John Salangsang/Invision/AP
Amber Heard attends the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Adderall Diaries' in Los Angeles in 2016. Heard is starring in the upcoming 'Justice League' film.

Amber Heard in 'Justice League': Where do DC Comics films stand?

Heard will star as Mera, Queen of Atlantis, in the upcoming 'Justice' film. Warner Bros. has now released three movies in the DC Comics film universe, all of which have not done well with critics. Where does the studio's superhero efforts stand?

DC Comics movie studio Warner Bros. has released images featuring actress Amber Heard as comic book character Mera, the Queen of Atlantis, who is set to feature in the upcoming superhero mash-up movie “Justice League.” 

Ms. Heard has appeared in films such as “The Danish Girl” and “Paranoia.” In comic book lore, her character, Mera, is usually linked romantically with Aquaman (Jason Momoa).

The upcoming “Justice League” film also stars Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot, and Amy Adams. 

The film in which Ms. Heard will appear is scheduled to come out at the end of 2017 and will no doubt be an interesting one for studio Warner Bros. The studio has pushed forward with its plan for an expansive film series involving many characters from DC Comics works, with “Man of Steel,” which stars Henry Cavill as Superman, debuting in 2013. The highly anticipated film “Batman v Superman” debuted this past spring and was followed by “Suicide Squad,” which centers on various DC Comics villains and came out this past August.

Warner Bros.’s main rival in this game is of course Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney and currently dominates the superhero world. This past summer’s “Captain America: Civil War” was the studio’s newest success and is currently the second-highest-grossing film of the year domestically.

“Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad” are both currently in the top 10 list of the highest-grossing films of the year domestically so far, placing at number seven and eight, respectively. But both – as well as “Man of Steel” – failed to please critics. Monitor film critic Peter Rainer gave “Suicide Squad,” for one, a C-, writing that the film “is the latest failed attempt to lift up DC Comics-based characters into the mega-franchise stratosphere … the characters, all of whom are promisingly introduced, fizzle fast … in the Marvel v. DC matchup, there’s still no contest.” 

Can “Justice League” turn these bad notices around? Where does Warner Bros. go from here? (A “Wonder Woman” film will debut before “Justice,” coming out in the summer of 2017, but “Justice” is, to borrow a Marvel comparison, the “Avengers” hopeful of the franchise, bringing together multiple superheroes as a team.) 

“Poor word of mouth and bad reviews can cost a film in the long run,” David Sims of The Atlantic wrote following the release of “Suicide Squad.” “Those things are what kept previous DC entries ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman’ from crossing the coveted billion-dollar mark worldwide, an increasingly essential milestone for these films.” (“Suicide Squad” has not yet done so either.) “Marvel has ultimately been successful because the studio has something the DC films so far have seemingly lacked – a honcho who oversees each work every step of the way, in producer Kevin Feige.… The creative burden placed on [‘Batman v Superman’] was extraordinary: It had to introduce Batman and Wonder Woman, function as a Superman sequel, and set up the premise of the Justice League, DC’s Avengers-like super-team. No Marvel movie was ever given such a task, and the ones that have come closest to feeling overloaded – ‘Iron Man 2’ and ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ – are among the franchise’s least popular.” 

After the release of “Suicide Squad,” Hollywood Reporter writer Graeme McMillan called the DC Comics franchise a “ticking clock.” 

“To some degree, ‘Suicide Squad’ was seen by fans to be a chance for Warner Bros. to redeem the DC movies following ‘Batman v. Superman,’” writes Mr. McMillan. “Will ‘Wonder Woman’ become something similar in light of the reception for ‘Suicide Squad’? And if that movie doesn't satisfy the fanbase, will attention shift to ‘Justice League,’ and then whatever movie follows ‘Justice League’ if that, too, should disappoint fans?… At some point, surely, one of two things has to happen: Either Warners refines its formula for projects already in the works and finds something that pleases the mass superhero audience out there, making a movie that pleases critics and audiences alike, or else, eventually, the studio has to pull the plug on the DC superhero universe as it currently stands and attempt to do something else with the properties.”

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