The fact that plenty of people did not like the version of Justice League Warner Bros. put out in 2017 is no shock. But, the fact someone who was an executive at DC back then is among that number might come as a surprise. That person is former DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson who disparaged the product in a recent interview.
Nelson broke her silence for the first time in years during an appearance on The Wall Street Journal’s With Great Power: The Rise of Superhero Cinema podcast and didn’t hold back. She covered a lot of ground, including the film, its production, Zack Snyder, and how Marvel Studios worked versus how DC and Warner Bros. approached filmmaking. In the second least surprising revelation so far, the two entities had two highly contrasting methodologies.
Recalling an “undercurrent of frustration,” Nelson explained DC hated that they could not hit the mark. She lamented they weren’t “freestanding” like Marvel with their budgets and staff. “They were charting their own course.” More so, she was disappointed by the perceived misconceptions fans had about the competing studio structures. Nelson says it was assumed her company copied their competition.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case as it was difficult to even get a seat at the WB conference table. “I don’t know that there was an appreciation for the extent to which the DC team really just had a seat at the table,” Nelson said. They would talk with the heads of “relevant businesses” “about DC-related issues,” including films, TV shows, and video games.
“But DC was not the one leading that charge. And honestly, I’m not sure there was anyone leading that charge. It just wasn’t the culture of Warner Brothers to dictate a particular strategy,” she continued. Ethan Van Sciver, a former employee of DC’s under Nelson, commented on her interview for his YouTube channel with added background based on his experience.
As impressed as he was with her work bringing the juggernaut of Harry Potter to Warner where it only got more prominent as a reliable tentpole, EVS shared mixed feelings about Nelson. He confessed that he didn’t get along with her too well and surmised, that when she mentioned DC as an entity, Nelson was referring to herself and Geoff Johns.
Writer and producer Johns was co-president to Nelson during that initial failed Warner/DC film regime, and Hollywood insiders pointed to him as the guy who personally brought Joss Whedon aboard to finish Justice League. EVS said it’s the Hollywood creatives responsible for a film’s direction, but regardless, the ouster of Zack Snyder dismayed many who figured he was the guiding light.
Nelson “poured cold water” on this misconception and the feasibility of a film slate. She dubbed the latter “like window dressing” with no “thoughtful, well-controlled, confidential” process, and “the single biggest thing that made us look amateurish, certainly relative to Marvel.” Moreover, Snyder was never considered its designer, nor was he thought of as DC’s answer to Kevin Feige.
“Unless there were meetings…that no one told me about…I don’t know that there was ever any conversation where it was decided that Zack would be leading the DC slate for any particular period of time,” Nelson revealed. Still, she admitted, “…from a consumer standpoint, that’s what happened.” In other words, Snyder was simply another director who was part of the lineup.
His movies may have bled into the spinoffs such as Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad, but Snyder’s position hinged on everything being successful. Naturally, they hit a wall here, which goes without saying after all the last six years of drama. “But should he have been the one defining that universe? Maybe not, in hindsight,” Nelson said.
Ultimately, those Hollywood creators EVS noted had concerns about the Justice League that began as a matter of convenience, which Nelson explained. “There was a desire to ensure that the movie was not too long and that there was an opportunity for more heart and humor. And then, oh, we’re going to bring in another director to help.”
Enter Joss Whedon and the cut he submitted that’s a far cry from the one Snyder completed years later. “My characterization is Joss was a bit of a shiny penny during a time when they were looking for something shiny to grab onto…” Nelson said. “Yeah, I mean, I thought the final film was terrible.”
She added that she “would have much preferred a darker-than-I-wanted or longer-than-I’d hoped-for Zack Snyder cut than the Frankenstein cut we got in theaters. The Trinity characters of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman should have, by any measure, blown any other superhero movie away, and they didn’t.” In the years that followed, WB had continued difficulty utilizing each of them.
The problem was magnified tenfold for Batman and Superman. Frustrated and burned out, Ben Affleck walked and the Dark Knight underwent another reboot – which is one more shady production we have shed light on. Meanwhile, Superman was faceless in limbo as Henry Cavill held onto the cape and a remote hope he would wear it again one day for more than a cameo.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Black Adam, and The Flash are likely to be the last time we see either of them in costume again. Diane Nelson soon stepped down from her position with DC and Geoff Johns followed. She later distanced herself from him when she clarified on Twitter the two weren’t buddies after someone made that mistake.
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