Devotees of the DC Extended Universe have had a rough ride so far. As exciting as it's been watching DC’s renowned heroes burst across the big screen in their own shared universe, the earliest entries in the series have met with mixed reviews. One of the primary criticisms about the first two entries in Zack Snyder’s Justice League trilogy of sorts, Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, were their somewhat nihilistic approach to two of DC's biggest superheroes.
Whether fans agreed or disagreed with Snyder’s approach, his first two releases were somewhat hounded by their darker side. As a result, Warner Bros. and DC are making sure the tone of their future features is much lighter – something which studio head Geoff Johns recently attested to.
In an interview with the WSJ, the comic book creator and company president spoke about the grim edge of Snyder’s vision. He felt that many fans and audience’s negative reactions to the latest entries were rooted in a misunderstanding over the nature of popular characters like Superman and Batman in their most recent depictions. Although Batman V Superman ends on a somewhat upbeat note, the film was grounded in the grimmest side of DC – possibly due studio misinterpretation of the characters after Christopher Nolan’s extremely successful but grim Dark Knight Trilogy. Johns' said:
“Mistakenly in the past I think the studio has said, ‘Oh, DC films are gritty and dark and that’s what makes them different.’ That couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a hopeful and optimistic view of life. Even Batman has a glimmer of that in him. If he didn’t think he’d make tomorrow better, he’d stop.”
Johns also mentioned that Snyder’s “controversial flourishes,” such as Bruce Wayne’s 'knightmare sequence,' as well as his ‘deconstructionism’ will not play much of a role in Justice League. The superhero assemblage will follow the plot line more closely and keep an overall upbeat tone, especially after Batman’s faith in humanity (and aliens) is restored at the conclusion of Batman V Superman. As a result, Johns also notes that the Dark Knight won't be quite so kill-happy in his next outing. Johns mentioned that he and Warner VP Jon Berg are “trying to take a really hard look at everything to make sure we stay true to the characters and tell stories that celebrate them.”
The latest iterations of Batman and Supes may have rubbed some fans and audiences the wrong way, but DC has often played around with both characters in the past. Many authors have used creative license to create grittier versions of Batman (such as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns), before bringing them back to their Silver-Age roots. However, the DCEU's features have suffered from more than just a dark tone. Both Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad were reportedly hampered or muddied by studio interference. If true, further studio tweaking could set Justice League on a similar course.
On the other hand, Warner Bros and DC now have more of a unified front, with comic-friendly leader Geoff Johns at the helm. His experience as a creator and world-builder both in print and through his work on DC's "Arrowverse," as well as his time spent guiding the well-received and more traditionally grounded "Rebirth" should give him the insight to aid Snyder, rather than shoving a list of corporate needs down his throat. Hopefully, Johns will guide Justice League and the DCEU into brighter waters and smooth sailing.
Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters. Wonder Woman opens in theaters on June 2, 2017, followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 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. The Flash, The Batman solo movie, Dark Universe and Man of Steel 2 are currently without a release dates.