There was always going to be Hell to pay at Warner Bros for the burning wreckage that was Justice League: a movie that made over $650 million dollars and still might lose Warner Bros upwards of $150 million dollars. Take that in for a second. The twelfth-highest grossing movie of the last year — which made well over half a billion dollars worldwide — will somehow cost the studio that made it a sizable fortune in lost revenue.
Some miss “the good old days where making $650 million was a resounding success.” I just miss the good old days where movies didn’t have to make over three quarters of a billion dollars just to break even.
While this undoubtedly won’t be the last thing that will come of it, we are starting to see Warner Bros’ response to the Justice League debacle. DC comic book writer, screenwriter and producer Geoff Johns has been unceremoniously outed as the head of the ill-fated DCEU franchise. Although Johns remains DC’s president and CEO, he’s no longer in charge of the movie side of the business. Instead, he will be taking up an advisory role for his replacement, producer Walter Hamada.
While the choice in replacement is admittedly somewhat surprising — Hamada is hardly a name brand in the film industry — it is an incredibly savvy move by Warner Bros, who is understandably gun shy about future DC movies that they have already lost unconscionable amounts of money on over the last several years. Hamada is an incredibly cost-efficient producer with extensive experience making budget-conscious “genre” movies that turn considerable profits (most notably for Warner Bros). He not only produced the remake of It, which proved to be an unprecedented and much-needed windfall for the cash-strapped movie studio, but also The Conjuring and its increasingly multitudinous sequels, prequels and spinoffs.
The message Warner Bros is sending is clear as day. They’re not giving up on their current commitment to superhero movies, but they are radically changing their approach. Rather than putting the man in charge of their publishing business at the head of their movie efforts, they’re picking somebody who they know can deliver marketable movies both on time and under budget. They want somebody practical in command: not somebody whose biggest cinematic claim to fame before the DCEU was making Green Lantern (a movie so infamously terrible that it pre-emptively killed off the company’s first plans at a shared cinematic universe).
This coincides with Warner Bros apparent plans to reboot the mega franchise only a few short years into its existence. The upcoming Flashpoint movie, like its namesake comic, is expected to use the Flash’s mucking about in different time streams to write out every single movie not named Wonder Woman from the DCEU and give them a narrative excuse to write out all of their actors who either didn’t work (Jared Leto), who are perhaps getting a little too expensive to justify keeping on (Henry Cavil) or who desperately want out of their contracts (Ben Affleck).
There’s really no denying at this point that Warner Bros really screwed the pooch when it came to the DCEU. As a fan of these characters and the stories that spawned them, I desperately hope that they can somehow find a way to fix the current mess that they find themselves in. Reboot, recast and restaff the franchise. Focus on smaller, less expensive and more focused movies. In short, make good movies. The movie-going public is only going to give them so many more chances after Justice League.