties — its stable of DC characters. There are untold billions to be made here, billions that could have been made over the last decade or so but weren’t, especially when it comes to Superman.
With De Luca and Abdy coming aboard and having the option to replace Walter Hamada and start fresh, they have a golden opportunity to course-correct the DCEU straight out of the gate. They should take that opportunity and run with it. On behalf of millions of DC Comics fans, I’m begging them to do so.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.