After a long period of false starts, behind the scenes struggles, director replacements, bad press, and other disastrous buzz, before finally appearing to his rock bottom with Justice League, Warner Bros. has finally started gaining traction for the next phase of the DC Extended Universe.
The DCEU has been mired in difficulties since its inception. As Warner Bros. attempted to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe while putting their own stamp on the iconic franchise, they repeatedly stumbled. The disastrous reviews for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice created an image problem for the franchise, not helped by the muddled mess of Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman brought the series its best reviews and gave the studio some much-needed shine, but it didn’t last long thanks to the staggeringly bad domestic and international box office numbers for Justice League. Before the film reportedly lost Warner Bros. between $50-100m, its production was knee-deep in issues of re-shoots, a director replacement, and rumors that its lead actor wanted out. Bad headlines have followed the franchise from the get-go.
No film production is perfect, and in an age where everyone has access to trade news, it’s more widely discussed than ever. Still, what the DCEU has been through is tough to ignore. Even the most outlandish rumors seemed believable in the context of the franchise because the mood surrounding each film was so negative. Even its most ardent fans had to admit that something was up: Bad reviews, directors being swapped out regularly (The Flash film has seen no fewer than three directors sign up to various iterations of the project), pricey re-shoots, producer drama, and the general sense that the franchise would always be playing catch-up to Marvel. What was intended to be the darker, grittier, more grounded and more auteur-driven approach to the superhero genre has become a failing folly with a gargantuan price-tag. The PR could not have been worse.
However, positive change seems to be on the horizon. The studio and franchise that used to be unable to escape from bad headlines has acknowledged its many problems and started moving forward with a more focused agenda. The leadership change seems to be for the better, the buzz around upcoming projects is more positive than ever, and after a few years of wandering in the wilderness, the DCEU seems to be finding its feet.
- This Page: The Right Leadership is Finally in Place
- Page 2: The Leaks are Under Control and the Future is Bright
The Right Leadership is Finally in Place
When Zack Snyder was brought into the DCEU fold, he was given immense creative control over the upcoming franchise. As the primary director on the slate, as well as the most publicly recognizable, he was able to put his stamp on both Batman and Superman. While his work certainly has its fans and is often dazzling in its execution, it quickly became apparent that this wasn't the right approach for making blockbusters with mass appeal as Warner Bros wanted to compete with Marvel. By having such influence over the franchise in terms of style, tone and character, it became difficult for WB to implement changes when critics and audiences questioned the final product.
After Batman V. Superman was torn apart by critics, Warner Bros. tried to make changes to Suicide Squad, adding a neon finish and more laughs in re-shoots. Ultimately, that created more problems. Wonder Woman managed to get away from this with greater success, but Justice League couldn't. After Snyder was pushed out and Joss Whedon took over, the final film bears the fingerprints of two distinctive film-makers whose visions never really line up. There's a reason fans keep asking for the near-mythic Snyder cut.
Snyder was never supposed to be DC's equivalent of Marvel's Kevin Feige, but he was given that hefty responsibility mostly because Warner Bros. had nobody else to fill the job. Warner Bros. tried to change track by having comic book writer and DC's President and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns serve as co-runner of the franchise, hoping he would create a robust narrative for the expanded universe. While he has numerous story and screenplay credits, including the upcoming Aquaman and Wonder Woman 2, it never felt like a good fit to have Johns in such a major role. He's a writer, and a good one at that, but there's a difference between running a comic book universe and a comic book adaptation franchise worth billions of dollars, and with Johns' experience as a movie producer being mostly limited to the disastrous Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern movie, he may not have been the best fit on the film side. While Johns will still have a role to play in the DCEU, the main duties have been handed over to Walter Hamada.
The addition of Hamada to the board seems to be the boost the DCEU needed. While working at New Line Cinema, he served as an executive producer on various films, most notably horror franchises like The Conjuring. He's also credited on Lights Out and IT. While not every film in his roster was a hit, he established himself as a savvy player in genre fiction with smart budget controls. The Conjuring is its own strange expanded universe, albeit on a way smaller scale than that of the DCEU, but it demonstrated Hamada's business prowess and ability to create hits that turn a profit, like IT. What the DCEU needs is that sturdy producer force behind the scenes.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019