In the latest of what’s become a rash of post-mortems about the underwhelming critical and domestic box office success of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Variety’s Kristopher Tapley purports to have insight as to how Warner Bros. plans to keep the under-fire Zack Snyder at the helm of Justice League Part 1 (scheduled to begin production next week in London) and presumably Part 2, while at the same time addressing what has been allegedly diagnosed as the problems with BvS.
Tapley describes Warner Bros. executives not being prepared for the “critical knives” the film was met with, but at the same time he alleges they also always knew it was going to be a transitional film, “bridging the gap between Man of Steel (which was produced with no plan in place to expand the universe) and anything approaching the Avengers/Super Friends mold.”
Tapley claims sources told him Justice League will be a “crowdpleaser more suited to Snyder’s talents, and that the upcoming two-part event is ‘extremely kinetic and visual.’ It will be far more straightforward than existential in its handling of superheroes.”
The Variety writer summarizes the direction Dawn of Justice took as being a culmination of Warner chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s plan to catch-up with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe since he got the job in January 2013.
He describes the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con announcement of Dawn of Justice (Snyder had a Man of Steel cast member read a passage from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns before revealing the film’s logo), Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman and the addition of Oscar-winning Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio all as part of a plan to “help turn the project into a thoughtful exploration of the comic book ethos... a real attempt was being made to dabble in DC’s philosophical bedrock and deconstruct the tendencies of comic book cinema.”
“That was going to be crucial,” argues Tapley, “given that Snyder is obsessed with iconography, a visualist more than a storyteller.”
Describing a vacuum of creative oversight (in short: Warner Bros. doesn’t have the equivalent of Marvel’s Kevin Feige), Tapley reports Snyder was left making the bulk of the creative decisions. And while Snyder has included imagery straight of the comic book stories that inspired them, “as skilled as Snyder is at capturing a striking frame, he just isn’t the guy to pull all of this narrative complexity together.”
Inevitably the film became more of a corporate vision, the “utterly ridiculous” title itself a need to “cram in three keywords,” guided by mandates to lay the groundwork for the DC Cinematic Universe (again, to catch-up to Marvel). The result is what Tapley describes as “a movie in which a central character literally sits down to watch trailers for three other movies.”
“Batman v Superman is bursting at the seams, desperate to make up the ground DC has lost to Marvel over the past seven years.”
The article goes on to further deconstruct both Warner Bros.’ environment and culture, and the circumstances and strategy that guided Batman v Superman into the troubled film it is.
In another takeaway from the piece, Tapley describes Warner Bros. “being keen for a period” on DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns to play a Feige-like role, complicated because Johns is “already stretched very thin,” not only due to his responsibilities at DC Comics but because he’s also “currently writing the upcoming stand-alone Batman film with Ben Affleck.”
“Geoff is really smart, but he’s got like 10 different jobs,” a source reportedly told Variety. “He’s writing comic books, controlling DC, writes on [TV’s] The Flash — I would imagine Feige’s is a full-time job just managing this stuff. So I don’t know how you ask Geoff, in the best of both worlds, to do that.”
For now, production exec Jon Berg and and Time-Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes are reportedly taking more of a hands-on approach, “paying closer attention to overarching story concerns, but someone well-versed in both production and DC’s minutiae is what’s needed.”