I know it’s still early, but I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for having faith that James Gunn and Peter Safran knew what they were doing when they took over the entire DC Universe in October.
Earlier this week, they made their first of what I imagine will be a series of announcements, revealing the initial part of their master plan with the DCU, and in a wide-ranging conversation with journalists, they gave us Batman news, told us when to expect a new Superman movie, and spilled the beans on plenty of other fascinating projects spanning both film and television, which will cross over with each other and establish from scratch a brand new cinematic universe with a real continuity to it.
And, I, for one, am thrilled.
For starters, this is a real plan. It’s not a slapdash attempt to catch up to Marvel, nor is it putting everything in the hands of one filmmaker whose vision will dictate the content of what we’re seeing on screen. Gunn is a filmmaker, yes, but he’s not directing all of these projects, nor is he writing them all. He’s involved in some, and overseeing the rest alongside partner Safran, in what one would assume is a creatively similar role to Kevin Feige‘s within the MCU, and we all know how that has turned out.
Known as “Chapter 1: Gods and Monsters,” the full list of Gunn and Safran’s first slate of projects that will unfold over the next eight to 10 years can be found pretty much anywhere you look, though my editor Jeff Sneider had a good write-up about it from the front lines after muscling his way into the Q&A session. Thus, I don’t need to rehash everything here, and can instead spend my time talking about the things I heard that made me happy, though to be honest, all of it made me happy. Allow me to expound…
The first thing is something that Gunn said about the DCU as a whole, rather than a specific project in particular, though I’ll get into individual projects soon enough. Gunn had much to say about past DC regimes and their knack for assigning release dates to films far too early, forcing their filmmakers to rush, and resulting in story issues that impact the quality of the entire film. Well, hallelujah to the fact that Warner Bros. has allowed a writer to be in control of its major superhero properties because so much of the trouble with certain blockbusters that we’ve seen in recent years is a direct result of that condensed timetable. Instead of that illogical practice, which only set filmmakers up for failure, Gunn aims to have his creative ducks in a row and actually wait for everyone to be happy with a script’s third act before heading into production. What a concept!
Paying major attention and respect to the written word is, you know, the way it should be. That Gunn’s own Superman movie is what’s kicking the whole thing off in two-and-a-half years, based on a script that he’s finishing now, is a tremendous step in the right direction, one that will establish the basis for all things related to the DCU moving forward.
I’ll get back to Gunn’s Superman: Legacy in a moment, but first, a quick word about Matt Reeves, Robert Pattinson, and their sequel to The Batman, which will arrive in theaters in October 2025, a date I now eagerly await, as I’m sure you might have guessed. It’s the right move to keep Reeves’ Batman movies separate from the rest of the DCU and call it an “Elseworlds” story, as they do in the DC comics, as it allows for that trilogy to exist side by side with the ongoing DCU, along with other “Elseworlds” titles such as Todd Phillips‘ Joker: Folie a Deux, and J.J. Abrams and Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ Black Superman flick. That’s the thing about stuff like this — there’s no reason why they can’t co-exist. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that there is nothing wrong with having, say, two Batmans at once, as long as they don’t overlap. This plan allows for that, and I fully approve.
Now, to the plan. Gunn’s Superman movie, which he hasn’t committed to directing (yet), is exactly what Superman should be. Reconciling his human side with his Kryptonian one, existing as the embodiment of kindness — that’s a bullseye right there, one that puts to shame the previous version by the guy I won’t bother mentioning because you all know who I’m talking about. What an absolute crime that whole enterprise was.
Gunn and Safran are calling Superman: Legacy the foundation of their vision for the DC universe, off of which everything else can be built, and that works fine with me. When the MCU started things with Iron Man, it was a different time and the industry was in a different place. Setting out now with a brand new vision following a failed attempt at world-building, it makes sense for DC to start with the biggest, most powerful character in its arsenal.
Regarding Batman in this new universe, I love the idea of a new Batman and Robin pairing after that terrible Joel Schumacher movie in the ’90s — especially since this Robin is going to be Bruce Wayne’s assassin son, Damian. It’s a complete counterpoint to Reeves’ Batman, which is great in its own right. It also opens up the door to an appearance from Dick Grayson — the first-ever Robin — in his current incarnation of Nightwing, especially because Gunn and Safran have made it clear that, in this universe, superheroes have been around for a while.
The announcement of a movie about The Authority was absolutely stunning, as that lesser-known superteam has enormous potential, especially when you consider that their Superman and Batman doppelgängers — Apollo and Midnighter — are lovers. Same with the new takes on Supergirl and Swamp Thing. This is outside-the-box thinking here, and I believe it’s exactly what the DC properties need.
Speaking of which, a Green Lantern TV show that is entirely different from the one Greg Berlanti was developing is fantastic. Nothing against Berlanti, who is one of the most successful and prolific TV producers out there, but I always found that his take on superheroes tended toward the mainstream in a bland, network television sort of way, rather than one willing to take more chances. Gunn doesn’t have that problem, and the notion of him bringing in someone with a similar sensibility to resurrect one of my favorite characters is energizing, as Ryan Reynolds‘ abysmal Green Lantern movie shouldn’t define the property forever and always.
Characters like Booster Gold and the Creature Commandos are great concepts for TV, as well, especially with the latter being animated, and they also open up the world in a fascinating way. Once more for those in the back — this is not the MCU, and it’s not trying to be. It’s not about world-building. Gunn and Safran have informed us that the world is already built, they’re now just going to start showing us certain parts of it at a time. The fact that there is still room for Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman, the latter of whom returns for a second solo movie this Christmas, is great, even if we don’t know when or even if they’ll ever be back.
When Feige and his team started the MCU 15 years ago, they had a very vague idea about what they were going to do, but it was all contingent on Iron Man‘s success. If that movie had bombed, Ed Norton‘s Incredible Hulk movie is the only other Marvel film we definitely would have seen, as it hit theaters just six weeks later. If Iron Man had tanked, there would be no Thor, no Captain America, no Avengers, and so on. But with that first success, the MCU was born, and as it progressed, a more cohesive and expansive plan came into focus.
That’s not what is happening here. Gunn and Safran have the backing of a studio that owns the characters and sees the billions of dollars of upside, so they’re being given a lot of room to run, and with that freedom, they’re launching something big. Five movies and five TV shows, starting in 2025 (or maybe there will be one TV show in ’24, we’ll see…), with no major team-up movies being part of it is the opposite tack from the last attempt. There’s no Justice League and no Teen Titans, but there is an intriguing mix of marquee and esoteric characters in the mix, with the target being a cohesive and understandable cinematic universe featuring movies that both stand alone as well as connect to other installments.
It should comes as no surprise to you that I love this stuff. I spend thousands of dollars every year on comic books and I read them just about every day. While I love the MCU and am a fan of the Marvel heroes, I have always been partial to DC, especially Batman and his supporting characters, with Dick Grayson being a particular favorite. So it’s been remarkably frustrating over the last decade to watch helplessly as the DC reins were handed over to a filmmaker I loathe, with predictable results, and without a true Feige-esque visionary overseeing things at the studio level, it left everything DC-related in an agonizing and infuriating limbo.
Now, at long last, we have both clarity and a long-term vision, not to mention accountability. Before we’ve even seen a frame of footage, I feel confident saying that Gunn and Safran have gotten out to a very strong start. Their announcements this week have me genuinely excited about the future of DC on screen, and I honestly can’t remember a time when that was actually true.
In fact, I think that this is the first time. It feels pretty good, I don’t mind saying…
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.