A lot of information has been trickling out about the future of Warner Bros.’ DC comics film franchise—not least of which is the fresh news that WB C.E.O. Kevin Tsujihara is resigning in disgrace, following a report about some scandalous text messages. But long before Tsujihara’s controversy, Warner Bros. had already started to pivot its comic book movies away from the dark and dreary ethos that characterized the Zack Snyder era of films, including Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. With James Gunn essentially rebooting Suicide Squad before returning to his Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the purported rivalry between Marvel and DC may finally be put to rest. In other words, from the outside, it certainly seems as though DC has seen that it can’t beat the fun, brightly colored vibe of Marvel Studios—and has decided to join it instead.
For a time there, the DC Extended Universe, or DCEU, endeavored to create a kind of counter-programming to the warm-hearted antics of the Avengers. At the world premiere of Suicide Squad, in 2016, director David Ayer shouted “Fuck Marvel!” His film—though profitable and even Oscar-winning—was roasted by critics and ridiculed by moviegoers, to the point where Gunn is now reportedly rebooting the franchise. That’s a bit confusing, given that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is set to appear in at least one (if not several) new DCEU movies. But Forbes reports that Robbie may not appear in the next Suicide Squad at all; that, plus Idris Elba reportedly taking over Will Smith’s role as Deadshot means the Gunn version of this comic book Skwad may have nothing at all to do with Ayer’s gritty, gruesome take.
A lighter, zippier Gunn film would also be in keeping with the current trajectory of the DCEU, where Jason Momoa’s stand-alone Aquaman was hailed as bonkers good fun and turned into one of the studio’s most profitable efforts. Early word on Zachary Levi’s Shazam! is that this Big-esque take on a superhero origin story is ever more light-hearted. And even Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman—which arguably kicked off the studio’s profitable turn toward warm, Marvel-esque entertainment—will get a kitschier sequel in which the horrors of WWI will be replaced by the pastels of the 1980s with comedian Kristen Wiig in the villain role.
The two leading men of the Snyder era, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, have (probably) already left the franchise for good. But above all else, DC seems determined to bury the hatchet in the comic book wars. Suicide Squad producer Peter Safran told JoBlo.com:
What I love about James directing for both Marvel and DC is he has
always espoused the view that that which unites comic book and
superhero lovers is much greater than that which divides us. Because,
there’s always been this Marvel/DC rivalry, which he has said, and I
agree, is absurd. There’s room for everybody and certainly that which
unites us all is far greater than that which divides us, so hopefully
they’ll see that you can be both a Marvel and a DC fan and the world
won’t spin off its axis.
Gunn has, indeed, been banging this drum for a while now. Even Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige told Vanity Fair that he sees DC’s success as helping, not hurting, the MCU. The average filmgoer—who might not know Captain Marvel from Mar-Vell—may not be keeping score as to which studio produced the comic book movie they loved or hated. So, as Feige predicted, Wonder Woman’s success may have just meant more movie lovers would line up for Brie Larson’s debut in Captain Marvel. (And they did.)
But not everyone is thrilled with DC’s new direction. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ezra Miller—who has been attached to star in a Flash standalone movie for years now—is displeased with the latest, light-hearted version of a script written by Game Night and Spider-Man: Homecoming comedy duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Miller, it seems, would prefer to pursue a version that hews closer to the DCEU he signed up for under the stewardship of Zack Snyder, and has partnered with comic writer Grant Morrison to write his own darker take on the Scarlet Speedster.
Miller has also reportedly nearly run out his holding deal on the film—which means that if this script doesn’t come together, his part could be re-cast entirely. With the studio so determined to have a new start and Miller still clinging to the DCEU of old, some fresh blood might be the best course of action after all.