A few disappointments here, a botched team-up there — that’s all it takes to completely shake the direction of a cinematic universe. The DCEU is changing how it works after a rocky period centered around the Justice League. Now, it’s focusing more on its solo heroes, with Aquaman already earning a spin-off and planned-sequel thanks to its box office power; and Wonder Woman 1984 being as anticipated as the Joker origin film. That’s no coincidence, but instead a matter of strategy.
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Warner Bros. film/TV chief executive Kevin Tsujihara opened up about what the studio is doing to position its universe of films based on the DC comics in a world where Marvel’s interconnected films seem to reign.
In a world where Marvel phases are meticulously planned events, the DCEU’s change can feel like an unprecedented and reactionary move. But that may be why it’s just now putting out its best films.
“The universe isn’t as connected as we thought it was going to be five years ago,” Tsujihara explained. “You’re seeing much more focus on individual experiences around individual characters. That’s not to say we won’t at some point come back to that notion of a more connected universe. But it feels like that’s the right strategy for us right now.” The WB boss commented that with a string of laser-focused superhero films on the way — including Shazam, Joker, Wonder Woman 1984, and Birds of Prey — the studio “feels like we’re on the right track.”
“We have the right people in the right jobs working on it,” Tsujihara said. He highlighted Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins as illustrating the potential of DC superheroes that weren’t Superman or Batman. “Obviously, we want to get those two in the right place,” he said, “and we want strong movies around Batman and Superman. But Aquaman is a perfect example of what we can do. They’re each unique and the tone’s different in each movie.”
With the new slate of DC films on its way and no team-up movie waiting in development — like the inevitable Avengers films waiting each new batch of heroes introduced in the MCU — perhaps this strategy will allow fans to build up trust and goodwill in a film franchise that has been critically spotty and financially disappointing at times for its backers.