Batman v Superman was so bad WB is changing its entire filmmaking strategy (Updated)
Update: The fallout at Warner Bros. over the relative failure of Batman v Superman continues. Producer Charles Roven will have less active involvement with the upcoming DC films. He will likely still retain the title of producer on the next few films that are already in development, but after that he may be downgraded to executive producer, or removed entirely. Regardless, his involvement on future films will be significantly less.
Original Article – May 19, 2016: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not a good film. Yes, you can call that an opinion if you like, but it’s one validated by a relatively poor performance at the box office and overwhelmingly bad reviews from critics and fans. So yeah, it wasn’t a good film.
There is one group who liked the film though: the execs at Warner Bros. who not only oversaw the movie, but supposedly loved it. They even gave it a standing ovation. As a result, they have all been either fired or reassigned as part of a studio-wide shakeup.
Batman v Superman was designed to be the film that launched WB’s shared universe, its golden goose, churning out films that are built to earn between $500 million and $1 billion in global box office. It was supposed to be the fuse that ignites a series of films meant to rival Marvel’s Cinematic universe (despite the feeble protests from WB execs that it isn’t directly competing with Marvel).
Instead, it left fans wondering what the hell they just saw and set the expectations very low on the rest of the coming movies. And yet still, WB’s execs seemed oblivious to the negativity their fledgling shared universe began to generate.
So now they are gone, and WB is changing tactics for not just its DC movies, but all of its films.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, WB is creating “streams” within its movie division, with executives specializing by genre. Many of the positions haven’t been filled yet, but the idea is to have a single person, or in some case people, in charge of and dedicated to one style of film. So there will be one or two in charge of, for example, comedies, while another will oversee sci-fi films.
Certain franchises like Harry Potter and the Lego movies will also be grouped together and overseen by a single person or group, and each stream head will report to one or possibly two people at most. There should be a lot of announcements in the next few weeks regarding who is in charge of what, but many of the new stream bosses will be promoted or brought in from outside.
If nothing else, that should ease some of the complaints that filmmakers have leveled at WB over the last few years, including things like execs contradicting one another and a murky process for greenlighting a film.
In the case of the DC films, the stream will be overseen by two people: executive vice president Jon Berg, and DC’s chief content officer, Geoff Johns.
Prior to the announcement, Berg worked on Batman v Superman, and he is currently involved in the development of Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. He is also said to be Ben Affleck’s primary contact at WB, which should make it easier to continue work on Affleck’s solo Batman film.
As for Johns, DC is relying on him more and more, which makes his involvement with the films a little tricky for fans.
Johns was named DC’s CCO in 2010, and he soon oversaw DC’s semi-reboot, The New 52. He continued to write for DC, and is currently writing and overseeing DC’s second sort-of reboot, this summer’s Rebirth storyline. He has also been involved with several DC live-action projects, for better and worse.
In 2011, he was enlisted as a creative consultant and co-producer for the Green Lantern film – a movie so reviled it almost killed the careers of everyone involved. He also acted as an executive producer on Batman v Superman. Those aren’t exactly glowing recommendations, but in both cases there is a lot of blame to go around, including the directors.
Batman v Superman was very much Zack Snyder’s film. It was reminiscent of his previous works, and his distinct, sterile style was present in every scene. The film was also criticized for its grittiness, lack of character depths, wanton destruction, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the source material – all things Snyder has been criticized for in the past.
On a more optimistic note, Johns helped to launch DC’s recent TV projects, including Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl, all of which are fan favorites.
At this point, it’s impossible to say which path Johns will take with the DC films. He isn’t able to talk about it yet, but in a recent interview with Comicbook.com regarding the upcoming Rebirth, he stated that he wanted to bring “hope, optimism, and legacy” back.
“The compass of hope and optimism is in DC Comics’ DNA, and it’s important to get those [back] out there,” Johns said of the comics.
There’s no guarantee he will bring that approach to the films, but he is the guy in charge now – or at least in co-charge with Berg. Of course, WB is not Marvel. It still puts a huge amount of power in the hands of its directors, for better and worse.
Despite receiving a huge amount of criticism on Batman v Superman, Snyder remains the director of Justice League Part 1 and Part 2, and he will produce Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Aquaman. Can Johns reign in Snyder? Will he even try?
Still, it shows that WB recognizes that there is a problem, which is something. Batman v Superman made $870 million since its March release, which would be a success for almost any other film – even with a budget of well over $300 million (including marketing). Some of the more optimistic projections had it earning well over a billion dollars though, and possibly closer to $2 billion. That puts a lot of pressure on August’s Suicide Squad to do well enough to keep the interest going. Even if the film is a bomb though, there’s too much invested in the shared universe to stop now.
Good luck to Johns. He’s going to need it.