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Opinion: AT&T Should Embrace the ‘DC Film Multiverse’

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With the recent announcement of Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuting on HBO Max in 2021, many fans have speculated that perhaps AT&T – the company in charge of WarnerMedia – should also release David Ayer’s director’s cut of 2016’s Suicide Squad. That has since prompted discussion of Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film getting released and even a sequel to Snyder’s HBO Max film.

But is it worth it?

I am here to tell you that AT&T should embrace it wholeheartedly.

It makes way too much sense. DC Comics is one of the biggest IPs on the planet with a fan-base that has only grown stronger in numbers and passion over the years.

Streaming Service Arms Race

Many have praised the notion of WarnerMedia, under AT&T, joining the ranks of the streaming service arms race by getting bankable exclusive content – much like Netflix with Stranger Things and Disney+ with The Mandalorian.

With no added pressure to make a huge opening weekend box office smash, this means WarnerMedia is creating a model for filmmakers to exude creative freedom and make the best product possible to watch – not just to sell the most amount of merchandise.

That is worthy of the utmost praise from me as someone who is paying $12-15 per month to watch their content.

Disney+ and Netflix are the top two streaming service competitors for HBO Max.

If HBO Max gains a lot of subscribers and people generally enjoy the exclusive content – that being Zack Snyder’s Justice League and potentially Ayer’s Suicide Squad – WarnerMedia will only want more content. As they should.

WarnerMedia must create original content outside of DC Comics properties, no question, but there is no bigger IP and opportunity sitting in front of them than with their DC properties.

Would the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League lead to Ayer’s Suicide Squad seeing the light of day? Maybe Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film might be next? Does it mean bringing back Snyder to finish his trilogy? Do other scrapped films from the universe get green lit, including Ray Fisher’s Cyborg?

In my humble opinion, a Cyborg film would be a great opportunity to explore a minority-led character that would be inspirational to people around the world with disabilities.

The possibilities are endless.

David Ayer’s Suicide Squad

David Ayer, the director of Suicide Squad, tweeted that it would be “easy to complete” his cut of the film and would find it “incredibly cathartic.”

He was also quick to point out how different his version is from the one released in theatres, stating it was “exhausting getting your ass kicked for a film that got the Edward Scissorhands treatment. The film I made has never been seen.”

Jared Leto as the Joker in a deleted scene from ‘Suicide Squad.’

There seems to be some contrasting speculation being reported on about the possibility of Ayer’s cut being brought to life, though.

The Cultured Nerd reported that their sources told them Zoic Studios would be working on effects for both Snyder’s film and Ayer’s film.

Grace Randolph, a YouTuber whose sources were correct about Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Henry Cavill as Superman dating back to last year, tweeted out that WarnerMedia is definitely intrigued by the possibility of Ayer’s Suicide Squad getting a director’s cut, but want to wait and see if Snyder’s film will be a success first before getting the green light.

The project could lead even more fans to subscribing to HBO Max that are interested in villain-led stories. Even if people are not enamoured by Snyder, it could be a breath of fresh air for other fans to experience a new filmmaker adding their style to a DC property while maintaining the tone of the shared universe.

We might not know its current status until after Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but seeing our favourite team of villains return for proper justice sounds appealing to me.

HBO Max Shared Universe

My suggestion: carry on the cinematic universe established in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as exclusive content on HBO Max.

I realize I say that as if my opinion actually matters, but think about it.

I guarantee the number of HBO Max subscriptions has gone through the roof since Snyder officially announced his film’s release. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut fandom has made waves online for years and the movement gained so much traction that the film has been willed into existence.

David Ayer and Zack Snyder posing together at San Diego Comic Con.

Those same fans would likely support Ayer as his vision coincided with Snyder’s vision and contained the same darker tone. They were a part of the same universe foundation before the shake-up that happened during production of Suicide Squad. Ayer fell victim to the same studio-led mistakes that Snyder did with Justice League.

If Ayer’s Suicide Squad turns out to be a better film than what was released theatrically – which, let’s be honest, would not be that hard – then I vote Affleck gets a shot at his take on Batman taking on Deathstroke.

Ben Affleck’s Solo Batman Film

Let’s be real here: when Affleck was writing the script for his Batman film, the amount of buzz and press it received was next-to-none. Any mention of it made headline news stories. It clearly bothered Affleck that the media only wanted to talk about Batman and not about the two films he was promoting at the time: The Accountant and Live By Night.

If I am being honest with myself, I was probably a part of the problem because I was completely fascinated with the idea of his Batman film. It was a dream-come-true for me. I read all of the news stories and quotes from Affleck and co-screenwriter, Geoff Johns – multiple times.

Some could argue that the media’s obsession with Batman and lack of regard for Affleck’s other films led to him exiting as director and eventually the role altogether, but there has been mounting evidence since then that says otherwise.

Ben Affleck as Batman in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League.’

We have since learned that Affleck was dealing with a relapse in his alcoholism as well as going through a divorce with actor, Jennifer Garner. His personal life took a toll on him, for sure, and I am incredibly happy to see him bounce back and star in successful films like The Way Back.

During the press tour for The Way Back, Affleck touched on the subject of Justice League and the Batman film he was supposed to write, direct, and star in.

In an interview with GQ, he stated, “I had a better time on Batman v Superman, which I really enjoyed doing, and Justice League was unfortunately touched by some personal tragedy . . . sometimes things sort of work and gel, and sometimes you just seem to be having one problem after another.”

Affleck even pointed out how Justice League felt like a “cow’s body with a horse’s head” in regards to having two directors differing extensively in style.

He stated, “I found that I had kind of lost my enthusiasm or passion for [The Batman],” stating that it should be a dream-come-true, but had “become something different” for him after the disappointment of Justice League and pre-production of his Batman film.

Affleck did support the idea of Snyder’s version seeing the light of day, though, stating in an interview with Cinemablend while promoting The Way Back that “I do think Zack’s cut should be available.”

He even tweeted support for the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement on the second anniversary of Justice League’s theatrical release, along with cast members Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, and many more in Hollywood.

Affleck told Cinemablend, ‘”Zack was like, ‘Hey, they are doing this thing.’ And I said, ‘Zack, I love you and I support you. However, I can help you.’”

It is clear that Affleck has always supported Snyder’s vision not only for Batman but for his vision of the universe. It was the main reason he signed up to take on the role of a lifetime in the first place.

Our website’s own senior editor, John Garza, wrote an exclusive piece about what went wrong behind-the-scenes in pre-production of Affleck’s Batman film here.

We know that Affleck officially stepped down from the role, but we also know he is returning in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. If he is willing to wear the cowl again and bring his vision of Batman to life, AT&T would be crazy not to make it happen.

Imagine seeing a Ben Affleck-led film (in front of and behind the cameras) with Joe Manganiello as a martial-arts villain named Deathstroke, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Jeremy Irons returning as Alfred Pennyworth, and potentially Jared Leto as the Joker.

Now picture it taking place in the dark, gritty, Detroit-based Gotham City featured in Batman v Superman and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. We could see Batman interacting with his rogues gallery of villains locked in Arkham Asylum while fighting his inner demons (per cinematographer, Robert Richardson) and the screenplay (reportedly last rewritten by Chris Terrio) taking inspiration from David Fincher’s 1997 mystery thriller, The Game.

Heck, maybe even another well-known actor and close friend of Affleck like Matt Damon could join the cast. He once expressed interest in doing so back when Affleck was still attached to the project.

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’

Since the film would be dealing with a minimal amount of superhuman abilities and otherworldly effects, if any at all, the film would not cost nearly as much money to produce. It would fit in terms of tone and style to other successful films that Affleck has directed, such as Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and even the period-piece, Live By Night.

The Batman film could even be shot as a miniseries, as is being discussed with Snyder’s film.

You are telling me that WarnerMedia and HBO Max wouldn’t go through the roof for content and talent like that? I am going through the roof just writing about it.

A common argument made against the idea of Affleck re-donning the cowl is the idea of his age factoring in. He is currently 47 years old and would be nearing 50 by the time his supposed solo film would likely debut.

While I will never question the notion that it is tougher to get and stay in shape for a physically demanding role at an older age, it is not impossible.

In fact, it happens all the time.

Dwayne Johnson is a year older than Affleck and nobody questions his physique moving forward. Sylvester Stallone is quite a bit older, but has still delivered action films like The Expendables franchise while being in his 60s. Robert Downey Jr. was older than Affleck when both took on their superhero roles and Downey Jr. stuck with the role for multiple films lasting 12 years.

I think people also forget that stunt actors also make a living doing the hard work as well. Richard Cetrone, Affleck’s stunt double in Batman v Superman, did a marvelous job delivering one of the most iconic action scenes ever.

I think Affleck can handle staying in great physical shape for one project after Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League 2

One thing I have not mentioned yet might be what some people consider the more logical answer for what film would/should happen next: Zack Snyder’s Justice League 2.

It was revealed in 2018 by storyboard artist and acclaimed animation director, Jay Oliva, that Snyder was originally planning a five-film arc starting with Man of Steel. Most assumed it would have likely ended with a trilogy featuring the Justice League of America, later confirmed by Snyder. That plan did not incorporate solo films, though, as they were to be factored in around those five films.

After everything that has happened with Warner Bros. and the change of direction of their DC films to more light-hearted affair and Snyder’s departure from a hands-on role in future films, I imagine a continuation of his film into a trilogy is not a high probability, but not out of the cards, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I would thoroughly enjoy seeing him finish his vision. He is my favourite filmmaker, after all.

Snyder’s new Netflix film, ‘Army of the Dead,’ coming to Netflix in 2021.

Snyder is involved with two projects with Netflix: directing Army of the Dead also set to debut in 2021 and bringing a Norse mythology anime series to life with Oliva. He has also expressed interest in the past for making other projects, such as a remake of The Fountainhead, an original idea for a war film titled The Last Photograph, and even perhaps a stab at a Napoleon Bonaparte movie.

I could be wrong. In fact, I hope I am wrong.

My gut feeling tells me that Zack Snyder’s Justice League could be a finale to his time with DC Comics and even the universe he was planning on building. There is a chance we might not get Ayer’s true version of Suicide Squad, Affleck’s solo Batman film, or even a sequel to Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

But I have been wrong before. Many times before.

I sincerely hope and pray that AT&T will prove my insecurities about the future of HBO Max exclusive DC Comics content after Zack Snyder’s Justice League to be wrong.

Making it Happen

To be brutally honest, WarnerMedia would be missing out on one of the biggest opportunities to make a historic splash in the history of cinema and streaming services by not going forward with the darker, teen and an adult-oriented universe that has already been established. The hard part is already done.

If anyone can catch up to Marvel and give them a run for their money, it would be AT&T launching a multiverse in a way that will differentiate from Disney by having theatrical releases and HBO Max exclusives existing in two different universes.

Warner Bros. can still make and release lighter-toned films in theatres to please a younger audience while making darker original content for HBO Max. It has worked out well for DC Universe with hits like Swamp Thing, Titans, and Doom Patrol. It remains to be seen if DC Universe will merge with HBO Max, though.

Ezra Miller and Grant Gustin both appearing as the Flash during the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ TV crossover.

Plus, the multiverse utilized on the television side in Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover seemed to please fans and do very well with viewership and ratings. Fans of Superman Returns got to see Brandon Routh get another chance in the role, Smallville fans got to see Tom Welling return, and fans of John Wesley Shipp from 1990’s The Flash got to see him return as well as seeing current The Flash actor, Grant Gustin, and even a surprise cameo by big-screen Flash actor, Ezra Miller.

There is no doubt seeing multiple versions of characters existing at the same time, even sharing the screen together, excited fans.

Obviously some logistics will have to be sorted out with Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Momoa’s Aquaman being quite successful in solo films not directed by Snyder. However, they do have a character in the Flash to tie the connective tissue to both live-action universes if need be.

Talk about meta. It sounds too good to be true.

But it can be done, though, due to the successful track record of Warner Bros. Chairman, Toby Emmerich (despite how you feel about his involvement in Justice League), President of DC Films, Walter Hamada, WarnerMedia CEO, Jason Kilar, and CCO of DC Comics, Jim Lee.

After all, their combined efforts – along with the strong presence of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut fandom – made Zack Snyder’s Justice League a reality.

We Can Rebuild. We Can Do Better.

To conclude my epic soliloquy, from Man of Steel up until today, I have discovered that even though I have been a DC Comics fan my entire life and relish their characters, I have become an even bigger fan of the cast and crew involved with Snyder’s universe.

Great studios and streaming services stand behind and work with amazing talent. It is filmmaking working at its finest and the end result only yields success.

Getting to see my favorite filmmaker, Zack Snyder, work with the likes of Ben Affleck for a streaming service supporting their incredible artistic sensibilities is something I would be excited for just on its own. To add my favorite characters and cinematic universe into the mix would take it to a new level in the stratosphere. A level not yet reached on our little blue planet here.

 

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