Come on, DC. This really shouldn’t be quite so difficult.
You have some of the most coveted characters and brands at your disposal. Several generations of directors grew up reading Batman comics, and would now jump at the chance to direct a movie about the iconic hero.
So why can’t you convince anyone to make a Batman movie set in your shared movie universe?
It’s not exactly surprising that, when given the chance, Matt Reeves, the guy behind the upcoming War for Planet of the Apes movie, has decided to ditch negotiations with DC in order to focus on post-production of his CGI monkey movie.
If anything, the director should be commended for his efficiency—it took months for Ben Affleck to realize that making a movie for DC was a bad idea.
Reeves’ decision to bail out before even signing the paperwork for The Batman is a move which will no doubt cause plenty of embarrassment for DC. Having already lost Ben Affleck, Rick Famuyiwa, Seth Grahame-Smith, and Michelle MacLaren from various directorial roles over the past few years, the studio is quickly developing a dangerous stigma.
Directors in Hollywood know that different superhero movie studios produce different results. Marvel makes superstars of all their directors. X-Men movies are nice to do if you can wrestle a project away from Bryan Singer. Get involved with DC, though, and you’ll end up in a frustrating battle over creative control that will eat you up and spit you out.
The best-case scenario for any director working with DC is a score of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes (which is only achievable if you’ve got Christopher Nolan on your side), and there’s a wide spectrum of worse outcomes, ranging from far lower scores (Zack Snyder), to getting replaced by a trailer company (David Ayer), to getting so frustrated that you put your entire career on hold (Ben Affleck).
There’s no doubt that all of this was buzzing through Matt Reeves’ mind during every meeting with DC’s executives. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was well received, and rumor throughout Hollywood has it that War for the Planet of the Apes is going to do even better.
So why take on a risky DC project that involves a working environment which is so hostile that it made Ben Affleck cry?
Clearly, Reeves doesn’t think The Batman is worth the hassle. There are a lot of far more appealing offers in the director’s near future.
It’s clear, though, that Warner Bros is still belligerently pushing ahead with the shared universe that nobody except the most diehard fans enjoy. There’s still dirty money to be made from misrepresenting movies in their trailers, so DC has the greenlight to continue spinning out movies which range from mediocre to downright awful.
The problem with this, though, is that as the studio continues to develop a reputation for cynically prioritizing money over quality filmmaking, decent, talented directors will become increasingly wary of the entire DCEU.
Poor quality movies beget more poor quality movies, and eventually, moviegoers are going to lose interest in increasingly dire attempts to raid their wallets.
We’re probably at the point now that it’d make sense to scrap the entire DCEU and start again before things get worse.
Good luck trying to convince Warner Bros of that, though. They’ve got plenty more terrible movies planned, and nothing’s going to stop them from grinding this franchise into the dirt.