Even though Man of Steel doesn’t hold up on repeat viewings and the first trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn’t exciting, I still feel that the rivalry between Marvel and DC/Warner Bros could ultimately be positive for superhero films. That being said, DC is taking heat by virtue of not being Marvel, a studio that has a clear figurehead and has been hugely successful at is streamlined approach to a cinematic universe.
From an outsider’s perspective it looks like Warner Bros. lacks vision, and when you lack vision, you usually get an inferior result. A recent THR story has chronicled how Warner Bros. is trying to tackle its superhero properties as it struggles to play catch up in a competitive marketplace. Rather than take the time to build standalone superhero movies, Warner Bros. is racing to its big crossover, Justice League Part One, which will be released on November 17, 2017.
According to THR and as we reported last August, the studio’s approach is to hire separate writers to work on separate scripts, which isn’t unheard of, but it’s still not encouraging. Wonder Woman, which recently hired Patty Jenkins to replace director Michelle MacLaren, hired “five writers to compete for a job on Wonder Woman,” and for Aquaman, “commissioned scripts from three writers, one of whom followed the studio’s direction only to be told the rules governing the universe had changed and his work no longer was usable.” The studio is also still trying to find a cohesive vision for their movies even though they’ve mapped out a release schedule for eight superhero movies through the end of the decade. “They just haven’t been thorough about their whole world and how each character fits and how to get the most out of each writer’s time by giving them direction,” says a rep with knowledge of the process.
When it came to Wonder Woman, “hired five writers not to work together but to compete. Each was given a treatment and asked to write a first act. Based on those efforts, the studio winnowed the number to two: Jason Fuchs (Pan) and another writer whose name the studio declines to reveal.” This approach, to put it unkindly by a “source not involved in the films but with close ties to the studio”, said Wonder Woman has been matter of “throwing shit against the wall to see what stuck.”
As for Aquaman, Warner Bros. had Will Beall (Gangster Squad), Jeff Nichols (Mud), and Kurt Johnstad (300) each write a separate script, and all of those scripts are now on hold until the studio is ready to proceed (they have a little bit of time; Aquaman isn’t due out until 2018).
Although the studio may be touting a more filmmaker-driven approach as opposed to Marvel, which works more like a TV show where everyone has to fall in line to a certain extent, we have no idea how Warner Bros’ plan will turn out. THR says David Ayer has full creative control over Suicide Squad, and frankly I’m more interested in that movie than Batman v Superman. Even still, the fact that the studio parted ways with MacLaren over creative differences makes me wonder how much control directors will really have over these movies.
Right now, it’s easy to malign Warner Bros., and perhaps their lack of a clear plan will come back and bite them. But for now, we can’t judge them by only one film.