It’s official: Warner Bros. sees Justice League as a disappointment. The film was intended to be the studio’s answer to Marvel’s The Avengers, but as a comparable superhero pic Justice League has been grossing far less at the box office than WB had hoped, and reviews have been unkind. As a result, Warner Bros. is changing things up at the executive level and considering a few other changes to help get the DCEU on track.
Variety reports that Jon Berg, who was installed to run DC Films alongside Geoff Johns in the wake of Batman v Superman’s disappointment in May 2016, will be leaving his current job and instead will become a production partner with Roy Lee (The LEGO Movie, IT). Apparently Berg approached the studio six months ago about the idea, stating he always ultimately wanted to just be a producer at the studio, not overseeing an entire division.
Johns is expected to continue serving as DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer, but his contributions to the films may evolve and “could be more advisory in nature” according to Variety. Warner Bros. Picture Group President Toby Emmerich is reportedly weighing the idea of shifting the DC Films structure altogether, integrating DC’s film operations into the studio’s main movie arm instead of keeping them in a separate building. This is how the superhero properties are developed and overseen at Fox and Sony, whereas Marvel Studios has its own independent office despite reporting to Disney.
This DC “overhaul” is expected to happen by January, and while there’s no guarantee the DC Films arm will be integrated, the fact that Emmerich is considering this as an option speaks to the degree to which WB is unhappy with its DC output so far. The higher-ups are said to be upset with the performance of Justice League, with Variety reporting that it alarmed studio executives early on when they saw Zack Snyder’s vision for the film. Reportedly Snyder’s vision for the villain Steppenwolf was recognized as “faulty” by studio executives, but only so much could be fixed during the reshoots overseen by Joss Whedon.
Variety says there are no immediate plans for Snyder to direct another DC movie, and the outlet notes that Time Warner—Warner Bros.’ parent company—“is said to be frustrated that Warner Bros. leaders continued to bring the director back.” So while Snyder maintains a production deal with the studio as he develops The Last Photograph, I wouldn’t necessarily expect him to return to the DCEU anytime soon. Although it should be pointed out that Batman v Superman hit theaters mere weeks before Justice League began filming, so it’s not like Warner Bros. re-hired Snyder after all the BvS backlash erupted—he was already deep into Justice League at that time.
As for the future of the DC films, Variety says it’s “highly unlikely” that Ben Affleck will return for director Matt Reeves’ The Batman, as the filmmaker is said to want to cast the role “with fresh talent,” according to sources. This has been rumored for some time now, and one imagines an official announcement regarding Affleck’s departure from the DCEU could be imminent—although Variety says the actor is still expected to appear as Batman in Flashpoint, which could be his “segue” out of the DC universe.
A lot is riding on next November’s Aquaman, which director James Wan already seems to be stressing as being in stark contrast to Justice League, and the director hunt continues for Flashpoint. Fan anticipation for Wonder Woman 2 is incredibly high, so there are some bright spots to be found, and it’ll be interesting to see how the studio adjusts in the New Year.