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DC Rethinks Its Universe


DC Entertainment has a paradox, and this can be expressed by looking at two men wearing Superman tights. One of them is Tyler Hoechlin, a fictional American who portrays Man of Steel on the small screen as part of the TV show Supergirl. The other is Henry Cavill, a sculpted British who plays him in DC’s big-screen outings such as Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and this fall’s mega-tentpole Justice League.

Hoechlin’s Superman has a stereotypical image among the public: he’s not a regular series, but when he shows up, fans get gaga for him, as they are normally well-reviewed shows But hello, On the other hand, Cavils Supes has an image-control problem: all of his films so far have been met with at least a certain amount of critical scorn, if not outright ridicule. In short, a Superman is flying high; The other is experiencing unrest.

This is DC Entertainment in the microcosm: when it comes to movies, there is an old bad buzz; Elsewhere, things are floating. Once known as DC Comics, the 2009 reorganization made the company owned by Warner Bros. more than just a comics publisher – they now use Warner Bros. to produce superhero content in TV, games, consumer products, and movies. Also, work in alliance with the rest of the world.

His comics are in a sales renaissance, thanks to a recent initiative called Rebirth. DC TV shows such as Gotham, Arrow, and The Flash enjoy soulful ratings and fan loyalty. DC Video Games Like Injustice and Batman: Arkham Franchise is considered the best medium. Hell, even a partnership with Warner’s consumer-product division is bearing fruit: The DC Super Hero Girls Toy Line has transformed into a miniature empire with animated web cartoons and a New York Times-best-selling book.

So what accounts for the opposite reputation? Perhaps part of the problem is that until recently, the films had little influence from the core DC Entertainment team, who did so elsewhere. The company’s childish chief creative officer, Geoff Johns, sits at a long table with a clutch of DC executives in San, saying, “We had to do some work to earn our stripes, I think from the rest of the studios and filmmakers. with.” Diego Marriott on the first day of San Diego Comic-Con this July.

But in the last 16 months, he has gained significantly more influence on film operations, and this change is already flourishing. “This is not anarchy,” DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson reassured me, sitting next to Johns. “It is intentional.”

They are in the midst of a fight to explain the matter to the public. For years, they struggled in multiplexes, while their blood rival, Marvel, grew. Beginning in 2008, Marvel pioneered the Hollywood-Buzz concept known as the Cinematic Universe: a narrative enterprise in which a group of individual films exists in the same world as characters to transcend, and lots of constructions. There are mega mines where the whole gang is there. gets together.

Disney-owned Marvel has captured billions of eyes and dollars by running that operation with an iron fist: its films are all tightly interwoven and its brand image is in a terrible grip.

Seeing the success of that model, Warner launched his shared film cosmology with Man of Steel in 2013, which did well at the box office, but criticized him for his portrayal of Bruder Superman killing someone at the end of the story. Received Then followed 2016’s rugged, gritty and expensive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which drew a harsh critical response, and grossed $ 873 million globally, missing Marvel’s $ 1.153 billion-earner that year, Captain. America: Civil War.

A few months later, Suicide Squad earned $ 745 million – a hefty portion of the change – but was saved by critics, leaving it with a 25 percent significant total on Rotten Tomatoes. The speed of those speed bumps would be quite bad, but the fact that these DC movies were part of each super linked super-story made the situation more problematic: if your individual galaxies are not so hot, you have one. How can a successful universe?

No one seems to think that Nelson is concerned, and this is partly because DC and Warner have adopted a new strategy: Let’s rethink that entire universe. They are not abandoning the idea of ​​continuity, but they want to end the idea that all these flicks occupy the same space.

“, Our intention, of course, is to move forward using continuity to help ensure that nothing is changing in a way that doesn’t make sense, but the overall storyline in that universe or There is no emphasis on interconnectivity, ”says Nelson, drawing nodes from the top brass around him.

This new approach already has a test case, and, by any measure, it was a success: Wonder Woman watched every other film this summer, while scoring 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes – almost every Marvel movie. in more than. And one of the keys, as observed by Nelson and his executioners, was the fact that it had more or less told viewers to ignore the rest of the universe and only focused on what was in front of them.

Batman V was a small thing for Superman, but that was it. “The film is not about any other film,” says Johns. “Some films tie together characters like Justice League. But, like Aquaman “- one of his next attempts, in 2018 -” our goal is not to link Aquaman to every film. “As Nelson says,” Moving forward, you’ll see the DC Movie universe is a universe but comes from the heart of a filmmaker who’s making them. “

One of the focal points of this new, decentralized strategy is an as-yet-unnamed side label of topical films that is completely isolated from everything, set entirely outside the cinematic universe. Total stand-alone based on good ideas from big-name filmmakers.

Movies that are just movies, not a big part of the watch. The first one they’re talking about is a solo outing about The Joker’s supervision, directed and co-written by Hangover and War Dogs alumnus Todd Phillips. Johns says they will announce the name of this side label soon.

This may be welcome news for all critics who felt that the previous DC outing was also tied into world-building, but this pessimistic nonsense didn’t win the single-handed clobber on Warner’s superhero face. While DC Entertainment has had tremendous success in TV, comics, and games, when it comes to film, they still have a huge issue with public perception.


But they feel they are turning into a corner. With Warner and DC now implementing in Cineplex, there is no one that they came up with easily, nor that they were completely out as a reaction to the film’s backlash. This came after nearly a decade of development, wrongdoing, and careful corporate maneuver.

If the story of DC Entertainment’s rise was a comic book, it might be one of those comics that would not make a pair of mismatched heroes. Call them geek lads and working women. Johns is every inch timber-nerd, has read comics his entire life, and practically remembers the entire remix of them; Nelson rarely picked up a comic book before getting his current job.

Johns is in the public eye all the time, even happily interviewing the Geek Blog to avoid the company line; Nelson rarely talks to reporters and works mostly in the background. After making his first gig in 1999, Johns made a career as a DC Comics writer;

Nelson navigated Warner’s C-suite and distinguished himself by managing the company’s Harry Potter brand. But in the defining year of 2009, he was brought to face a similar enemy: the threat posed by Marvel to Warner.

By that time, Batman had brought a great treasure to Warner, most recently as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and billion-dollar earner The Dark Knight (2008). But a challenger was emerging with a new strategy.

Marvel Entertainment had started making their own films, and the first two – the sensational Iron Men of 2008, and the same summer’s short hit The Incredible Hulk – promised to establish in the same world and future installments in that shared franchise Had attracted attention. He has not been successful despite acting as a B-level superhero. Warner was making good films, but Marvel seemed to represent the world to come.

The former DC editor says, “DC was far behind Marvel’s eight balls in terms of entertainment.” He said, ‘They need to come together. And Warner Bros. needed to get their shit together in terms of the film’s accessories. “Warner Bros. Entertainment President / CEO Barry Meyer, President / COO Alan Horn, and Warner Films head Jeff Robinov called and decided to push DC against the rise of Marvel.

The birth of DC Comics and a reinvested organization meant: DC Entertainment, with a mandate to aggressively place DC intellectual property for the greater part of Warner’s operations, and push the superhero product into more and more mediums.

There were few examples for such an initiative … except what he did to Harry Potter. When it came time to choose a leader, the election was natural. Robinov asked Nelson to take up the job and, after accepting it, announced DC Entertainment on September 9, 2009.

Nelson knew that DC would retain his near-total control with the comics, and to handle that task, he chose producer-editor Jim Lee and Dan Diandio to act as co-publishers Executed. His first order of business was getting his comics back on track after years of sales, and he did so with an unprecedented effort called New 52.

In it, he canceled all of his existing superhero comics and replaced them with 52 new ones, set in a tightly controlled new universe, not unlike the one that would later be used in the film. It was a smash and shot them ahead of Marvel in sales.

Nelson and his team had nothing of the sort – nor was there a direct impact on any other mediums in which their superheroes appeared. When it came to all other divisions, Nelson would have to play well. This means a new role is needed, whose boundaries will be blurred and whose responsibilities will be multilateral: a chief creative officer who will serve as a liaison to the rest of Warner.

Johns was DC’s Golden Boy at the time, penning stories about the company’s biggest characters and also drawing interest in many of his less-acquaintances. What’s more, he had a Hollywood experience: Prior to working at DC, he was an internal and production assistant for the production house Donors Company. After a series of conversations, Nelson concluded that he was an ideal candidate at Johns and anointed him as CCO.

Together, they inherited a mixed bag of existing multimedia projects. There were some exciting scenes of the future: most notably, the video game Batman: Arkham Sharan was praised for its innovative gameplay. On the other hand, there were unpromising films in the pipeline: a film adaptation of the less famous DC Comics character Joanna Hex, starring Josh Brolin, Bombing; Another announcement was made about the violent anti-hero Lobo but was never implemented.

Oddly, and disappointingly, a project that ended as Warner’s biggest DC Comics-based effort was a Johns and Nelson had the lowest reach: the nascent DC cinematic universe. In August 2008, just after the release of The Dark Knight, Warner opted for new work on Superman. Robinov turned to Christopher Nolan, who had successfully reinstated the Batman franchise for advice on how to proceed.

Nolan suggested two possible healers: Darren Aronofsky of the Black Swans and Zac Snyder of the 300s. The studio went ahead with Snyder, who was the least likely option of the two, given that he had just directed the 2009 DC adaptation Watchman and received mixed reviews and mediocre ticket sales. Nevertheless, the process of making the man of steel began.

Around the same time, a film initiative caught the attention of the nascent DC Entertainment, a film about Johns’ beloved Green Lantern in 2011, which had been in development long before the DC reorganization. Ryan Reynolds was the star, Blake Lively was the female lead, and Warner had plans to make it with at least one sequel.

DC was not closely involved in the development of the film, but Johns was a mentor and cheerleader, and director Martin Campbell remembers meeting with her to talk about the ins and outs of the character. DC offered support where they could: John’s office coordinated with others at Warner to help make the Green Lantern animated film and Green Lantern CGI children’s cartoons. Expectations stood.

So there was collapse. Released in June of 2011, Green Lantern barely returned its budget and earned 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. “Apparently, the film was a failure,” Campbell recalled vividly. “It comes out and everyone seems depressed and so on and so forth. There is no point in talking nonsense ab out it. ”


Critics and audiences raided against humor and inconsistent climax, as well as a kitschy, childish light sense of cartoon effect. The plans for the sequel were abruptly canceled. In the same way, Warner’s big plans for the new DC celluloid hero were scrambled, and the first major effort for cross-platform branding was made in the era of DC Entertainment.

Nelson and Johns faced further cinematic frustration: during the development of Man of Steel, they were creatively marginalized. It was a decidedly gritty take on Superman, and its final battle caused him to repent and destroy skyscrapers and eventually kill his enemy, General Zod. It did not fit well with Johns.

“Recalling a man with knowledge of the Man of Steel,” Geoff Johns and Diane, to their credit, and Geoff Johns, reading the credits, were concerned that it lacked sufficient lightness or humor. “Geoff certainly raised that point, but that current administration didn’t care what Geoff Johns thought.” The film came out with DC Entertainment branding in June 2013, but largely without its fingerprints.

It also contained the seeds of a large, Marvel-style extended world. A few weeks after its 2013 release at San Diego Comic-Con, Warner announced a sequel that would pit Batman and Superman against each other, and it was made clear in the announcement that the film was famous The 1986 comics will be based on The Dark. Knight Returns.

Johns’ warning about the need to slow down was unheard of. A new Warner CEO, Kevin Tsizhara, was coronated that year and was much faster on superheroes than his predecessor. Under his watch, the studio rolled out an ambitious slate of ten DC-based films in October 2014, spanning 2020.

They were all going to be part of the same grand cinematic universe. This was more than a little insane, given that the cinematic universe, at the time only consisting of Man of Steel, was not received with wild enthusiasm. But it was too late for second thoughts – Warner was all over DC’s advice, if not always DC’s advice.

Therefore, largely closed from the big screen, Johns and Nelson focused on the small. There, he found liberation as a veteran of the Green Lantern. Screenwriter and TV shorter Greg Berlanti of Dawson’s Creek and Everwood fame co-wrote the early passes in the lantern script and was set to direct another Warner feature before reclaiming it and losing control.

He was quite unhappy with the finished product and almost walked away from Warner for good. In a final attempt to get a grip on him, Johns, as well as TV killed Peter Roth and Susan Rowner, reached out to Berlanti and encouraged him to pitch the idea of ​​a blue-sky. A lifelong DC comics geek, Berlanti said he was beating around the notion of adopting the archery-themed Crusader Green Arrow.

He had a chance to move on, and he and Marc-Gagnegenum’s co-producers and Andrew Kreisberg went on to become CW’s Arrow. He would get almost total creative freedom, and there was nothing to tie into the DC film universe. The show debuted on The CW on October 10, 2012, and within days, it had a Not only did John creatively advise, but he also wrote episodes for it and eventually began planning with Berlanti and Kreisberg to make a spinoff series about DC staple The Flash. It debuted on 7 October 2014 and represented Johns’s largest involvement in TV.

Over the next few years, a so-called burntowners began to emerge, with two more shows set in the same shared universe: Supergirl and DC of Legends of Tomorrow. The show has garnered a lot of praise from fans, guided by the philosophy, as Sarah Schechter, president of Berlanti Productions calls it, “heart, humor, and spectacle.” * It is working – Berlantavors show rating charts in CW.

DC developed a winning strategy on TV, one that presented its current for films: allowing people to throw a variety of perspectives on the wall and see what sticks. For example, the Berlanti-produced programs have a shared universe, but Gotham, Izombi, Lucifer, and the upcoming Titans all stand on their own and have wildly different vocals.

Creators are trusted to make their own decisions about direction and experience, and Johns’ team is seen as a reliable set of partners offering suggestions and constructive criticism, not a Draconian office Forces everyone to fit into a single shared mega story.

The decline in sales of the New 52 prompted DC to adopt this manufacturer-first strategy in comics. In May of 2016, he launched an initiative called Rebirth, which maintained a tight continuity in favor of good ideas from the creators of comics.

Flash Comics writer Joshua Williamson reminds John to worry about violating the New 52 continuity during a rebirth brainstorming session, but “was like Geoff,” just forget everything. Forget everything, no one matters. It does not matter. What are you trying to say about this character? “Rebirth was an instant hit at the time of its launch on May 25, 2016, and it still continues.

But a week before Rebirth debuted, a bomb was dropped. Johns went to New York to talk to reporters about the comics initiative but found himself full of questions unrelated to funny books. Overnight reports had surfaced that John was no longer just a creative liaison to the rest of Warner Bros. and was paired with John Berg to oversee Warner’s superhero-movie output.

The message was clear for anyone to pay attention to the recent critical failure of Batman v Superman had led to the separation of powers, and a change in leadership structure was necessary. After finding success in TV and comics, DC Entertainment experts were being called on with Berg to bring his skills to a new field. Johns – and his boss, Nelson – had adopted just one problem child.

The DC Cinematic universe made a spectacular leap two months before the rebirth with the upset, the March 2016 release of the Snyder-directed Batman v Superman, which, like its predecessor, kept Johns and DC at arm’s length. A similar gritty took place in the midst of his tough postproduction at the same time as the Suicide Squad, which was reportedly running through a massive read it, making it closer to the tone of an opening trailer.

When BvS flopped severely, there was eventually concern about the creative options that remained at that point. Johns and Berg, newly established, swiftly decided that a key element of their new strategy would be the lightening of the earlier mud-dark mood.

Suddenly, you notice that Johns is doing the interview, where he talks about how the DC legend is built on “hope and optimism”. Berg was on the same page. “We talk about four things,” Berg says. “Heart, valor, humanity, and humor.”

There was one place where they could quickly apply that approach: Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, slated for release the following summer. Although he was not credited as a writer in the finished product, Johns assisted writer Alan Heinberg with the script and became close with Jenkins.
The result of their partnership was the most successful DC cinematic universe film to date. So far, it has accumulated more than $ 410 million domestically, a larger domestic gross than any Warner Bros…

Film in history other than two Nolan Batemans. Not only this, it was the highest-grossing live-action film ever directed by a woman and was hailed by its proponents as a kind of feminist milestone. For the first time in history, Wonder Woman is more of a crown jewel for the DC brand than Superman or Batman.

However, there is still a spandex-clad elephant in the room: Justice League this November. Its optics is not very good. Just after BvS became a backlash hit, the fact that Snyder would also be in charge of the Justice League cast a bridge on the latter’s effort between film commentaries.

There was an internal discussion on how to recreate parts of the film. Johns and Berg held the idea that none other than Snyder wrote new scenes for the film. Coincidentally, Joss Whedon, the writer-director of Marvel’s The Avengers, discusses making a film with him, along with Johns and Berg.

The pair was the game for him (they eventually picked one about the Batman ally Batgirl), but later realized they could accomplish another goal: “Everyone was excited about being part of Jose DC, and We felt that the [Justice League] scene, the extra-photography scene that we wanted to get,
When Tragedy soon clashed with the Justice League, the choice was further increased: Snyder’s daughter died by suicide in March this year. The director remained attached to the film for a few months, but on 22 May, he announced that he would depart to mourn, leaving the remainder of the film to Whedon.


Since then, rumors about the picture have surfaced in drubs and drabs: Whedon reportedly rewrote a third of the film, including the ending; The Comic-Con presentation was not mentioned in the Justice League sequel announced in 2014, speculating that it was not going to happen; There are reports of expensive, difficult-to-coordinate, last-minute resuscitations; And so on. DC and Warner do not comment on these rumors, but for Mega-Tenpole it has not added to a great image.

In general, image control is one of the biggest challenges facing the DC-film enterprise today. If they are getting their home behind the curtain, the public rarely watches. Hiring or developmental news comes from informal channels, and they are often portrayed as the product of a studio trying things out without a consistent mission.

One minute, Matt Reeves, director of the next stand-alone Batman film, would suggest not setting the flick in the cinematic universe; The next day, he would call it “definitely” part of that universe. Once there was a discussion of a Suicide Squad spinoff called Gotham City Siren, then there was a report that another film would supersede it, then a report that Sirens was still on.

When I ask Johns about the criticism that there seems to be no strategy, he shows a rare pause from his usual bounce. “Some stuff is true, some it’s not true,” he says. “When we talk about things or we make scripts for people or whatever, sometimes, deals to leak things; Sometimes, things go wrong, and it is disappointing.

Because we want to go out there and talk about what our strategy is, and this stuff melts the water. There is a lot of internal conversation going on about this, how do we help in the kind of cleanliness that rises a little? ”

Still, there is little indication that DC’s first post-Justice League facility, Aquaman, directed by James Vann next year, has been troubled in any significant way, so even though the league doesn’t flow quite right, Warner gets good with the next installment is expected to come out of the way. Also, Nelson says, to watch movies is to miss the overall forward momentum that DC Entertainment is experiencing in its few years. “Movies are massively important, but they are not everything,” she says. “We want to make sure that these stories and characters are working everywhere, and they have, I think, in a quite unprecedented way,” she says.

In some ways more, he is not wrong. The stories and characters are working very well in comics, games, and TV. And the first film DC Entertainment made a substantial impact on Wonder Woman certainly worked. The question is now one of organization and speed.

Can they reconcile their public perception and explain to more consumers that they understand what makes Diana of Steel Man, The Dark Knight, and Mishra? When Johns was promoting rebirth, he was asked what made DC characters distinctive.

His answer raised the challenge before his company. “Iconography and the representation of the ideals they represent mean a lot to people,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotional underpinning of characters and stories.” But when it doesn’t, you really feel that emptiness. “


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