Creative control. Two words which are usually considered a positive when it comes to making movies, but have so far proved a living nightmare for DC.
When the #DCEU was officially announced in 2014, DC had a five-year schedule, beginning with Batman v Superman, which would feature two movies a year and bring the fight to Marvel in a big way. Zack Snyder was awarded creative control of this universe — more than just directing, he determined which characters would get solo movies (the entire Justice League) and which actors would be cast.
What Warner Bros. quickly discovered was that giving full creative control could result in a movie like Dawn of Justice. Their response was to strip away that freedom and step in with their own, corporate vision — a response which proved wildly misguided and resulted in the theatrical cut of BvS (widely considered inferior to Snyder's Ultimate Edition) and a schizophrenic Suicide Squad whose final cut was done by a company who specialize in trailers, not films. Genius move.
But you know that already. It's history. What's happening in the present is more important to the future of the DCEU, and it begins with the confirmation that Matt Reeves will direct the solo #Batman movie. As everybody knows, Reeves walked away after ongoing initial negotiations, only to return and sign on the dotted line, and his reasons for doing so evoke a major sense of déjà vu.
Matt Reeves Just Got Given Full Creative Control Over Batman
Movie Pilot reported a few weeks back on rumors that Reeves wanted to take the helm of a new Batman trilogy which would exist as its own, complete universe inside the DCEU, an attempt to take Batman on a journey over multiple movies just as Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy did. Immediately after, he dropped out of talks, and a few days passed before DC suddenly announced he was back in. So what happened?
According to Splash Report, who claim to have some solid insider intel, the reason Reeves walked was simple — he wanted full creative control, meaning everything from casting to story to script, and Warner Bros. didn't want to give it over. Geoff Johns wanted Reeves to use the script already co-written by Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio, so he wouldn't commit. Eventually WB backed down and granted Reeves his wish — as of now, the Batman universe is his toy and his alone.
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That's interesting because it could be seen as a sign that the studio has learned from their mistakes in dabbling with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. James Wan also has complete creative control over the character of Aquaman and his solo movie, suggesting DC has given up any hope of finding a Kevin Feige figure to guide the entire universe, and is instead reverting to the filmmaker model which gives talented, smart directors the individual freedom they need to make a good movie.
Ironically though, that's what they did in the very beginning. Zack Snyder's vision didn't align with what audiences actually wanted, but the idea of giving out creative control was not a flawed one — they just chose the wrong guy to give it to.
What does this mean for The Batman? Reeves did brilliant work in taking the Planet Of The Apes franchise, which had been resurrected with a thoroughly mediocre movie, and transforming it into something genuinely quite great. But with Batman, he more or less has the opportunity to start from scratch. That might mean getting rid of existing players like Jared Leto's Joker — as a Batman villain, Reeves would have the final say of whether Leto is still a part of the DCEU, or whether there's a new Joker in the deck.
It also means he has the power to take Batman anywhere he wants. We could get a live-action Hush or Court Of Owls adaptation. We could get an entire movie set inside Arkham Asylum with the complete rogues gallery. Reeves might decide to kill Batman and have another hero (or villain) adopt the cowl. That's pretty exciting and it's also why, a week after telling my friends I was "totally done with this fucking film!" in totally-not-dramatic-at-all fashion, I've now renewed my ticket for the Hype Express.
Do you think Matt Reeves is the best man for the job?