Marvel Studios has changed the game in Hollywood with its Cinematic Universe, first established with Iron Man back in 2008. Warner Bros. is currently hard at work with assembling a Shared DC Film Universe that will build on Zack Snyder’s 2013 big screen relaunch of the Superman character, Man of Steel. One thing is clear, though: WB/DC isn’t just recycling the same approach that Marvel used for its movie-verse.
This week alone has brought fresh rumors about how the two DC movies scheduled to reach theaters in 2016 – director Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and writer/director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad – will inter-connect with one another. Specifically, by using the older versions of iconic characters like Batman (Ben Affleck) and Joker (Jared Leto) that are debuting in the films.
Marvel Studios’ success can, in no small part, be attributed to its President and top-dog producer, Kevin Feige, who is the primary guiding force overseeing all Marvel films and TV show productions alike. Thanks to Feige, the Marvel Cinematic Universe now encompasses some of the highest-grossing movies of all time (The Avengers, Iron Man 3), as well as a breakout success in the Netflix series Daredevil (with more Netflix TV shows on the way). The studio has likewise earned its fair share of critical acclaim too, by recruiting celebrated storytellers to make its films and TV shows.
The downside to the Marvel approach is Feige is also the one with the most creative control on any project – something that has led to criticisms that Marvel Studio movies in particular ultimately feel too similar, in addition to a handful of highly-publicized instances of Marvel and filmmakers parting ways over “artistic differences” (see: Edgar Wright, Patty Jenkins, etc.). WB/DC, by comparison, is taking what THR describes as a “filmmaker-driven” approach in a new article – meaning, there’s not a Feige-like figure who has final say on any one project.
One drawback of the WB/DC approach, as we’ve noted before, is that right now there’s a lot of trial and error testing going on with how to best construct the DCCU. We’ve already seen evidence of that: Michelle MacLaren stepped down as the Wonder Woman solo film director over “artistic differences” (only to be replaced by Jenkins, as it were) on the Gal Gadot-headlined tentpole.
The THR article mentions that WB picked Jason Fuchs (Pan) from a group of writers to pen the Wonder Woman script – after having each one write the first act for a Wonder Woman movie, as a way to determine the best candidate. (Sidenote: Saving Mr. Banks and Fifty Shades of Grey scribe Kelly Marcel was also approached to write the screenplay, but was never officially hired, apparently.) As such, Fuchs is the one who will now be revising the script to fit Jenkins’ vision for the project – one said to be a character-driven mythical superhero adventure.
Similarly, it was previously reported that there are two Aquaman screenplays in development (from Will Beall and Kurt Johnstad), but THR‘s report reveals that three scripts total have been written for the Jason Momoa-headlined superhero adventure. That includes a script draft that was put together by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud), which might explain why he was said to be directing Aquaman in a leaked Sony email from last year. It sounds like the script draft written by Johnstad (300) might be the one that will be used, as he’s “now on hold until the studio is ready to proceed.”
The search is now on to find a helmsman for Aquaman (with James Wan supposedly eyed for the job). Though, after that point, the guiding force on the project’s direction will be the TBD filmmaker, not WB studio heads.
Zack Snyder and his wife, Deborah Snyder, are helping WB to “play out the parameters for other DC movies” – since they got the ball rolling with Man of Steel. However, it sounds as though the Snyders will be hands-off with DC films thereafter; case in point, THR reports that Ayer has “broad creative control” over Suicide Squad. Indeed, if the look of Jared Leto’s Joker is any indication, Ayer’s super-villain team-up feature will very much feel like the handiwork of the Training Day writer and Fury director.
Question is, will this “filmmaker-driven” approach work better, worse, or equally well as Marvel Studios’ tactic? Well, it’s going to be more important than ever for upcoming superhero movie to feel different and unique, simply because there are going to be so many of them arriving over the next five years. WB/DC’s approach seems to very much encourage such diversity with their comic book film adaptations, but will more playful installments – like The Flash being written (and maybe directed) by Phil Lord and Chris Miller – be able to feel at home in the same universe as movies from Snyder and Ayer?
… Well, considering that the quirky space action/comedy Guardians of the Galaxy and the gritty crime drama Daredevil Netflix series are both part of the MCU, the answer seems to be “yes” – assuming the execution is handled well, of course.
Basically, the big question is whether WB will be able to organize its DC Cinematic Universe without a Feige-like producer being in charge to map everything out. There are several prominent producers lending a helping hand with the DCCU (such as DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns) but again, they aren’t expected to serve as the “face” of the DCCU like Feige does for the MCU. Things could get messy quickly, after all, if the people on one DC movie step on the toes of those making a different film.
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: DC and Marvel are different – and so, it might be best if they don’t take the same approach to building their own Cinematic Universes (or linking together their movies and TV Shows). Though, the DCCU is even more of a work-in-progress than the MCU, so it might be best to prepare for more of these complications in the future – as WB/DC continues to fine-tune their own brand construction techniques.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman – June 23rd, 2017; Justice League – November 17th, 2017; The Flash – March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman – July 27th, 2018; Shazam – April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 – June 14th, 2019; Cyborg – April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern – June 19th, 2020.