The more things change, the more they stay the same. After 2017’s Justice League debacle, there was a huge shake-up at Warner Bros.’ DC film slate. There was a belief that the studio would finally get its comic book movie universe back on track and rectify the mistakes of the past.
Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case, as every movie gets pulled into more controversy and studio politics that take away attention from what really matters here: the movie. There’s no easy way to say this, but Warner Bros. might have eventually lost the DC fans’ faith.
The straw that broke the camel’s back
After the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s multiverse-blending spectacle, the hype should’ve turned to DC and seeing what The Flash film would deliver. Instead of fans excitedly debating which characters might appear, the movie sounds dead on arrival as a rumour spread like wildfire that the film will retcon the Snyderverse and wave goodbye to Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman. While everyone knew that Affleck was as good as gone, there was still hope that Cavill would return as the Man of Steel—especially considering how much of a huge star he is right now.
Whether this rumour is accurate or not doesn’t matter, because it’s already being taken as gospel. On the Internet, news doesn’t need to be true—it only needs to be perceived as such.
Controlling the narrative
Unfortunately, The Flash rumour is nothing new when it comes to DC films and Warner Bros. The studio must have the worst confidentiality agreements on Earth, or it has a mole that’s determined to leak every morsel of information. Every time a DC film is in production, fans receive more information than they should about the projects.
Every corporate knows the importance of controlling the narrative. Disney and Marvel Studios are excellent at this. They make sure to contain the bad stuff internally and only leak the good rumours. Case in point: Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire in No Way Home. This was done to drive anticipation and positive talk around the film since this was something that everyone wanted to see. On the contrary, the only DC leaks seem to be about troublesome reshoots and director-studio clashes. Again, this is nothing new and Disney experiences its share of it, but it isn’t being leaked out into the fandom before the films drop.
Recognising where Warner Bros. has gone wrong
There’s simply no denying that Warner Bros. has made mistakes with the DC Universe on numerous occasions. Whether it’s the treatment of directors, actors, or even the fandom, the studio needs a better crisis communications department. It needs to acknowledge its mistakes, publicly, and become more fan-centric in its approach. This doesn’t mean it show roll on its back for every suggestion, but it’s evident that the boardrooms are giant echo chambers constructed to stroke egos and personal agendas. No one is listening, which is the number one problem here.
While burying its head in the sand is Warner Bros.‘ chosen method of conflict management, it isn’t winning over the detractors who’ve lost faith. Again, this doesn’t mean that the studio owes specific answers to everyone but humbling itself could go a long way to repairing the fractious relationship with the fans.
Restoring the Snyderverse?
What happened after No Way Home was successful? Fans began to clamour for Garfield’s return as Spider-Man. And you know what the studio didn’t do? Dismiss the idea entirely. Instead, it’s keeping the rumour (a good one) going and probably entertaining the possibility behind the scenes with Garfield and his representatives.
After the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Warner Bros. couldn’t wait to tell everyone that the Snyderverse is done and dusted. Why, though? Surely, if you’re creating a Multiverse, the Snyderverse can exist in its own space. There’s no denying that Snyder’s films were divisive, but he has his fanbase. Warner Bros. and DC could easily satisfy two groups of fans by allowing those who want more Snyder films to have them and those who want something else to have something different.
The decision to end the Snyderverse so quickly this shows the massive disconnect between the studio and fans. Yes, there’s no doubt that the Justice League fiasco left many with egg on their face (and rightfully so), but this should be about more than ego. At the end of the day, is Warner Bros. making the films for the people around the boardroom table or the millions who turn up to cinemas or watch at home? That’s a question that the studio doesn’t seem to know the answer to yet.