Karie Bible, a box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, believes that the ultimate problem with Zack Snyder's "Justice League" was the lack of character development in films leading up to an ensemble piece. "With the group movies like 'Justice League' ... you have several characters and it is harder for any one of them to really get much screen time or character development."
The idea for a cinematic universe was first kick-started by Marvel Studios back in 2008 with Jon Favreau's "Iron Man," the first of many comic book adventures that eventually lead to Disney and Marvel's billion-dollar "Avengers" in 2012. Since then, Marvel has had a string of multibillion-dollar blockbuster successes, including last year's "Black Panther" — the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars — and "Avengers: Infinity War." Worldwide, the three "Avengers" films — which also include "The Avengers" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" — grossed roughly $5 billion, according to Box Office Mojo, with a little less than $2 billion at the domestic box office.
DC has two "gold standard" characters — Batman and Superman — which makes the fact that it has not been able to replicate Marvel's success even more notable, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Snyder's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," the first film to feature more than one DC leading hero on the big screen, was met with mostly poor reviews and an underwhelming 27 percent Rotten Tomatoes "Tomatometer" score. And despite grossing well over $800 million at the box office worldwide and $330 million in the U.S., Doug Stone, president of Box Office Analyst, stresses that the second week dropoff for the film was "huge."
Even that successful superhero duo — at least, measured in box office — is experiencing upheaval.
"Man of Steel" actor Henry Cavill has reportedly parted from the iconic role of Superman, with DC wanting to launch a "Supergirl" movie, according to Deadline. And on Jan. 30 it was reported by Deadline that Ben Affleck won't appear in the untitled Matt Reeves Batman project — Affleck himself retweeted the headline and said he is looking forward to the new "vision" for Batman.
With Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group — which is now owned by AT&T — emphasizing in a January interview with the Hollywood Reporter that DC will focus on one movie at a time, the question whether or not comic book fans will see the Justice League in another extended universe film remains uncertain. There are no current plans for a Justice League sequel that have been announced by Warner Bros., though there has been speculation in the press that Zack Snyder did plan to helm a second film.
Warner Bros. did not provide a comment by press time.