James Gunn’s DC Studios Slate: New Superman, Batman Movies

James Gunn and Peter Safran know Warner Bros.’ The DC film and television franchise was a mess.

Despite a list of the world’s most famous superheroes – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – the comic book films have not lived up to their collective potential.

The producer-filmmaker duo on Monday shared the beginnings of their plan to restore order to what has been marked by controlled – if sometimes successful – chaos of late.

The hope is that their eight- to 10-year plan will get the mighty heroes’ storylines back on track and create an entity that can credibly compete with Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios in releasing two films and two series a year.

The DC roster includes films starring Superman, Supergirl, Batman, Robin, and Swamp Thing, as well as HBO Max streaming shows focused on the Green Lantern (or Lanterns) and Princess Diana’s (aka Wonder Woman) ancestral home.

Gunn and Safran, speaking to Hollywood industry press at Warner Bros. Burbank Studio Lot, described a vast and varied DC Universe, or DCU, that is more cohesive than the disparate tangle of projects that preceded it, yet still has room for independent ideas driven by filmmakers. The duo announced 10 DCU film and television projects.

“DC’s history is pretty messed up,” Gunn said. “They just gave away IP like they were party favors for any creators who smiled at them. And what we’re going to do is we promise that everything will be unified from our first project.”

The plan comes just months after Gunn and Safran were named co-chairmans and co-CEOs of DC Studios in October, giving them control of the comics franchise’s direction in film, television and animation. They were hired during a turbulent time for the studio following the WarnerMedia/Discovery merger, when David Zaslav, CEO of the combined company, cut costs and gave the film and television studio new corporate mandates.

Unlike the tightly controlled Marvel Multiverse at Disney, DC is fragmented into many parallel “universes” of film and television: Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse of CW television shows; the DC Extended Universe, largely based on filmmaker Zack Snyder’s vision and style; Todd Phillips’ Martin Scorsese, aping “Joker”; and Matt Reeves’ noir-ish The Batman. Sometimes they worked, and sometimes, as in the case of Justice League, which replaced Snyder with Joss Whedon, the results were disastrous.

Warner Bros. Discovery is betting that the combined and complementary talents of Gunn and Safran can make DC an indomitable force in entertainment. Gunn, best known as the director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, previously directed The Suicide Squad, an irreverent R-rated adventure about a team of supervillains for DC and Warner Bros. Safran, a Producer and talent manager who has worked with Gunn for years, solidified his franchise building with the “Conjuring” universe of horror films.

Gunn expressed respect for Marvel and its boss, Kevin Feige, while emphasizing that its DC Universe would be different, both in spirit and in execution. “A lot of people think this is going to be Marvel 2.0. It’s not,” Gunn said.

The first phase of DC’s film and television strategy begins with the animated series Creature Commandos and the live-action spin-off Suicide Squad Waller, starring Viola Davis, who reprises her role from the films. DC bills its first “chapter” of stories as “gods and monsters.”

On the movie side, their strategy begins on July 11, 2025 with the planned release of Superman: Legacy, written by Gunn, which will be the first solo live action film about Clark Kent/Kal-El in July since 2013’s Man of steel”.

Upcoming titles include The Authority, about a team of superheroes who take matters into their own hands; The Brave and the Bold, which introduces a new Batman to the DCU, plus sidekick Robin (the character Damian Wayne) and a father-son storyline; “Supergirl: The Woman of Tomorrow”; and Swamp Thing, which will be darker than the other DCU films.

HBO Max shows include Lanterns, featuring the Hal Jordan and John Stewart versions of the Green Lantern; “Paradise Lost,” a Game of Thrones-style look at the politics of the all-female Themyscira society before Diana; and “Booster Gold”, another character from the comics.

There will still be room for movies that exist outside of the main DC franchise, like Joker and The Batman. In fact, Reeves has opened the studio “The Batman – Part II” planned for October 3, 2025. However, these titles will exist under their own banner – DC Elseworlds.

“The bar will be very high for projects outside of the DCU,” Safran said. “But every once in a while there will be something that lives up to that.”

Gunn and Safran’s makeover has hurt some Hollywood egos. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins posted a lengthy note on social media after the studio turned down her pitch for the third installment. Black Adam star Dwayne Johnson fought hard for a sequel to his anti-hero passion project after a mediocre return at the box office but failed to get the green light.

Henry Cavill had announced his triumphant return to the DC movies after making a cameo as Superman in Black Adam, only to learn the role would be recast.

“First of all, we didn’t fire Henry,” Gunn said. “Henry was never cast. Henry was in a cameo. … Many people made assumptions that were not necessarily true.”

Gunn added: “I like Henry. He’s a great guy. I think he’s been pushed around by a lot of people, you know, including previous regimes. … But that Superman isn’t Henry for a number of reasons.”

Filmmakers also felt the bottom shift among themselves when the studio shelved a nearly-completed $90 million film Batgirl, slated for HBO Max, as part of the company’s new strategy that sees expensive direct-stream movies as a financial bonanza refused.

Safran defended that controversial decision that preceded his and Gunn’s arrival. “I’ve seen the film – and there are a lot of incredibly talented people in front of and behind the camera on this film – but this film wasn’t releasable,” he said.

Before DC takes on its new form, the studio has several films slated for release that are remnants of the old regime, including Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.

Gunn and Safran said that despite the semi-reboot, there’s no reason some of the actors in the previous casts — Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Zachary Levi (Shazam) — couldn’t return. However, the new franchises will mostly feature new stars in key roles.

Of great interest is The Flash, starring Ezra Miller, who has gotten into legal trouble with multiple arrests. Miller, who uses she/them pronouns, this month pleaded guilty to one charge of unlawful trespassing in Vermont. They were sentenced to pay a $500 fine and a court fee, and were placed on probation for one year.

“Ezra is fully committed to her recovery and we are fully supportive of the path she is on right now,” Safran said.

Gunn pointed to the thousands of people who worked hard to make “The Flash” involved in its release and not just one actor. “These people have spent the last few years of their lives creating something really special,” he said.

“The Flash” is out in June and stars an actress, Sasha Calle, in the role of Supergirl. Could this person play the same character in the upcoming Supergirl movie?

“We’ll find out,” Gunn said.

Tracy Brown, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2023-01-31/dc-warner-bros-presentation-boctatman-superman-james-gunn James Gunn’s DC Studios Slate: New Superman, Batman Movies

Sarah Ridley

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