A recent report from Variety says that the Wonder Twins film that was recently canceled lost its slot on HBO Max because of its 75 million dollar budget. The cancellation came shortly after the merger between Warner Brothers and Discovery the company when it announced that plans for a live-action movie based on the lightly regarded characters created for the Hannah-Barbera show, “The Superfriends” would not go forward. The DC community should thank its lucky stars for the bean counters here if that is really the reason this super dud never made it to the small screen.
The idea for the movie was one of those concepts that you can see failing before the first trailer. Yes, people spin a narrative about the MCU, that it had to be built with characters that “nobody had ever heard of”. And in the case of the general public sure. Heck, I had to look up the Black Widdow when she showed up on screen in Iron Man 2. A great performance by Scarlet Johanson made it not matter. And after all, she was a sexy, and lethal spy/assassin. Something right out of a James Bond movie. But to pretend like characters such as Captain America, Thor and the Hulk are totally obscure characters that nobody had ever heard of was a real stretch. The press simply looked at the entire Marvel world as Spiderman and not Spiderman. After the momentum was built for a connected universe, they could get away with a lot more stretches because they had the fans and especially the Marvel fanboys engaged.
This is not the current trajectory with DC’s characters. The movies have been so terribly uneven since the company first launched “The Man Of Steel”. The movie was well-received enough to be given a sequel that had a bad rushed plot and failed to win over mass audiences. It bled into an even more poorly reviewed Justice League. DC retooled twice during that period before Wonder Woman and “Joker” finally broke the bad news streak. It’s Aqua Man movie starring Jason Mamoa did well but a related movie focusing on the darker aspects of the undersea world was developed and then scrapped, Ben Afleck ran away from the DCU faster than the Flash abandoning a film he was supposed to direct. Then it’s one true bright spot Wonderwoman produced a lackluster sequel Wonder Woman 1984.
This is not the environment to launch a Wonder Twins movie. Aside from the unsteady footing that the DCU is on when it comes to the big screen, the only people who do know who the Wonder Twins are, do not view them as characters worth their own movie. They were comic relief on a cartoon that was comic relief on its own. The characters never had a following that could support a long-running comic book. The characters had 12-issue series in 2019 and around a dozen appearances in the timeline of the main comics since 1977. If Captain America which has been published since the 1940s or Iron Man, which has had a regular publishing history following since the 1960s with appearances in multiple animated features were considered risky exactly how would one classify something as gimmicky as a twins who turned into animals and or forms of water once they shared a fist bump.
The movie would have been heavily panned and viewed as the first big screw-up for Warner Brothers Discovery. And it would have seriously sullied the goodwill built from “The Batman”, Peacemaker and Titans and threatened to distract from other upcoming DC titles for HBO Max. It was a movie that did not need to be made without an audience outside the kind of people who drive past a burning garbage truck for fun.
DC Comics has a number of lesser-known characters that have been able to hold the attention of viewers on screen, as seen with the now quickly shuttering CW/Arrowverse. But the studio needs to be smart about how obscure they go with upcoming projects and pay more attention to bankable franchises like the emerging “Shazam” movies which will feature a highly anticipated sequel featuring Dwain Johnson in “Black Adam”.