At least once a month, we get some news regarding the DC Extended Universe that causes nothing short of chaos among the fan base. Lately it's been happening whenever someone suggests that Ben Affleck is not going to be Batman anymore, despite what both he and WB have said multiple times. In fact, The Hollywood Reporter (THR) has been nothing short of obsessive over the idea for months now, as if they have some deep-seated vendetta against him remaining in the cowl for anything past Justice League. It's weird as hell.
The thing is, it wasn't nearly as weird as the recent flurry of insider scoops and source reports that WB/DC is starting some kind of Elseworlds franchise to run alongside the DCEU and it would feature a new Joker standalone movie detailing his origin, to be made by Todd Phillips and Martin Scorsese. Then came the news that Gotham City Sirens was being changed to a Harley-Joker movie and that David Ayer was no longer attached to direct it, followed by a revelation that Matt Reeves' solo Batman movie was going to be a standalone Elseworlds movie as well, meaning no Affleck for certain. This was all within the span of less than 48 hours.
About an hour or so after the entire DCEU fanbase started drinking heavily, THR and Deadline retracted what they said, specifically about Gotham City Sirens being changed and Ayer not being attached. As for the Batman solo movie scoop, that was taken from a podcast that Reeves was on with Kim Masters, the same writer for THR that wrote about WB planning a graceful exit for Affleck because his body "isn't exactly a temple," the day before DC's presentation at San Diego Comic-Con. In fact, the podcast episode itself where Reeves makes the comment about WB pitching Batman as a standalone movie is from the same time that the article was posted, over a month ago now. Interesting that articles are written about it now in the midst of this new Elseworlds speculation isn't it?
I call it speculation because of course, that's what it all is. None of what was reported by Deadline, THR or anyone else on these new movies is official word at all from WB/DC. As of the time of this posting, we have nothing official from Geoff Johns, Jon Berg or anyone at WB/DC that says an Elseworlds standalone Joker movie is definitively happening along with a Harley-Joker DCEU movie that's being done by the directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love. As pointed out by @dceufacts on Twitter, this is the last official anything we got from WB/DC about a movie slate:
Notice the part at the bottom concerning more projects and ideas "in development" and being tossed around? That's what we've been likely getting from Deadline and THR, assuming that what they reported wasn't completely false, which is still a possibility.
So in the midst of this latest chaos, the cry has come once again for Johns and Berg and WB itself to publicly address these speculations with some kind of statement either confirming or denying what is being reported. There is a belief among fans that since WB hasn't done this, the bloggers and reporters are just using this news and the ensuing chaos to drag the franchise's name through the mud and hurt the brand, something that the competition at Marvel Studios doesn't seem to deal with ever, leading some fans to even suggest that WB handle things the same way they do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in order to "control the narrative."
If I can be blunt, here's why all of that is utterly ridiculous:
First of all, WB's brand makes billions a year. They made $1.9 billion last year at the domestic box office second only to Disney at $3 billion. This is with their two DC movies being critically destroyed while still earning a third of that total domestic box office last year. In fact, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were WB's top two earners domestically in 2016. This year the studio has made $1.2 billion and counting so far with It (New Line), Lego Ninjago, Blade Runner and Justice League on deck. Count on the studio breaking $2 billion domestically without a sweat this year, the point being that WB's brand is fine despite this clickbait nonsense. Money will be made without question.
Second, it is not the job of Geoff Johns, Jon Berg or WB/DC as a whole to come out and publicly address all clickbait rumors that freak out the fans on social media. Make no mistake, their job is to make movies which is what they are doing. Justice League is still set for November 17 and Aquaman for December 21 of 2018 and that is official as both movies are in either production or post-production. At this point, clickbait is the least of their concerns. They need to be focused on what is up next after Aquaman. It's reportedly Shazam and Wonder Woman 2, but those still need to go into production before we know anything solid. That is what WB should be working on, not addressing whatever Deadline and THR see fit to spread all over social media, even if what they are spreading are actual pitches and ideas from meetings that WB has taken. All that matters here are the movies that are set to be released and part of the last official slate we have seen.
I know a lot of people disagree with this idea and think that WB needs better PR to address this situation, but the truth is that WB doesn't NEED better PR any more than we NEED things clarified. If WB doesn't officially say anything about a project, it can't be considered an announcement. "Sources" and "insiders" are not valid in this sense and can't totally be trusted. Remember this gem from an "insider?":
And how exactly has that "disjointed disaster" performed for the studio? You tell me:
Wonder Woman is WB's top-grossing domestic film with a bullet this year. Not bad for a disjointed disaster with no marketing, isn't it? Yet this movie, like all of the other DCEU movies that have been released was swirling in some kind of clickbait controversy at every turn. Enough to gain the attention of the film's heralded director Patty Jenkins, who spoke about wanting to address these rumors and speculation like so many want WB/DC to do:
That's the exact same tact that the studio should be and appears to be taking with all of this new speculative "news." It doesn't matter that it's Deadline or THR, we have seen that none of these publications are above cheap clickbait for attention just like the bloggers are. For WB/DC to address each and every single piece of it when it happens is simply silly to expect. It is our job as the audience to ignore the clickbait, not their job to address it. Trust me when I tell you that the general audience doesn't care one bit about this in the grand scheme of things. They want to know when the movie is coming out and how they can see it, provided the reviews are favorable for it. That's all, because that is all that is important here. We WANT WB/DC to address these speculation articles, but we don't NEED them to. All we NEED are the movies to come out for us to enjoy, and there's a long list of them that were shown at SDCC long before any of this Elseworlds stuff came into the picture.
Now, a lot of fans ask why doesn't the MCU have to deal with this and how come Kevin Feige knows what to do keep the clickbait away from his franchise? Well, first of all he doesn't get the scrutiny that DC gets because to be honest, no one cares the same way. It's not simply that he's got 9 years of a successful track record where people don't question what he does, it's that they don't care nearly as much about what he does. If they did, he would be under the microscope for some of the decisions made, like ignoring Spider-Man's origin story in Homecoming after inserting the movie into the MCU schedule and pushing back other films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel, as well as a host of other changes made to the Marvel comic book canon for the cinematic universe. Even if he did come under fire at all, he's insulated by Disney. The Mouse Ears rule almost everything today from Marvel to Star Wars to ESPN and they've been printing money for decades. That's not a fair fight and we know it.
Not only that, but do you want the DCEU to adopt Marvel Studios' assembly-line structure of filmmaking just to get rid of clickbait? Do you really want the creativity and director-driven approach abandoned for the sake of a rigidly timed episodic schedule that answers all questions and removes all doubt so long as the creative freedom goes along with it? Maybe you do want that, but to be clear that will mean the end of the comic book movie genre as we know it because once everyone starts doing the exact same thing, that's when the general audience gets bored and that's when the money stops rolling in and we don't get the movies we want, so be very careful what you wish for with all of this.
The bottom line here is that WB/DC has much more important things to concern themselves with than silly clickbait speculation about their projects and frankly, so do we as fans. If we weren't so consumed with all of this information and clickbait nonsense whenever it gets posted, we wouldn't be so on edge and demanding that the studio address it as definitively as some of us are. I have said before that all we have to do is ignore it and it will go away because it's just attention-seeking for traffic, but we cannot help ourselves but freak out and overreact to everything that is posted on line, no matter how silly or full of unofficial information it might have. As far as I'm concerned, if Justice League is ready to roll on November 17 and Aquaman before that, WB/DC is doing their jobs as they should be and I eagerly await those actual movies coming out this year, not the rest of this noise in between.