Some major changes are happening in the studio in the wake of their latest superhero disappointment.
This was kind of a “we saw this coming moment,” but Variety has dropped a report that Warner Bros. is moving some key pieces around behind the scenes to make sure the DCEU stays afloat. The abysmal performance of Justice League is said to have left parent company Time Warner with ruffled feathers, leading to the shake-up.
DC Films will be undergoing some restructuring in the new year. Jon Berg will be leaving his post as head of the film production division at DC, and partner instead with producer Roy Lee. The search is ongoing for Berg’s replacement. Geoff Johns, DC’s creative content adviser, is expected to remain involved with the DCEU in some capacity, although word is out that his role could evolve into something more advisory in the future. There is also talk of the integration of DC Films with the main Warner Bros. production arm, significantly shrinking the former’s autonomy in making movies.
Zack Snyder‘s position in the DC film franchise is also in murky terrain at this point, with no immediate plans to rehire him to helm more superhero projects. There is more buzz around Matt Reeves’ standalone Batman project too, fueling the fires of rumor that Ben Affleck truly will not reprise his role there, although Affleck is expected to return as the caped crusader one last time in the standalone Flash film.
In a way, the report is as much of a surprise as it could be considering DC Films’ inability to coherently capture the cinematic universe all along. Batman v Superman was almost definitely polarizing enough to affect an audience’s anticipation for Justice League, and it really showed in the box office numbers despite comparatively better reviews for the latter. There is a mixture of reasons for this, some of which are detailed in Variety’s report.
However, this is as much WB’s own failure to recognize the kind of film it wanted Justice League to be, regardless of Snyder’s specific brand of “arty” (or dull, depending on who you ask) darkness. Hiring a director like Joss Whedon to “fix” some of Snyder’s movie-making misgivings was never going to create a particularly cogent film. Instead, both styles just canceled each other out and created a very standard movie in a time where standard superhero fare simply doesn’t make the cut anymore.
Wonder Woman navigated that by being heartfelt enough to matter. But those who remained excited about Diana Prince’s reappearance had to weigh the costs of everything else in comparison to the one character they liked. The good news was that Justice League successfully introduced the new players to the DCEU. The Flash and Aquaman, in particular, managed to sideline Batman and even Superman and create buzz for their upcoming films. I’d argue that Cyborg deserves more love too, though — it would be great to see where the DCEU takes him.
It’s not as though the franchise is completely dead in the water when there is so much to mine these characters for. WB has also greenlit a Shazam movie that recently added Jack Dylan Grazer — one of the wonder children from Andy Muschietti’s horror hit, IT — to an already impressive cast of Zachary Levi and Mark Strong.
I’m not saying the restructuring will completely save the DCEU from caving in on itself, but WB has taken way too long to corner a good market as it attempted to play catch-up with other long-standing superhero series. Even less consistent franchises like X-Men have done much to resuscitate itself, but DC continues to lag behind. This seems rather obvious after the success of Wonder Woman, but WB should instead play to these iconic characters’ strengths and focus a lot more on honing relatable stories. Maybe that comes with leaving Zack Snyder’s influence behind, but it also helps to have a more confident vision for what the entire universe wants to achieve.