Over the past few years, Warner Bros. have been trying to start a new shared universe based on their DC properties. The DC Extended Universe began in 2013 with Superman reimagining Man of Steel and expanded massively with Justice League-establisher Batman v Superman and villain team-up Suicide Squad. The results so far have been mixed, with solid box office offset by an overall negative response to the films, but the series is set to continue growing, with both Wonder Woman and Justice League coming in 2017.
What has caused some worry is that, despite reports of being director-led, the productions have been dominated by stories of heavy studio involvement and imposed filmmaking approaches. The latest step in this came with a report that Matt Reeves momentarily paused on agreeing to direct The Batman to ensure he would get final say on the film. However, one director working within the machine has a different slant on the story.
Screen Rant recently visited the Wonder Woman edit bay, where director Patty Jenkins talked about her experiences with the studio making the film, revealing that there’s no imposed style or tone:
“From my point of view, there is no mandate on tone that I experienced. So I think every filmmaker is making their own movies in the tone that they see right for that movie and I had no pressure on me to not do the same. […] I don’t think there is one tone. Chris Nolan had a serious tone and Zack [Snyder] has a different tone that’s also serious in a different way, so I think it became a perception there was one tone, but that’s not what I’ve heard encouraged.”
After Zack Snyder’s first two entries in the series, which borrowed elements from Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, it felt like the DCEU was defined by its gritty imagery and brooding takes on iconic characters. This was reflected in Suicide Squad‘s similar grimy approach, but Jenkins’ words suggest that those aren’t being used in any way as a benchmark. No matter your thoughts on the DCEU so far, that’s refreshing news; having the same uniform tone for all movies doesn’t represent the DC Universe’s eclectic hero set.
Talking more about studio involvement, Jenkins also discussed how well her initial vision of the film – to tell a classical origin story for Diana Prince – lined up with Warners, further suggesting things were a little more harmonious on Wonder Woman than other DCEU outings:
“They came to a place, before or during making [Batman V Superman], where they decided they were going to make Wonder Woman. The great thing is, they decided to do her origin story and I was like [claps hands] yes! That’s what I’ve been standing here waiting to do for all these years! Her origin story. I want to do the Wonder Woman that I love, that I grew up loving.”
This may go some way to explaining Jenkins’ positive experience, with her core take on the material fitting in with what the studio already wanted. That said, this freedom apparently extended further than you’d expect, all the way to the characterization of Diana Prince despite the fact she already debuted in Batman v Superman; according to Jenkins, what Snyder was doing on Dawn of Justice had a limited influence on how she and her team approached the project:
“They’d cast this wonderful person, they’d made this incredible costume, but that’s it really. They had, like, laid the story out of like, we could tell this version of the story, we’re taking this from the original comic and we’re mixing a little [George] Pérez… But besides that we were completely left on our own. [Batman V Superman] wasn’t even done, so nobody had seen it, nobody knew anything… I didn’t see that movie until I was halfway through this… They were super supportive. They’ve been great at being like, you’re the director we’ve picked, this is how you want to go about it.”
With the DCEU moving out in all manner of different directions – Suicide Squad is leading to Gotham City Sirens, The Rock may be leap-frogging villain duties on Shazam! for a Black Adam film, and of course the rest of the Justice League all have their own solo adventures coming – that there is a more free-flowing approach at play, at least from the directors’ point-of-view, is reassuring.