Following the exit of 25-year Warner veteran Diane Nelson, it looks like Geoff Johns is stepping down as Chief Creative Officer of the DCEU as well. With all the recent shake-ups, will DC ever be a force to reckon with Marvel?
Deadline is reporting the exit of yet another creative force in the (old) DCEU following Diane Nelson, as well as Jon Berg and Zack Snyder from earlier this year. While the tone of the DCEU has been divisive, to say the least, it did offer an alternative to the MCU movies. I won’t lie though: I was not a fan. That said, it had more to do with the level to which WB was pushing creative to match Marvel/Disney’s output. They wanted a shared universe, and they wanted one yesterday!
Pressure Kills Creativity
As I mentioned above, WB (and everyone else in Hollywood) wants that shared universe. Who wouldn’t want movies that are sequel enough to bring return audiences, but different enough for new ones? WB seemed to have the ingredients ready to go. Not only characters but the most significant characters in comic-book history, all under one roof. No need for reimagining (**coughTheMummycough**) but decades of continuity to pull from. A tone that was distinctive from the main competition, offering variety for fatigued moviegoers. Hell, one of the best writers in modern comics over the past two decades. What could go wrong?
Timing. WB want what Disney has, but didn’t want to take the time to let it grow. Marvel, pre-Disney, used what they had (which wasn’t much). They slowly built a universe of characters who shared a home. They did this without knowing if it would work, or even what heroes they would eventually be able to use. 2008 Marvel didn’t think to build threads to Spider-Man in the Iron Man films. WB has none of those issues. But has a full-steam-ahead mentality killed their previous efforts before they could even competently form?
They Don’t Have To Be The Super Best Friends
One thing WB can learn is that they don’t have to be Marvel. That said, they shouldn’t keep everything siloed either.
The one merit of Suicide Squad was that the characters existed in a universe audiences were familiar with. Any worldbuilding would be mostly unnecessary to get viewers on board. If anything the understanding of a larger universe hurt the movie by way of studio oversight. In that universe, why wouldn’t Superman (or even Batman) have been involved? That said, there is a place for those anti-heroes, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and The Flash all to exist on the same planet. For one, each attends to a different city. Leverage that. Movies set in New York generally have tonal differences from those in L.A., and the same can be said of Gotham and Metropolis (which are not sister cities, despite what BvS wants everyone to believe).
What I’m saying is that these heroes don’t all have to cross over. Even Marvel is running into the narrative issue of having everyone operate out of NY. That’s why they’re heading into the stars. WB and DC can enjoy a rich world of heroes, operating in their own cities, fully aware of each other, and only band together when absolutely required. The geographical layout allows almost complete directorial autonomy to tell stories relevant to that character. No need to either ignore or incorporate other heroes in every story.
It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane…
It’s a hopeful time for WB and the DCEU. Jim Lee and Dan DiDio are at the helm, and although they don’t have a Hollywood perspective, perhaps that’s okay. Risks are meant to be taken. These two have made DC Comics a serious threat to Marvel in print, so its time to bring it to the big screen. Even four years ago nobody could have convinced me that I would be excited to see a New Gods movie directed by the woman who brought us Selma. But if Marvel taught us anything, it’s that an overall narrative doesn’t have to stifle individual creative visions.
The way forward is to treat the film arm the way DC handles its comics. Let each creator make their own creative liberties, even if it’s corralled slightly by the overall needs of the company. Have some overreaching rules and leave it at that. There’s no need to be universally dark and dreary, nor is there a need to eschew it. Let Batman operate like Batman, and The Flash act like The Flash. That’s the delight when they collide in a comic panel. They’re so different that their meetings are always interesting.
Johns isn’t completely out either. He’s still currently writing a Green Lantern movie and will continue to contribute to the television and film divisions. His new position will allow him to be a little more hands-on with narrative decisions, which is precisely where he belongs.
The Bold And The Brave
The last few years have been a series of blunders. Attempts have been made to bandage the issue. It’s time to let it heal over entirely and start fresh. With Wonder Woman 2, New Gods and Shazam, I’m ready to be excited about DC on the big screen again. Hopefully, the DCEU will allow all this creative freedom to shine, but not keep it all separate either.
What would you like to see from DC’s theatrical efforts? Should they do a shared universe, or have every hero exist on their own? Let me know in the comments.