Tuesday, June 18, 2024

DCEU News Burst Causes Backlash, Backtracking

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Hoo boy. So we had a little micro burst of news come out from Warner Bros’. DCEU franchise last week. To say it sent much of the comic book and comic movie world atwitter would be an understatement. To compound matters, some of this news was apparently backtracked by either the director or by industry sources, and without an official statement by Warner Bros. to clear this up, we’re still left with more questions than answers.

And no, Geoff Johns, issuing tweets digging at the so-called news does not magically fix everything.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Ben Affleck’s continued involvement in the DCEU franchise has been murky, at best. Affleck continues to say this is a dream role, but his own brother, Casey Affleck,  seemingly spilled the beans that Ben would be leaving in an interview. Then news broke last week that the Batman standalone director, Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In), allegedly claimed that Batman would not be in the DCEU canon. Which promptly opened to floodgates to rampant speculation that Ben was indeed on his way out and that the glut of new Joker movies (more on that in a minute) would also be entirely non-canonical.

Now, word obviously got back to Reeves and Casey Affleck over the brouhaha they had one-two punched, and both men walked back their statements. Affleck had earlier, claiming he was just speculating, and Reeves did via a tweet string, claiming he meant that Batman would be about Batman and not include several Justice Leaguer cameos which would have made it more of a Captain America: Civil War transition film. Crisis… mitigated.

But speaking of the Justice League! The Justice League Dark film has once again wound up back at the drawing board after Warner Bros. executives declined to pick up any of the directorial pitches sent in. This isn’t the first time Justice League Dark has been sent back to development, though many of the DCEU films, including Batman and the Flash, have at this point. Still, it’s disappointing that any momentum the spookier side of DC Comics had building up for it has ground to a halt.

Then there’s the Joker. Batman’s arch-nemesis dominated movie talk last week to the point that even diehard fans were seemingly starting to feel the Joker fatigue. Let’s break this down.

We were reportedly told that Jared Leto’s much-maligned Joker would be returning for the second Suicide Squad movie. Okay, fine. We were all probably expecting that. Then we found out via official announcement that DCEU is making a standalone Joker origin story… that literally nobody asked for. Longtime fans of the Joker will point out that the character works because we can never pin him down. Yes, the original Tim Burton Batman tried giving him an origin by making Jack Nicholsen’s turn a crime boss, and yes, Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke also took a stab at an origin, casting the nefarious clown as a former failed comedian who went insane thanks to one, ultimately awful day.

However, the Joker is far more unpredictable and threatening when he remains completely detached from any sort of logic we’d like to pin on him. Christopher Nolan’s Batman: The Dark Knight understood this, and Heath Ledger’s Joker constantly changed his origin story depending on who he was talking to.

Now, however, we’re apparently getting a “hard-boiled” Joker origin directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover Trilogy) and produced by Martin Scorsese. That again, everyone wants about as much as we wanted the Han Solo origin story.

So that’s two Joker movies coming out in-wait a minute. We’re not done with him yet. Or Leto.

Not content with a double knockout of Joker, Warner Bros. and the DCEU decided to give us yet another Joker film, this one entirely set around Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Leto’s Joker, apparently called “Mad Love.”  To compound the outrage, initial reports indicated that this Harley Quinn and Joker movie would be replacing the Harley Quinn vehicle starring a trio of DC’s best anti-heroines, Gotham City Sirens to be directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad).

To recap. A much discussed and analyzed abusive relationship movie between Harley and the Joker is in the works and was thought to be replacing a female-starring film that would ostensibly be closer to the vein of DCEU’s only critical success so far, Wonder Woman.

The internet was very much not happy.

In some good news, however, it appears the demise of Gotham City Sirens was exaggerated, as industry sources insisted the movie was still on track. Warner Bros. has not publicly clarified on this, and Gotham City Sirens‘ status remains up in the air. The Harley and Joker movie has some news, now apparently working titled Harley Quinn vs. The Joker though the early synopsis is still describing their fight as a “lover’s quarrel.” The movie is set to be directed by the Crazy, Stupid, Love and This Is Us duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Additionally, Geoff Johns and Patti Jenkins came out decisively in the other DCEU kerfluffle, which wound up being a point in Warner Bros’. favor. After James Cameron was asked about Wonder Woman, he uttered his now infamous rant about how Diana was a step backward and not a “strong woman.” The internet, naturally, had plenty to say about that, including Jenkins herself.

Whew! Okay, so we’re all caught up? That’s a lot of news in a short time, and more clarifications will probably be coming out in the coming weeks. That said, looking at this new slate, whatever happened to the Warner Bros. and DCEU executives claiming they learned their lesson from Wonder Woman’s success? What happened to the thought of embracing more characters who are naturally about hope and wonder?

Yes, we still have Justice League this fall (which is now facing another round of scrutiny thanks to the recent news about Joss Whedon, though this is hardly Warner Bros. fault), and yes we still have Aquaman, a confirmed Wonder Woman 2, and supposedly the Flash, Cyborg, and Shazam all in the pipeline. This isn’t counting the announced films of Nightwing directed by Chris McKay (Lego Batman), and Batgirl set to be directed by the currently embattled Whedon, either. There’s enough room at the table to have the optimistic, warm hero movies as well as the grittier alternates.

With the DCEU track record, however, well, we don’t exactly have a lot of faith built up in reserves. We’ll just have to wait, and hopefully not be disappointed. Again.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

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