The mixed bag reception of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice left many fans holding their breaths as to what Warner Bros./DC would do next. Criticized by professional critics and general moviegoers alike (yet defend by others), the film has done fairly well at the box office, leaving the studio nonchalant about the future of the franchise. Still, WB/DC has reportedly reshuffled its production slate to focus on upcoming franchise movies, especially next years’ tentpole, Zach Snyder’s Justice League Part One.
Although Snyder has faced some backlash for his directorial work on Batman V Superman, the (studio) powers that be behind the DC Extended Universe seem to still be confident enough in the filmmaker. However, it now sounds like the studio heads will be aiming to keep a tighter rein on their superhero pictures, while still allowing the filmmakers more freedom work their magic.
According to an insider source, who spoke with Variety Editor Kristopher Tapley, production executive Jon Berg and Time-Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes “are taking more of a hands-on approach” and “paying closer attention to overarching story concerns” in the DCEU hereon forward. This seems to be a direct response to both the critical and commercial performance of Batman V Superman. The big-budget superhero mashup suffered from a mixed agenda - between studio heads desperate to kick-start the DCEU and power-load a Justice League ramp-up into an otherwise deconstructive comic book film (remember this is the director of Watchmen/Man of Steel we’re talking about).
Part of the problem, the source says, is the lack of a central, Kevin Feige-like figure in the DCEU to organize everything:
“Geoff [Johns] is really smart, but he’s got like 10 different jobs. He’s writing comic books, controlling DC, writes on [TV’s] ‘The Flash’ — I would imagine Feige’s is a full-time job just managing this stuff. So I don’t know how you ask Geoff, in the best of both worlds, to do that.”
WB/DC’s studio heads all seem too heavily occupied to provide the oversight of a Feige-like producer. But with Justice League Part One scheduled to begin production in London next week (at the time of writing this), it seems as though studio heads will be keeping a closer eye on their DC franchise while also easing up on the heavy-handed superhero-introduction agenda which mired Batman V Superman. As long as their supervision isn't to constrictive, it should allow Snyder to focus more on his unique vision and style for the next DC Comics film adaptation. And according to Tapley’s source, things are looking good for the first Justice League movie, too:
“’Justice League’ will be a crowd-pleaser more suited to Snyder’s talents, and that the upcoming two-part event is ‘extremely kinetic and visual.’ It will be far more straightforward than existential in its handling of superheroes.”
A visually stimulating and less existential Justice League is good news for fans of the expanding DCEU, especially those who found Batman V Superman too dark but still enjoyable. Although Warner Bros./DC claims to operate a “filmmaker-friendly” universe, forcing DCEU directors to keep tabs on the continuity actually binds their hands more. With more oversight on a production level, visually oriented directors such as Snyder, who are well-adapted to make comic book films, can focus more on their films and worry less about satisfying every aspect of the larger shared universe.
However, a lot is riding on the first Justice League picture, and WB/DC knows this. And with positive reviews already coming in for Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War, they’ll continue to face stiff competition from their rival studios. Hopefully, they’ll open up Geoff Johns' schedule or bring in another production-oriented individual with deep comic book knowledge to loosen the fetters on Snyder and future directors like James Wan (Aquaman), so they can better develop these beloved characters and bring our comic book heroes to life.
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 5th, 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 June 19, 2020.