James Gunn and Peter Safran Lay Out Their Vision for the Future of DCU
Feb 4, 2023
When James Gunn and Peter Safran became co-heads of DC Studios, their arrival set everything over at DC in flux. After struggling to lay the groundwork for a successful cinematic universe with the DCEU, Gunn and Safran’s new position promised to breathe new life into DC Studios. However, that also meant that they had to do a reset on many of the characters and storylines already established in Zach Snyder’s Snyderverse.
Henry Cavill was not recast as Superman, the future of Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains unclear, and Ben Affleck is out as Batman. Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam was confirmed not to return to the DCU, and the future of Shazam is unknown beyond the sequel being released in March. At a press event, Gunn and Safran laid out their plan for the future of DCU to put minds and hearts at ease.
The First Chapter of the DCU Will Be Called “Gods and Monsters”
Pulling from the formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which grouped its first three Phases together to form The Infinity Saga, Gunn and Safran announced that the first chapter of the DCU will be called “Gods and Monsters”. Safran assured that there would be flexibility, saying, “Many of the following projects are already being worked on, but we’re remaining flexible, and we’re going to adjust because we’re never going to put a project into production before the script is right.”
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Emphasizing a turn away from the good guy vs bad guy narrative, Gunn said that while the universe is full of “almost saintly people” like Superman and terrible villains like Gorilla Grodd or Joker, there are people in between on that spectrum. “There’s all these shades of grey of these different types of character, which allows us to tell more complex storytelling,” said Gunn. With a plethora of characters to choose from, plus Gunn’s penchant for picking up more obscure characters in comics canon, it’s likely that these different types of characters will come from all corners of the DC universe.
The DCU Will Remain a Multiverse With Elseworlds
One of the things that people feared when the new DCU was announced was that it meant films like Todd Phillips’ Joker or Matt Reeves’ The Batman would also be on the chopping block. However, both Safran and Gunn reassured that the DCU is an established multiverse. Safran said:
“We’re going to be focusing on one universe from that multiverse. And if something isn’t DCU, we’re gonna make that very clear. So strictly adult fare like Todd Phillips’ Joker, or, you know, kids animation like Teen Titans Go, we’re gonna make it very clear that those are DC Elseworlds just the same way that we’re doing in the comic books.”
Gunn added that while they are following certain aspects of the Marvel format, the DCU would not be a carbon copy. With experience in both Marvel and DC, Gunn pointed out the key differences between the two franchises. He said:
“[O]ne of the reasons why I love DC is it really is another universe. It’s an alternate world. In Marvel, generally, it’s, you know, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and then everyplace else in the world is a fictional universe for some reason. Here at DCU, we have Metropolis and Gotham and Themyscira, and Atlantis, and all of that is another fictional universe. And this is the world that we’re creating, we’re coming into a world where superheroes exist and have existed for some time, in one form or another.”
Unlike the MCU, which launched with Iron Man as its official first superhero, the DCU has less work to do in that department. On top of that, the DCU has the benefit of learning from its predecessors. Gunn cites not only Marvel, but also Star Wars and Game of Thrones as inspiration for the planning of the DCU’s next chapter. “[W}e’re a lot more planned out than Marvel from the beginning because we’ve gotten a group of writers together to work that story out completely,” Gunn said. There is a central huge story, but stories will also occur in different places and times with characters that are “a little bit more morally complex.”
Image via Warner Bros.
Two Chapters Are Already in the Works For the DCU But Nothing Is Not Set in StoneRe-emphasizing flexibility, Safran and Gunn explained that while there is a general timeline for release set in place, the priority is making sure the story comes out right. On flexibility, Gunn said:
“That’s a really important thing. Because I’ve been around making studio movies now for over 20 years, and the thing that I’ve seen, the biggest change between the past and today is that – and the reason why I think movies in general are not as good as they used to be – is because too many movies get set into a date, and then they’re made no matter what. Then you have movies where they don’t have a third act, and they’re already shooting, hoping that somehow they’re going to work it out, even though they didn’t get it worked out through three years of script. So, we want to really elevate writers, again, make writers as important as they are, and become architects of this story.”
With a commitment to the process of elevating writers and putting the story first set in place, Gunn confirmed that two chapters (the first being “God and Monsters”) were already mapped out, saying, “The eight to ten year plan is two chapters, and there’s an ending to our basic story that we tell there, but it’s not the ending of the universe.”
The Lanterns Series Will Turn Lanterns Into Space Detectives
Safran and Gunn also announced The Lanterns, a series that will launch on HBO Max. The series will star both Hal Jordan and John Stewart as Green Lanterns and, according to Safran, be “more of a True Detective-type mystery. With our two Lanterns — terrestrial based mystery.”
Gunn added that the series will lead into the overall story of the DCU, with Hal and John finding an “Ancient Horror on Earth,” turning the two of them into “super cops on precinct Earth,” said Gunn. While they did not have more to add about The Lanterns, Safran explained that the overarching story will “weave back and forth between the films and the television shows” much like Gunn’s DC series Peacemaker interlinked stories with The Suicide Squad.
Find out more about everything DC announced today, from a new Superman movie to The Brave and the Bold.
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