While questions of how long the Marvel Studios success train can keep rolling will persist until their first disapppoinment (all signs point to it not being Avengers: Age of Ultron), some Hollywood observers and analysts are questioning whether Warner Bros. can get the DC Comics movie train out of the station.
In an in-depth piece from an upcoming issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, the Hollywood trade is openly questioning the studio's plans for its DC superhero movie slate, with industry watchers as well as unnamed insiders in both DC and Marvel raising some red flags. THR's article comes on the heels of an uneven reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's first trailer and the directorial shake-up to Wonder Woman, citing what THR calls Warner Bros.'s apparent case of 'execution anxiety,' and lack of a Kevin Feige-like overseer for the ambitious movie slate that already reaches into 2020.
"Marvel has been an unbelievable platform for Disney to build and foster franchises," media analyst Richard Greenfield tells THR. "The question for Warners is, can they replicate that strategy using DC?"
DC's next film is March's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Warner Bros. has announced nine more superhero movies to follow that into 2020. Suicide Squad is already filming, but THR points to the directorial shake-up for 2017's Wonder Woman and 'bake-off' between five screenwriters to develop a suitable screenplay leading to "grumbling" from talent representatives.
Sources indicate that at least five writers were hired by Warner Bros. to write movie treatments and first acts for the Wonder Woman film, with the studio hoping one would stand out to develop further as the movie's finals script. THR indicates that the studio has narrowed the competing scriptwriters down to two, but an unnamed Warner Bros. insider says the process "felt like they were throwing shit against the wall to see what stuck."
Warner Bros. reportedly approached Fifty Shades of Grey screenwriter Kelly Marcel for Wonder Woman, with THR's sources indicating that the screenwriter declined over "concern about the number of players who were involved" and a "vision [which] contrasted sharply" with plans for the movie.
2018's Aquaman is also reportedly in flux, with Warner Bros. hiring three screenwriters to compete for a "usable" screenplay for the Jason Momoa-starrer. THR goes on to say that Warner Bros. stated direction for the movie changed after the screenwriters began work, with one writer told his initial draft was unusable and another writer "on hold" as they await for Warner Bros.'s decision on a direction.
"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 talent representative reportedly aware of the situation. "Obviously, Marvel's very good at that."
THR describes Marvel's direction as being "ruled" by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, whereas Warner Bros. has a "filmmaker-driven" strategy that a unnamed Warner Bros. insider reportedly calls "unorthodox." Zack Snyder and his wife Linda are considered "key" players in the DC movie slate, working with producer Charles Roven, various Warner Bros. executives, as well as DC's Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns. Suicide Squad director David Ayer is said to have been given "broad creative control" over his film.
That's an error, according to a reported unnamed Marvel insider quoted by THR.
"You can't just give it to a filmmaker. You have to give it to someone who has an institutional knowledge of these characters."
Kim Masters, who wrote the piece for THR, later tweeted "Feiges don't grow on trees."