When it comes to Warner Bros.’ long-gestating Justice League Dark movie, the term “developmental hell” is an understatement.
Though the film has seen some progress since it was first announced (including this week’s news that a new writer is attached), it’s not been able to attract and keep a director. For years, Guillermo del Toro was attached to helm it, but he ultimately walked away. Doug Liman then came on board and, in similar fashion to how he left the Gambit solo flick, he left this project as well.
With directorial drama also plaguing The Flash’s first solo big screen outing, and reports emerging that Joss Whedon is drastically altering the Justice League ending from Zack Snyder’s, you can’t blame fans for being interested and concerned with what’s going on behind closed doors at Warner Bros.
Following the success of Wonder Woman, reports suggested that Justice League Dark was being eyed to move into production, with the studio searching vigorously for a new director. It’s Andy Muschietti and director Damián Szifron were rumored to be on the shortlist, but the answer to the studio’s problems may already exist in-house in the form of director David Sandberg, who is currently directing Shazam! for the studio. It may be wishful thinking, but if Warner Bros. doubles up and asks him to direct the supernatural feature afterwards, it’s worth considering strongly. After all, Sandberg has the necessary horror-themed track record and critical success behind him, especially for the only big studio he’s worked with in his career.
Sandberg Is Already In WB’s Stable
Sandberg, who made shorts for YouTube with his wife Lotta at home, rose to prominence with his 2013 Lights Out short, which focused on an evil entity that literally thrives in the dark as it haunts a young woman. It went viral and caught the eye of Warner Bros. The dream-come-true scenario culminated in Sandberg being hired and his story was then fleshed out with Lights Out evolving into a 2016 feature film for the studio.
Not only did Lights Out garner positive reviews, it was a box office success, grossing $148 million against a budget of $4.9 million. Warner Bros. apparently liked what it saw, and Sandberg was signed on to direct Annabel: Creation, which has also been generally well-received. More importantly, it reiterates that Sandberg has a great working relationship with Warner Bros., which is rare given what appears to have been transpiring between the studio and directors, especially when it comes to the DC Films division. Two movies in without complaint from either side is something that bodes well, for fans of Shazam! especially.
The James Wan Factor
Sandberg’s relationship with fellow horror director James Wan cannot be discounted. The visionary behind 2013’s The Conjuring, when Sandberg came aboard Warner Bros. for Lights Out, Wan’s horror expertise was called upon by the studio. He attached himself to Sandberg’s film as a producer, but more so, as a fan. When the opportunity arose to further expand The Conjuring’s horror universe in 2017, Warner Bros. and Wan were quick to place trust in Sandberg with the aforementioned Annabelle: Creation.
Having produced on Sandberg’s two full-length features to date, Wan can be seen as a mentor of sorts. His horror influence is apparent in Sandberg’s films, but let’s not forget that Wan has Hollywood blockbuster experience to bring to the table as well, having directed Furious 7 of the famed Fast and the Furious franchise. He broke into Hollywood in a similar way to Sandberg, and both are following somewhat similar paths. If Warner Bros. believes it has the next Wan in Sandberg, and its looks like that’s the case, then the studio should lay its cards on the table and do whatever is necessary to direct Justice League Dark, with Wan producing. This would be the perfect opportunity for the pair to combine their skill set to craft a horror-filled take on DC’s supernatural realm.
Sandberg’s Personal Challenge
Shazam! will be seen as Sandberg’s first real swing in the major leagues, but capturing Justice League Dark‘s ensemble dynamic (which won’t be easy) could prove to be his first real home run. He’s still seen as an up-and-coming director, as opposed to someone like Wan, who is a flat-out A-lister in terms of blockbuster movies.
As a director looking for personal growth and development, this film seems to be the perfect fit for Sandberg. It’s right up his alley and it would kill two birds with one stone — Sandberg gets to bring to fruition something the studio is struggling to bring to life, and Warner Bros. gets someone it can trust to create what will hopefully end up being a rather unique pocket of the DCEU.
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