Film producer and the new Chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group Toby Emmerich may have delivered an elegy for his company’s foundering Extended Universe plotted around DC. Plans for DC characters in films going forward will try to avoid tying everything together into one shared universe.
Emmerich, talking to The Hollywood Reporter, comments that Warner believes in DC but wants to go by their own playbook, not merely copy Marvel’s MCU.
“We all feel like we’ve turned a corner now. We’re playing by the DC playbook, which is very different than the Marvel playbook. We are far less focused on a shared universe. We take it one movie at a time. Each movie is its own equation and own creative entity. If you had to say one thing about us, it’s that it always has to be about the directors.”
The “corner” they’ve turned refers to Aquaman and its success around the world. It’s obvious they are learning from their mistakes with Batman v. Superman and Justice League. Plagued by reshoots and riddled with studio interference, the two films aped the Marvel formula (one cog in a mechanism that made them prosper) and were forced to meet rigid studio objectives set forth no matter what — a studio-wide problem extending to other franchises such as Fantastic Beasts.
Stand-Alone DC Films
Of course, playing catch-up with their biggest rival didn’t work. With the benefit of hindsight, Warner is reinstating the original plan. Similar to Marvel before Iron Man when rights to characters were sold, DC films were supposed to be standalone like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Green Lantern.
Zack Snyder, doing Man of Steel, wanted to concentrate on Superman and build things around him gradually before it all was nudged in the direction of Dawn of Justice and the DCEU. Snyder would’ve gotten there at some point but he would’ve liked a Superman sequel first.
This was after Man of Steel was already slated and rolling along. While in production, it was meant to consist of continuity independent from proposed Justice League movies canceled in development — beginning with George Miller’s scrapped Justice League: Mortal.
Emmerich: “It always has to be about the directors”
For Emmerich to say now “it always has to be about the directors” demonstrates he knows they screwed up and the better ethos to go on is the one that really started in earnest with Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins (who largely is credited with that film turning out so well) and looks to continue with David Sandberg and Shazam!
Emmerich ascended to power in the last year, and in a short time, Warner made it their mission to change course. They announced a brand-new slate that mostly won’t connect to anything DCEU-centric. As a producer, his resume is a mixed bag containing underrated and interesting ideas like Frequency (2000) and dud cash-ins like Dumb and Dumberer (2003).
Assurances by new leadership are one thing; resolve that yields results is quite another. Warner seems to be on the right track for now but they are still a big corporation with a revolving door at the top (and not to mention a long and tempestuous history), hoping every time they pivot will pay dividends.