It’s now become impossible to deny that Warner Bros. itself was at the very least disappointed with how its DC Extended Universe kicked off. On the set of Justice League this summer, both Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck noted that they’ve shifted the tone of that film to be a bit lighter in contrast to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and newly installed DC Films head Geoff Johns went one further recently by saying that “mistakenly in the past” Warner Bros. insisted that DC films are “gritty and dark”. Indeed, while Batman v Superman still grossed over $870 million and this August’s Suicide Squad exceeded expectations with $720 million worldwide, the studio appears to be tinkering its upcoming films to result in both bigger commercial and critical success.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said earlier today during an investors conference (via Variety) that there is “a little room for improvement” in the creative execution of WB’s DC Comics adaptations, adding, “The DC Comics characters… have a little more lightness in them than maybe what you saw in [Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad], so we’re thinking about that.”
Bewkes noted that Warner Bros. has succeeded in its main goal, which was to reinvigorate the DC Comics properties with new incarnations including Ben Affleck’s Batman, so what they’re focused on now is improving the creative side of things:
“The strategy worked. The execution did deliver what we wanted to do. We can do a little better on the creative… We’re right on course or better.” Indeed, Justice League is still currently filming in London with Zack Snyder at the helm, Wonder Woman is in the can, and the DC Films arm is now readying to begin production on The Flash sometime next year followed by Aquaman.
The problem with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad wasn’t really that they were too dark. BvS mostly lacked a joyful quality—it’s not necessarily a “fun” movie to watch, which is a problem when you’re dealing with superheroes and a $200+ million budget—and had some serious story issues that were improved by the superior Ultimate Edition cut. Suicide Squad‘s problems were more serious, as that was a film that suffered from too much post-production tinkering, resulting in a finished film that lacks any sort of narrative cohesion or throughline, with murky character motivations at best. What WB really needed was a singular creative voice to oversee all of these films and ensure that they feel at once as parts of a whole and successful individual films. And now they have it.
In the wake of BvS, Warner Bros. restructured its executives a bit and set Geoff Johns to oversee the entirety of the DC Extended Universe. He subsequently sat down with Aquaman director James Wan to hammer out that story before moving forward, and presumably did the same on The Flash. So while there really wasn’t much tinkering that could be done on Wonder Woman (though it’s possible the tone will be adjusted in reshoots if necessary), next November’s Justice League will be the first DCEU movie that went into production after Batman v Superman hit theaters, and thus the first movie to be a whole response to that DCEU-starter.
Bewkes reiterated the studio’s plan to release a string of DC Comics tentpoles through at least 2020, so the schedule looks to be remaining as-is. Will there be a marked creative shift with the studio’s next films? We’ll find out soon enough.