It’s no secret that Warner Bros.’ DC superhero movies haven’t been hitting with audiences as much the Marvel crop.
Sure, “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad” have grossed a combined $1.5 billion at theatres this year, but that isn’t exactly a number to be bragging about. “BvS” should have made that much on its own (just look at the billion-dollar box office totals of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” or “The Dark Knight Returns“).
“BvS” and “Suicide Squad” flopped with critics and, at best, were lukewarm with audiences. No one’s going to tell you they thought “BvS” was better than “Captain America: Civil War” by the year’s end.
It’s something Warner Bros. is aware of, too. With a bunch of DC superhero movies in the pipeline, the studio recently named DC Comics chief content officer Geoff Johns to basically oversee the direction of the DC Cinematic Universe along with WB’s executive vice president Jon Berg.
It’s something that should have happened a long time ago. After all, Disney’s Marvel TV and movie machine is similarly kept in check by Kevin Feige. Feige has been working as a producer on Marvel superhero movies since 2000’s “X-Men.” He’s now the president of Marvel Studios.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Johns broke down one misstep he believes Warner Bros. took in trying to emulate Marvel’s movie machine on the big screen.
“Mistakenly in the past I think the studio has said, ‘Oh, DC films are gritty and dark and that’s what makes them different.’ That couldn’t be more wrong,” Johns told WSJ. “It’s a hopeful and optimistic view of life. Even Batman has a glimmer of that in him. If he didn’t think he’d make tomorrow better, he’d stop.”
DC movies have often been criticised for appearing to be grittier, darker, and more serious.
If you look at the majority of reviews for 2013’s “Man of Steel,” many critics used one word to describe Superman: brooding. The WSJ article points out that neither Batman nor Superman smile in “BvS.”
In “Captain America: Civil War,” that meant holding superheroes responsible for their previous actions. The deaths of many over time finally caught up to them and the government intervened. Superman was also held responsible for destruction from “Man of Steel” in “BvS.” However, the film also went out of its way to make sure viewers were aware that superheroes were fighting in abandoned locations.
According to WSJ, Warner Bros. has since reworked next year’s “Justice League” movie to make it “less grim and depressing.” Production veteran Jon Berg says the story has been accelerated “to get to the hope and optimism a little faster.”
While this DC fan wants to stay optimistic and hopeful about future WB movies, the sentiment sounds similar to what the studio tried to do with “Suicide Squad” to make it “lighter” in tone. (We know how that turned out.)
We’ll have to wait to next year to know whether the changes to the DC universe team have an effect on the outcome of the films. For what it’s worth, it seems like the studio is trying to learn from its mistakes.
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