Dear Warner Bros,
For many years, you’ve had the reputation of being a studio that’s very friendly to its directors. In certain ways, you’ve prided yourself on being filmmaker-driven. It’s a quality that means you get to work with some top notch directors again and again, reaping the benefits of their singular visions.
And yet, when it comes to the DC Extended Universe post-Man of Steel you’ve been anything but filmmaker-driven, haven’t you?
While Man of Steel was, indeed, Zack Snyder’s movie and he was allowed to override the wishes of even Christopher Nolan to make certain key decisions about that film’s third act, everything since then has been some sort of odd mess with WB cooks raiding the kitchens of their prized DC properties.
Let’s recap, in chronological order, what’s gone on since Man of Steel launched the DCEU in 2013:
- Michelle MacLaren walked off of Wonder Woman over creative differences
- Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got butchered in the editing room, creating a necessity for an immediate Ultimate Edition of the film to help soften the blow of how disliked the theatrical cut was
- Seth Grahame-Smith walked off of The Flash over creative differences
- David Ayer’s Suicide Squad had its own chaotic post-production with weeks of expensive reshoots taking place before entering an editing phase that saw various versions comes out- with Ayer not even getting the final say on which cut would make it into theaters
- Rick Famuyiwa walks off of The Flash over creative differences
That last bit took place earlier this week, and it’s the latest in a troubling trend where it seems like you, Warner Bros, the director-friendly studio, can’t seem to get out of the way of the filmmakers you’ve hired for your DCEU movies.
I know you’ve tried your best to put lipstick on a pig and to act like there isn’t some sort of behind-the-scenes mess brewing at your DC offices, but I just want you to know that it’s become painfully obvious to anyone that’s actually paying attention that something is up over there.
Now, I’m willing to cut you a little slack. You may just be going through growing pains. This DCEU business is very ambitious, and you probably thought you had everything under control when you initially put the direction of this enterprise on the shoulders of Zack Snyder (Though, based on his track record when you hired him, why you ever thought that is perplexing all on its own). Once you got a real dose of what he wanted to do with your cash cow franchise (i.e. when you saw early cuts of Batman v Superman), you realized, “Uh oh…“
So you’ve spent the last 10 months trying to move away from Snyder’s vision and, ultimately, you’ve switched over to Geoff Johns and you’ve asked him to steer the ship. It remains to be seen whether or not that will pay off, as most of the production of Wonder Woman, Justice League, and the pre-production for The Flash was done before he was named President of DC Entertainment. Therefore, I’m willing to say that you’re still in the middle of a very important pivot as far as DCEU goes, and hopefully Famuyiwa was the final casualty of how things were while on our way to what they will ultimately be.
Regardless, one thing is clear: You can no longer call yourselves filmmaker-driven.
You’ve seemingly decided to head in a direction that more closely resembles what your chief rival, Marvel Studios, has gone in. They have an architect over there and his name is Kevin Feige. He oversees everything, and every filmmaker must seemingly go through him as part of their process. I get the impression you want Johns to be that guy for you, and that’s a decision I’m cautiously optimistic about.
But let’s end this now. Let’s let Famuyiwa be the end of the old way. Put your trust in Johns, let him hire people that suit his vision for the DCEU, and then stay out of the way. You focus on signing those checks, and leave the business of building a DC Cinematic Universe to Johns.
Or you can keep doing what you’re doing, and subtly convey to the world at large that you’re a confused, impulsive mess of a studio when it comes to the DCEU.
Up to you.
Just know: We’re onto you.
[If you enjoyed this open letter, feel free to check out my previous letters: