DC Movie Producer’s Comments Illustrate What’s Wrong With the ‘Justice League’ Universe

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Not long ago, we published a list of suggestions for how Warner Bros. could fix some of the issues with the DC Extended Universe. To date, the studio has delivered three superhero blockbusters — all of which were massively budgeted and hugely successful at the box-office, sure, but they could have performed even better had they been genuinely good films. Although recent comments from WB execs and Ben Affleck imply that the studio has learned a few lessons from its mistakes, new comments from a top DC movies producer prove otherwise.

Acknowledging a problem is one thing, but you kind of have to actually do something about it in order to improve. This is a good rule of thumb for life in general, and one that WB would do well to follow when it comes to their DC Extended Universe franchise. In a recent interview, Ben Affleck directly addressed the studio’s core problem when he said that he’s in no rush to make his solo Batman film — mostly because he thinks the “reverse-engineering” approach (rushing a project to meet a release date) is a bad one. But that’s been the DCEU approach from the get-go.

Today, THR published a lengthy interview with producer Charles Roven, who recently took his involvement with the DCEU down a notch. When asked about the franchise, Roven’s response is illuminating:

The studio made me the producer of all the DC movies, and they announced eight. When we finished the [timetable], we looked at each other and said, ‘This is incredibly ambitious, but we haven’t taken into consideration if something goes wrong.’ We also hadn't decided where we were going to shoot those movies. As difficult as it was for me to commute from Toronto to London to Italy, it became really clear I couldn‘t do the job that I do as a producer [with Aquaman likely to shoot in Australia]. I’m for sure producing the sequels of the movies that I have made.

Whether or not Roven is aware that he’s acknowledging the DCEU’s problems, that’s exactly what he’s done. WB has been far too ambitious with its slate, and far too presumptuous about its audience. Instead of introducing heroes in standalone films that would gauge interest in further sequels and eventual crossover events, like Marvel, the DCEU has taken a completely backwards approach — without course-correcting, that damage becomes increasingly difficult to undo, and each film that doesn’t attempt to right the ship only adds to the problem.

Still, Roven tows the company line following the largely negative critical response to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, promising a “lighter” Justice League:

We knew we were making a very serious, compelling, driving film with Batman v. Superman. Now the bell has been rung and the whole tone of the movie is lighter.

So far, the only real bright spot appears to be Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen / The Flash, who provided much-needed levity in the Justice League sizzle reel that debuted at Comic-Con. Miller’s solo film is another big problem for WB, which has already cycled through a handful of directors, the most recent being Rick Famuyiwa, who departed the project over “creative differences.” That film is still slated to hit theaters in 2018, and with the DCEU’s lengthy production and post-production schedules, they need a replacement — and fast.

Also telling is Roven’s response when asked if the upcoming DCEU films will have lower budgets, since Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman failed to meet box-office expectations:

Suicide Squad made almost $750 million. Batman v. Superman did $873 million. Those two movies were huge hits.

That’s…not an answer. But it is a hilarious way to deflect the question, which isn’t about whether or not those two films were successful, but whether they were successful enough to justify their budgets — and they weren’t. Not on a commercial level, and certainly not on a creative one.

Look, it may seem like we’re relentlessly down on the DCEU, but we’re not the only ones. The reason why comments like these are notable, and the reason why we keep writing about the problems with the Justice League franchise is simple: We care. We like these superheroes and, despite the flaws of these films, we mostly like the actors playing them. We want these movies to be as good as they can be, and we’re still optimistic that it can happen.

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