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Marvel and DC Could Be Headed for a Reckoning with The Marvels and Aquaman 2

Wan, Momoa, and many other principal cast members returned for the sequel, which began filming in June 2021 after COVID delays, completing principal photography in January 2022. Like The Marvels, Aquaman 2 has seen its release date change multiple times, shifting from December 2022 to March 2023, to finally its current position at the end of this year.

At one point, Aquaman 2 flipped release dates with The Flash, which was originally going to come out at the end of 2023 and put a pin in the entire DCEU, using its multiverse storyline as a sort of reset and conclusion before the arrival of the new DC regime under James Gunn and Peter Safran. That caused confusion within the production of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom itself, which shot scenes with both Ben Affleck’s Batman and Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader (as of now, there are reportedly no scenes with either in the film).

Meanwhile, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the film has undergone a slew of test screenings and three rounds of reshoots (with the budget climbing to $205 million) as Wan, WB film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, and finally Gunn and Safran have tried to make the picture work. The results at press time were said to be pointing in the right direction.

But as we write this in late July, a first trailer has yet to be released for the film, which is due out in just under five months. Some footage was shown last April at CinemaCon, but even a usually enthusiastic online cheerleader for a major ticket website could only muster up a “looks good” when posting about it on social media. It’s also worth noting that James Wan is merging his production company with Blumhouse Productions and moving over to Universal Pictures after a decade of churning out hits for WB.

As noted earlier, Aquaman 2 is following a string of DC flops (the much smaller Blue Beetle, due out in August, is also likely to sink based on early tracking). It’s unclear whether DC’s recent misfortune is a result of “superhero fatigue” in general, a sense that this last group of DC movies doesn’t matter because of the impending Gunn reboot, or both. But two $200 million flops in one year, from what’s supposed to be one of its crown jewel brands, could put severe strain on Warner Bros. Pictures.

Undoubtedly, some internal logic at WBD would reason that the 2023 slate of superhero films are an obligation and maybe even a write-off; something to endure until Gunn and Safran start fresh in a few years. However, audiences are less likely to view the brand in such “before” and “after” terms, and potentially four flops in a row (or five if you count Black Adam) could create a strong perception of failure or disinterest in the public’s mind. WBD CEO David Zaslav claimed he shelved Batgirl for less.

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