The movie community wept when news broke earlier this week that Jared Leto’s Morbius was delayed to April. Marvel’s vampiric antihero is meant to be the next addition to Spider-Man’s cinematic world, which has expanded in some interesting ways recently, but it just hasn’t come to fruition for the frontman of 30 Seconds to Mars. Altogether, this is its seventh delay: first meant for the summer of 2020, the pandemic has caused Sony to push it back numerous times in the hopes it’s presumably a Venom-sized success. (In addition to the Omicron variant, the blockbuster success of Spider-Man: No Way Home can also be attributed to this recent delay.)
Ultimately, these delays are trivial, but they admittedly hit hard for the superhero genre. The MCU prides itself on its forward momentum, and 2020 was notable in that no MCU movie released at all, causing several to reevaluate their relationship to Disney’s megafranchise. Even Warner Bros.’ universe of heroes remain unclear on how films tie together as they wait for The Flash to reset everything.
Inspired by Morbius’ newest pushback, we decided to look back at some of the most infamous delays that superhero movies have faced in recent years. Not all are tied to the pandemic, and not all are out yet, but they’re notable all the same for how much their dates have shifted around.
The New Mutants & Dark Phoenix
Before Fox got snatched up by Disney, they had multiple X-Men movies in the can, but only the horror spinoff New Mutants and the reboot closer Dark Phoenix managed to eke out. Both Mutants and Phoenix were meant to release respectively during the spring and fall of 2018, but Mutants flinched first and was kicked to February 2019 so as to avoid cannibalization at the hands of Deadpool 2. Ironically, its delay #2 would come to avoid a similar clash with Phoenix, which took its intended February spot. Phoenix would later be released in June 2019, while the Fox acquisition led to another delay for Mutants, this time to April 2020. After a brief spell where it was taken off Disney’s release schedule, New Mutants eventually released in August 2020 during the pandemic.
Disney holding off on releasing both movies was a big deal at the time because they were the final closers on Fox’s long and divisive tenure with the X-Men. Without a real attempt to market either films as the end of an era, and the general acceptance that these characters would be linking up with the Avengers and Spider-Man in a few years, they both ultimately released to muted responses from critics and audiences alike. Phoenix’s box office amounted to $US252.4 ($351) million (the first X-Men film to fail theatrically), and Mutants’ only made $US49.1 ($68) million, ending the 20-year X-Men saga with a whimper.
The mutants await their third cinematic reboot.
Wonder Woman 1984
The first Wonder Woman was such a success that it didn’t take long for Warner Bros. to greenlight Wonder Woman 1984. Originally set to drop in December 2019, a week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Gal Gadot’s superhero movie was pushed up a month, and then knocked back to June 2020.
And then the pandemic happened. A good amount of Warner Bros. films jumped to 2021, but the studio played chicken with 1984’s release throughout 2020: first it was going to release in August, then October. After the poor box office for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, WB settled on Christmas Day for Wonder Woman’s sophomore outing, with simultaneous release in theatres and on HBO Max. More than its mixed reception, what would come to define 1984 was its dual release strategy, one WB would adapt for their 2021 slate of films, to varying degrees of success.
When Man of Steel released in 2013, it wasn’t long before Ben Affleck was cast as Batman for the then-incoming sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Affleck’s tenure, which included appearances in other DCEU films such as Suicide Squad and Justice League, was also meant for a solo Batman movie that the actor would’ve also written and directed. First confirmed in 2014, the movie was titled The Batman two years later, and expected to drop in 2018.
Flash forward to 2017, and things have changed significantly. The Batman was now focused on the vigilante’s early days (and set in its own growing universe) written and directed by Matt Reeves, while Ben Affleck left Batman altogether to go to rehab for his alcohol addiction. After Robert Pattinson’s casting in October 2019, it seemed like the movie would hit its June 2021 release. But then, the pandemic forced production to halt twice — one of which was caused by Pattinson testing positive — and the movie was pushed to this past October. That didn’t take, and WB would later delay The Batman to its current date of March 4, 2022.
Like the Caped Crusader, it’s been a journey to bring Ezra Miller’s Scarlet Speedster into cinematic existence. The Flash was first announced in 2014 alongside several planned DC Extended Universe films that mostly never happened. In February 2016, the movie was pushed to 2018 and by that point had gone through three intended directors: filmmaking duo Phil Lord & Chris Miller, Seth Graeme-Smith, and future Mandalorian director Rick Famuyiwa.
Come 2018, and briefly known as Flashpoint before being converted to The Flash, Barry Allen’s first solo movie had yet to materialise. (And yet, he managed to cross over with himself.) Now planned for a 2021 release and with other writers and directors having attached and left the film, it faced another road block thanks to Miller’s schedule with the Fantastic Beasts films. Once filming on that franchise’s third instalment completed filming, and It director Andy Muschietti had been tapped to direct the movie, The Flash was now aiming to release in July 2022. Then, it was briefly moved up a month before the pandemic caused yet another delay. The Flash is now scheduled for a November 4, 2022 release…at time of writing.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
You may not remember, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was originally supposed to be out by now: May 1, 2020, to be exact. But in 2018, director/writer James Gunn was fired from Disney for really bad old tweets about rape and pedophilia. And for Marvel’s galactic misfits, that firing threw everything out of whack.
For the rest of 2018, a complicated saga brewed about the Guardians 3. While the cast rallied behind their original director, Marvel had discussions about whether or not to use Gunn’s script, and who, if anyone, would replace him. The lack of a director caused production to be put on pause, while Gunn would be snatched up by Warner Bros. for The Suicide Squad and later Peacemaker. He’d become reinstated in 2019, but his full schedule kicked the Guardians further down Marvel’s release schedule. Now rejiggered to be set after the events of Thor: Love & Thunder and with Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock among the cast, Guardians 3 is now expected to release on May 5, 2023.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.