[Editor's Note: Yes, you've read that correctly. For the sixth column in this series, I've made a major alteration to the title in order to make it relevant to what we'll be exploring today.
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Last time around, we left off with Warner Bros. doing what it could to overhaul the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Today, we'll explore how some of the changes that were made could lead to an era of unbridled prosperity for the DCEU.
A New Sheriff In Town
Following the release of Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. was left in a uniquely fascinating position. During the lead-up to that film they had effectively changed the guard up top, in terms of who was calling the shots. Prior to promoting DC Comics guru Geoff Johns to Co-President and Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, the franchise didn't necessarily have a centralized brain. Unlike their chief rival, Marvel Studios, which has one man that everyone has to answer to (Kevin Feige), DC Entertainment seemed to have a somewhat amorphous group made up of producers and executives calling the shots. The group seemed to follow Zack Snyder's lead, making him the de facto architect of the DCEU. With the promotion of Johns, Warner Bros. decided it was time they had a main man overseeing everything, who was officially the custodian of the brand.
What makes the situation so unique is that, due to the way that the release schedules and production timelines were initially configured, the world won't see the first film from the Geoff Johns Era until October 5, 2018. Between now and then, we'll see Wonder Woman (June of 2017) and Justice League (November of 2017), which are both relics of the Zack Snyder Era.
But the changes are already being put into action, and the results so far are equally as fascinating as the situation itself.
Revolving Door of Directors
One film that has been fairly directly impacted by the behind-the-scenes creative shakeups is The Flash. Snyder had the initial say on the casting of the titular hero (Ezra Miller), came up with his overall look and feel, and the original script for the film was written during his reign as the WB's "DC architect." However, a month after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out and the studio saw how audiences reacted to Snyder's take, Seth Grahame-Smith- who wrote the aforementioned script and was set to direct it- suddenly bolted from the production. This happened just as Warner Bros. started getting more hands-on and began questioning the state of their DC franchise, and one could argue that Grahame-Smith could see that he wasn't going to get to make the movie he had signed on to make and decided to leave.
Within six weeks, it was announced that Rick Famuyiwa had signed on to take Grahame-Smith's place as the director for The Flash. He was also tasked with rewriting Grahame-Smith's script. Three months later, Famuyiwa announced that he was done with his revision of the script and was turning it into the studio. Weeks later, he left just as suddenly as Grahame-Smith did.
The Flash isn't the only DC film to suddenly lose its director, as even The Batman would suffer that fate three months after Famuyiwa left The Flash. The director in question is Ben Affleck, who had signed on to not only star in the film, but to write, direct, and produce it as well. His departure came mere weeks after he'd assured fans around the world that he was definitely directing the film, and left many folks stunned.
Truth, Love, Justice, Compassion, Hope, Optimism, Fun...And The American Way?
While it's unclear what kinds of directives Geoff Johns has been issuing to the filmmakers currently assigned to DCEU movies, it's fairly obvious that something dramatic is afoot. With three directors vacating their chairs in under a year, and with folks connected to Wonder Woman speaking publicly about how the solo film based on the amazon will have a tone of "Love, Justice and Compassion," it's clear to see that DC Entertainment wants to steer away from Snyder's initial vision for the franchise. In the weeks following the release of Batman v Superman, producer Deborah Snyder was quoted as describing what they were doing as a sort of "deconstruction" of these classic heroes, and it would appear that Johns wants no more of that. Within days of his promotion, Johns was talking about bringing "Hope and Optimism" to DC.
Since then, there have been revamped logos, brighter colors, and general chatter about tonal shifts.
Another clear indication that things are getting reworked in a major way came when Dwayne Johnson and his production partner Hiram Garcia made statements in January of 2017 about a massive meeting they'd just had with Johns about their long-gestating Shazam! movie.
Here's what Johnson said on January 11:
"Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time. Hope, optimism & FUN. Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe."
State of The Slate
Back on October 15, 2014, DC Entertainment announced a slate of the 10 films that would make up the DCEU for the next six years. With Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad now behind us, let's look at the remaining eight from that initial list:
- Wonder Woman: It's still set to arrive on time, on June 2, 2017. (Pre-Production and Production Under Snyder Era. Post-Production primarily during Johns Era)
- Justice League Part One: It's now simply Justice League and it's also set to arrive on time on November 17 (Pre-Production during Snyder Era, Production split between Snyder and Johns Eras, and Post-Production entirely during Johns Era)
- The Flash: On indefinite hold after the studio ordered a "page one rewrite" in January of 2017.
- Aquaman: On schedule for its October 2018 release, with James Wan at the helm. (Johns Era)
- Shazam!: Still set to happen, but is being developed alongside a similar project. One could become a priority over the other. More on that later. (Johns Era)
- Justice League Part Two: Delayed in favor of adding a solo Batman film. Will no longer arrive in 2019 as planned.
- Cyborg: No updates. Not expected to arrive in 2020, or possibly ever. There have been rumors that this one will be cannibalized and made part of a team-up with The Flash, or possibly get turned into Teen Titans.
- Green Lantern: It became Green Lantern Corps. It's still slated to arrive in 2020, and they've recently hired David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Justin Rhodes (Grassroots) to write it. (Johns Era)
Aside from these initial films, other movies have crept onto the slate:
- Gotham City Sirens: This spinoff of Suicide Squad will once again find David Ayer at the helm. It's unclear when the film will come out. With no script and no production timeline, it's unlikely to come out until 2019. (Johns Era)
- Man of Steel 2 (Rumored): In 2016, Henry Cavill's manager Dany Garcia caused a stir when she revealed that her client would get to star in a direct sequel to 2013's Man of Steel. There's been nothing official on this front, but it's still something that's thought to be in-the-works. The earliest it could possibly arrive, at this point, is 2019. (Johns Era)
- The Batman: The aforementioned solo Batman film is currently in the writing phase, and lost its director on January 30th when Ben Affleck stepped down. Deadline says the script has gone through two drafts- One by Affleck and Johns, and one by Chris Terrio. As of now, the film seems to have no finalized script and it definitely has no director. Barring some sort of miracle, this one will also not come out until at least 2019.
- Black Adam: Shortly after Johnson's enthusiastic statement about the future of the DCEU, it was announced that his villainous character from the Shazam! movie was actually getting his own standalone feature. Included in that announcement was word that it was being developed alongside Shazam!, making it seem likely that Warner Bros/New Line will put which ever one they're happiest with into production first- possibly scrapping the other one.
Notable Mentions: Suicide Squad 2, Justice League Dark, Lobo, Deadshot, and Booster Gold. These films are all sort of just floating around.
As you can see, that's a total of 14 movies that Warner Bros- or reliable rumor sources- have put out into the world for fans to think about. Some are safe bets, while others seem like a toss-up. It's likely that Warner Bros. wants to see how Wonder Woman and Justice League are received before they start assigning concrete release dates for many of these, or if they just start chopping movies off of the their to-do list. That makes 2017 a crucial year for the DCEU.
A major positive in all of this is that, unlike at the start of things, Warner Bros. seems to be slowing down and focusing more on making better movies instead of just rushing from one DC movie into another. One gets the sense that they've been doing some serious soul-searching since last year, and are trying to put themselves in the best possible position moving forward, after a very frantic start.
The Road To SALVATION
Bearing all of this in mind, there's a reason to be very cautiously optimistic about the future of the DCEU. If Johns is able to stick to his goals, and can surround himself with likeminded filmmakers who want to steer the franchise away from the perceived-missteps of its first three entries, we may end up with a series that can be a worldwide smash both critically and financially.
The only problem? As noted earlier, it's going to take quite a while for their "Phase Two" of films to arrive, and who knows how patient Warner Bros. is willing to be? If Wonder Woman stumbles, and Justice League fails to live up to its potential as DC's answer to The Avengers, will the studio even give Johns a chance to turn things around?
If you've read the other columns in this series, you'll know that the studio has a hit-or-miss record when it comes to choosing which decision to puts its weight behind. There are a few major forks in the road coming up on the horizon, and I'll be right here to examine which directions they choose.
This concludes my own "Phase One" of DCEU columns. I hope you enjoyed it!
Thanks for taking the time! And I'll see you down in the Comments.