Last night, the news broke that Warner Bros. had restructured its film division, the most notable development being that DC Comics chief creative officer Geoff Johns and Warner Bros. executive VP Jon Berg were tapped to head the newly created DC Films division. The division’s formation is in conjunction with a new structure that, rather than seeing executives handling a broad range of films, will have them play to their strengths, overseeing specific genres. While Johns has been involved in the creative end of the DC Extended Universe (most notably, bringing the comics to television), fans have been clamoring to see him handed a larger role entailing more oversight. DC has long needed its own version of Kevin Feige, with it becoming increasingly clear that he is not Zack Snyder. With this latest move, WB has done exactly that, and with his first public statements as the head of DC Films, Johns has shown that the studio is going right to the heart of what many fans have seen as the biggest weakness with the DCEU so far.
The man who will save the DCEU from itself.
Johns met with a handful of journalists today, and while he refused to speak on why the shake-up occurred (“you can connect the dots,” was all he told journalists), he gladly shared his vision for the future of DC Films. A common refrain from Johns was that they aimed to bring more “hope and optimism” to the DCEU, according to Vulture, who was there for the conversation with Johns.
To this point, Snyder has had almost total control over the building and tone of the DCEU. Love him or hate him, what’s unable to be argued is that Snyder has a very distinct aesthetic for the DCEU, and that aesthetic is dark as hell. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily an issue; the problem is that, in making his universe unilaterally dark, many fans believe Snyder has failed to grasp the essence of DC’s characters, most notably Superman.
And while Johns was very careful not to point fingers, he went on to make a statement that indicates he, just like fans, believes the way in which Superman has been handled hasn’t necessarily been truthful to the spirit of the character:
“I think people make a mistake when they say, ‘Superman’s not relatable because he’s so powerful. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? He’s a farmboy from Kansas who moves to the city and just wants to do the best he can with what he’s got.’ That’s the most relatable character in the world.”
If all of this means that future iterations of Superman will be allowed to be lighter and more hopeful, then count me in 110 percent. Batman v Superman‘s portrayal of Clark Kent/Superman as a brooding, joyless character only truly roused to action when those he personally cared about were in danger was truly frustrating. Superman has always been about hope; a beacon of good in the same vein as Captain America, the light to Batman’s dark. While that was somewhat captured in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman absolutely undid that notion, and fans were largely unhappy with it.
I’m not going to speculate here on what, exactly, has been going on behind the scenes at Warner Bros., but with this move, it’s clear that WB no longer feels comfortable letting Snyder run the show without having some creative oversight above him. I’ve long argued that you can change storylines as long as you remain true to the spirit of the characters, and there is no-one better equipped to do justice to the characters than Johns. In one move, Warner Bros. has addressed the major issue with the DCEU and showed that it has heard fans, loud and clear. With his first statements regarding his new role, Johns has proven that the characters we love are now in the best possible hands — his.