Since taking over the creative direction at DC Studios, James Gunn is far more interactive with fans than most studio heads. He will debunk rumors, answer fan questions and make DC Universe casting announcements. However, James Gunn’s most important message about the new DCU and its canon actually focuses on what fans don’t know yet. It reminds audiences in this age of franchises and shared continuity they don’t always need all the answers.
The past four films based on DC Comics characters released by Warner Bros. disappointed at the box office. Overinflated production budgets aside, many theories abound about why Black Adam, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle and The Flash movie performed as they did. Naturally, some cry “fatigue” over superheroes, franchises or both. More likely, economic factors related to the cost of going to theaters versus streaming services encouraged fans to simply wait the two months (or fewer) until the movies could be watched at home. For a case in point, the fifth Indiana Jones movie is a streaming hit despite earning the lowest grosses in franchise history. However, in his comments to fans, James Gunn acknowledged audience “confusion” over the films and their place in the DCU canon as a possible reason even diehards aren’t showing up for the latest entries. Yet, from another point-of-view, this could be the most exciting time for DC movie fans since before The Man of Steel released.
James Gunn Reminded DC Fans It’s Okay to Not Know What’s Coming
Replying to a fan’s message on the new Threads app, Gunn confirmed the canon status of recent DC releases. Effectively, while some characters and actors will carry over into the new DC Universe, the specifics of their stories may not. The first release, the animated Creature Commandos series is “a sort of apéritif” to the shared universe DC characters will inhabit. The details will be canon, but Gunn implies the show’s focus will be narrow, perhaps limited to the characters’ direct experiences and references to heroes active in their world.
While the debut of Superman: Legacy got delayed due Warner Bros. Discovery and other studios forcing writers and actors to strike, the movie will still bring a “deeper dive” into that world. “I think it’s okay to be confused on what’s happening in the DCU, since no one has seen anything from the DCU yet,” he wrote. However, it feels fair to say that any confusion among DC fans has manifested itself as indifference, at least to the remaining films. This is perhaps fallout from the way Black Adam teased the return of Henry Cavill’s Superman, only to take that back weeks later.
James Gunn called Xolo Maridueña’s Jaime Reyes the first DCU character. His latest comments clarify he means exactly that. The events of that film, however, may or may not “be consistent” with Jaime’s DCU story. Gunn is doing his best to manage a situation that was neither his nor co-CEO Peter Safran’s fault. Studio mismanagement notwithstanding, Gunn is correct that fans should approach these films with curiosity and not suspicion because they don’t know how the “Gods and Monsters” slate of DC projects all fits together.
Audiences Get Impatient Too Quickly with the DC Universe or Other Big Sagas
It’s worth noting that audience reception of the remaining DCEU films hasn’t always been the norm. A little over four decades ago, it was a different landscape for a different franchise. When Star Wars released in 1977, Luke Skywalker asked Ben Kenobi to talk about “the clone wars,” and it took fans a quarter-century to find out what that was. Six years later, George Lucas introduced audiences to the Emperor. Only fans who read Alan Dean Foster’s novelization knew anything about his rise to power or even the name “Palpatine.” Many fans watched Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace without even realizing Darth Sidious and the Senator from Naboo were the same person.
These details used to be something audiences could daydream or discuss. Today, however, unanswered questions are immediately dubbed “plot holes” when they’re merely dangling story threads. This attitude is present in most long-running sagas, from newer ones like the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Star Trek, closing in on its 60th anniversary. With the DC Universe, however, the questions come with doubt, given the inability of Warner Bros. executives to craft a consistent shared continuity in its films over the past decade. Just through casting announcements, like Nathan Fillion as Guy Gardner’s Green Lantern, Gunn is revealing more than most in his position would. Yet, for some, the more answers they get, the more they feel they need to know.
Another notable example of this issue is the Ahsoka series on Disney+. The show featuring the titular heroine answers a huge question left open since the series finale of Star Wars Rebels five years earlier. Yet, they have far less patience for new questions, like returning villain Grand Admiral Thrawn’s endgame, for example. Gunn isn’t just keeping corporate secrets when he says it’s “okay to not know.” Accepting the possibility that stories ask questions they don’t immediately answer will help people enjoy the DCU and other sprawling sagas all the more.
Part of the Fun of James Gunn’s DCU Will Be Discovering the Canon
Franchise fandom has become a more contentious space in recent years, and the online DC Community is no exception. There is a toxic few who weaponize (and monetize) outrage over DC Studios’ change in direction. However, Warner Bros. has made it very easy for them to keep up the hustle. Despite their struggles, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, at least, deliver a consistent vision for audiences to accept or reject.
It’s not even been a year since Man of Steel 2 was announced and then canceled in less time than it takes for two issues of a Superman comic to be released. It’s not unreasonable for fans to lack confidence in the studio’s leadership, which is why they demand to know so much. James Gunn could reveal the “incredibly detailed” DCU world map, but it would diminish the experience of discovering the stories through movies, shows and other media. Perhaps the toughest job James Gunn has in creating the new DC Universe is to convince the audience that surprises in storytelling are good.
Creature Commandos is expected to debut on Max in 2024.
James Gunn recently clarified some things about the new DC Universe characters and its canon, but his most important message was about not knowing. Read More