It’s officially official. After shepherding Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, fan-favorite filmmaker James Gunn is now Team DC, as he has been tapped to pen the screenplay (and possibly direct? we don’t know yet) Suicide Squad 2. In what can best be described as a strange chain of events (at worst, a cruel twist of fate) the indie director turned zeitgeist influencer has joined the opposition, after an infamous and controversial firing at the House of Mouse. While fans pleaded for Disney’s reconsideration of dispatching one of their best talents, it appears that the Guardians will indeed have to trudge on without the Godfather of the franchise (whether with Dave Bautista or without).
While this entire saga is more than eventful, none of it is really unexpected. At least not all that has unfolded since Disney Studio chairman Alan Horn made the hasty decision to can Gunn amid a firestorm of negative press following the resurfacing of inappropriate and lewd tweets made by Gunn many moons ago. Reportedly, Horn later reconsidered the decision in response to the backlash of the firing, only to double down and decidedly close the book on Gunn’s run in the MCU. The minute that Gunn was a free agent, for all intents and purposes, it was expected that another studio would come knocking on his door to request that he take over one of their franchises. In fact, in this writer’s opinion, it was imperative that Warner Bros., in particular, should come knocking the door down with a sledgehammer. Both of Gunn’s Guardians films were huge moneymakers while being adored by critics and audiences alike. That type of trifecta is extremely valuable, and a coup for DC.
You see, amidst all the chatter on Twitter about whether Gunn should have been fired, or if Disney simply caved to a group of right-wing extremists with a targeted agenda, the backdrop of this story continues to be the evisceration that Disney has enacted on the box office record books. This year alone, they’ve released 3 billion dollar hits, two of which are Marvel films. Both Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War have far exceeded the box office totals of any DCEU film to date, a cinematic universe that has yet to yield a billion-dollar winner of their own. Warner Bros. is an extremely profitable studio, without question, but they find themselves fighting for market space against a behemoth that houses Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and soon the entire film library of Fox Studios. It’s only going to get harder for WB to compete, and one crucial component in their arsenal is the fledgling DC brand.
In defense of Warner Bros., they have made constant efforts to respond to the negative reactions of films such as BVS: Needlessly Long Title and Justice League. This has led to a complete talent overhaul. I’ve long felt that one of the issues ailing WB has been the over-reliance on certain talents. While Zack Snyder and David Goyer are certainly accomplished and have had their share of hits, their voice and vision may have grown too stale while playing in the same sandbox. It’s time for some fresh ideas and fresh blood.
While fans are familiar with James Gunn, his take on the DC universe could jolt some life into the studio. Of course, the overhaul doesn’t stop there as Cathy Yan is currently working on a Birds of Prey film starring Margot Robbie. Ava DuVernay will herald The New Gods. And then there’s Todd Phillips’ Joker movie which, if I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure what the hell is going on there, but the set photos we have seen are interesting and at times exciting. And that’s without even mentioning Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984. The secret sauce of the MCU has always been the overwhelming talent they’ve had in front and behind the camera, and this infusion of talent at Warner Bros. creates excitement and hope. No, I don’t believe there’s a definitive long-term plan in play here, but there doesn’t need to be. Instead of giving us MCU-Lite, the DCEU should just try to give us the best movies possible and fans will be appreciative.
In addition, all of the sins of the past films will be forgiven, which makes the marriage between Gun and WB fascinating. Here we have two parties that need each other as both are in desperate need of a redemption story. Gunn was publicly embarrassed due to the firing at Disney. And while he has repeatedly apologized for his past immaturity, and vowed that he’s a changed man, only the passage of time will truly determine that. Gunn gets a second chance to be the blockbuster filmmaker that his talent has earned, and hopefully, he’ll continue to show what a great human being he has become. Meanwhile, the DCEU nets a reliable talent who knows how to wow audiences visually while sending them home emotionally satisfied. It’s a perfect pairing in terms of fit and circumstance. So let’s look forward to all of the great movies that this pairing could create, and hope that the controversy has been put to bed for good.