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James Wan’s ‘Aquaman’ Movie May Be In Trouble As Cracks Begin To Show In Warner’s DC Universe

James Wan’s ‘Aquaman’ Movie May Be In Trouble As Cracks Begin To Show In Warner’s DC Universe

A new report from Birth.Movies.Death says that director James Wan (“Furious 7”) may be leaving the Warner BrosDC Comics’ super hero film “Aquaman,” right on the heels of the announcement that Seth Grahame-Smith has left “The Flash” movie over creative differences (news that was tellingly dumped late on a Friday night). Suffice it to say, we’ve been hearing the same, much of it last night when BMD’s report was first published. Is Wan leaving? Well, there is certainly some larger cracks starting to show in the WB/DCU facade.

We’ve said it for a long time now, even complained and moaned about it, but copies of someone else’s successful template often fail because they are creatively bankrupt. Warner Bros. didn’t fast track their DC Universe and vast super heroes intellectual properties after “Man Of Steel” because it seemed finally time to make “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman” movies. Their motives were two-fold: thirst for the $9 billion-plus empire Marvel created with their Marvel Cinematic Universe and feeling the pressures coming at them from all sides, including media, shareholders and CEOs who couldn’t understand why the owners of one of the biggest comic book companies couldn’t do for DC what Marvel had done for its movies.

READ MORE: Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ And The Battle Between Critics And Fans 

Desperately behind, “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” was essentially the first (or second film if you count “Man Of Steel”) film in the DCU and comparatively, Marvel by that point had already made twelve movies and grossed $9.1 billion dollars (which is now the highest grossing worldwide franchise ever). Now of course, Warner Bros. tried earlier, falling flat on their face with “Green Lantern,” but ‘Batman v Superman’ was only marginally less embarrassing in terms of how it was perceived by most.

Now, Warner Bros. tried to save some face in the public before the release of their flagship film and the bold announcement of their 10-film-deep franchise — announced before one picture was even made — dismissively implying Marvel’s films were too light and silly, while touting their seriousness and suggesting their films were filmmaker-driven while Marvel’s were simply cookie-cutter assembly line jobs.

READ MORE:  Podcast: The Playlist Talks ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ & The Screening Room’s Premium VOD Plan

Be that as it may, all of the passive aggressive assertions backfired. The serious, somber tone of ‘Batman v Superman’ was broodingly unentertaining and so grim and silly that Zack Snyder failed to prove he was an auteur all of a sudden, especially with the film’s incoherent narrative sense that felt like a series of mini-episodes and commercials for other films rather than an orderly or meaningful storyline.

There’s never just one way to skin a cat, but Marvel earned their way to “Avengers,” setting up that landscape with a solo film for each character before the big team-up movie. Are they masterpieces? No. Did they mostly work creatively and financially for what they were? Yes. But lagging behind in the race, ‘Batman v Superman’ felt like a cheap shortcut to getting to a “Justice League” film as soon as humanly possible (‘JL Part 1’ is already shooting now).

READ MORE: Too Big To Fail: What ‘Batman v Superman’ Tells Us About Blockbuster Culture

And while ‘Batman v Superman’ has made $856 million worldwide so far, it’s looking like it may fall short of $900 million. It’s underreported budget actually hovered close to the $400 million mark, and its marketing spend was one of the highest in Hollywood history. It’s a film that could one day become profitable with DVD and various ancillaries, but that day isn’t imminent.

Regardless, if ‘Batman v Superman’ would have cracked the $1 billion mark (which it won’t) and its fans and the studio championed this benchmark, nothing could take away from the negative narrative and critical drubbing that marred the movie’s release.

Now word is spreading that Warner Bros. is getting worried about what comes next and that confident poise they showed in early interviews has all but evaporated. The impact of it all? BMD says James Wan is starting to feel the pressure of performing with “The Conjuring” and is starting to feel trepidation about the entire project. In fact, the rumor is that Wan feels like he doesn’t need “Aquaman,” but Warner Bros. needs him, and if this turns out to be a huge hassle, he could easily walk away from the project unscathed (he already has two WB films coming out that should be prominent 2016 summer films: “The Conjuring 2” which he directed, and “Lights Out,” which he produced).

We’ve been hearing much of the same: Warners has been battling with Zack Snyder over “Justice League,” and they’re now reassessing and second-guessing their entire plan (one that Snyder helped put into place). Additionally, we’ve heard the euphemism of Seth Graham-Smith departing over “creative differences,” is bunk and that the writer/director (who has never helmed a feature, let alone a super hero blockbuster) was let go from the project.

Essentially, Warner Bros. are panicking because they’re already locked into a deal with Zack Snyder for two “Justice League” films that could cost nearly a billion dollars. With no real way to course correct from Snyder, the company cannot afford another failure as loud and expensive as ‘Batman v Superman’ and so they are taking all precautions necessary, including making sure their films are air-tight, often at the expense of the filmmakers’ patience. Will James Wan walk from “Aquaman”? Considering WB going into alarm and consternation mode, we would not be at all surprised to hear the official news.

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Come on

Scrap the whole thing and reboot Batman in three to four years.


Isn’t journalism meant to be unbiased?

Emperor Zerg Rush

Apparently blowing the main piece of news (Wan potentially leaving Aquaman) way out of proportion to justify climbing up on the ol’ soapbox to lay down the faults of Warner Bros. and DC’s film plans. Not to say it’s unfounded, but it seems like a "maybe he’ll walk, maybe he won’t" bit of pseudo-news crammed into an editorial feature.


SI – this is a blog, not a news article, so it can be full of opinion bias.


"It’s underreported budget actually hovered close to the $400 million mark, and its marketing spend was one of the highest in Hollywood history." Completely unsourced info, of course, just numbers pulled out of thin air. Thanks for revealing the "truth" intrepid Playlist blogger!


Thanks for outlining the basics of the situation. I don’t know how Snyder got the job(s), but WB are dead right to be holding his hand through the remainder of his input. He’s a classic example of knowing the parts, but not how they work. Wan makes OK films that are never disasters, blend drama and humour effectively and provide genuine in-the-moment thrills. He’s a popcorn guy and just what the DCU or whatever needs.


Awfull piece to read, stop spreading your lack of pertinent informations on whatever you’re trying to tell.

marvel sellout

theplaylist needs money to pay for their new website.


My mistake

Jim P.

Must compliment the bulk of your article, which is why I’m bothering to correct two small points. BvS is a a much greater embarrassment than Green Lantern. GL was an ordinary expensive flop, all studios get their share. Nobody gave Geoff Johns the keys to the Kingdom. BvS was a sequel to a movie that was itself not popular enough to warrant one. It gave their flagship character and most popular character to a director & screenwriters who don’t understand the fundamentals of presenting them, and aim to build a 10 film franchise on its foundation. That’s a series of career-ending mistakes for studio boxes.

Warner Bros KNEW they had a loser. That’s why they didn’t show the trailer on the Superbowl and instead did that Turkish Air nonsense. Every trailer debuted in a safe space where obedient fanboys were sure to cheer it. That’s why they opened globally the same day, even in China which is never done. To manufacture a big number for the opening weekend and set those ‘records.’ They knew first day and advance tickets were the only box they were going to get.

They knew – and failing to get rid of Snyder and cancel the slate has stockholders furious, ready to declare Warner Bros a failed state.


Maybe if Dunkirk flops WB can woo Nolan back to resuscitate this property.

Great breakdown

Good article. Don’t let these 13-year-old clowns tell you different.


What an embarrassing ramble. I honestly used to enjoy this site.


Fumny how the only people who seem to comment are the people who jate this site yet still frequent it.


I swear you guys hate DC/WB. Every article that relates to DC/WB always has a negative feeling to it and totally biased. But not the with Marvel.


Great piece. It’s amazing that the studio that had the franchise model on lockdown with Harry Potter and The Dark Knight series could be looking so shaky. The people always complaining about Marvel/DC bias need to understand that the rest of the world couldn’t care less about allegiances to comic book companies. It is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that Warner Bros. grand franchise plans are in dangerous waters right now. For the ordinary film fan BvS looked awful and unappealing from the first trailer to the finished film and having Snyder onboard for more of the same with the Justice League movies is looking like a really, really bad decision. So much of this is about perception though and if Suicide Squad is a hit and Justice League trailers get people excited then the whole story can change. Like so many modern blockbusters, the behind the scenes narrative is far more interesting than the movies themselves.

Jerome A Walker

Warner bros. should quit trying to update/grade the DC characters. Stick to the proven formulae. Green Lantern was good. That movie obviously didn’t have the studio fully behind it. Stop changing the characters we know. Ie;Aquaman and Flash are blonds. Use original origins as closely as possible. Dont make lex Luther younger than superman and batman. For success stick close to what you got and build on it instead of trying to get credit for "new and improved". You already got a familiar product if you win over your original base the other will follow.

David Worrell

Fake Aquaman rumors may be in trouble as cracks begin to show in poorly sourced blog posts.



Ryan: wrong, this "article" shows in the news section. The Playlist has always been primarily is a news site. This isn’t simply a personal blog.

This "article" is nothing but an excuse to bash Warner/DC. To say that the reception for Batman v Superman was almost as embarassing as the one for Green Lantern is a gross exaggeration.


I really wish you guys would stop focusing on the tone of Batman V Superman. A jokey, light hearted Batman V Superman would likely have turned out just as bad given the storytelling. The storytelling was abysmal in BVS. There was no compelling reason for the movie to exist, nothing driving the story forward, no internal logic to hold it all together. I’ve never seen a blockbuster that haphazardly thrown together. Fundamentally superhero movies can exist on a wide spectrum of tones, they don’t all have to be light and jokey to be good or fun.


Stupid write up! Will you honestly say AOU is better than BvS? Gradually DC will creep into the minds of fans cause for now guys like keeps feeding them only negative news about DC. I will like to see your write up on movies like: AOU, IM2, IM3, Thor1 and 2, Incredible Hulk and Captain America: First Avengers.
I will also like to see you previous write up on them. Thanks


You seem too bias and it’s very bad for you health.
You have forgotten that without DC they won’t be Marvel, right! That’s the trend for now, so it doesn’t matter who started this shared universe thing.
Am still searching for where to see the total cost for CW including marketing cost. BvS total cost was being echoed by haters even a year before it was released. So by now, we are suppose to be seeing same thing doing to CW, but the case is the reverse. How hypocritical some guys could be…


Much more interested in Affleck doing a stand alone Batman film than any of these other movies DC has announced.


Since when is a $500 million profit a failure?

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