The Dark Knight might not be so dark. And Superman might actually crack a smile. That’s the takeaway from Geoff Johns’s interview this week with the Wall Street Journal, in which DC’s chief creative officer vowed that, beginning with Justice League, DC and Warner Bros.’ cinematic offerings will be more “hopeful and optimistic” than the relentlessly grim films we’ve been subjected to since Man of Steel.
Johns was appointed co-architect of DC Films with Warner Bros. executive Jon Berg after the critical lambasting of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While they came aboard too late to seriously impact this summer’s poorly reviewed Suicide Squad, the executives’ influence will be felt on Justice League, which will team Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg.
“To have these characters be part of the fabric of pop culture is so rewarding, though of course we’re disappointed the movies weren’t better reviewed,” Berg told the Journal from the London set of Justice League. He indicated that the plan was always to shift from director Zack Snyder’s hyper-violent milieus of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, but that Berg and Johns worked closely with screenwriter Chris Terrio “to get to the hope and optimism a little faster.”
The film, which is still being directed by Snyder and due in theaters in November 2017, will “directly address” some of the more controversial elements of Batman v Superman, including his torture of criminals and bloody battle that nearly left Superman on the wrong end of a kryptonite spear.
Berg and Johns also scrapped plans to make Justice League a two-parter; rather, the 2019 Justice League film will be a straight sequel, akin to Marvel’s Avengers and Age of Ultron. Johns also rewrote the script for Wonder Woman, which comes out in June 2017, and is overseeing the development of the other stand-alone hero installments, including working closely with Ben Affleck on his solo Batman outing. The new Caped Crusader chapter, featuring Deathstroke as a main villain, has yet to be officially scheduled but reportedly could arrive between Justice League films in 2018.
Back in May, on the eve of the reboot of DC’s comic universe, which Johns orchestrated and titled Rebirth — and shortly before he was set to fly to the London set of Justice League — Johns explained his philosophy of superheroism. He was specifically speaking about revamping the comic books, but his words could easily apply to the films.
“It’s a tonal shift,” Johns told Yahoo Movies. “I just wanted to establish a general compass for the universe. That doesn’t mean the path is narrow — it’s very, very wide. The universe has a thematic DNA that is true to what DC is at its core, and that is hope and optimism. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have characters that are darker or threats that will challenge that ideal, but the pervasive attitude of the heroes is hope and optimism. Even Batman wouldn’t keep fighting if he didn’t believe tomorrow wouldn’t be better.”