By now, anyone familiar with the inner-workings of Marvel Studios knows the name Kevin Feige. He officially carries the title of President of the studio, but he’s more hands-on than most other studio heads. Feige is the primary producer on all of the Marvel films, not only making himself available on set to oversee production, but also working to plan out and develop each film well before it ever hits theaters (or even has a director). He’s “the man with the plan,” and the consistent vision of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is largely due to his oversight.
When Warner Bros. released Man of Steel with the intention of kicking off its own interconnected universe of DC Comics films, the first question most asked was, “Who is their Feige?” WB is a more filmmaker-driven studio than Marvel, but while they initially approached Christopher Nolan (who produced Man of Steel) to oversee the development of this so-called DC Universe, he politely declined having just spent half a decade on the Batman films.
With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in the can, Suicide Squad currently filming, and a slate of DC superhero movies planned out through 2020, Warner Bros. is moving right ahead with its own universe—except they still don’t really have a Kevin Feige. In a lengthy profile on the studio’s DC films, THR reports that the studio is indeed developing its own “filmmaker-driven” strategy in contrast to Marvel’s, but it’s still unclear who is in charge.
Man of Steel and Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder is described as a “key player,” and indeed it was he who cast the rest of the DC superheroes before their individual films even have directors (Jason Momoa is Aquaman, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller is The Flash, and Ray Fisher is Cyborg). Snyder’s wife and producer Deborah Snyder is also a key creative component in DC’s plan, as are producer Charles Roven and a team of WB executives that include president of creative development and worldwide production Greg Silverman, executive vp Jon Berg, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson, and DC chief creative officer Geoff Johns. As you can see, that’s a lot of cooks.
WB’s plan is to seemingly give their filmmakers a great deal of creative freedom, as David Ayer was reportedly granted “broad” control over the direction of Suicide Squad. They’re courting folks like Phil Lord & Chris Miller (22 Jump Street) and James Wan (Furious 7)—these aren’t the kinds of directors that Marvel Studios is hiring. But filmmakers have to, you know, make the movies, so they can’t be stuck in development meetings each week on films they aren’t personally directing.
Without a unified voice guiding the whole universe, it remains to be seen if Warners can re-create the type of success that Marvel Studios is enjoying. Giving directors a hefty amount of creative control over their films will no doubt stand in stark contrast to Marvel’s unified aesthetic, and I’ll admit I’m enthused by the prospect of seeing the varied visions on display, but we’ve already seen this plan run aground on Wonder Woman.
Michelle MacLaren was hired to “develop and direct” the standalone film for Gadot’s character, which is slated for release in 2017, but was recently let go following “creative differences” with the studio. If the idea is to give filmmakers the keys to these franchises, why was the director the one forced to bow out on Wonder Woman? At the time of her departure, it was reported that MacLaren’s vision wasn’t in line with Snyder’s, so is he the one running the show?
It’s all rather muddled and I’m still not entirely clear on how things work over there, but hopefully these are simply growing pains. Marvel’s second and third films, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, were somewhat disastrous, and it took them some time to figure out how to run things going forward. Hopefully Warner Bros. can get its act together as well, but the studio’s plan at the moment is really starting to remind me of this video.