DC is a mess and it has been for a long time, especially cinematically. The problem is, as we and you our dear readers have noticed, at the studio level, they have lacked a clear and consistent vision of what a DC cinematic universe should be. The neverending bureaucracy of corporate mergers and new management hasn’t helped.
But, we are in the Warner Bros. Discovery era under the leadership of David Zaslav, and by gum, they are going to get it right this time. He will do what everyone before him failed to do, though things aren’t looking good. WBD is losing money hand over fist like its predecessors, but baby steps, I guess.
Captain Zaslav fears naught for he has a secret weapon – a hired Gunn, if you will. James Gunn now leads DC Studios with Peter Safran and they are boldly starting over with their slate. Similar to life under Diane Nelson in 2016, how much of it is concretely locked in remains to be seen.
There is some doubt about the final form it will take, thanks mainly to Gunn’s mutable narrative and past remarks getting him in trouble. Still, Superman: Legacy is meant to be where his grand experiment starts. Maybe the ship will start turning around at that point or maybe after. But between a string of flops and an unclear plan, consumer confidence wavers.
Legacy’s casting is showing signs of becoming the same kind of bloated mess WB has been churning out year after year to diminishing results. It’s possible that introducing characters such as Metamorpho and Guy Gardner will move the needle, and Gunn will craft a cohesive universe on the first try. Stranger things have happened, but there’s reason to be skeptical.
No one outside his circle has seen into Gunn’s mind to get a peek at his road map. However, we have a clue where he could be headed. What the DCU might look like has been right under our noses this whole time, and some people were happy with the way it smelled. I’m talking about… PEACEMAKER.
The HBO Max series written and directed by Gunn was popular and became the new best thing ever to several viewers. In our book, though, (and mine personally) it was a dud. Trodding the same ground as The Suicide Squad and a myriad of other Gunn movies, it was as derivative as these things get.
More to the point, it was everything fed-up fandom hates about modern Hollywood. Its story couldn’t be told without incorporating elements such as racism, white supremacy, DEI, environmentalism, and Internet conspiracies. Gunn made an attempt at comedy and melodrama to bring it all together, but he leaned into hard-R territory and brewed an off-putting freak show.
Unable to help himself, Gunn had to reinvent Peacemaker to his liking which meant uprooting him from his Charlton past, and borrowing as loosely from Paul Kupperberg as possible – basically, less than the bare minimum. Hence, he told John Cena not to worry about doing any homework on Mr. Smith. They were doing their own thing. Never mind this was Peacemaker’s first major adaptation.
Most people will think of the character as a silly-billy joke at best, and at worst, a pitiful trainwreck of a human being. This version is the standard in the comics now, by the way, in case you haven’t seen or read them. For those who have, John Cena’s Peacemaker is the depiction they know. Hopefully, they dig for those back issues.
Cena did his best with what he was given, but it’s sad when he was willing to do his homework only to be stymied by Gunn out the gate. If he had the chance to do a deep dive and get to know the character – say, the way Hugh Jackman did when playing Wolverine – imagine the kind of Peacemaker Cena could have been.
I can picture David Corenswet receiving similar marching orders while filming Legacy and the result being the same. Sure, Peacemaker, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Ego the Living Planet, The High Evolutionary, and F-tier villains who comprise Task Force X aren’t Superman; but we don’t know where Gunn will draw the line with creative license. Worse, we don’t even know if he has a line.
Peacemaker, and to a lesser extent The Suicide Squad, provides evidence that James Gunn’s script for Superman: Legacy might serve him and “The Message” more than it does the Man of Steel and his actual legacy. Gunn could surprise us but remember he is the guy overcome with Stendhal Syndrome at the sight of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Wonder Woman.
Conversely, he expressed dissatisfaction with Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s universally exalted takes on Batman and The Joker. Such a contrast with public opinion would only come from Bizarro World. Or it would be a consequence of The Flash breaking another timeline if we were talking about a storyline. We aren’t. We’re talking about someone handling the next story.
Maybe there is still hope for the DCU, but I can’t help but think of Razorfist whose wisdom applies all too well. DC and WB are going woke as they also go broke until they finally… Well, you probably know the rest.