Why Do DC Movie Cameos Keep Getting Spoiled?

Warning: One spoiler follows regarding a particular cameo in The Flash that has been floating around for weeks.

Ahead of The Flash’s theatrical release, its director Andy Muschietti revealed in an interview with Esquire Middle East that Nicolas Cage would be making an appearance in the movie as Superman, reviving the role from Tim Burton’s Superman Lives film (which was canceled in 1998 before it went into production). This is in keeping with DC’s recent string of movies where a big cameo was spoiled before release — Henry Cavill’s Superman in the post-credits of Black Adam, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman popping in to save the day at the end of Shazam! Fury of the Gods — and, as the journalists’ aphorism goes, three’s a trend with The Flash, baby. But why has this been happening so consistently lately?

We reached out to Warner Bros., but the studio didn’t provide an official comment on the trend. Still, it should be noted that these spoilers have all unfolded in different ways, and none of them first came from official press announcements or character posters. Black Adam’s Superman cameo was spoiled when Dwayne Johnson was asked about it on the red carpet of the film’s premiere, nine days before the film’s release (the scene was also leaked on Twitter and TikTok a week before the movie’s October 22 release, and the studio swiftly filed a copyright infringement complaint to take down the footage). “Oh my God, it is so frustrating,” producer Hiram Garcia told /Film. “You hope that the fans that are so passionate about it really do their best to block it out so that they can go and get the movie and enjoy it."

Giving up on keeping the cameo a secret any longer, the official DC Twitter account leaned into the news, posting a video of a text conversation between Black Adam and Superman “entering the chat” the day before the movie came out. “Y’all that desperate? Advertising a Post credit scene lmao,” someone tweeted in the replies.

Fury of the Gods’ cameo was more intentional, though sly — a trailer for the movie that aired during WWE Smackdown a week before its release teased Gadot, confirming a rumor that she’d show up. Director David F. Sandberg aired his disappointment on Twitter: “Well there’s some big Shazam spoilers out there now. If you want to go in fresh maybe don’t be online or watch tv with ads… Pretty good advice in general actually." In a reply to someone who tweeted, “Caught me off guard but not gonna lie, it makes me want to go see it now,” Sandberg said, “Then I guess it’s working at least.”

The once-precious cameo intended to set up the next chapter in a cinematic universe is now just another selling point to please, oh please, see this movie.

The Flash’s Nic Cage disclosure is maybe the biggest head-scratcher. Muschietti is certainly media trained, having directed both of the recent IT movies, and he was either given the go-ahead by Warners to drop the news or his excitement over Cage’s inclusion got the better of him. (And honestly, who can blame him?) “I dreamt all my life to work with [Cage],” Muschietti told Esquire Middle East.

In general, the promotion for The Flash feels like it’s been trying to draw attention away from the Ezra Miller of it all, who has faced multiple high-profile allegations and arrests for their capricious behavior, including assault, disorderly conduct, harassment, grooming a minor, and felony burglary, among others. That series of incidents between 2020 and 2022 drove Warner Bros. and DC executives to hold an emergency meeting to discuss what, exactly, to do about The Flash star in early April of 2022, Rolling Stone reported. “The consensus in the room was to hit pause on any future projects involving Miller including possible appearances in the DC Extended Universe,” an insider told the publication. In a statement released in August of 2022, Miller apologized and said they were being treated for “complex mental health issues” and were working towards getting back “to a healthy, safe and productive stage in my life.” This apparently smoothed things over with the studios, which moved the film up a week from its original June 23 release. “Ezra is completely committed to their recovery,” said DC Studios co-CEO Peter Safran in January 2023 at a presentation of the DCEU’s upcoming slate. “We are fully supportive of that journey that they’re on right now.”

Still, Miller has been absent from promoting the film ahead of its release, but came to an LA fan premiere on June 12, their first public appearance in almost two years. Instead, the studio has been largely hyping up the return of Ben Affleck, in his final performance as Batman, and Michael Keaton, once again donning the Batsuit more than 30 years after Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). “They are not promoting Flash as a character because they can’t,” a competing studio executive told The Hollywood Reporter.

The cynical point is, this recent slate of DCEU movies is seemingly pulling out all of the human baubles they can to lure people out to the theaters. The once-precious cameo of someone with bankable crowd interest intended to set up the next chapter in a cinematic universe is now just another selling point to please, oh please, see this movie. But even with its special appearances blabbed, Black Adam fell short of making back the money it cost to produce it by $100 million, and Shazam 2 had an awful opening weekend box-office draw and landed on VOD just a month after it came out in theaters, making it the worst-performing DCEU movie to date. (There is no absolute norm for most studios’ theatrical windows, but these days they tend to range between 21 and 45 days, depending on how they do at the box office.)

Those lackluster showings effectively killed the chances of a Black Adam sequel and a Shazam threequel. The chatter about the Cavill and Gadot cameos proved to be online discourse chambers that clearly didn’t translate to a boost in theatrical ticket sales. Although both movies did slightly rebound when they became available to rent and stream, home viewing quickly petered off in the second week. Fans, likely discouraged to spend two-plus hours in a theater from the bad reviews, at least had a tiny bit of curiosity about these films, but not enough to justify the continuation of these stories. With DC Studios now co-helmed by Safran and James Gunn, who has made legitimately good superhero movies in all three Guardians of the Galaxy films and 2021’s The Suicide Squad, we might see a tightening of accidental cameo reveals in lieu of new promotional strategies to get people into seats.

The fate of another Flash movie will ride or die on ticket sales. Predictions say it’ll make around $70 million domestically, and $155-165 million internationally, opening weekend. “​​It’s one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen,” said Gunn. But this grandiose accolade is apparently just a talking point: Warner Bros.-Discovery CEO David Zaslav said exactly the same thing ahead of a screening at CinemaCon. There have been more attempts at a trickle-down word of mouth push: Both Stephen King and Tom Cruise, Mr. “Back to the movies” himself, saw the film early and “loved it.” The positive reactions from these two mega-celebs may have generated headlines in support of The Flash’s hype train, but by taking one extra second to think about what they said, we see a notable lack of specificity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cruise said it was “everything you want in a movie” and “this is the kind of movie we need now” — which, what does that even mean? King tweeted that it was “heartfelt, funny, and eye-popping”; stripped of context, that could be true of almost any recent superhero movie, even if attempts at the former two descriptors have fallen flat.

Can all of this praise, the Batmen, and a spoiled Nic Cage cameo push people over the edge of indecision to see it in theaters after just-OK reviews? Maybe. But probably not.

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