When it comes to Marvel, everyone knows there is one man in charge: Kevin Feige. The company’s producer/guru makes the final call on everything, with Joss Whedon even recently admitting there was some “friction” during the making of “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.” Feige has a clear, distinct vision for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s his job to find the talent to execute it, end of story. That means if you’re a filmmaker looking to put your own distinct stamp on a property, there won’t be room for you (see the Edgar Wright/”Ant-Man” situation). But it also means that Marvel movies are cohesive and flow logically from one to the next, and for audiences they remain clearly focused. It’s that latter quality that Warner Bros. is apparently lacking.
THR has gone behind-the-scenes of the studio’s DC Comics movies and it certainly looks a bit rudderless. Essentially, there is no Kevin Feige-like figure guiding the ship, with the studio preferring to take a “filmmaker-driven” approach. So this means, essentially, that while Zack Snyder — who is still busy working on his $200 million-plus “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice” — is sort of overseeing things, at the end of the day, each director is responsible for their own movie. David Ayer is apparently being given “broad creative control” on “Suicide Squad,” which may go a long way in explaining the meme-spawning fiasco of the first look at Jared Leto‘s The Joker.
But the scattershot approach also follows in the development of each movie in the DC universe. As has been reported before, each project has multiple writers penning competing scripts, rather than working toward a common goal. In a process described by an insider as “throwing shit against the wall to see what stuck,” at one point, five writers were trying to figure out “Wonder Woman.” At least three, including the previously rumored Jeff Nichols, have been working on “Aquaman.”
“You can’t just give it to a filmmaker. You have to give it to someone who has an institutional knowledge of these characters,” an unnamed Marvel source said. And while that’s helpful, it’s not the only factor in making a great comic book movie. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the script, and even the Marvel machine has turned out a few duds that didn’t hit the mark (“Iron Man 2,” the “Thor” movies). With that said, even when they missed, there was still a single voice who righted the ship, and changed course when necessary. Who will do that for Warner Bros.?
What has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a combination of quality popcorn movies, but also a sense from movie-to-movie that you’re participating in a grand saga. Warner Bros.’ approach seems to suggest that their movies that will be tied together by story, but stylistically will be divergent. But maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing. After all, grim and dour might work for ‘Batman v. Superman,’ maybe not so much for “Wonder Woman” or “The Flash,” while “Suicide Squad” may benefit from Ayer-style grit and immediacy. But at the end of the day, when one of these movies underperforms or misses creatively — which is going to happen eventually — who is going to take the blame? And more importantly, who is their guru that will know what to do to get things back on track? These are big questions Warner Bros. should think about answering.