That's how it starts, with an article from The Hollywood Reporter, that turned everyone's opinion... cruel!
Yesterday THR published a good article and I'll just brief you with the most important talking points from it:
- WB's DC cinematic universe doesn't have a clear leadership figure (boss), overseeing the creative development of the franchise, unlike Marvel.
- WB has a "filmmaker driven" franchise and not a business committee driven franchise like Marvel.
- One Marvel insider said "you can't give it to a filmmaker, you have to give it to someone who has an institutional knowledge of these characters"
- The boss of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, acting as the godfather and overseeing the development played a key role in the success of the franchise.
- WB is hiring multiple writers to develop different scripts to the same movie to select the best one and not combine writers to develop a single and cohesive script like Marvel (one insider said, it felt like they were throwing s**t against the wall to see what stuck)
- Another person with an insight on WB's working said "They just haven't been thorough about their whole world and how each character fits and how to get the most out of each writer's time by giving them direction, obviously, Marvel's very good at that"
Now this all sounds pretty bad for WB's DC franchise, I was quite shocked to hear all of this but I decided to give it some proper thought and to do some research on it and the answers that I have found were actually pretty uplifting. Let me share them with you.
WB needs a permanent production studio to lean on, to create a cohesive shared universe franchise, just like how Disney has Marvel Studios.
Well WB is a distribution house, they do worldwide marketing, distribution, intellectual property and digital rights management and all sorts of business and legal stuff related to movies and thus if they dream to make a cohesive shared universe like Marvel's they need a production studio which can actually help them produce the movies on a long term basis, as it ensures financial stability in terms of planning, organizing and executing things. And WB faced some production issues as legendary Pictures and Syncopy declined the idea of producing DC movies after Man of Steel and recently even Dune Entertainment walked out from the production of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which resulted in delaying the release date of Batman v Superman. So is the production a big mess inside WB's DC universe ? Well as a matter of fact NO, it's not !
WB already has, not one but three production studios synergizing the production of DC films on a long-term and most probably permanent basis. They are:
These studios are locked down to produce DC movies till 2020 and now that means there will be no production problems of any sorts, as these three giants are synergizing their efforts to create a cohesive shared universe for WB's DC franchise.
Similar to how 20th Century Fox has TSG Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Donner's Company, etc. to synergize and produce Fox's Marvel universe.
WB needs a person or a board that oversees the creative development of the franchise.
It is a well known fact that Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios) played the most important role in the creative development of the whole franchise, as he was the person who was overseeing everything, calling all the shots and pulling all the strings, he has full authority to select and reject ideas and to alter the works in any way, so that the movies can fits inside the shared universe and feel organic and cohesive.
Meet DC's Board
It is a well known fact that this method is tried, tested and has reaped an immense level of success for Marvel, so why isn't WB trying to execute the same strategy for their universe ? The simple answer is WB gives more creative freedom to their filmmakers and they don't believe in this top down level of making movies.
But it can be a problem down the line though, because if a studio intends to create a shared universe franchise, then there should be a board which should oversee the creative development of the franchise so that everyone and everything stays on the same page so that disasters from a creative development POV can be avoided, which can ultimately lead to a delay in production or a messed up product that feels so unnatural and out of place, but fortunately WB has a plan in hand, which I would like to call the Creative Control Board of DC Cinematic Universe. By the looks of it, this board is made up of:
Zack Snyder (from Cruel and Unusual films) - Director of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League 1 and 2. Executive Producer of Suicide Squad and producer on every other DC movie.
Charles Roven (from Atlas Entertainment) - Producer of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League movies and beyond.
FUN FACT - He worked as the producer on the Dark Knight trilogy before.
Deborah Snyder (from Cruel and Unusual films) - Producer on Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, Justice League movies, executive producer on Suicide Squad and beyond.
Geoff Johns (from DC Entertainment) - Executive Producer on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League movies and beyond. And also the Chief Creative Officer of DC comics.
Chris Terrio - Writer of Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice, Justice League 1 and 2 and beyond.
What Makes Them Work
These five people together form the brain trust of the DC Cinematic Universe of WB Studios. There can be others in this group as well, but as of now this looks like the team that will be steering the DC universe in film format. And the most interesting thing about this board is, it is filled with people from various lines of expertise.
Zack Snyder comes from a directorial and storytelling background, Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder and Wesley Coller come from pure business and production backgrounds, Geoff Johns comes from a pure storytelling, character and universe building background, with his works as the writer and chief creative officer at DC comics.
This team sounds pretty solid, as it has all the right elements that are needed for a board which is supposed to oversee the creative development of a franchise, but if you aren't sold on this concept, just look at what 20th Century Fox does: They have amazing producers + writers + directors like Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn.
These three together form the creative board for the shared Marvel universe of Fox studios and guys like Tim Miler, James Mangold and Josh Trank work under these guys to deliver movies under the same universe.
And just look how good movies like X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past turned out to be, and how good Apocalypse, Deadpool and Fantastic Four are turning out to be. So, even this method of making a shared universe is tried, tested and successful, and WB is sorta doing the same thing.
Apparently WB's approach at building the DC universe is fucking brilliant!
The Avengers changed the landscape of comic book movies and how franchises are generally made in Hollywood, but not everybody realizes that the Marvel movies prior to Avengers didn't have a big enough contribution towards the success of The Avengers yeah it might sound like BS but listen to me.
The majority directly went ahead and saw The Avengers without watching any of the five solo movies that came before, and some had seen 1 or 2 or 3 movies and thus the majority didn't really know about the characters or the over-arching storyline that appeared on screen in Avengers, yet people loved that movie and people then back-tracked to those solo movies through DVD/Blu ray and made sure not to miss upcoming solo movies from Marvel (as they were blown away by the awesomeness of Avengers) and all of a sudden it's makes absolute sense as to why WB went ahead with Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, because of the following benefits,
- A cross-over team-up movie isn't risky or illogical, even if it's the second movie in the franchise, as a matter of fact they are the most enjoyed and profitable ones.
- Cross-over team-up movies are literally magnets to moviegoers all around the globe.
- Releasing two cross over team up movies back to back a year ensures everybody gets to clearly understand what the DC cinematic universe is, without missing on anything (as what happened to the solo movies that came before The Avengers) which will eventually lead to the bigger success of Wonder Woman and Justice League 1.
As you can see, this is a win-win scenario from every possible perspective, as filmmakers and shareholders get their money, the fans get to know everything about a franchise in a quicker way without missing out on anything, and all of this results in bigger successes and better movies. Now tell me, how is this a sign of troubled franchise development? It's actually pretty intelligent.
Production problems at the initial stage is inevitable.
Even Marvel Studios isn't immune to production problems, because they did face a lot of problems at the early days. If you remember, Marvel released Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and they were supposed to release two movies in 2009 but they totally skipped that year and instead of two movies they released only one movie in 2010 and it was Iron Man 2 , and we all know what kind of a mess that movie turned out to be, it was a result of collective head scratching back at Marvel Studios as they didn't know what kind of approach they should execute. But eventually they got there, from 2011, and became a well-oiled machine which can churn out massively successful films year after year.
So, I would rest my case by saying there is nothing wrong with WB's strategy for their DC cinematic universe, they have everything in check and they clearly have a vision for this franchise and there is nothing to worry about.