Warner Bros. planned to release 20 DC films in 10 years to rival the MCU

In an illuminating discussion on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, David S. Goyer, the acclaimed writer behind “Man of Steel,” shared insights into Warner Bros.’ ambitious but flawed attempts to establish a cinematic universe to rival Marvel. Goyer suggested that instead of pushing for a cinematic universe with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the studio might have fared better with a standalone Superman sequel featuring Henry Cavill.

The driving force behind Warner Bros.’ decision to embark on this ambitious path was a desire to compete with the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Marvel had gained significant momentum with the release of “Iron Man” in 2008, followed by individual superhero films for characters like The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, leading up to the blockbuster team-up movie “The Avengers.”

However, Warner Bros. was eager to catch up and, according to Goyer, attempted to cut corners, a move he viewed critically. He expressed concerns about the pressure from the studio, stating, “I know the pressure we were getting from Warner Bros., which was, ‘We need our MCU! We need our MCU!’ And I was like, let’s not run before we walk.”

Adding complexity to the situation was a constant influx of new executives at Warner Bros. and DC, contributing to a lack of stability and cohesive planning. Goyer revealed a startling proposal from one executive who pitched a grand 20-film plan over a span of 10 years. What made this proposal particularly flawed was the revelation that none of these films had scripts or treatments attached to them.

“Every 18 months someone new would come in. We were just getting whiplash. Every new person was like, ‘We’re going to go bigger!’” Goyer recounted. He recalled a moment when the studio’s leadership presented a release that outlined the next 20 movies for the next 10 years, yet not a single script had been written for any of them. Goyer expressed his disbelief, stating, “It was crazy how much architecture was being built on air… This is not how you build a house.”

This ambitious but poorly planned approach had consequences, particularly for Henry Cavill’s Superman. Instead of leading his own film, Cavill found himself in ensemble pieces like “Batman vs. Superman” and “Justice League.” Although Cavill briefly reprised his role in “Black Adam,” he eventually parted ways with DC and Warner Bros. The challenges faced by Warner Bros. in attempting to establish a DC cinematic universe underscored the importance of strategic planning and a stable creative direction, aspects that were arguably lacking in the studio’s pursuit of a rival to the MCU.

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