Not content to let Marvel steal every last ounce of cinematic thunder with the announcement that a genius-billionaire-philanthropist will square off with the United States’ greatest soldier in Captain America 3, Warner Bros. has revealed its plans for the next six years — and it is thick with DC Comics, Lego and J.K. Rowling:
Lego’s Ninjago, (2016)
Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer (2016)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot (2017)
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Justice League Part One, directed by Zack Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams confirmed to reprise their roles (2017)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 (2018)
The Flash, starring Ezra Miller (2018)
Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa (2018)
The Lego Movie 2 (2018)
Shazam, with Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam (2019)
Justice League Part Two, directed by Zack Snyder (2019)
Cyborg, starring Ray Fisher (2020)
Green Lantern (2020)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 (2020)
Some of this we already knew — Warner had announced their plan to adapt Rowling’s Harry Potter spin-off novel Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them a good, long while ago and the Shazam news broke recently — and anyone who didn’t think Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was going to lead to a Justice League flick should be tested for something. And those Lego sequels were a foregone conclusion given the $486 million The Lego Movie made worldwide.
No, the news here is the abundance of stand-alone DC Comics movies — Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and Suicide Squad — and the fact that one of them isn’t a Ben Affleck Batman film.
I suppose there was no way for Warner Bros. to build a Cinematic Superhero Universe the Marvel Way: Start with one movie about one character (Iron Man), take a couple of years to introduce two more (Captain America and Thor), give that first hero a sequel (Iron Man 2: The Whiplashening), all building towards a team up (The Avengers), rinse and repeat (Iron Man 3: The Rockford Files, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: The Age of Ultron). That takes a time that Warner Bros. just doesn’t really have — not if they’re going to compete in the Superheroic Arms Race.
So they are jump-starting a Universe. Man of Steel worked (financially, if not entirely creatively), they’re adding Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman for Dawn of Justice (which feels like it’s already trying to be their Avengers), then Justice League Part One, which looks to have more characters in it than Batman & Robin did.
Then comes the spin-offs, which are…curious.
Aquaman. Okay, sure. Momoa could be a movie star (Conan the Barbarian notwithstanding), but there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done in order to sell him as a solo character — given that no one save DC Comics itself seems to take him seriously.
The Flash. That means that they’re either expecting the TV show to be off the air in four years (which, given its ratings, is unlikely) or they’re counting on an audience to be able to hold two different Flashes in their heads at once — which is risky.
Cyborg. I’m all for trying to diversify the line — and, unlike Marvel’s lily-white roster (and, no, The Hulk doesn’t count), bravo to Warner for greenlighting solo flicks led by a woman and an African American — but I dunno if anyone was clamoring for a Cyborg flick. Now, the Six Million Dollar Man…that’s a cyborg we can all get behind.
Green Lantern. Whoo-boy. Yeah, let’s do this one again.
Suicide Squad. SOLD. Super-powered criminals recruited by a shadowy government agency to carry out missions that are almost guaranteed to result in casualties? Directed by Fury and End of Watch’s David Ayers? Yeah, okay. Sign me up.
Listen, I hope all of this works for Warner Bros. I want nothing more than good comic-based entertainment — and if I can’t get that, I want successful comic-based entertainment. I am old enough to remember a time when a world in which an Avengers or a Batman movie was pure folly to be theorized only while high on YooHoo during a sleepover.
We live in an age of wonders…I just want them to be wonderful.
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. He can no longer fit into his Superman Underoos…but he still has them.