There’s been a palpable level of excitement in the air among comic book movie fans since October’s announcement that James Gunn — the architect of Marvel’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy series who’s also brought his irreverent touch to DC properties like The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker — was being named co-chairman of DC Studios alongside veteran producer Peter Safran.
Was DC finally, finally going to have a visionary in place (see Marvel’s longtime cap Kevin Feige) to create a cohesive roadmap for Warner Bros.’ wildly inconsistent superhero universe?
That’ll take years to know, but the Gunn honeymoon hit a rough patch Wednesday with some fierce fan backlash to a story from The Hollywood Reporter that claims DC is spiking a third Wonder Woman movie directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot. (Update: The Wrap reported Thursday that Jenkins left the project after refusing studio notes from Warner Bros. — not Gunn and Safran — on a treatment she turned in.)
The THR article also cited rumors that DC’s new brass could be officially closing the door on the Snyderverse, cancelling a long-rumored Man of Steel 2 (which would be all the more surprising considering Henry Cavill’s much-ballyhooed return to the role in Black Adam) and sunsetting the Jason Momoa-led Aquaman series after next December’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. It also questions whether DC will invite Dwayne Johnson back for more action in light of recent reports that Black Adam is struggling to break even.
Gunn responded to the report — and ostensibly the blowback — with a series of tweets on Thursday.
“So. As for the story yesterday in [The Hollywood Reporter], some of it is true, some of it is half-true, some of it is not true, [and] some of it we haven’t decided yet whether it’s true or not,” wrote Gunn, clearly attempting to calm the overzealous fans in his mentions, while clearly also not able to show much of his hand only weeks into his new tenure.
“Although this first month at DC has been fruitful, building the next ten years of story takes time and we’re still just beginning,” Gunn continued. “Peter [and] I chose to helm DC Studios knowing we were coming into a fractious environment, both in the stories being told [and] in the audience itself [and] there would be an unavoidable transitional period as we moved into telling a cohesive story across film, TV, animation, and gaming.
“But, in the end, the drawbacks of that transitional period were dwarfed by the creative possibilities [and] the opportunity to build upon what has worked in DC so far [and] to help rectify what has not. We know we are not going to make every single person happy every step of the way, but we can promise everything we do is done in the service of the STORY [and] in the service of the DC CHARACTERS we know you cherish and we have cherished our whole lives. As for more answers about the future of the DCU, I will sadly have to ask you to wait. We are giving these characters & the stories the time [and] attention they deserve [and] we ourselves still have a lot more questions to ask & answer.”
With their high-profile new posts, Gunn and Safran are certainly between the Rock and a hard place when it comes to a number of decisions they’ll have to make in the coming months and years.
Since the advent of what’s considered the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), there’s indeed been a lot that’s worked, and much more that hasn’t.
Four of the first five DCEU releases, Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016) and Justice League (2017), are generally considered super clunkers. But some of those, particularly the movies directed by Zack Snyder, still have a loyal and fierce following among the DC faithful. Never was that more evident than in the #ReleaseTheSynderCut social media campaign, which famously led to the release of the beloved filmmaker’s director’s cut, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, on HBO Max in 2021.
The only film among that first batch that was both a critical and commercial success was 2017’s Wonder Woman, though that groundbreaking hit was followed up with the far-less-well-received sequel Wonder Woman 1984 (2020).
The five other DCEU entries released since Justice League — Aquaman (2018), Shazam! (2019), Birds of Prey (2020), the Gunn-directed The Suicide Squad (2021) and Black Adam (2022) — have been a mixed big. Perhaps the studio’s biggest successes — 2019’s Oscar-winning Joker and March’s The Batman — exist, as of now, in their own separate universes.
Gunn and Safran will also have to govern the release of next June’s The Flash, which has been marred in controversy due a pattern of troubling behavior and arrests of its star Ezra Miller, not to mention some lingering anger over the shelving of the planned HBO Max film Batgirl.
So, yeah, these guys have their work cut out for them. But only time will tell truth from fiction.