Warner Bros. is Building a 'Director-Driven' Superhero Universe, Says Nightwing Director

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Most news that comes out about the DC Extended Universe on film makes it sound a bit more messy than the relatively tidy and intricate Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to the Chris McKay, that might be the result of Warner Bros. focusing on something unique in the world of superhero movies. The directors.


McKay, who’s slated to direct the in-development Nightwing movie for Warner Bros, suggested as much in a recent interview with Metro. “Warner Bros. is a more director-driven studio,” he said. “Period. The end. More than any other studio you’re ever going to work at. Just look at the roster of world class filmmakers that have worked at Warner Bros and made it their home. Warner Bros is a director-driven studio, and that’s exactly how they are operating these movies.”

He went on to say that this approach is epitomized by Patty Jenkins’s work on Wonder Woman, and that “these movies are not trying to follow the Marvel model, they’re trying to do their own thing with filmmakers that they like, and produce things that are wholly original and wholly unique.” 

There’s something to this idea, and it might help explain some of the tumult in the DC film world. While internal voices like Geoff Johns are working to guide and create a coherent shared universe, there seems to be a lot more elasticity with these films in terms of style and tone than is really ever allowed in the MCU. Thinking about it, I have a little trouble imagining Suicide Squad taking place in the same world as Wonder Woman, and not just because one was a better film. This shared world, and the values in it, seems to stretch and contrast based on who drives it. Snyder’s vision, which dominated the films up until recently, was far more cynical and deconstructionist, while Jenkins imagines a Wonder Woman who brings a welcome idealism into her surroundings.

If McKay is right, then we can expect the DC films to continue to walk a variety of stylistic paths going forward. And it’s nice to hear, amidst a lot of talk about uncertain character futures and directorial shifts, that at least one creator seems happy with Warner Bros.


io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.



Sure, Disney/Marvel is about the universe first and the director second, but that doesn’t mean that the director has no input on anything. The Guardians of the Galaxy films are clearly from James Gunn’s vision. Thor: Ragnarok appears to take a lot of inspiration from Taika Waititi. Heck, even the Russo Brothers have their own style of filmmaking for The Winter Soldier and Civil War. The tones of all these films are completely different.

Where WB/DC is different from Disney/Marvel, I think, is that they are allowing their directors to go against the grain of the entire universe. So if they have a chance to get Martin Scorsese as a producer? Boom, make a film not in the DCEU. But if a director doesn’t have that clout? They still have to obey what the WB wants — hell, Patty Jenkins said herself that she had to fight to include the “No Man’s Land” scene. Does that sound like the movie was director-driven?