It's fascinating how the creative rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics has transitioned from the page to the big screen in the past few years. DC Comics has traditionally been known for its mythological takes on superheroes, who are closer to being gods than vigilantes (Batman aside). Marvel Comics made its name by humanizing its heroes, giving them everyday problems that readers could relate to. In 2008, Marvel Studios jumpstarted its cinematic universe with Iron Man. This served as the basis and foundation of an entire cinematic universe that would culminate in the $1 billion Avengers franchise. Now, Marvel is seen as the God of the movie universe and Warner Bros. has been playing catch-up, in regards to creating its own cinematic sandbox.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is respected as the architect of the growing MCU and, since he came to prominence, the industry has been looking for his counterpart on the Warner Bros. lot. There have been many candidates over the years, but now that the DC Extended Universe is rolling with the second film, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, getting an answer to who is pulling the strings is more important than ever.
Last week, we were fortunate enough to attend the world press conference for Dawn Of Justice on the Warner Bros. lot. The entire cast was in attendance, along with director Zack Snyder and producers Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven. Roven is in the unique position of producing the newest iteration of DC films with Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman, while also being the producer behind Christopher Nolan's groundbreaking Dark Knight series of films. During the press conference, he was asked if he is the equivalent of Kevin Feige for Warner Bros. and who exactly will be guiding the DC Universe on film into the future:
"It's a team of us. The team is obviously Debbie [Snyder], Zack [Snyder], myself, Geoff Johns is part of it. It's an interesting challenge. But it's also a lot of fun because even when we were making films that might have sequel possibilities. Even with 'The Dark Knight' we never really thought what the sequel was going to be. In fact when we went from 'Batman Begins' to 'The Dark Knight,' we ended with ['Batman Begins'] the Joker [card] and we thought, 'Well we should probably do the Joker.' We never really had a story or anything.
"Here, we are constantly thinking in the future, not only how to make each individual film stand on its own, be compelling, be fun, be thought-provoking, have great characters, but we are also thinking way down the road about how these things are going to interconnect and make sense. And also leave room for other great filmmakers to be involved. And to make sure that, while we want to get to a certain place. Not to stay too rigid and too fixed on exactly the methodology on how to get there. We have to let the creative process, to allow it to evolve. It's just really exciting and challenging every single day."
While we have been familiar with many of the key players who are creating the DC Extended Universe, it has rarely been explicitly stated who is drawing the blueprint on the Warner Bros. side. According to Roven, it is himself, the producing team of Zack and Debbie Snyder, and comic book legend Geoff Johns. While Kevin Feige gets a lion's share of the credit for Marvel Studios' success, he also has a close circle of people that he consults with and draws ideas from, but they are largely shrouded in mystery.
However, the names mentioned in WB/DC's braintrust are much more high-profile supporting players. Johns is known for revamping several DC Comics characters and seems to have an in-depth understanding of the psychology of all the flagship characters. Zack Snyder (Batman V Superman) has been entrenched in the world for years and is preparing to begin filming the Justice League movie next month.
There has been an ongoing debate over the differing approaches to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. It's interesting to hear that each Nolan film was completed on its own, without much forethought into sequels tying up loose ends. It's even more impressive when the result is a complete character arc and one of the best superhero trilogies of all time. However, it's a new age. The landscape is different and shared universes are the norm and when you start to add in extra characters that have their own history and backstory, it's smart to plan ahead.
There has been much written about Marvel Studios' past struggles with directors such as Edgar Wright or Joss Whedon. Both directors had extensive relationships with the studio in the past. Wright worked on Ant-Man for more than six years before parting ways only weeks before filming began. Whedon delivered two $1 billion grossing Avengers movies, yet didn't have the clout to get his own vision on screen. While this oversight helps the overall story for the MCU flow, it clearly has affected the quality of a couple of films (Ant-Man, Avengers: Age Of Ultron) and ruined relationships between directors and the studio.
Roven explains how their approach to cultivating directing talent differs. He states that they are looking to attract great filmmakers by allowing directors flexibility with their own projects. They have plotted the endpoints, but they are leaving it to the most talented storytellers to plot the course. This allows a level of pliability to the overarching story that can change as the needs arise. This is how they have already cultivated the directing or writing talents of such Hollywood standouts as James Wan for Aquaman, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord for The Flash, and Patty Jenkins for the upcoming Wonder Woman. This stands in opposition to the Marvel formula where they have in-house writers and creators shaping the exact visions that the executives (yes, Feige is a suit) want.
Time will tell if Warner Bros.' approach will work. Batman V Superman is already a hotbed for controversy, due to the decisions that were made by director Snyder. However, if moviegoers reject his vision, they will still be getting a Wonder Woman movie next year, with a new visionary behind the camera. Every DC comic doesn't have the same tone, but the characters always seem unified when coming together in Justice League comics. Hopefully, the creative playground that Roven, Johns, Zack and Debbie Snyder are crafting will be an equally successful, alternate model to comic book filmmaking. At the very least, it should be fun to watch it all play out.
What do you think of the Warner Bros. and DC Comics brain trust? Do you like that individual directors are given relative creative autonomy to craft their vision? Do you think the DC Extended Universe will work? Let us know below!
Source: Point of Geeks