Warner Bros./DC and Marvel are mining pretty much the exact same territory: aiming to create a united cinematic universe that stretches across multiple characters while periodically uniting them for really big threats. It’s a relatively new tactic in cinema, but one as old as the hills in comic books.
What’s interesting is the differing tactics each studio uses to achieve this. Understandably, few directors are willing to spill the beans on precisely how each of their creative processes work, but now, courtesy of Nightwing helmer Chris McKay, we at least have a glimpse of how Warner Bros./DC are defining themselves against the MCU method.
In a recent interview with Metro, he said the following:
“Warner Bros is a more director-driven studio. Period. The end. More than any other studio you’re ever going to work at. Just look at the roster of world-class filmmakers that have worked at Warner Bros and made it their home. Warner Bros is a director-driven studio, and that’s exactly how they are operating these movies.”
It’s a neat contrast to the tight control that Marvel Studios (and by extension Disney) keeps on directors, often mandating story changes late in the game and frequently blocking out major action sequences without input from the directors to get them through the effects studio pipeline on time. The most high profile casualty of this autocratic style was Edgar Wright’s troubles with Ant-Man, though Jon Favreau is a close contender as well, due to his nightmarish experience on Iron Man 2.
That said, Marvel generally deliver the goods and the DCEU is notorious for its double whammy of critical catastrophes in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. On top of that, given the roaring success of James Gunn’s idiosyncratic Guardians of the Galaxy movies, maybe even they’re slackening the leash a little bit.
One thing’s for sure, McKay is definitely a fan of the Warner Bros. production ethic:
“That’s what they have done and what they will continue to do, and that’s why these movies are not trying to follow the Marvel model, they’re trying to do their own thing with filmmakers that they like, and produce things that are wholly original and wholly unique. They still want to build a universe, and that’s why it takes a lot of time and a lot of people banging their heads together trying to figure out what to do, because it’s hard. It’s hard to get all these people, and all these egos, and all this stuff in one place and get it all to work out. But they are committed to that, and that’s what’s amazing about working with Jon (Berg) and Geoff (Johns). They’re real partners, and so is everyone at the Warner Bros family.”
Perhaps the litmus test of all this will be Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon’s Justice League. If that’s a complete balls up, I’d wager that the Powers That Be over at Warner Bros. might rethink their laissez-faire philosophy.