The DC Universe Finally Gets Its Guru(s), And It’s Not Zack Snyder

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The fallout from Batman V Superman continues. But perhaps for the first time, it’s in a direction that’s proactive and not reactive, and will bring order to its galaxy (to coin a term from another franchise).

The biggest strength and advantage that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had over DC’s is an authoritative executive voice, one that steered and kept narrative & tonal continuity throughout the labyrinth interconnected superhero mythologies. For Marvel, that guru has been Kevin Feige. For DC, the closest they’ve had so far is director Zack Snyder, but with the mixed (and declining) responses to his past two efforts – Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman – Warner Bros.’ faith in Snyder’s stewardship has understandably waned. The seeds of that concern have been present for awhile, namely in the freedom that was given to writer/director David Ayer with the upcoming Suicide Squad.

That freedom is also a reflection of Warner Bros.’ long-held posture of being a “filmmaker friendly” studio, one that hires directors specifically because they want to give those filmmakers as long a creative leash as possible. But with all of the high stakes properties within the DC Extended Universe (and the gigantic value of the overall DCEU property itself), Warners has rightly moved to bring an authoritative voice to it all while still intending to maintain their auteur-driven ethos.

Enter Geoff Johns and Jon Berg, DC’s answer to their Feige-shaped hole.

Johns (who’s been serving as DC Chief Creative Officer) and Berg (an Executive Vice President at WB) have been tasked to run DC Films together. This is more than a shifting of the chairs on the Titanic (as some have mused). Johns and Berg have been promoted and given final creative authority over the universe. Prior to this, each had a voice throughout the DCEU, but it was advisory and collaborative at best.

No strangers to the DCEU, both Johns and Berg have been involved in the development and oversight of these movies for awhile now – Johns since Man Of Steel, Berg since BvS – plus Berg has worked with Affleck on his own WB projects, from the Oscar-winning Argo to the upcoming Live By Night, and is now currently scripting the Batman standalone with Affleck. For Johns’, his promotion was likely solidified when he helped steer the recent (and major) reshoots for Suicide Squad that amped up the humor and action (which included an entirely new action set piece).

This structural shakeup comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Affleck, who’s already spearheading a Batman standalone as actor/writer/director, will serve as Executive Producer of Justice League: Part One which is currently filming under the direction of Zack Snyder. The first official expression of this authority shift was the announcement that DC plans to move forward with a Harley Quinn standalone starring Margot Robbie, based on that villain who will debut in Suicide Squad. (It’s reported that Batgirl may also appear in that Harley Quinn project.)

So where does that leave Snyder? Marginalized, but probably still valued. He’s proven where his strengths (visual richness, thematic concepts) and weaknesses (appreciating the timeless core virtues of the DC characters – Superman especially) are, and this new leadership will likely empower and compensate for Snyder on each front accordingly.

You can read more about this development and its ripple effects in The Hollywood Reporter’s exclusive.

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