The storm of criticism, negativity and rumors suggesting the future of DC Comics’ movie universe was completely in flames may be in the rearview mirror, but it’s bringing about real change at Warner Bros. (potentially for the better, where comic book fans are concerned). As part of a larger streamlining of WB’s franchise filmmaking in the wake of Batman V Superman, kicking an entire universe of movies into pre-production, the studio has divided its leadership to better develop the brands – and has placed one DC Comics expert at the top.
Having previously served as the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment , Geoff Johns will be overseeing the newly-created DC Films along with Warner Bros. executive VP Jon Berg.
The report comes courtesy of THR citing multiple sources confirming the refinement of WB’s projects, specified by genres (Johns and Berg overseeing the DCEU are just one branch, alongside the lucrative LEGO brands and Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts, among others). It shouldn’t come as a shock to those familiar with Johns’ ascent from comic book writer to apparent story godfather of DC Comics as a whole. Having shifted that expertise to DC Entertainment (including TV shows, films, animated features and programming, and comics), Johns has aided in the development of most DC crossover properties in the past decade. Pairing him, a comic book veteran, with a studio executive like Berg seems to cement a blend of experience that will, WB no doubt hopes, set the DCEU into motion with as much guidance as is required.
Berg is no stranger to comic book properties either, having worked on Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and the upcoming Justice League. And as word has arrived of Ben Affleck taking on a role as executive producer alongside director Zack Snyder on the DC team-up films, Berg’s experience with Affleck on Argo and the upcoming Live By Night should also prove valuable. That isn’t to say that the moves are perfect fits ahead of time, since the “murky” process of greenlighting DC/Vertigo projects is as unclear as it has appeared.
As much as some will view these moves as hopeless, or motivated by desperation, those following the development of the DCEU have no doubt recognized that the process is, if nothing else, unclear. Over a dozen films, adaptations and projects have been confirmed to be “in development,” with no additional word on exactly which are actually planned for WB’s slate. And with Zack Snyder appearing as the only creative force behind the studio’s core superhero franchises – a role that he may not fill or want – a more solid structure was bound to happen sooner or later (thankfully). The same sources claim that the “filmmaker-driven” approach to individual entries in the DCEU will be unaffected. In other words, it won’t be Johns determining the creative direction of the films he’s overseeing.
As Marvel Studios has grown from a handful of franchises to an interconnected universe adapting storylines from the comic book page, they, too, have changed structures. Producer Kevin Feige quickly emerged as the central reason why things were going so smoothly, often referred to as the man ‘with the plan’ for the MCU as a whole. Eventually, the links between Marvel Entertainment and Disney’s film division became a hurdle, leading to the now infamous shake-up at Marvel placing Feige in charge, reporting directly to Disney.
So even though it’s true that DC’s heroes are years behind Marvel’s own cinematic universe, the optimistic fan would see Warner Bros. getting out ahead of development/leadership/creative issues before they form. And while Zack Snyder may have been seen as the de facto mastermind of the DC Extended Universe, it’s likely that both fans and studio executives would agree that his time is better spent on getting the Justice League films right (now with even more talent alongside him). The job of fielding pitches, helping to develop scripts, and ultimately decide which projects move forward – that now seems a job that will be keeping Johns and Berg busy – still reporting to their respective presidents- if all goes well.
What do you think of these changes? Is a comic book icon like Johns paired with a seasoned Hollywood executive a pairing that instills more confidence, or do you have doubts about other areas of the structure?
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing in U.S. theaters. Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.