DC Entertainment is finally trying to control its infinite perception crisis.
In a Vulture interview published Friday, company president Diane Nelson and chief creative officer Geoff Johns discussed their plans for the group of films colloquially known as the DC Extended Universe. As presented in the article, it suggests nothing less than a DC Entertainment Multiverse alongside the company’s publishing, consumer product, and television ventures. And in embracing a multiverse, it also explains, at least in part, those out-of-continuity film projects we’ve heard about in the last month.
“Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn’t make sense,” Nelson said. “But there’s no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe.” Her comments originate from a meeting in July, long before word of the “Joker Origins” project broke. But they align with an idea seemingly brewing on the margins of Warner Bros’ superhero film world for some time: no big fight with an interdimensional big bad. Darkseid will have to wait a lot longer to invade the Earth.
Nelson continued: “Moving forward, you’ll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who’s creating them.” Creative control is a big issue for Nelson and Johns, they worked hard in other divisions to obtain a measure of it over the film slate.
Since Marvel Studios wowed audiences and bottom-line watchers with the first Avengers film, their eternal crosstown rivals at DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. looked on with envious eyes. Marvel plotted and produced five films on its way to something never before seen on screen: a company-wide crossover. And when a new idea (well, new for major motion pictures) gets acclaim and a $1 billion payday, the distinguished competition asks “why can’t we do that?”
Except in this case, “Brand Eccch” was not DC itself, but Warner Bros. Pictures. The publishing company’s corporate cousin enjoyed wide-reaching use of their superhero intellectual property; making films like Batman, The Dark Knight and Green Lantern. But unlike Marvel’s direct control of their film range — itself born from less-than-favorable dealings with the Hollywood studios — DC had little say in the studio’s plan to counter Marvel new Cinematic Universe.
The results are well-known and well-covered; leaving spectators with the impression that Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment have no idea what they are doing. The last six weeks of rumors about The Batman, Gotham City Sirens and a “Joker-and-Harley” project separate from “Joker Origins” makes it difficult for me to believe Nelson and Johns are already at work giving the company a new sense of direction. But then again, the timing of this piece suggests a new level of coordination a month-or-so ahead of Justice League.
As always, I hope they can right things. One fix is dropping the Crisis-level storytelling knot teased in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Avoiding it means the upcoming films will look less like copies of Marvel’s slow march toward Infinity War. It allows the company time to make audiences love the characters instead of demanding instant affection.
Of course, by switching to a director-driven multiverse approach, DC Entertainment also embraces a very old core concept of their comic books: multiple realities. It allows the television shows and cartoons to exist in their own space with their own rules separate from the film world. Indeed, it may allow the films to do the same; even as some still share a reality. The multiverse was always such an appealing idea and now it seems to underpin an entire corporate initiative. At the same time, the creative hierarchy at DC once found the multiverse too confusing and destroyed it. I wonder if it will happen again?