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Jon Berg & Geoff Johns talk lessons learned from BVS & Suicide Squad

06.20.2017

WONDER WOMAN is bringing in the combined buckets of money and praise the DC Extended Universe sorely needs, and as a result people are wondering if this means a trajectory change from the darker style BATMAN V. SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD had, two movies that received critical lashings. Though the game plan hasn’t changed much, there are still lessons being learned from the critically panned hits.

Warner Bros. co-president of production Jon Berg and DC president Geoff Johns spoke with Variety recently and were asked if anything was learned from the poor reception BVS and SS were met with, and it seems both have had some time to mull the movies over:

Berg: There are lessons from every movie. You would be silly not to analyze how a movie was received — what went right and what went wrong on the making of a movie.
On SUICIDE SQUAD the movie did incredibly well commercially. It didn’t work narratively. You had some great casting and some great characterizations, but where the story fell down was on narrative, on plot. We could do better. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN was tonally dark. People didn’t respond to that.
Johns: WONDER WOMAN celebrated exactly who the character is, but looking at it, it’s not like we should change everything to be about hope and optimism. There’s nothing to change. That’s what these characters are.

WOMAN is being praised for hopeful message and adventurous spirit, which is something Johns and Berg believe is what’s making the movie such a hit with audiences, and what BVS and SS were lacking:

Berg: It’s a fun movie. It’s positive and optimistic. The early films may have been too dark in parts.
Johns: Most of the DC Universe is known as being a hopeful and optimistic place. It’s known for characters that are inspirational and aspirational. Anyone who knows and loves the DC Universe knows that a lot of that has to do with its hope and optimism.

Change may not be the operative word the two are using, but the future is certainly looking very female in the DCEU, as the studio continues to develop their BATGIRL movie with Joss Whedon, while Johns says he and Patty Jenkins are working hard on the treatment for WONDER WOMAN 2:

Johns: Patty and I are writing the treatment right now. The goal is to make another great WONDER WOMAN film. I had a blast making it with Patty the first time. We’ve got a cool idea for the second one.

WOMAN is certainly the best film in DCEU by far, but to say future movies need to be similarly bright and optimistic in tone is probably not the best solution to the series’ quality problems. I think Johns and Berg have the right idea on what the problems were with BVS and SS, namely clunky narratives and just a general somber feeling, particularly in BVS. The movies can still be mature and grounded, but they also need to be more organized and focused. At this point talking about the two movies is like beating a dead Superman, but now that WONDER WOMAN proved so successful by being so different it’s more relevant than ever now to talk about how these movies can stay true to their characters’ style while not sacrificing quality. Plus, who are we kidding? People are going to be talking about these movies forever.

WONDER WOMAN is in theaters now, and JUSTICE LEAGUE arrives November 17.

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Source: Variety

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7:30PM on 06/20/2017
I've come to the realization that when it comes to some popular characters, you just can't please everyone, b/c they have their own opinion for how it should be done. We got an optimistic version of superman with superman returns, and half the fans didn't like it. We got a more serious version in the new films, and some people still aren't happy. I think Bond is having the same problem, where with Brosnan it was that the films were too goofy, and now with Spectre they're too serious.
I've come to the realization that when it comes to some popular characters, you just can't please everyone, b/c they have their own opinion for how it should be done. We got an optimistic version of superman with superman returns, and half the fans didn't like it. We got a more serious version in the new films, and some people still aren't happy. I think Bond is having the same problem, where with Brosnan it was that the films were too goofy, and now with Spectre they're too serious.
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7:28PM on 06/20/2017

I like BVS, but...

I think it missed an opportunity. With Batman, Superman, and Lex, it really should have been about 3 orphaned boys dealing with the loss of their fathers.

They could have had the viewpoint of Batman visiting Lex Luthor as Bruce Wayne, and discussing various business ventures as Superman has his battle with General Zod. Then the destruction inadvertently kills Lex's Father, right in front of Batman. Having lost his own father (and mother) which sent him on his own path for justice, this
I think it missed an opportunity. With Batman, Superman, and Lex, it really should have been about 3 orphaned boys dealing with the loss of their fathers.

They could have had the viewpoint of Batman visiting Lex Luthor as Bruce Wayne, and discussing various business ventures as Superman has his battle with General Zod. Then the destruction inadvertently kills Lex's Father, right in front of Batman. Having lost his own father (and mother) which sent him on his own path for justice, this could have been a natural way for him to team up with a mourning Lex, to fight Superman. This would have required a formidable Lex Luthor though, rather than the kind of goofy kid Lex in this film.
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7:21PM on 06/20/2017
Doesn't sound like they've learned anything. BvS wasn't bad because it was dark, Wonder Woman didn't do great because it was optimistic, and Suicide Squad had far more than narrative problems.

Nolan's Batman films were far darker than Snyder's, and those were some of the best. Wonder Wonder is the best film in the entire DCEU because it was well written, the characters had believable & realistic motivations, and the story took time to let its characters drive the narrative.

A film like
Doesn't sound like they've learned anything. BvS wasn't bad because it was dark, Wonder Woman didn't do great because it was optimistic, and Suicide Squad had far more than narrative problems.

Nolan's Batman films were far darker than Snyder's, and those were some of the best. Wonder Wonder is the best film in the entire DCEU because it was well written, the characters had believable & realistic motivations, and the story took time to let its characters drive the narrative.

A film like BvS was driven purely by plot, leaping aimlessly from one extreme plot point to the next. The film's characters had little to no motive, none of it believable or realistic in the least. The entire film was poorly written and the dialogue was painfully bad. Tone was the least of this film's problems.
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6:44PM on 06/20/2017

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3:25PM on 06/20/2017
Wonder Woman being optimistic is refreshing, certainly, but that's not why it's *good.*
It's good because the story is coherent, it's edited well, it flows, the theme is tight, and the characters are all interesting and are given time to interact with one another in meaningful ways.
Should Superman be more optimistic? Yes, of course. However, he should also be in a movie that is competently made, and that hasn't been the case so far.
Wonder Woman being optimistic is refreshing, certainly, but that's not why it's *good.*
It's good because the story is coherent, it's edited well, it flows, the theme is tight, and the characters are all interesting and are given time to interact with one another in meaningful ways.
Should Superman be more optimistic? Yes, of course. However, he should also be in a movie that is competently made, and that hasn't been the case so far.
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2:46PM on 06/20/2017
For starters, the lesson learned from BvS should be "don't force 30 essential minutes of footage to be cut right before wide release". As for the hope-and-optimism line, okay, fine, lay off the deconstruction a little, but I wish this non-argument of the DCEU being all sadness and despair prior to Wonder Woman would go crawl in a hole and vanish. Becoming a symbol of hope was threaded through Man of Steel's entire runtime, and no amount of dime-story thinkpieces trying to paint the movie as
For starters, the lesson learned from BvS should be "don't force 30 essential minutes of footage to be cut right before wide release". As for the hope-and-optimism line, okay, fine, lay off the deconstruction a little, but I wish this non-argument of the DCEU being all sadness and despair prior to Wonder Woman would go crawl in a hole and vanish. Becoming a symbol of hope was threaded through Man of Steel's entire runtime, and no amount of dime-story thinkpieces trying to paint the movie as some mural of selfishness negates that. BvS's core theme was seeing the light through the darkness - the whole point of the third act was Clark realizing his petty self-doubt wasn't worth giving up the fight, followed by Bruce seeing how wrong he was all along and what that had just cost the world following Superman's death. The dialogue says it plainly: "Men are still good. We fight, we kill, we betray one another, but we can rebuild. We can do better. We will. We have to." Even Suicide Squad, for all the interference resulting in its wonky plot structure and schizophrenic tonal changes, saw a team of VILLAINS decide the world was worth saving and they had it in them to do it, no matter they were coerced in the first place, but that's the whole point; Waller believed in leverage, but loyalty got the job done. If that's not a hopeful message, I don't know what is.
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2:36PM on 06/20/2017
I think BvS is where I'm getting off the DCEU train. I loved MoS, and really liked BvS almost as much. Don't get the hate. But you can tell they tried to change the tone of SS way to late to mimic a Marvel movie and it failed. If one movie should've been dark, it's SS. Haven't seen WW, but if it's more like Marvel, I think I'm all set. I like Marvel for what they are and do, but I like the more dark, gritty, real feel to the first two DCEU movies. The characters felt humanly real. Like this is
I think BvS is where I'm getting off the DCEU train. I loved MoS, and really liked BvS almost as much. Don't get the hate. But you can tell they tried to change the tone of SS way to late to mimic a Marvel movie and it failed. If one movie should've been dark, it's SS. Haven't seen WW, but if it's more like Marvel, I think I'm all set. I like Marvel for what they are and do, but I like the more dark, gritty, real feel to the first two DCEU movies. The characters felt humanly real. Like this is how it would be if these people existed. There wouldn't be one liners thrown every 2 seconds.
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9:54AM on 06/21/2017
I don't think it's like Marvel. Maybe a little bit like The First Avenger, being a war movie, but it's actually a very self-contained film.
I don't think it's like Marvel. Maybe a little bit like The First Avenger, being a war movie, but it's actually a very self-contained film.
1:39PM on 06/20/2017
I think the fact that Wonder Woman took place in a historic setting offers up opportunities for the DCEU. Marvel plays in a basically linear fashion, but DC can go back to a time when Bruce Wayne had hope, if they want. I just read a great essay about how what Wonder Woman did, that the other movies didn't do, was play to the audience. We identify with characters like Steve and Sameer, the humans. While Snyder has focused on the godlike heroes and their struggle, independent of any potential
I think the fact that Wonder Woman took place in a historic setting offers up opportunities for the DCEU. Marvel plays in a basically linear fashion, but DC can go back to a time when Bruce Wayne had hope, if they want. I just read a great essay about how what Wonder Woman did, that the other movies didn't do, was play to the audience. We identify with characters like Steve and Sameer, the humans. While Snyder has focused on the godlike heroes and their struggle, independent of any potential human cost. That might work for Batman, because at his core he is a very exceptional human, but Superman has always needed humans to validate his superiority and necessity.
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1:37PM on 06/20/2017

So, the lesson was Suicide Squad had a story and narrative problem...

Maybe this should have been addressed up front at the script level. I personally despised Suicide Squad and I'm only luke warm on Wonder Woman. I'm trying to be optimistic that Joss Whedon will create a fun and exciting Justice League movie, but the amount of reshoots and edits are worrisome. I do think it worked for Rogue One though which surprised me. Hopefully, this will surprise me too.
Maybe this should have been addressed up front at the script level. I personally despised Suicide Squad and I'm only luke warm on Wonder Woman. I'm trying to be optimistic that Joss Whedon will create a fun and exciting Justice League movie, but the amount of reshoots and edits are worrisome. I do think it worked for Rogue One though which surprised me. Hopefully, this will surprise me too.
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1:11PM on 06/20/2017
I think the thing with Batman V Superman is not that it has a dark tone, but rather because it was an utterly depressing story with no actual emotional anchor. When its a movie about two superheroes colliding and we don't know who to root for because neither is likable enough for us to cheer, then it has a huge narrative problem. The movie couldn't decide whether it was telling a Superman story or a Batman story, and fall short on telling either.
I think the thing with Batman V Superman is not that it has a dark tone, but rather because it was an utterly depressing story with no actual emotional anchor. When its a movie about two superheroes colliding and we don't know who to root for because neither is likable enough for us to cheer, then it has a huge narrative problem. The movie couldn't decide whether it was telling a Superman story or a Batman story, and fall short on telling either.
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12:53PM on 06/20/2017
Wonder Woman is a great film and was a great step for DC going forward in terms of storytelling and establishing the future of the DCEU. But I like how each of the first four films feel different from one another and don't feel the need to repeat the same formula (like the Marvel films do on occasion).

I liked how Wonder Woman was more hopeful and optimistic, but it shouldn't be the same for every solo DC film going forward. I liked how Man of Steel, and Wonder Woman were similar in theme,
Wonder Woman is a great film and was a great step for DC going forward in terms of storytelling and establishing the future of the DCEU. But I like how each of the first four films feel different from one another and don't feel the need to repeat the same formula (like the Marvel films do on occasion).

I liked how Wonder Woman was more hopeful and optimistic, but it shouldn't be the same for every solo DC film going forward. I liked how Man of Steel, and Wonder Woman were similar in theme, but also enjoyed how Dawn of Justice was more dark, gritty, and depressing. It almost had the theme of 'it's going to get worse before it gets any better" in terms of the storyline. But since we are past all of that conflict, I would like to see more hopefulness and optimism going forward and it seems to be the case since Batman has now been inspired again by Superman's sacrifice and by the speech he gives at the end of Batman vs Superman.

All I'm saying is that DC shouldn't change their approach towards any of their films because organically they all feel different and all feel like their own thing without relying too much or having to foreshadow the events for the next DC film. I still want to see the conflict of these heroes while fighting and striving for a better world.
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12:45PM on 06/20/2017
I think Berg doesn't get why people didn't respond to BVS it wasn't that it was too dark because Dark Knight netted huge box office. It was that it was narratively confusing and a mishandling of it's source material along with a director who doesn't know how to direct actors. Glad they have a hit with Wonder Woman and hoping for the same improvements with Justice League.
I think Berg doesn't get why people didn't respond to BVS it wasn't that it was too dark because Dark Knight netted huge box office. It was that it was narratively confusing and a mishandling of it's source material along with a director who doesn't know how to direct actors. Glad they have a hit with Wonder Woman and hoping for the same improvements with Justice League.
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