DC Films Proclaims Comeback With New Looks At 'Aquaman 2,' 'Black Adam,' 'The Flash' – Forbes

Warner Bros. hasn’t bought an ad during the Super Bowl since 2005, when they used the game to hawk a quippy, spirited commercial for Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins. So, no, I don’t think this 60-second tease will air during the big game, but sometime before or after wouldn’t shock me. Or, for that matter, it might just be for online consumption since they’ll get the same “viral” traction without spending Super Bowl game day advertising rates.  
Anyway, this clip, centered around The Batman, also holds brief glimpses of Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom, The Flash and a few glimpses of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. And yes, the overriding message is that, to paraphrase John Wick, I’m thinking DC Films is “back.”  
We get the usual bits of Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz flirting in The Batman, along with a glimpse of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman/Arthur Curry in his new duds and an obvious “Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/Flash is going to travel back in time to save his mother” hook for The Flash. There’s more offered from Black Adam, including glimpses of Pierce Brosnan’s Dr. Fate, Aldin Hodges’ Hawkman, Noah Centineo’s Atom Smasher and Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone.  
It’s a perfectly fun tease, with Black Adam (the next on docket after The Batman) getting the lion’s share of “new” attention while also showing off its ensemble cast of “first time onscreen in live-action cinema” superheroes. All four films get the “only in theaters” proclamation. The core message is that, after two years of Covid-caused chaos, the present-tense, ongoing, Walter Hamada-driven era of DC Films is kicking back into gear.  
Jason Momoa in ‘Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom’
As I’ve discussed many times, one cruel effect of the global pandemic is that it absolutely kneecapped what had otherwise been a solid post-Justice League winning streak for the brand. Aquaman and Joker earned solid reviews and each topped $1 billion, Wonder Woman had earned rave reviews and grossed $821 million global (including a ridiculous $413 million domestic) and Shazam! had earned rave reviews and a decent $365 million on a $90 million budget.  
Sure, Birds of Prey stumbled despite strong reviews, but surely Wonder Woman 1984 was going to kick butt globally, right? Alas, Wonder Woman 1984 ended up released in theaters and on HBO Max concurrently during Christmas 2020. It was a sacrifice to the streaming gods, a surefire blockbuster offered up as the first of what would be Warner Bros.’ plan (courtesy of AT&T Jason Kilar) to put all of their 2021 theatrical releases on HBO Max concurrently with theatrical release.  
I’ll argue part of that was because most of their films were either likely bombs (old-school programmers like The Little Things, Reminiscence and Those Who Wish Me Dead) or commercial coin tosses (Space Jam: A New Legacy, Godzilla Vs. Kong, Dune), but Wonder Woman 1984 absolutely would have been a $700 million-plus hit had it opened amid non-Covid circumstances.  
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was always a commercial long shot, thanks to an R-rating, no Will Smith, no Joker and lukewarm reactions to Suicide Squad. But opening in August of last year, right when a Delta variant was sending everyone back inside again, meant that a likely mediocre performance (think Secret Life of Pets 2 dropping 52% from Secret Life of Pets) resulted in a catastrophic $168 million global cume on a $185 million budget (ironically tied with Wonder Woman 1984’s $169 million cume).  
Ezra Miller in ‘The Flash’
Even if that was always going to happen, it could have been sold as a “for the love of the game” flick following the likely critical and commercial successes of Wonder Woman 1984 and The Batman. Moreover, a desire for new streaming content amid the pandemic culminated in the release of the four-hour, $70 million retooling of what became Zack Snyder’s Justice League.  
While viewership didn’t break any records, it was a better film (especially the spectacular third art) than the one we got theatrically. Four years removed from the original film and with Joss Whedon now “outed” as an alleged Internet villain, even many of the very folks who lashed out hardest at Man of Steel and/or Batman v Superman were now proclaiming that Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a shining example of auteurism triumphing over corporate meddling.  
Moreover, the SnyderVerse again catapulted to the front of the discourse, as if the $800 million-$1.1 billion critical/commercial successes of Wonder Woman, Joker and Aquaman never happened.  
However, WB let Cathy Yan make an R-rated (and excellent, natch) Harley Quinn action comedy. They let James Gunn spend $180 million on an R-rated Suicide Squad sequel. They are allowing Matt Reeves’ $185 million The Batman to exist outside of the DCEU and run 175 minutes. You can’t argue that Warner Bros. isn’t trying to be a filmmaker-driven studio again.  
Dwayne Johnson in ‘Black Adam’
That’s not even counting letting Lana Wachowski set $190 million on fire for an extended-middle-finger of a legacy sequel that was (the enjoyable and fascinating) The Matrix Resurrections. This isn’t about heroes and villains, but WB seems to be trying to go where they understood giving filmmakers freedom meant you got your periodic Speed Racer or Watchmen as well as your periodic Sherlock Holmes or Dark Knight.  
I don’t know if The Batman will perform more like Man of Steel ($668 million) or Joker ($1.073 billion without China), but (concerns about Nolan-era deja vu aside) it looks quite good, and I’ve liked every prior Matt Reeves studio flick. I believe in James Wan almost as much as I believe in James Cameron, and I will hope that Jaume Collet-Serra’s Black Adam will be closer in quality to his Hitchcockian Liam Neeson flicks than Jungle Cruise.  
Since I hated both It movies (which then earned $1.174 billion on a combined $105 million budget), my eventual opinion on Andrés Muschietti’s The Flash is almost commercially irrelevant. Nonetheless, skipping ahead, I have absolute faith in David Sandberg’s Shazam: Fury of the Gods and I’m beyond curious as to if Wonder Woman 3 gets made and/or what form Wonder Woman 3 takes.  
The above teaser/sizzle reel is selling 2022 as DC Films’ comeback year, because that’s what it frankly must be. Marvel dropped a slew of buzzy Disney+ television shows and offered up at least one “big” movie (Shang-Chi) that everyone liked. And while the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home is more complicated than “Yay, Marvel!” it still furthered the narrative that Marvel rules while DC drools.  
Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne and Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle in ‘The Batman’
But prior to Covid, when DC was putting out outside-the-lines flicks like Joker and Birds of Prey, when even flicks based on Aquaman were racing to $1 billion, just as Marvel was expected to deal with some post-Endgame speed bumps, the two rival comic book franchises were starting to become on relatively even footing.  
The Batman, Black Adam, The Flash and Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom will have to contend with, not MCU upstarts like Black Widow, Eternals and Shang-Chi, but A-level sequels like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love & Thunder and (unless it gets delayed again) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, with likely Sony upstart Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse part I creating more competition than, say, Morbius.  
After two years dealing with shifting release strategies, pandemic-specific variables and a return of the SnyderVerse, this is a do-or-die year for Hamada’s DC Films. That’s the crux of the spot. DC got dinged by Covid, but now they are back, hopefully no worse for the wear. We can only hope that absence made the heart grow stronger. 


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