As we've known for months, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. recruited fan-favorite writer-producer Geoff Johns and veteran producer Jon Berg to course correct the DC Cinematic Universe following the less-than-stellar reception of this year’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” The Wall Street Journal recently caught up with the pair to discuss how they're shaking things up.
Despite a combined $1.5 million world-wide box office, the two most recent DC movies failed to meet financial expectations, and both were trashed by critics and fans for their grimness. The reaction to Zack Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” was so negative that the studio went back and reshot parts of “Suicide Squad” to lighten the tone -- despite the fact that the latter movie film was about a group of supervillains.
Thus, Berg and Johns were brought brought in to fix the shared film universe. In May, the duo reportedly became in charge of DC Films, while Johns was promoted to President and Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment.
According to WSJ, Berg and Johns are the “first executives devoted exclusively to the studio’s superhero films.” The report notes that Berg had previously worked on the DC films, in addition to working on other WB productions, while “Johns was a consultant with no authority," at least when it came to the movies.
As many fans have speculated, the piece confirms that Warner executives “believed they had created more grounded, character-based stories that, like ‘The Dark Knight’ would stand out from chief rival Marvel Studios’ consistently successful but fluffier fare.” But they were taken aback by the overwhelmingly negative responses to “Batman v Superman” and "Suicide Squad,” even though they “expected them to be controversial.”
Speaking from the set of Scott Snyder’s “Justice League,” Berg told WSJ that the film is “intended to be less depressing than ‘Batman v Superman,’" and that he and Johns worked with Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio to “accelerate the story and get to the hope and optimism a little faster.” The film will also address Batman’s extreme violence in “Batman v Superman’ rather than just letting it slide.
Johns, who rewrote the “Wonder Woman” script with director Patty Jenkins, is taking a break from writing for television to pen the upcoming solo Batman movie, to be directed by Ben Affleck, and starring “True Blood's” Joe Manganiello as the villainous Deathstroke. He is also working with Berg to develop movies based on the rest of the “Justice League,” including “Aquaman,” “Cyborg,” and “Flash.”
Johns also wrote the hugely successful “DC Universe: Rebirth Special” that relaunched the DC comics line -- giving the DC Universe a more hopeful tone and bringing back characters and elements of the publisher's continuity that were abandoned in the wake of its New 52 reboot. Johns told WSJ that he and Berg are “trying to take a really hard look at everything to make sure we stay true to the characters and tell stories that celebrate them.”
The WSJ piece also suggests that the studio is looking to tighten the reigns and exert more control over its cinematic properties after "having given [Mr.] Snyder the type of long leash accorded Christopher Nolan on the hit 'Dark Knight' Batman trilogy."
Given the stellar sales of his “Rebirth Special” and renewed fan interest in the publisher’s print and digital titles, DC Entertainment may have found in Johns and Berg exactly the team to lead the next phase of its cinematic endeavours.
The next DC Comics-based film, "Wonder Woman," hits theaters on June 2, 2017, while the Zack Snyder-directed "Justice League" is slated for a November 17, 2017 release.