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10 Changes James Gunn Needs To Make To The DCEU

CBR 11/24/2022 Sean Migalla
© Provided by CBR

Many DC fans were excited to learn that James Gunn would be taking over as co-CEO of DC Studios along with producer Peter Safran. Gunn has proven himself a capable director of superhero films and TV shows, and a lot of fans hope that he can create a strong cohesive vision for DC.

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The DCEU, which Gunn has already rebranded as the DCU, has had a lot of issues so far. There are certain changes that Gunn can make that would likely help DC get back on course now that he's in charge. These would hopefully help establish a strong identity for the new DCU.

Decide Which Movies Are And Aren't Connected

Though there are claims that Man of Steel was always meant to kick off the DCEU, fans wouldn't know it from watching the initial movie. Apart from a couple of Easter Egg references to other DC properties, there wasn't any indication that it was the start of a shared universe.

As the DCEU continued from Man of Steel, it seemed to almost be retrofitted to fit into the established grim tone, resulting in a movie where Batman mows down criminals with machine guns. It would make sense for James Gunn to decide ahead of time which DC movies will connect with one another. This would allow directors like Todd Phillips to continue making unconnected Joker movies without forcing other movies to conform to their tone.

Allow Directors More Creative Freedom

Studio mandates and interference with superhero movies aren't exclusively a DC problem, but they definitely had an impact on some earlier DCEU entries. One of the best examples is when David Ayer's Suicide Squad was given to a trailer house for the final edit and the original tone of the movie was completely changed.

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In contrast, James Gunn was allowed a huge level of creative liberty when he directed The Suicide Squad, which turned out to be a much more cohesive movie in the end. As a director himself, James Gunn hopefully tries to act as a middleman between Warner Brothers Discovery and DC movie directors to ensure their movies aren't ruined by poor executive decisions.

Give Batman And Superman A Rest

There are a lot of awesome DC superheroes, but movie-going audiences might not know that. Batman has appeared in 12 live-action movies, and Superman has appeared in 8. While things have started to go in a different direction, it might be time for DC to put their two biggest characters on the back burner.

Iron Man proved that B-list heroes could become a lot more popular if they starred in a good movie. DC should consider doing something similar with some of their characters, instead of giving audiences yet another Batman or Superman film. James Gunn is talented at making obscure characters into fan favorites, so he could likely pitch some movies for lesser-known heroes and keep the DCU from feeling stale.

Stop Chasing Marvel

The Marvel Cinematic Universe did a great job slowly growing into the media juggernaut it is today, and the DCEU may have benefited from taking some lessons from Marvel's success. However, DC seemed more interested in trying to catch up to Marvel rather than actually building a cinematic universe. This led to a rushed team-up in the form of Justice League with a group of unestablished characters.

As the new architect of the DCU, James Gunn would do well to create a solid identity for the franchise. Whether it takes some pages out of Marvel's book or not, DC needs to focus on itself as opposed to trying to chase trends.

Gunn Should Share His List Of Toxic People In Hollywood

In a recent interview, James Gunn revealed that he keeps a list of actors in Hollywood that he won't work with due to their attitudes. While one man's perspective is not the be-all-end-all of how an actor should be perceived, DC would be smart to incorporate a similar vetting process before casting actors for big roles.

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Ezra Miller's recent controversy ahead of their first solo outing as the Flash has put DC and Warner Brothers Discovery in an awkward position where they will likely have to find a new Flash going forward. Having to recast a major character can ruin the sense of cohesion between films in a shared universe. If DC can take a page out of Gunn's book and make sure their actors are good to work with ahead of time, they could help avoid some controversy.

Look Forward, Not Back

After all the petitions and endless tweets about the "Snyder cut" of Justice League, WB finally allowed Zack Snyder to finish his version of the film. After a long wait, it proved to be what most people assumed it would be; a slightly better version of a bad movie from four years previous.

If DC wants to make successful movies, it needs to stop kowtowing to a minority of vocal fans pining over what could have been and focus on making new movies. Hopefully, James Gunn understands this and shoots down any notions of an Ayer cut of the disastrous Suicide Squad movie from 2016 and focuses instead on the future of the DCU.

Embrace Comic Book Weirdness

One great part about the comic book movies James Gunn has directed is that they embrace the stranger aspects of the source material. Instead of cynically lamp-shading the sillier elements of the universe, Gunn gets viewers to have genuine feelings for a talking raccoon or living tree.

When Marvel movies make jokes like Sam Wilson making fun of T'Challa for "[dressing] like a cat," it makes it seem like the filmmakers are insecure about the kind of movie they're making. DC could differentiate itself by taking Gunn's lead and making good movies that just happen to take place in a fantastical setting.

Give Audiences A Clear Understanding Of The Universe

DC super fans likely already know which movies are connected to the DCEU and which are standalone films like Joker or The Batman. That being said, the average audience member might not be able to keep up with which films are and which aren't part of the shared universe.

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It would make sense for James Gunn and his team to work on creating an easy-to-understand method for telling which DC movies will connect to others and which won't. Maybe slapping an official DCU logo on certain films while using a separate one for standalone movies would be a quick solution to this issue.

Embrace More Mature Subject Matter

One of the ways DC films have differentiated themselves from Marvel is their willingness to tackle complicated subjects. James Gunn's DC projects have been a great example of this, tackling U.S. imperialism in The Suicide Squad and the impact that a parent's beliefs can have on a child in Peacemaker.

With the exception of the Black Panther films, Marvel has seemed pretty averse to addressing complicated issues. The DCU doesn't have to strictly tell complex stories, and there's still a place for fun films like Shazam!, but by also including more mature subjects, DC can capture a new audience.

Shut Down Rumors Of A Marvel Crossover

Since James Gunn has worked with both DC and Marvel, there have been some rumors swirling that a crossover between both companies may be in the works. If Gunn wants to course correct and create a strong DCU, he should probably avoid jumping on the Marvel train right now.

Fans have been pretty lukewarm on Marvel's Phase 4 projects, and it seems like the oft-mentioned Marvel fatigue is finally setting in. This would be a great moment for DC to step in and gain some popularity by presenting fresh projects. If DC crossed over with Marvel, they could give up their chance to establish a strong identity for their own universe.

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