After years of buildup, the DC cinematic universe has arrived - with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hitting theaters. Built on Man of Steel's backbone, or rather the collateral damage of Superman and General Zod's disastrous grudge match, Batman V Superman sets the stage for other DC heroes and villains to step onto the big screen. While Man of Steel serves as an entry point for viewers, several characters in DC's shared movie universe have already existed for decades (Batman), and in some cases, hundreds of years (Wonder Woman) - meaning that this shared universe was already in full swing prior to Kal-El's arrival on Earth. In the coming years, moviegoers will see a slew of DC films hitting the big screen - as Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, and Green Lantern(s) all join the fray (and team-up for a two-part Justice League event).
However, even with films planned through 2020, some viewers are skeptical that DC and Warner Bros. will ever be able to catchup with their comic book publisher-turned-movie studio rival, Marvel - especially since the DCEU (aka the DC Extended Universe) is missing a key component that has been instrumental in making The Avengers one of the biggest pop culture brands in the world today: Kevin Feige.
As President of Marvel Studios, Feige laid out an incredibly ambitious cross-medium shared universe, the MCU, with further film and TV entries already announced through 2020. For that reason, Feige has earned near-rock star status among comic book movie fans - as the head of Marvel Studios' creative committee/brain trust. Conversely, despite Zack Snyder serving as a spokesperson and creative lead at DC Entertainment, the director is not Warner Bros.' answer to Kevin Feige (if anything Snyder is more akin to Jon Favreau or Joss Whedon in this comparison), so who is leading the charge for the DCEU?
Speaking with THR, Snyder and his wife/producer partner Deborah championed DC's filmmaker-driven approach but, later in the interview, also suggested the DCEU wasn't without Feige-like creative oversight (albeit in the form of a "brain trust"):
Who else is part of the DC brain trust?
Zack Snyder: Chuck [Roven], our partner.
Deborah Snyder: Richard Suckle is producing some of these. On our end, Wesley Coller is an executive producer who works on all the things that we work on. He’s part of our inner family. Geoff Johns is just super valuable, and I think Zack and Geoff really have worked out a lot of the creative ideas as to where the characters are going. Geoff [ensures] we’re doing things that are true to the canon because he knows everything about these characters. And Jon Berg is our executive on all the films, and then obviously Greg [Silverman] was our executive when we first came to Warner Bros., so we’ve always worked with Greg.
Even though DC fans might want a Kevin Feige of their own, Deborah Snyder's rundown of the DCEU brain trust paints an interesting picture - one that could allow for more flexibility than Marvel's taskmaster position for Feige.
Based on Snyder's comments, and previously announced partnerships, here's a quick breakdown of the aforementioned DCEU brain trust:
- Charles Roven - Producer (Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League Part One, The Flash, Aquaman, and Justice League Part Two)
- Richard Suckle - Producer (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman)
- Wesley Coller - Producer (with the Snyders) at Cruel and Unusual Films
- Geoff Johns - Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics (and DCEU Producer as well as Creative Consultant)
- Jon Berg - Oversees DCEU live-action films as Executive Vice President of Development at Warner Bros.
- Greg Silverman - President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production at Warner Bros.
It's worth noting that until last year, Feige answered to Marvel Comics CEO Ike Perlmutter but, following alleged tensions between the pair over Captain America: Civil War's budget, Disney CEO, Bob Iger, restructured the relationship between Marvel Studios and Marvel Comics, allowing Feige to work under Chairman of Disney Studios, Alan Horn. That's all to say, while Feige has become a quasi-celebrity, thanks to Steve Jobs-like presentations at San Diego Comic-Con and other fan events, the Marvel Studios President is, and has always been, part of a Marvel brain trust.
Where that Marvel brain trust has kept a relatively tight leash on their filmmakers, in order to maintain a consistent tone (and overarching story) in the MCU, Deborah Snyder suggests that DC is giving their directors, which include David Ayer (Fury) and Patty Jenkins (Monster), a bit more "freedom to tell their story in the way that it needs to be told." Even though producers at both DC and Marvel agree fanboy flame wars get out of hand, there's little doubt that DC has developed their DCEU approach as a response to Marvel's more rigid production process - likely in the hopes of attracting directors who are excited to try their hand at blockbuster superhero moviemaking but might be reluctant toward Marvel's heavy-handed approach.
Of course, that's easy for the Snyders to say at this stage - with only one (soon two) DCEU movies to hit the big screen. Despite a few growing pains in Phase 1 of the MCU, it took several more installments before Feige's production pipeline and the shared universe itself was truly tested. As a result, time, and production hurdles, will ultimately determine whether the DCEU can be managed by a brain trust - or whether Warner Bros. will eventually assign one person to steer the ship.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019;Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on June 19th, 2020.