Despite Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad proving to be two of this year’s biggest films, Warner Bros. is still troubled by the severely negative reactions towards both. In their first interview since taking over the DC Extended Universe, Geoff Johns and Jon Berg emphasized a shift in focus for DC’s films, one that will hopefully make the upcoming superhero movies — starting with 2017’s Justice League — better received.
“Mistakenly in the past I think the studio has said, ‘Oh, DC films are gritty and dark, and that’s what makes them different. That couldn’t be more wrong,” says Johns in a rare admission that the tone recent films misinterpreted some characters. “Even Batman has a glimmer of [optimism] in him. If he didn’t think he’d make tomorrow better, he’d stop,” Johns told The Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this year, DC’s Creative Chief Officer Geoff Johns was promoted to a larger role within Warner Bros.’s DC movie production. As a veteran comic book writer for DC, Johns is assumed to be Creative Director moving forward, much like Producer Kevin Feige represents to the MCU. Johns and Berg were brought in soon after the negative backlash against Batman v Superman became apparent. The two have taken the reigns away from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder who, according to the interview, was given the same kind of long leash Christopher Nolan was when directing The Dark Knight.
Johns and Berg’s influence over the upcoming DC films will be seen in 2017’s Justice League, which the pair have worked on with Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio. The interview indicated that Justice League will be a lighter film than Batman v Superman, but the pair have “accelerated the story to get to the hope and optimism a little faster,” according to Berg.
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Warner Bros. and DC revealed the first teaser for the upcoming Justice League movie. Set to The White Stripes’s “Icky Thump,” the trailer showcased a much lighter tone. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne banters with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ezra Miller’s The Flash. Wayne is different from the murderous Batman seen in Batman v Superman, but just as the destruction of Metropolis was examined in the 2016 superhero film, Justice League will directly address Batman’s destructive behavior and attempted murder of Superman.
“We’re trying to take a really hard look at everything to make sure we stay true to the characters and tell stories that celebrate them,” says Johns. It remains to be seen, however, what this means exactly for the future of the DC Extended Universe and how the companies will balance a lighter tone while differentiating themselves from their chief rivals: Fox and Marvel. The films will also have to differentiate themselves from the CW’s “Arrowverse” which includes lighter depictions of the DC universe in Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and now, Supergirl.
Justice League comes out on November 17, 2017.