Batman v Superman shake-out: Geoff Johns to co-run DC Films

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That thud you just heard was official confirmation of the other shoe dropping after the extremely mixed success of Batman v Superman. The last few weeks rumors have been flying about a shake-up at Warner Bros. Pictures and The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit has all the juicy details.

The big news is that Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer has been tapped to co-run DC Films, one of three “divisions” within WB Pictures. Johns will oversee the unit along with Jon Berg, a current executive VP at the studio. Although Johns will continue to report to DCE head Diane Nelson, he’ll add keeping an eye on the ever expanding DC cinematic universe to his other duties. Berg, who is already involved with Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League will report to WB Pictures president Greg Silverman. Both will be producers on the upcoming Justice League films. As heads of DC Films the duo will not so much be involved with hirings and casting, but how the movies fit into the overall tone of the DC Extended Universe.

Johns has been heavily involved with the very successful WB/DC TV arm – Arrow, Flash, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, etc — and is also, I’m told, very VERY hands on with DC Rebirth event back at the comics division. No time for sleep here.

It’s all part of an overall reorganization at WB:

This move is part of a broader refinement of executive roles at Warners, which has suffered a disappointing run of movies and has vexed producers and filmmakers, some of whom complain about a murky greenlight process.

Instead of a broad range of movies to oversee, executives will be charged with managing “genre streams” while reporting to Warner Bros. Pictures president Greg Silverman. In many cases, these streams formalize interests and specialties for specific executives. Courtenay Valenti, for example, will now oversee all Lego Movie projects as well as the Harry Potter line that begins with November’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Senior production execs Jesse Ehrman and Niija Kuykendall will focus more on comedy/family and sci-fi/action, respectively, according to sources.

Further executive changes are anticipated, including a potential hire at the senior level.

Berg is reportedly tight with Ben Affleck, who has emerged as a popular alternative to Zack Snyder as the creative voice for the DCEU. Affleck was recently named co-executive producer on the Justice League movie and he will co-write and direct his own Batman film. Who is he co-writing it with? Oh, Geoff Johns.

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It’s been hard to keep up with all the news leaking out of WB and the DC movies since BvS opened. We all knew it was key to the future of the franchise (and the studio) but despite making $870 million worldwide, the $300 million price tag and poisonous buzz arising from the movie washed away all the positives. Idle chitter chatter from Hollywood observers saw a struggle emerging between Affleck and Snyder. Snyder shoots a lovely movie but Affleck has a bunch of Oscars, including one for Best Picture, so the struggle may not have been all that even. And as the sad Affleck meme (above) shows, the star must have sensed a potentially gloomy future. The DC movies — including the eagerly awaited Suicide Squad and just announced solo Harley Quinn movie — are just too important to the studio to let them founder.

And of course, everyone has to measure themselves against Marvel’s Kevin Feige, although that really isn’t fair. Feige is a there-can-be-only-one visionary who manages to make multiple movies that cost hundred of millions of dollars as enjoyable and addictive as some show you’re streaming on Netflix. To try and replicate that would be madness.

And the WB won’t even try, wisely. WB had reportedly taken a more “Filmmaker driven” approach to the DCU, which works when it’s Christopher Nolan, but…not as well when it’s Zack Snyder. And first-time director Seth Grahame-Smith got bounced from the Flash movie when execs got cold feet over letting a newbie make such a key film. All the TV shows have an interlocking continuity that mirrors the success of the filmic Marvel and X-men worlds, but that hasn’t really been the case with the movies…yet. Johns would certainly seem to be the right person to bring some sense of continuity to the films.

There also the possibility, raised by several twitter observers, that this is more a cosmetic change than anything, as Berg and Johns were ALREADY overseeing how the DCEU fits together. True that may be, but after fans reacted to BvS as if they’d just been served a big bowl of liver/cauliflower/okra puree, some kind of change was probably necessary.

One more salient tidbit from the THR piece regarding the now-crucial Suicide Squad movie:

And the studio is working to smooth out the third act of Suicide Squad, its big August movie from director David Ayer that could change the perception of its DC line. The pic’s trailers have generated massive positive interest in the all-star actioner that features DC villains, and the studio wants to make sure audiences’ expectations are not only met but exceeded.

Suicide Squad recently went under major additional photography (multiple sources say it was not to add humor) to clear up the issues. Sources say that it was Suicide Squad that escalated Johns’ involvement in DC movies (he was already co-writing the next Batman standalone with Affleck) and that he is involved in the film’s post-production.

 

Interestingly, both Johns and Feige got their start working with Richard Donner, director of the 1978 Superman movie. Johns was an assistant to Donner and Feige was an assistant to producer Lauren Shuler Donner. While there, the two young superhero fans hung out, as Johns once recalled in an interview:

I met Kevin about a month after I moved to Los Angeles. We used to talk about superheroes non-stop. I always wanted to see Green Lantern and a new Superman. He was always talking about Star Trek and Star Wars. But more importantly, Kevin’s just a very smart and very creative guy. Like Dick and Lauren, one of the best.

Who could have imagined that all these years later they’d be matched up at the helms of two of the biggest comic book movie franchises ever?

Comments

  1. Pops Gustav says

    Fans will be quick to dismiss this news, and I’m skeptical, of course. But say what you will about Geoff Johns’ work, he does actually care about these characters. If he’s actually given some real power over “DC Films” (cough), then maybe Batman will stop killing people and Superman will crack a smile now and then. Anyway. Fingers crossed.

  2. Tim says

    At least with Johns we get as close to apologies for whatever initiatives don’t work at WB/DC that we’re going to get.

    Not actual apologies, mind, but the closest we might get.

  3. JohnathanBlack says

    After being disappointed by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I watched Man of Steel again. It was a solid movie, genuinely interesting with a lot of potential for the series. Then they started fighting… and fighting… and fighting… and all of the goodwill the movie had built up with me evaporated. This was well before Superman killed Zod.

    I had completely forgotten how good the movie was up until that point. That’s how damaging the latter portion of the film was.

    It would seem smart to take what worked with MoS and expand it in the sequel. This did not happen. Clark/Superman got no further character development or sense of direction. His relationship with Lois gained no depth. Superman’s interaction with the world got no clarity. Many things were implied, but the result was not something I cared about. BvS did not serve Superman the character well at all.

    As for Batman/Bruce Wayne, his character arc is deeply flawed. So much so that it undermines the film’s credibility. After living through the destruction of Metropolis, Bruce’s substantial ill will towards Superman is understandable. What is not understandable is Bruce apparently not investigating Superman.

    With relatively little to go on Lois Lane learns the identity of Superman in MoS. This was before he put on the costume and presented himself to the world, before he put Smallville on the map through his hyper-destructive battle with Zod and crew, before he is seen as Superman at the Kent’s residence showing significant interest in Martha, before the world is told on live TV that Lois Lane knows who Superman is.

    It is entirely logical that a Superman and metahuman obsessed Lex Luthor would be able to find out that Clark Kent is Superman. It is entirely ILLOGICAL that a Superman obsessed crime fighting detective named Batman who is also a billionaire industrialist would not find out that Superman is Clark Kent and that his mother’s name is Martha.

    There are certainly other problems with the BvS, but my point is that these issues should have been identified and addressed well before filming began — at the screenplay stage.

    Snyder is getting a lot of blame, but whoever greenlit and produced this film deserves just as much. Maybe these new appointments at DC/WB will improve things, but I am skeptical. As the article states, Johns and Berg were already involved.

  4. Erik Scott says

    “It is entirely logical that a Superman and metahuman obsessed Lex Luthor would be able to find out that Clark Kent is Superman. It is entirely ILLOGICAL that a Superman obsessed crime fighting detective named Batman who is also a billionaire industrialist would not find out that Superman is Clark Kent and that his mother’s name is Martha.”

    I completely disagree with this analysis. The whole point is he doesn’t need to find out who Superman is. He doesn’t see him as a human being until the largely chided (and I think greatly misunderstood) “Martha” moment in the film. SUperman is an enemy to be destroyed, first and foremost to Bruce/Batman. He doesn’t “:figure” out who SUperman is because he doesn’t want to and sees him as the furthest thing from human on the planet. It’s not until the “Martha” moment and her name’s connection to his own personal tragedy that he even considers for a second that Clark/Superman could be anything other than an enemy that needs to be destroyed. The “martha” moment in the film ultimately stops Batman because it makes him realize Clark/Superman isn’t this “conceptual” enemy but could actually be considered to be a living breathing if not human, than at least non-enemy being.

  5. MBunge says

    I’ve long thought that Marvel should explore their non-super-hero comics for film and TV projects and that’s about 1000% more true for DC.

    Adam Strange.
    House of Mystery.
    House of Secrets.
    Weird War Tales.
    A Jonah Hex movie that didn’t suck.
    Challengers of the Unknown.
    Kamandi.
    OMAC (Kirby original, not the pale copies which followed)
    The Warlord.
    Arion.
    Arak, Son of Thunder.
    ‘Mazing Man.
    Night Force.
    And I’m sure bigger DC fans than me could go on and on and on.

    The bonus being that many of them would be less expensive than the now standard super-hero flick and wouldn’t have to worry about competing with Marvel.

    Mike

  6. JohnathanBlack says

    In reply to Erik Scott:

    One investigates an enemy not to humanize them, but to identify their weaknesses. The more powerful the enemy, the more important the investigation.

  7. Daniel says

    Erik Scott gets BvS in a way that most other vocal fanboys don’t. He actually watched what was on the screen (instead of cataloguing all the ways the movie didn’t match the mental checklist he had in his head). It’s amazing how clear some things are if you actually pay attention.

  8. says

    Awesome how BvS fans can still insult people who simply didn’t like the movie. “haters didn’t actually watch and get the movie.” Nope, a large portion of living humans did, and they found it dull and calculated, and also poorly conceived. Why was that little girl’s mom in a skyscraper and she was just hanging out in the downtown by herself? Because the movie was poorly conceived. And an insult to people who love the characters.

    Love it if you like, that’s your thing. But don’t insult people who dislike it. There are a multitude of reasons to not like it.

    Will Johns be better? I’m not a big fan, but he can’t do worse.

  9. MBunge says

    “The whole point is he doesn’t need to find out who Superman is.”

    Well, the actual point is why would anyone think Superman HAD a secret identity. Why would you assume a god-like being who can fly anywhere he wants at amazing speed waste his time being anything else?

    I mean, does anyone in the Marvel movies have a “secret identity” besides Spider-Man? And they actually explain why he does in Civil War…which is what movies that genuinely have a brain do to separate themselves from movies that just pretend to have one.

    Mike

  10. JohnathanBlack says

    In reply to MBunge:

    In order to take down an opponent that has distinct advantages over you, one generally will study or investigate them. The goal is to find some way to defeat them. This process tends to uncover all sorts of unexpected things.

    Why some think Batman would not do this is beyond me.

  11. George says

    Daniel said: “He actually watched what was on the screen (instead of cataloguing all the ways the movie didn’t match the mental checklist he had in his head).”

    That’s pretty common among fans, unfortunately. Instead of analyzing the movie that was actually made, they criticize it for not being the “perfect” movie they have in their heads.

  12. Skottie says

    “Erik Scott gets BvS in a way that most other vocal fanboys don’t. He actually watched what was on the screen (instead of cataloguing all the ways the movie didn’t match the mental checklist he had in his head). It’s amazing how clear some things are if you actually pay attention.”

    It was clear and subtle as a rock. That doesn’t mean it’s any good.

  13. MBunge says

    “Why some think Batman would not do this is beyond me.”

    What is he going to study? How is he going to study an alien who can fly faster than any jet, hear the sound of a camera operating a mile away and can vaporize anything he can see? Where is this information supposed to come from? With Luthor, you can at least get around it by pretending he got all the information from the data on the Kryptonian ship (though I’m not sure they ever actually said that’s what happened).

    Mike

  14. JohnathanBlack says

    In reply to MBunge:

    Batman could study the growing body of information available from Superman’s activities, Lois Lane’s contact with him, the Kryptonian ship.

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