So it’s been roughly six weeks since James Gunn and Peter Safran took over the DCU at Warner Bros., but to hear the rabid fanboys screaming about it, you’d think it had been years. Why? Because they want answers, they want them now, and they want those answers to be satisfactory to whatever fever dream of a comic book adaptation they might have in mind, or else there will be hell to pay.
How do I know this? Because I am one of those comic book guys who very badly wants my beloved DC characters to finally get the onscreen treatment that the Marvel ones have been getting these last 14 years, and I wouldn’t mind some answers, either. The difference is, I just happen to understand a little something about how the business works, and that Gunn and Safran have to be given some time to get their act together before we start throwing any stones their way.
Thus, rather than joining in on that screaming and yelling, I will instead quote an athlete who I do not actually like, but who happened to say something smart this one time, a few years ago.
When Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers heard fans freaking out about the team losing its first couple games of the season, he responded by saying fans should, “R-E-L-A-X,” because the team would be fine in the long run. Which, eventually, it was, proving that the adage of a broken clock being right twice a day can be analogous to a boorish pro athlete who takes himself way too seriously dropping a pearl of wisdom every so often.
It’s an apt metaphor, though, in this case, because that is exactly what the DC fanboys need to do. Take a chill pill. Calm down. R-E-L-A-X. Because the thing of it is — and they’re not going to like this but it’s true — Gunn and Safran owe them exactly nothing. They were hired to do a job, and now the fanboys have to sit back and actually, you know, let them do it.
One of the things that amused me about how people reacted to the news of change coming to the DCU was the Zack Snyder Fan Club once again rising up and demanding that the reins of the franchise be handed back to their lord and savior, which even the most optimistic and delusional of them has to know is not ever happening. As in never, ever, ever happening. It didn’t stop them from yelling and screaming, of course, but that’s really all we can expect from them until Rebel Moon finally shows up and they have something new to dissect and discuss while the rest of us roll our eyes. But I digress.
Gunn’s skills with social media are considerable, and he’s already using them to try to defuse the inevitable uproars that come with this kind of gig (though he doesn’t need to respond to every report). Still, the fact that he made it crystal clear that what he and Safran are planning definitely won’t please everybody made me stand up and cheer. Good for him. Lay down the law now. James Gunn is not trying to please everyone because he’s smart enough to know that such an effort is a sucker’s game. He and Safran were hired to do a job because they understand the assignment, and they are going to do it their way, having received the creative license to do so.
Of course, this infuriates the entitled fanboys who think they should have approval over whatever plan Gunn and Safran conceive, not realizing that their opinions are meaningless. Gunn knows they’ll still show up if the product is good, and say what you want about Gunn, but his product tends to be pretty good.
Don’t believe me about the fanboys? Okay, how about a reminder that, just a few years ago, they went absolutely bananas about what a terrible decision it was that Robert Pattinson had been cast as Batman in Matt Reeves’ reboot of the franchise? Don’t remember that? Because it happened. And that turned out pretty well, didn’t it?
But that’s something these guys conveniently forget, just as they’ll do when the first batch of films greenlit by Gunn starts to roll out. I’m not going to be so bold as to guarantee success, but I’ll take Gunn’s track record so far as reason enough to bet on his vision for the DCU, and bet big.
Gunn himself is doing it right, too, because he’s using those social media skills to engage the audience and let them know that there is, in fact, a plan, and that Superman is a part of it, as are bigger ideas. His tweeting out an image from the famed Kingdom Come comic story was tantalizing, even if that’s not the story he plans to tell right away. Whether or not Superman is played by Henry Cavill — and I happen to think he’ll be back, regardless of what you’ve read in the press so far — is sort of beside the point, because in Gunn, you have someone who clearly understands the character — something Snyder never did, which Cavill himself seemed to acknowledge in his own recent social media posts.
The hullabaloo about Patty Jenkins walking away from Wonder Woman 3 briefly blew back on Gunn/Safran before a report emerged that it happened before they could even weigh in on her pitch for the new movie, but either way, whether she refused to take notes and walked away or was fired, her departure is still a win for them. Let’s not forget that, as successful as the first movie was, it had serious third-act problems, and the sequel was genuinely awful. You can’t tell me that, with so many female directors thriving at the moment, directing all kinds of films in different genres, there isn’t a better fit for the next installment than Jenkins. No way. In fact, I’d bet that you’ll have filmmakers lining up to take a shot at getting that character back on track, whether she’s played by Gal Gadot or recast with a new actress.
I don’t know what Gunn should do there, as Gadot didn’t write the dreadful script for WW84, and people seem to like her in the role, but whatever he decides, I’m confident that he knows how to salvage that character, and he and Safran will deserve a lot of credit if they pull it off, just as Kevin Feige gets an enormous amount of credit for his stewardship of the MCU.
Why do I have such faith in Gunn? Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is that Gunn is, himself, a fan. Just as Reeves was the first director of a Batman movie who actually read Batman comic books as a kid, so is Gunn that kind of comic book geek who understands the characters and respects their histories. Feige’s success came about because he was a deep and genuine fan of Marvel Comics. Well, that’s Gunn and DC, which he proved with The Suicide Squad, at least to me. It wasn’t a classic or anything, but it was definitely fun, and it had plenty of veracity. I watched that movie and felt like the guy telling the story wasn’t just a hired gun who was given some interesting characters to play with and a lot of money, but a guy who had an abiding reverence for those characters. Same with his downright glorious Peacemaker follow-up, which proved to me without a doubt that Gunn gets it.
A lot of the guys yelling at him? They don’t.
There is always going to be a small but irritatingly vocal minority of know-it-all jerks who believe that they know better than anyone else how these stories should be told. What they fail to realize, or perhaps they know it but are too deep into denial to recognize it, is that if they were capable of doing that, they would be doing it. But they’re not.
Gunn and Safran, however, have earned the right to take their shot, and not only are they going to have a lot of running room to take it, but there’s nothing anyone can do to change that. And keep in mind that they still have to release a handful of films that were greenlit by the prior regime, and they can’t afford to make those movies lame ducks by giving away too much of their master plan in the press. So until those first DCU movies come off the new assembly line, everyone else should take Rodgers’ advice and R-E-L-A-X.
And while they’re at it, they should just S-H-U-T U-P. Anything else is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for more than 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.