James Gunn and Peter Safran are taking over the DC Universe. Named Co-CEOs by parent company Warner Bros. Discovery’s own CEO, David Zaslav, the two are intended to be DC’s version of the MCU’s Kevin Feige.
The DC Extended Universe has had a lot of issues over the years. The generally poor reviews of their films have left DC trailing Marvel. However, DC’s superheroes are just as popular among comic fans. Frankly, some are the most well-known superheroes in existence. With the right person directing the story’s visions, DC could absolutely become a blockbuster machine on its own.
When Discovery merged with Warner Bros. Entertainment to create Warner Bros. Discovery, issues just kept coming. Zaslav searched for a Kevin Feige-like figure to head the DCEU. In the meantime, he axed loved series like Young Justice and completely wiped Batgirl from the servers even though it was already done.
Industry insiders cast doubt on Zaslav’s ability to find that figurehead. There’s also a looming potential merger with NBCUniversal. Clearly, Gunn and Safran have their work cut out for them.
Undoubtedly, James Gunn is a name that all superhero fans know now. Let’s look at his past work and what he might do for the DC Universe!
James Gunn’s Marvelous WorkJames Gunn established himself as a bona fide superhero director with the high-risk and high-reward Guardians of the Galaxy. The 2014 film was based on a little-known franchise. Two of the main five characters were a tree and a talking raccoon, keep in mind.
Plus, the story was the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to not be rooted in an Earth-based story. Hence, people wondered: would anyone care about saving a world that isn’t our own?
The answer, fortunately, was an emphatic yes.
Not only is Vol. 1 one of the best-reviewed films in the entire MCU, but it established the cosmic stakes relevant to Endgame. In addition, it did this while telling a satisfying story all on its own. Rocket Raccoon and Groot? They’re now household names and beloved characters.
Gunn returned to direct 2017’s Vol 2 (2017) and the upcoming Vol 3. We now know that Vol 3. hits theaters in 2023. He also worked as an executive producer and dialogue writer for Avengers: Infinity War and, of course, Endgame.
The Search For The DCEU’s Kevin FeigeFor anyone who might worry about James Gunn leaving Marvel, fear not! Apparently, there’s no bad blood between the two parties. In fact, there’s a lot of goodwill. Gunn stated that the first person he told about the opportunity was none other than Kevin Feige.
Not only do I love Kevin, he was the 1st person I told after I did the deal with DC (@JohnCena was the 2nd). Contrary to popular belief, a dollar less for Marvel is not a dollar more for DC. DC & Marvel have the common goal of keeping the theater-going experience vibrant & alive!
Feige himself commented that he can’t wait to see what Gunn does with DC. For Gunn’s part, again, his tweet makes a great point. The rivalry between DC and Marvel is better off as a friendly one. No one’s gonna complain about having more good stories, or more good superhero content!
(Well, some might. Let’s leave them to their misery.)
James Gunn & Peter SafranHowever, James Gunn has worked for DC before, too! After a brief controversy over some (admittedly quite bad) tweets, Disney fired Gunn from Guardians. In the end, though, they rehired Gunn after a fairly sincere apology and support from the stars of his films.
During this time, though, DC hired Gunn. He directed 2021’s The Suicide Squad, which became one of the DCEU’s best-received films. Peter Safran, Gunn’s now Co-CEO, actually co-produced The Suicide Squad alongside Gunn.
By all accounts, Safran is well-versed in the corporate side of movie-making. It can’t be all idealism and fun concepts when millions and even billions of dollars are on the line, after all. Someone’s gotta be able to manage things, and Safran looks like a great guy for this job.
Given the abuse accusations leveled at previous DC directors by big-name stars like Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher, and given the burned bridges with directors and fans after wiping completed films like Batgirl, Safran and Gunn seem like wise choices to handle the future of the DC Universe.
Well, as mentioned above, stars who’ve worked under James Gunn have nothing but praise for him. Gunn himself has shown maturity in growing out of past flawed mindsets (as shown in the tweet debacle). Safran appears to be well-respected in the industry, too.
The DCEU needs likable directors and producers to earn trust. Fan trust, and the trust of actors and directors in the industry who won’t want to see their hard work erased without warning.
Where Will James Gunn Take The DC Universe?With all that in mind, where does the DC Universe go from here?
To start with, James Gunn and Safran plan to map out the next eight to ten years. No big deal, right? Just a decade. Yet thinking so far ahead has been one of Feige’s own greatest strengths. Safran himself commented:
This was such a unique opportunity to tell one great overarching story… One beautiful big story across film, television gaming, live-action, and animation.
From this, it looks like the DCEU will tell its own overarching story just like the MCU…but including gaming and animation, too! Presumably, also like the MCU, much of its content will work well as standalone features, with Easter eggs for us nerds.
Gunn’s experience as a producer for the two climactic Avengers films no doubt gives him the chops to handle this kind of story. Plus, his movies tend to have a zany and fun tone, but without sacrificing heart, deeper themes, and character development.
This tone is perfect for DC’s comics. It also contrasts with the trying-too-hard humor of 2016’s Suicide Squad and the joyless heaviness of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Current Projects & PossibilitiesWonder Woman 3 is currently in development. 2016’s Wonder Woman is also one of the DCEU’s best-received films, and the studio vows Diana will continue to be a priority. While the sequel, Wonder Woman 2, was horrible…many feel Gunn being part of the DCEU will prevent another debacle like this from happening again.
Aquaman and Black Adam also have sequels underway. Shazam, The Flash, and Blue Beetle have movies set to hit theaters in 2023. Not only that, but Henry Cavill agreed to return to the franchise as Superman once again. In fact, he’s leaving Netflix’s The Witcher to do so.
Plus, movies like The Joker and 2022’s The Batman will be under the DC Universe’s creative control. The Batman, which starred Robert Pattinson, delighted fans and critics alike. However, neither movie was part of the DC Universe proper.
Still, it’s not impossible that one or both of these franchises might cross over with the DCEU at some point. After all, Marvel recently thrilled everyone with Spider-Man: No Way Home featuring three iterations of Spider-Man!
We’ll have to see whether Gunn and Safran can muster the magic for DCEU success. However, it feels like, for the first time in a long time, the DCEU may be in good hands. All we can say is, thank Zeus for that!