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Hollywood Reporter exposes faults in the bedrock of Warner Bros.' DC Comics films

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

A story from an upcoming issue of The Hollywood Reporter may rely heavily on unnamed sources, but they're all saying the same thing: Warner Bros.' attempts to spin DC Comics into cinematic universe gold are just producing a lot of straw.

And while most of its upcoming films are still in script stages, even those early processes are creating cause for alarm. The WB is essentially farming its screenwriting: hiring writers not to collaborate but to each craft a competing script when only one will eventually be chosen. It's a process one source described as "throwing shit agains the wall to see what stuck."

Five writers for Wonder Woman, another handful for Aquaman. A writer on the latter submitted a script only to be told that the previously laid out "rules" of the setting had changed, making their take no longer usable. Before five screenwriters started pitching for Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. may have contacted a screenwriter who turned them down completely, already wary of how many cooks were in the kitchen.

From its inception, Warner Bros. spokespersons have stressed that their take on a superhero universe will improve on Marvel's winning formula. They've also stressed that they're going to do things entirely differently, by making the team movie before the solo films, for example. A Warner Bros. insider told The Hollywood Reporter that the company is going for a "filmmaker-driven" strategy in its productions, to contrast with Kevin Feige's iron hand on the overall arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe over at Disney. But lack of direction seems to be one of the primary struggles of the nascent franchise. "They just haven't been thorough about their whole world and how each character fits and how to get the most out of each writer's time by giving them direction," says one of THR's sources. "Obviously, Marvel's very good at that."

For a "filmmaker-driven" focus it certainly seems to be annoying many filmmakers, from the writers and agents who represent them, to director Michelle MacLaren, recently removed from the production of Wonder Woman for "creative differences." Complicating things is that no one seems to be certain who, exactly, is in charge of crafting the overall rules of the movie version of the DC Universe.


Zack and Debbie Snyder, currently wrapping up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, are clearly involved, but between Man of Steel's controversial deviations from what many fans see as the core themes of Superman and the lukewarm (to put it mildly) buzz over the first footage from Batman v Superman, Snyder isn't looking like the greatest horse for Warner Bros. to hitch their setting to.

According to The Hollywood Reporter the folks in charge of crafting the direction of Warner Bros. DC Universe include the Snyders, "a team of Warners executives," producer Charles Roven, DC Entertainment's president Diane Nelson and Green Lantern scribe Geoff Johns. That's a mere two or three folks who came up in the industry from the creative side rather than the business one.

It takes a team to make a Justice League, but perhaps not a Justice League franchise. And it's hard to call a thing "filmmaker-driven" when there are almost no actual filmmakers in charge of it.

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