It was inevitable, and like clockwork, it arrived just before the holidays, when Warner Brothers likes to do their firing: an executive shuffle at DC Films. Jon Berg, who was co-president of production and oversaw DC, is exiting his executive role to become an on-the-lot producer. Apparently, he started talking up his desire to be a full-time producer six months ago. That was summer, plenty of time to see the writing on the wall and start looking for a soft landing. Frankly, I’m surprised Berg is the only person out, but there is a suggestion that DC Films may lose its independence and be combined into Warners regular development/production train, instead of being a sort of studio-within-a-studio (like Marvel is at Disney). At this point, try anything. Let the development office see if they can get a functioning DC movie off the ground. They cannot possibly do worse.
At this point, it is abundantly clear that no one is going to replicate the success of Marvel and Kevin Feige. As I said before, Feige is a movie guy who likes comic books, so if Warners/DC can’t find one of those—and if they could, they would have already—what they need is a movie guy who operates on the same wavelength as Geoff Johns. He’s a DC Comics guy who is serving as DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer, and if they can get a movie dude to match him, maybe DC will (finally) have a winning recipe. But just the fact that there is talk of streamlining DC Films into Warners’ production department suggests they have no such candidate on the horizon and, for lack of anything else to do, will just dump DC into the main pipeline and hope someone comes up with a good idea.
There is no relief in sight for Warners/DC. Justice League has one week left before Star Wars comes along and kills it completely, and it will struggle to reach the $700 million benchmark set by the studio as the “non-embarrassment” line. (This, after the studio lowered the non-embarrassment when it became clear Justice League would not be a billion-dollar hit.) But the main problem for them is that without a clear vision or definitive leadership, they’re going to keep floundering as Marvel continues to churn out movies at a reliable rate. Marvel has three movies in 2018 and 2019—DC has three movies over two years, total. They are no closer to catching up with Marvel now, in 2017, than they were in 2013 when they launched Man of Steel.
And what about Ben Affleck? News of the exec shuffle includes the tidbit that Batfleck is probably done after the stand-alone Flash movie, Flashpoint. Affleck has a three-picture deal, and that Flash movie represents the third picture. (It is extremely likely, at this point, that he will not star in a stand-alone Bat-movie, as director Matt Reeves is said to want “fresh talent”.) Flashpoint is a good storyline to soft-reboot your universe, since it allows you to kill off characters and spin out alternate universes. They could sayonara Batfleck and recast to line up with Matt Reeves’ vision going forward. They could also buy out Affleck’s third picture, or translate it to another project for the studio. Flashpoint has no director, and at this point, even if it’s fast-tracked, it can’t realistically hit theaters before 2020. How long will Affleck want to sit in limbo?
And DC announced a bunch of sh*t at Comic-Con, including a Green Lantern movie, but since Justice League face-planted, how much of that is viable? Shazam! is happening whether anyone wants it or not, Aquaman is in post-production, and Wonder Woman 2 is their one bright spot. And I guess they’ll make Flashpoint, for lack of any better ideas. But whether they bring in a new executive to run DC Films or turn it over to the studio team, will anyone want to associate with material tainted by Justice League’s failure? Who wants to stick their name on the Cyborg movie that is never happening?
Here's Ben Affleck out in LA last week.