By Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Stories about Batman and his assassin son, a new Superman tale and Swamp Thing are set to hit the big screen as part of an ambitious 10-year plan to reinvigorate DC Studios under new owner Warner Bros Discovery.
Despite a rich stable of characters from Batman to Wonder Woman, the DC film and television studio has failed to match the success of Walt Disney Co’s Marvel hit factory.
“The history of DC is pretty messed up,” said director James Gunn, who directed three “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies for Marvel and was tapped last year to revamp DC Studios. “We’re going to promise that everything from our first project forward is going to be unified.”
Gunn and DC Studios co-chairman Peter Safran on Monday unveiled a Marvel Cinematic Universe-inspired plan to tell a single story that unfolds over eight to 10 years, through 10 upcoming film and TV projects.
The first phase, “Gods and Monsters,” uses some of the DC Universe’s best-known super heroes to introduce audiences to a new generation of characters. Gunn said he worked with a team of five writers to sketch out one connected story.
At the same time, the studio will release stories that fall outside this central DC Universe narrative, dubbed DC Elseworlds, as with the comic books. One example is “Joker: Folie a Deux,” the sequel to the 2019 Oscar-nominated drama.
Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav is hoping to reap the financial rewards of a reinvigorated DC franchise. The media company’s shares have fallen 43% in the past year as the company aims to deliver $3 billion in savings from combining Warner Media and Discovery Communications.
“The stakes are enormous,” said Safran, who has produced two “Aquaman” films and two “Shazam” movies. “It’s a brand that was in somewhat chaos, and it’s an opportunity to build an extraordinary stand-alone studio.”
DC Studios will offer a spin on the familiar Superman story with “Superman: Legacy,” a story written by Gunn that examines how the character reconciles his Kryptonian heritage with his human upbringing. It is slated for release on July 11, 2025.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates also is working on a script for “Superman” in which a Black actor portrays the Man of Steel, as a DC Elseworlds project.
Also in 2025, DC Studios will release “Batman – Part II,” a sequel starring Robert Pattison, a darker, more adult tale that is not part of Gunn’s newly envisioned “DC Universe.”
Another Batman movie, “The Brave and the Bold,” will introduce the hero’s assassin son as his crime-fighting sidekick, Robin.
“Lanterns,” an eight-hour detective series, is scheduled to stream on HBO Max. Other TV projects include “Waller,” with Viola Davis reprising her “Suicide Squad” role as Amanda Waller, and “Paradise Lost,” the origin story of Themyscira, the island where Wonder Woman was born.
A television series, “Creature Commandos,” in which Waller forms a black ops team out of monstrous prisoners, is in production.
While Marvel has become the highest-grossing film franchise in history, DC Studios has had mixed results. A dark “Joker” film became an Oscar nominee and billion-dollar hit, but “Black Adam” and “Justice League” struggled to generate superhero-sized returns.
Four DC film projects that were completed before Gunn and Safran took over the studio will be released to theaters this year, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “The Flash,” “Blue Beetle” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”
Zaslav cut some costs by scrapping a third “Wonder Woman” film and a “Batgirl” movie that was headed to streaming. The movie division also has cut jobs in marketing and distribution.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Kenneth Li and Jamie Freed)