DC Films Developing New 'Superman’ Movie and More
DC Films is making major strides as Warner Brothers positions their comic book multiverse to become their signature franchise going forward.
This article contains spoilers for the post-credits scene of Black Adam. Read ahead at your own discretion.
DC Films has had a tumultuous history, with the initial partnership between Warner Brothers and Zack and Deborah Snyder falling apart, and the studio getting cold feet on Geoff Johns and Jon Berg, their replacements. Now, Walter Hamada, who stewarded the franchise from 2018 through the end of its 2023 slate, has opted to take his exit with the release of Black Adam, following his frustration with Warner Brothers Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s controversial decision to cancel the HBO Max film Batgirl, which had completed principal photography before the decision to shelve the film for a tax write-off. With no DC Films studio head yet selected to take his place, it is expected that current Warner Brothers co-chairpersons Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy will have to be temporary stewards of the rich comic book IP for the time being.
Hamada’s exit comes at a rough time, as the executive (who previously oversaw massively successful horror franchises at New Line like The Conjuring and the It duology) has opted not to take a producing deal with the company as part of his exit. De Luca, Abdy, and Zaslav are rumored to have wanted him to stay, but he chose not to despite their conversations, only sticking around for the release of Black Adam as a courtesy. Zaslav came close to finding a successor in Dan Lin, who was suggested for the position by Alan Horn, but talks fell through due to complications like Lin’s existing deal with Universal. De Luca is currently expected to take the charge on the DC front temporarily, with options being considered for it to be a more permanent position, although balancing this with work on other films seems to be a big challenge for anyone overseeing an entire film division. But even without a clear leader, WBD has massive ambitions for a cinematic multiverse that can stand out from Disney and Marvel Studios’ MCU.
The latest piece from The Hollywood Reporter has outlined the many plans that are in development at DC Films as multiple players make grab for power in the company. For starters, the imminent release of Black Adam is on many superhero fans’ minds, and Dwayne Johnson is insistent that the prospective franchise gives him an opportunity to fight alongside (and against) Superman in future installments. Indeed, days after the premiere, it’s become an open secret that Henry Cavill’s Superman makes a long-awaited return in the mid-credits scene of the film — he was last seen in 2017’s Justice League and 2021’s director’s cut of that film for HBO Max, which expanded on his part with then-unreleased footage and a bit of repurposed archive footage from previous films. Negotiations were difficult, with Hamada vetoing the cameo on multiple occasions, but De Luca and Abdy – who are said to be very much in favor of Cavill – eventually greenlit the appearance, which would have been shot in September. Johnson is also said to have been a major factor in getting Warner Brothers and Henry Cavill come to terms on a favorable deal for both parties, alongside his manager Dany Garcia (who also represents Cavill).
But it appears that Johnson isn’t the only party interested in Superman making a return to the universe he started, for after years of apprehension, it appears that DC Films has resolved its issues with Henry Cavill and are now in the process of developing a new Superman solo film with him in the starring role. Man of Steel producer Charles Roven is set to produce, and Christopher McQuarrie, who previously pitched a Superman sequel in 2018, has been put on a shortlist as a possible writer as the studio looks for someone to tackle the script. Don’t expect such a movie to happen anytime soon, though – rumors indicate that Cavill is set to film back-to-back seasons of The Witcher starting next year, likely meaning that cameos will be the norm for him for the time being. McQuarrie also seems like he’ll have to wait if he chooses to direct, given that he is in the process of working on a two-part Mission: Impossible movie, which is said to be the last outing in the franchise for series star Tom Cruise, as well as a handful of other projects with the actor.
Elsewhere in the present, James Gunn is currently developing a second season to Peacemaker on top of two other spin-offs for television, one of which is expected to revolve around Viola Davis’s A.R.G.U.S. overseer Amanda Waller, and the other of which is expected to be adjacent to the Suicide Squad IP too. What’s new, however, is an indication from The Hollywood Reporter that James Gunn is also developing one or more movies alongside Peter Safran (who produced Aquaman, Shazam!, and The Suicide Squad) that may go beyond the stable of Suicide Squad characters. Gunn was previously approached to direct a new Superman movie, but he turned it down in favor of The Suicide Squad due to having more passion for bringing lesser-known characters to the spotlight.
The DCEU, as the main shared universe that began with Man of Steel in 2013 has been called by certain outlets, remains the key focus of DC Films, as most projects that are currently being developed coincide with that shared continuity. But DC Films embraced the idea of a multiverse, allowing for the existence of one-off films and franchises not tied to the main continuity, when they greenlit Joker in 2019, which became a monster hit and the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. A sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, is in the pipeline, taking the franchise in a dramatically different direction as Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker meets a new iteration of Harley Quinn portrayed by Lady Gaga, in a match that could only be made in the form of turning their story into a musical that will see Zazie Beetz return from the first film and join new cast members like Brendan Gleeson, Catherine Keener, and Jacob Lofland.
One effort that has been particularly recent is Constantine 2, a film that is not expected to be connected to the DCEU, but will serve as a belated sequel to the Keanu Reeves-starring horror-fantasy film from 2005. That iteration of the Hellblazer franchise took liberties with the source material, turning a London-based occultist detective into a Catholic exorcist who lives in Los Angeles, but has managed to endear itself with fans in subsequent years, and up until 2016’s Suicide Squad came along, it was the highest-grossing DC movie to not star Superman or Batman. Originally, J.J. Abrams was set to produce a number of shows based on the Justice League Dark set of characters, including John Constantine, but both the proposed Constantine and Madame X shows have been cancelled at HBO Max; Bad Robot is attempting to shop the shows elsewhere. Nonetheless, Abrams is said to be involved in the Constantine film sequel and is said to have other DC work in the pipeline.
Speaking of Abrams, many questions have been asked about the Superman project he was set to produce, which would be based on a script written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Details on the story of the film are light, but the film is expected to star a Black actor as the Man of Steel, and was said to be as much a standalone film as the first Joker was, with no plans to cross this Superman over with others. Despite some speculation to the contrary, the film apparently was meant to revolve an original iteration of Superman, or at least not one based on Clark Kent, and would be set over the course of several decades. However, with the push for a new Clark Kent-focused Superman film, it seems possible that this project could be shelved, if not permanently, then at least for a time, as the push for this movie came about in a period where the cinematic future for the Last Son of Krypton was not clear.
Of course, the biggest focus of these non-DCEU universes falls into the hands of Matt Reeves, who successfully rebooted the standalone Batman film franchise with The Batman earlier this year. Reeves has so far expanded his list of DC projects not just to a Batman sequel, but also a Penguin spin-off series starring Colin Farrell as the rising crime lord (which will film next year), and an untitled Arkham spin-off show which could see the return of both Paul Dano as the Riddler and Barry Keoghan as the Joker. These projects, however, appear to be the tip of the Iceberg Lounge – Reeves is meeting with several other writers and directors to expand his iteration of the Batman universe into a full-blown cinematic universe, with additional spin-off projects based around characters like Clayface, Scarecrow, and Professor Pyg said to be in early development. Interestingly, it appears that some of these projects are being considered as films as opposed to just being focused on TV shows.
Back with the DCEU, there’s still plenty in the pipeline. Both Wonder Woman 3 and The Flash 2 have screenplays in development, with Patty Jenkins working on the former and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick working on the latter ahead of an official greenlight. (Despite a number of controversies with the film’s star, Warner Brothers Discovery is incredibly confident in the film, which will help shape the future of the setting – and a recast isn’t necessarily off the table in a worst-case scenario.) The long-delayed Green Lantern anthology series is still moving forward on HBO Max, covering multiple time periods and focusing on different members of the Green Lantern Corps. A number of movies like Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and Blue Beetle are in post-production, while others like Black Canary and Static Shock are said to be in development.
Though the characters most closely associated with the Justice League IP are said to be in focus, Johnson has expressed interest in developing lesser-known characters, such as members tied to the Justice Society IP that appear in his movie. De Luca and Abdy are said to want to greenlight a number of projects that are “on the runway”, meaning that fans can expect to see a lot of DC Films content on the big and small screens in the near future. We hopefully won’t have to wait long to find out more.
Black Adam will be playing in theaters later this week, on October 21.
Grant Davis is a freelance writer who has covered entertainment news for more than seven years. His articles have frequently appeared in Star Wars News Net as well as as other entertainment-related websites. As someone who grew up on Star Wars and comic book movies, he’s completely thrilled with the current era of genre entertainment.