As expected, the tepid box office and fan response to Justice League has led to a shake-up at DC Films, the little film unit that was expected to be the MCU of Warner Bros. Now it seems it lasted only a year. Jon Berg, one half of duo that ran DC Films will leave to spend more time with his indie film shingle, partnering with Lego Movie’s Roy Lee on projects for the studio.
And what of the other half, Geoff Johns?
Warners is expected to name a new person to run point on DC’s films. Geoff Johns, who has partnered with Berg on much of the creative direction of the movies, is expected to continue serving as DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer. Johns, who reports to DC president Diane Nelson, works in areas such as television (and has written various episodes for DC inspired shows), publishing, and consumer products, in addition to his contributions to the films. Going forward, his contributions to the films may evolve, and could be more advisory in nature.
These people also say that Emmerich is weighing the idea of further integrating DC’s film operations into the studio’s main movie arm. That would entail putting the divisions under the same roof rather than having DC remain in a separate building on the lot, sources say. Marvel, which is owned by Disney, does operate its comic book film division autonomously, but other studios, such as Fox and Sony, produce their superhero films under the studio’s banner.
Emmerich would be Warner Bros. Picture Group President Toby Emmerich.
Johns’ fate is a little more ambiguous than you might expect, and I’m sure he’ll still have a voice, but both he and Berg got their PGA (Producer’s Guild of America” certification on Justice League, and that’s a hard bullet to dodge. Up until now he’d been mostly left out of the obituaries for Justice League, though, aside from a now wistful story about how they were planning to make a Flashpoint movie.
The irony here is bitter. Justice League is a perfectly pleasant, albeit uneven, superhero movie with a few great laughs, a strong cast and some undeniably impressive action scenes. And yet it lags the unwatchable Suicide Squad and the titanically dreadful Batman v Superman in both box office and, even more troublingly, audience interest. I went to see Justice League this morning and I was the only person in the theater until one one fellow wandered in just before the film began. Chatter about the movie has mostly been about what a disappointment and a behind the scenes mess it is, not the fact that it’s actually watchable. Like people have been witing for this movie for 20 years and when it came out…no one cared.
Hollywood coffee run chatter about Justice League has been dire since it was obvious it was going to be a flop. Richard Rushfield’s Ankler newsletter has been detailing a lot of behind the scenes finger pointing with one edition called “The Flop That Ate Hollywood?” that led to the “systemic failure” quote above. Quoting a public preview (please subscribe to The Ankler!!!)
With all the forces converging against the studios right now, Justice League might just be our Little Roundtop, standing at the hinge to the fate of everything.
For starters, it’s time for a lot of people to say goodbye to the Universe dream: the notion that Marvel had blazed a trail wherein if you just make your IP big enough, that it starts to sell itself, spurring on ancillary money-printing till the end of time. I think we can say that magical idea now seems to be in collapse across the industry, apart from Marvel and we’ll-see-about Star Wars.
Other problems: opening the movie two weeks after the crowd pleasing Thor: Ragnarok. I mean, who knew that Valkyrie and The Grandmaster would be far more popular than The Flash and Aquaman with the American moviegoing public?
I mean think about that. If you work at Warner Bros you probably already are, as you toss and turn at 4 in the morning and wonder what it’s like to live in Fresno.
Also, Justice League was caught up in the turmoil around Ben Affleck, the turmoil around the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon combo, the turmoil around Brett Ratner, and the turmoil around AT&T’s possibly scuttled deal to purchase WB.
Yeah, no distractions.
Bottom line, as I’ve been writing here for 14 years: the WB needs to get someone in a position of power who actually understands superheroes and superhero movies. Geoff Johns clearly understands the former, but his movie track record, fair or not, doesn’t look great on paper. He tried his best, that’s for certain.
The problem for WB is that only three or four people in the whole universe are suited to do this.
My advice: people liked that Wonder Woman movie. See what Patty Jenkins has to say about all of this.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.