Superman Legacy

James Gunn’s Plan For The DCU Seems Overly Ambitious & Messy At Best

What will be James Gunn's DC Legacy?

It’s been a long and troubled road for the DCEU ever since its inception in 2013, with plenty of ups and downs occurring over the last decade across numerous films. For the longest time, Warner Brothers have been trying to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for their own roster of heroes with the DC Extended Universe but the franchise was met with hurdles every step of the way.

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Whether it was a family tragedy, behind-the-scenes drama, entirely separate cuts of movies, or one of your lead stars having a very public and very troubling meltdown, DC’s Extended Universe has amounted to little more than a failed experiment. Dwayne Johnson’s ego-fueled passion project Black Adam was supposed to be the franchise’s savior but it ended up being the final nail in the coffin after barely scraping by at the box office and earning a poor critical reception.

One of the major criticisms of DC was the lack of leadership and direction that was being provided at Marvel Studios by its Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige. It’s a problem that’s plagued DC for nearly a decade, but the entertainment world was turned upside-down last year when it was announced that James Gunn would be spearheading a new era of storytelling for DC alongside producer Peter Safran.

Gunn is beloved by comic book movie fans for his Guardians of The Galaxy trilogy which takes place in the MCU. The director first left his mark on DC with 2021’s The Suicide Squad which led into the spin-off series Peacemaker, arguably considered to be the strongest project to come out of the DCEU.

james gunn, the suicide squad, peacemaker
Image Source: DC Comics

Placing him at the forefront of DC going forward largely appeased the always vocal fan base on Twitter but the mood soon soured when it was revealed that the new regime at DC would be bringing about big changes. Chief among them was the abrupt end to Henry Cavill’s time as Superman despite recently returning in Black Adam’s mid-credit tease.

There’s a consensus that Cavill never really got a fair shake at the role and it looks like he never will. It seems likely that Ben Affleck’s take on Batman is also well and truly over and the future of some key cast members like Gal Gadot and Zachary Levi is uncertain at best.

These sweeping changes made it clear that James Gunn has a very distinct vision for what’s now being called the DCU. The head of the newly created DC Studios has been fairly transparent about his vision for characters like Superman and has been regularly responding to the backlash and outcry to the changes on social media. He delivered on his promise of a partial slate reveal for the first stage of DC’s new ongoing storyline and it’s… interesting?

The first chapter of the DCU is titled ‘Gods and Monsters‘ and features a new Superman movie, a True Detective-inspired take on the Green Lantern Corps, and animated spin-off shows. It’s worth noting that this is only a partial reveal and that more projects will surely be announced over the years, but it’s a fairly lackluster stream of projects for what’s supposed to be a new beginning for DC.

The two biggest projects on the slate are the new Superman and Batman movies. Superman: Legacy is based on Grant Morrison’s acclaimed All-Star Superman series and will feature a screenplay written by Gunn, who is also likely to direct. The new take on the Man of Steel will focus on his younger years while balancing his Kryptonian heritage with his human responsibilities and life.

The Brave and The Bold will see the Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin, team up in live action for the first time in over 20 years. The film is based on the Son of Batman storyline and will introduce Damien Wayne as Robin. It’s important to note that this film is entirely separate from the story being told in Matt Reeves’ Bat-Verse. The Batman: Part Two will now carry an Elseworlds branding to separate it from the DCU’s continuity.

It’s a logical move to put two of DC’s heavy hitters at the forefront of this new era but the rest of the slate comes off as a little scatterbrained. Viola Davis will be returning as Amanda Waller in a self-titled spin-off series and Wonder Woman’s home of Themyscira will be explored in its own show, Paradise Lost. Lesser-known heroes in DC will also be leading the charge for Gunn’s vision for the new DCU with TV shows set to focus on Booster Gold, and the Creature Commandos.

Both Gunn and Safran have made it clear that DC’s Trinity – comprised of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman – will have an active role in the early days of the DCU but will largely serve to prop up new characters. It’s a risky strategy to sideline some of DCs biggest names in favor of some of DC’s more eccentric and unknown characters.

However, if the goal is to remove any and all connections to the DCEU and establish DCU as its own thing then this slate reveal does just that. In fairness to Gunn, it’s important to note that he is a genuine fan and has built up a reputation for taking lesser-known characters and producing quality content that transforms them into household names. The Guardians of the Galaxy roster were far from the superstars they are now prior to their MCU debut in 2014.

While there’s zero doubt in his abilities as a writer, his habit of putting the spotlight on the underdogs was probably not what DC’s fans were expecting. The key aspect of the DCU, though, is its approach to storytelling. The franchise is set to focus on one massive arc – although it’s not clear what it’s building to – that will be told across film, TV, animation, and games. But is this the right strategy to take?

Marvel adopted this approach in Phase Four which kicked off the Multiverse Saga and it hasn’t exactly worked out. At one time, Marvel could do virtually no wrong in the eyes of moviegoers but their latest slate of movies and TV shows has received extensive criticism for its quantity over quality approach.

It’s also made the MCU increasingly inaccessible and with a new show or movie being released sometimes weeks apart, keeping up with the overarching storyline has become a chore with many hoping for a return to the more streamlined approach of theatrical releases that made up the Infinity Saga. Following the scathing feedback from fans, Marvel has allegedly decided to pump the breaks on Phase Five by delaying or outright canceling projects that were in development to return to a quality-over-quantity approach.

Ultimately, Marvel and DC are competitors. It would be expected for DC to take note of the recent criticisms of the MCU and offer an alternative. Instead, Gunn is set to take the approach in Phase Four to a new level for DC’s first chapter. It honestly all seems a bit too, well, like comic books.

An event in DC and Marvel comics can be teased for months and sometimes years in their numerous titles across their entire line. It’s a huge commitment for the reader which sometimes they can gladly undertake but will that approach work for the casual viewer or cinema-goer? We’ve already seen that it doesn’t.

Throwing games into the mix is another level of commitment that fans may simply not be willing to make. Remember, EVERYTHING is canon. Gunn has been very vague about what his actual plans are for gaming in the DCU but has made it clear that they will tie into the overarching plot.

It comes off as a red flag. What will the scope of the games be? Will these be AAA titles or will they be indies that are thrown on online stores? Paying 70 dollars for a game to keep up with the story is a considerable investment compared to buying a movie ticket.

What’s more concerning is the idea that these games will be released in between shows and movies. It comes across as wishful thinking. Game development, especially for a high-quality title can take years and will make it very difficult to fit into the timeline of releases being planned by DC.

Gunn’s plans for gaming in the DCU give a lot of us Vietnam-style flashbacks to the days of old with cheaply produced and soulless movie tie-in games. Remember Sega’s early attempts at adapting the Phase One MCU movies? If you’ve blocked it out, it’s probably for the best. They weren’t great.

Of all the moving parts of the DCU, gaming seems the least thought out and it would be surprising if it factors into chapter one at all. To avoid a significant step backward for superhero games, Gunn and Safran will need to have a long think about the stories that best fit the medium, the development teams best suited to each title, and if it will truly fit into the overarching vision for the franchise. It’s not a job that anyone would envy.

Superman Legacy
Image Source: DC Comics

It’s still a while away before the DCU officially kicks off with Superman: Legacy in 2025 and it’s likely that Gunn will continue to keep some cards close to his chest while drip-feeding information to fans on Twitter. It’ll likely be around Comic-Con that we get a full reveal of the DCU’s first slate and more details about what to expect, who are attached to the franchise, and more about the overall story and arc.

While Gunn’s plans seem a little messy, his passion for these characters and the world of DC is clear as day. His plans may not work out, but he’s making an honest attempt to steer a much-maligned and troubled franchise with years of baggage in the right direction. In some ways, he’s the bravest man in Hollywood right now.

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Bobby Houston
Bobby is a games journalist with two years of experience and a former freelance news writer for Twinfinite. He covered all things gaming for Twinfinite from July 2022 until March 2023. After spending some time writing news for smaller sites and getting his journalism qualification Bobby joined the team at Twinfinite. He is largely known for his love of Like A Dragon and is usually considered the default Spider-Man fanboy wherever he goes.