What lies ahead for James Gunn’s DC Universe

Collage of DC Universe characters and James Gunn
Photo: Abir Hossain

Following the merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery, Inc. earlier this year, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) began to see an overhaul with James Gunn. The filmmaker, who was responsible for the critical and commercial success behind The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, was appointed as the co-CEO of DC Studios along with producer Peter Safran. The idea was to have Gunn do for DC what Kevin Feige did for Marvel – craft a successful cinematic universe for years to come. With the slew of cancellations and the recent exit of Henry Cavill as Superman, it seems as though a full reboot might be on its way.

A ground-up reboot of the DC Universe is not uncalled for. While 2013's Man of Steel was a decent starting point, subsequent films in the franchise failed to properly build upon that promise. Mismanagement coupled with a lack of proper direction led to poorly conceived films such as Batman v Superman and Justice League. They tried to rush a shared universe instead of crafting it slowly as Marvel did. Furthermore, the portrayal of characters like Superman and Batman was divisive at best, with director Zack Snyder failing to capture what these heroes truly seek to represent. While there have been other well-received films such as the first Wonder Woman and Shazam, the universe lacked cohesiveness and proper planning.

Fast-forward to the merger and the rebranding of DC Studios in 2022, the studio has made some drastic decisions. In the last few months, several projects have been subject to cancellations, such as Batgirl, Wonder Woman 3, and even a Batman Beyond film, along with rumours circulating the end of the Aquaman franchise. Black Adam's poor critical and financial reception ended any potential for sequels, despite hyping up the return of Henry Cavill's Superman. Recently, it was announced that Cavill will not be back full-time, as Gunn is working on a film based on a younger Clark Kent, which is to be the first in a new line of films. 

According to James Gunn, Superman will be one of the biggest priorities moving forward, with Batman and Wonder Woman also taking centre stage. He also stated the new slate of films will have a balanced focus on popular as well as niche characters. As of now, the only confirmed project is the young Superman movie, but a full list is expected to be announced in early 2023.

Although some fans are still on the fence about the recent news, a reboot is the right direction to go. Even with new films coming out next year, it is too late to attempt to salvage that universe and transform it into something worthwhile. A new start focusing on a younger version of these beloved heroes will make it easier for audiences to connect and follow. More importantly, there will be space for these characters to be better developed, unlike the old DCEU characters. 

In a way, it is poetic, as it mirrors how DC tends to reboot its mainline universe every few years in the comic books. Gunn's plan involves an interconnected world of films, shows and animated projects all under the DCU banner. What this means for the existing standalone DC projects like The Batman and shows like Superman and Lois or The Sandman is still unclear. Regardless, it is safe to say that DC fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. 

Sabil spends most of his time trying to stay as hopeful as possible. You can contact him at [email protected]