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WB’s DC Cinematic Universe: Are Things About to Get Very Messy Behind the Scenes?

There has been a disturbance in the DC Cinematic Universe. Have you felt it?

Seth Grahame-Smith is no longer directing the Ezra Miller Flash movie, reportedly due to the old familiar chestnut known as “creative differences.” However, they’ll apparently still use the script he wrote. Now the regular superhero movie rumor sites are coming at us with insider reports of turmoil:

BirthMoviesDeath’s sources are saying director James Wan is now considering leaving Aquaman, mostly because he doesn’t need this particular project as much as it needs him and it might not be worth the hassle. Moreover, WB is apparently having lots of fights with Zack Snyder over Justice League right now, even as it moves further into its shooting schedule in London.

HeroicHollywood has heard WB is granting Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns complete creative control over the forthcoming solo Batman movie which still has no official release date, but granting complete creative control is what got us into this mess in the first place, i.e., Zack Snyder turning Batman and Superman into “The Martha Boys.” Sure, you’re likely better off putting your trust in the guy who made Argo than the guy who made Sucker Punch, but Geoff Johns is reportedly just as stunned by the negative reaction to BvS as Snyder and WB higher-ups. Now he gets to do what he wants on a Batman movie?

On the more purely positive side of things, George Miller is being eyed to direct Green Lantern Corps, so says HeroicHollywood (and now just about every other pop site out there).

This is all in addition to the earlier BirthMoviesDeath report of WB ordering re-shoots on the Suicide Squad to add more humor in the wake of the negative reaction to Batman v Superman‘s grimdark march. Of course, that rumor has now been directly refuted by both the director, one of the actors and possibly even WB’s marketing department, which rushed out a new trailer showcasing plenty of new footage and jokes.

It’s similarly possible that James Wan will soon step forward to squash the rumor of him essentially looking for the out clause in his Aquaman contract (Update 5-2-16: And that’s exactly what he just did on Twitter). Maybe BvS‘s unprecedented box office plunge (as I wrote about in depth here) has signaled blood in the water to the rumor sites, and they’re running with anything they can because the emerging narrative of a behind the scenes trainwreck at WB is too compelling for readers to resist.

But when I step back from this I see a writer in Seth Grahame-Smith who had never directed anything before and was likely pushed off of The Flash because WB is either suddenly far more risk-averse or the tone they initially agreed on is no longer acceptable after the mass rejection of BvS beyond its first 3 days. After all, ever since BvS came out Zack Snyder’s own wife, producer Deborah Snyder, has been promising The Flash will help make Justice League funnier and since he’s such a lovable character “the tone of [his solo] film will be very different than the rest of them.” Is that in line with what they always planned? Or are we looking at transparent damage control?

Somewhat similarly, when I see James Wan rumored to want out I think back to the clear damage control he was doing in the press in the immediate aftermath of BvS, promising his Aquaman would be largely free of Zack Snyder’s influence. I also recall how Midnight Special‘s Jeff Nichols, a supremely talented filmmaker, candidly admitted why he turned down Aquaman before the job ever came to Wan:

With the DC universe, so many parts of it had been activated and so many decisions had already been made that it felt more and more — and Warner Bros. agreed — that it was me trying to jump on a moving train. That’s not so much what I’m good at. I’m more of a ground up kinda guy.

Of course, that’s but an individual example of a director deciding that for his own personal needs and preferences a trip into the DC universe simply wouldn’t work. However, we likely all remember The Hollywood Reporter’s April 2015 article detailing how WB’s disorganized approach to its DC universe was leaving talent reps for writers, writers and directors frustrated and pessimistic, describing the studio as mostly throwing shit at the wall and hoping something sticks. It just contributes to a long history of disrupted deals and whispers of doom.

After BvS, multiple industry trades have reported that WB will be taking a more hands-on approach going forward, but I just have a sense that we’ve barely scratched the surface of how weird and rumor-plagued things are about to get with the DC Cinematic Universe. What’s real and what’s not, which movies are actually going to happen and which are but pipe dreams at this point – that all remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure  – I’ve said it before, but Suicide Squad really, really better not suck.


    1. Its restrictive because hey have to adhere to a shared Universe, all the movies are somehow supposed to connect. It can be very limiting, especially as more movies are being made. I think they do try to give directors and writes as much room as they can.

      1. Exactly. That’s why I felt from the get go that all the “Warner Bros gives their director more freedom and therefore the movies will be better” talk was nonsense. You can’t do a coherent universe when everyone basically does what he wants.

      2. In the early goings of the DC Cinematic Universe, they announced a solo, female-led comic book movie as well as an African-American led movie before Marvel. Then they seemed to use the press to brag about utilizing a more director-driven model, thus attempting to appeal to any on-the-fence directors out there who’d heard horror stories about what it’s like to work for Marvel (or at least was before Feige usupred Ike Perlmutter). You had to give them points for committing to diversity earlier than Marvel, and recognizing the ongoing criticism of Marvel’s films for being too televisual and promising that their movies would all have their own distinctive stamps, depending on the whims of each individual director. It’s putting all of that into practice, though, which has turned out to be far more difficult than they realized. For better or worse, these cinematic universes are like giant TV shows, and you wouldn’t expect each episode of a TV show to completely change its tone, visual style and subject matter. WB is still figuring all of this out.

      3. That’s part of the problem, though. They are too concerned with what Marvel does and try to do the opposite. They don’t have to. The difference is right there in the comics. Marvel is about Humans who have goodly power, DC is about gods who try to interact with humans. Strangely though, this is the one aspect at which Warner DOESN’T use the difference and instead tries to make their characters more human.

      4. I don’t know that WB is trying to make its characters more human and less god-like. That might have been true of Man of Steel, but Superman is basically Doctor Manhattan in Batman v Superman and Affleck’s Batman is a walking video game character. The film pays lip service to Superman’s humanity, and it is ultimately what diffuses his conflict with Batman. However, in practice he’s a peerless god who answers to no one and regrets nothing he does, declining to explain himself to the U.S. congress and repeatedly looks annoyed when people keep dying around him and persist with blaming/worshiping him. I get your general point, though, i.e., that WB/DC would be better off leaning into exactly who their characters are and build from there instead of looking over at what Marvel is doing and planning their actions as calculated responses to the competition.

  1. In some books that I have read, it says in a story told in flashback in Justice League of America #9 (February 1962), the Appelaxians infiltrated Earth.Competing alien warriors were sent to see who could conquer Earth first, to determine who will become the new ruler of their home planet. The aliens’ attacks drew the attentions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter. While the superheroes individually defeated most of the invaders, the heroes fell prey to a single competitor’s attack; only by working together were they able to defeat the competitor. For many years, the heroes heralded this adventure as the event that prompted them to agree to pool resources when confronted with similar menaces. In Justice League of America #144 (July 1977), Green Arrow uncovered inconsistencies in the team’s records and extracted admissions from his colleagues that the seven founders had actually formed the League after Martian Manhunter was rescued from Martian forces by the other six founders, along with several other heroes including Robin, Robotman, Congo Bill/Congorilla, Rex the Wonder Dog and even Lois Lane.

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