More and more news and rumors keep coming out about Warner Bros. developing other standalone, one-shot motion pictures about Batman villains since Joker won Oscars and, before that, raked in a bunch of record-setting money.
Varying quality aside, each of these could have a big box office (as much as I doubt it), especially if WB plays their cards right in the promotion. And a big box office, as in receipts, is key. In fact, it is everything to them.
Catching on yet? We know what this means: WB is again seeing dinero and chasing after another “sure thing.” And we have the precedent that shows where this road could lead.
But 2016 and Zack Snyder’s shared universe push weren’t that long ago and tell a different story. Warner-DC witnessed, from a close vantage point, how well Disney-Marvel was doing with their Cinematic Universe and wanted that for themselves. So they played a game of catch-up – which ended up more like a game of chicken – with the Joneses.
I don’t need to go into how badly it went; our readers understand it was a proverbial clown car of a cluster [deleted expletive]. What matters is, afterward, the big-wig producers swore up and down, particularly in the last two years, “Nope, not doing that again. Focusing on good directors and stories now. Not every character has to have the same tone,” etc.
Post-Joker, they appear to be on this path. Birds of Prey sort of serves a solo-baddie-outing/origin-story function; the movie is Harley Quinn-centric and declaratively her quote en quote “Emancipation” – in other words, her evolution into a new life and identity. The old college try as it was, we can see that’s turning out a lot like the Snyder-verse.
BOP’s mixed bag ought to prove that characters, narratives, and the formula don’t matter as much as your press and the impression it gives people. If Ewan McGregor had kept his mouth shut when it came to “misogyny,” maybe more people would have gone and seen his “feminist film” opening night.
But, I digress, I’m not going to look at Birds of Prey or Harley or the issue at hand through a narrow lens. There are multiple reasons for BOP’s underwhelming performance in theaters. The popularity of one character over another and inflated expectations are two.
I.e., The Joker is as much of an elephant in the room here. WB proved what a winning and bankable clown he is on his own in contrast to Ms. Quinn. Yes, she has been around a while and became a pop culture phenomenon after Suicide Squad; but he has been around way longer, has been played by some of the greatest actors of our time, and already boasts two Oscars. It’s no contest.
Be it Bane, Penguin, Two-Face, or Catwoman, I don’t think any of them generate the same level of confidence or will experience the same success as Joker or Venom. And I highly doubt anyone will take a Mr. Freeze movie seriously after the debacle of Batman & Robin, even 20-plus years later.
Yet, with The Batman coming out, we’re not supposed to call a foul at this point. A reportedly different take, Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson should – hopes the studio – recalibrate the Dark Knight brand and make audiences hungry again for all the related properties, including those in the big cast of villains.
Enter the trump card. If Harley has lost her steam, they have a back-up plan: Catwoman. Filming hasn’t even wrapped and Zoe Kravitz’s portrayal of Selina Kyle is being exalted as showstopping – including by her stepdad. I’m guessing a lot of people are seeing those dailies because there is the chatter of a spinoff for Kravitz.
Forgive the skepticism but let the movie come out first and don’t put the cart before the horse. If her performance resonates, and fans want another and better Catwoman movie, they’ll ask for it the same way they are begging for a sequel to Alita. That would be the time to listen if you care.
Honestly, I can’t say they do. More likely, Warner is smoking the hopium and more concerned with catching the next wave. Good directors and stories are probably secondary.
So villains and spinoffs are the next things and Warner, safe to say, is buying in. Long live the villains, I guess, as long as there is money in it.