Couch Soup Reactions: James Gunn’s DCEU

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| February 26, 2023

It’s no secret that DC has been playing catch-up with Marvel since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the enormous successes of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, their films have been solid but nothing special. Movies like Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman were stylish and fun but lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. It was missing something that Marvel had, a vision for the future of all their properties.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League was supposed to be their ultimate team-up, their version of The Avengers. But it was a soulless romp with no heart. You can blame Joss Whedon (who took over during filming due to a tragedy in Snyder’s life) all you want, but the build to the film was lacking. The visuals were excellent, but the substance was not, only marginally improved by releasing the Snyder Cut.

In the years that followed, DC’s mainline films have become even worse, Black Adam being a particularly low point. Only movies that weren’t in the unified vision had anything to shout about, like The Batman or Joker.

Or TV like Peacemaker.

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad spinoff has heart and combines comedy with action in a way that is different from Marvel. He’s made a program that I am excited to watch and had me yearning for more. So when it was announced that Gunn was appointed co-chairperson of DC Films (along with David Zaslav) on 1st November 2022, I was optimistic.

Last month, James Gunn announced the formation of the DC Extended Universe and his vision for Chapter One: Gods and Monsters. This was announced alongside many new projects, movies, television, and animation. Here at Couchsoup, our contributors have been reacting to the news!

Iain

This has got to be better than the Ryan Reynolds movie, right?

I’ve been a big fan of James Gunn since I watched Slither around fifteen years ago. His special way of mixing action and humor resonates with me. Guardians of the Galaxy had no right to be as good as it was. It was a Marvel property that was relatively unknown but is now one of their hottest. That’s because of Gunn.

However, I am slightly concerned about the direction that he’s taking DC.

The MCU works stylistically because it’s allowed to be cheesy and, sometimes, very predictable. It’s a machine, churning out box office hit after box office hit. Does this work for a DC fanbase that expects a darker, grittier universe? I’m not so sure. Joker and The Batman were critical successes, but if you started adding heroes like Booster Gold into the mix, it doesn’t work. I don’t think the hardcore DC fans are going to like the humorous, slightly silly direction. We’ve already seen them rally against Birds of Prey and both of the Suicide Squad films.

I’m also concerned about the chapter title, “Gods and Monsters.” In the superhero genre, villains make or break the movie. A nuanced, complex, yet ultimately dangerous villain is more interesting than a one-note antagonist wanting to take over or destroy the world. That’s been my main complaint with DC in recent years. Max Lord, Steppenwolf, Doomsday, and Ares have all fallen into this trap. It’s what I call SVS (Sh*t Villain Syndrome).

But in Gunn, we trust. Until he loses it.

MSG

Is that a Weasel I see? Love that guy!

When it comes to taking comic properties and giving them a fresh look, James Gunn works best with teams. We’re all aware of how ensemble casts are his strength. The animated Creature Commando series is going to show off that strength. Should he decide to direct the Superman: Legacy film that he is currently writing, that will test his true standard setting for his new cinematic DCU. If what takes place in Superman is the catalyst for the rest of what’s to come in the first chapter of films, it’s a lot of pressure from fans, critics, and especially Warner Bros.

Personally, I think he’s going to do a good job. He tells a good story, knows how to mix drama and comedy in a balanced effort, and certainly knows how to give protagonists their big hero moments. The Zach Snyder films were divisive. I just hope the new films will not do what JJ Abrams did with The Rise of Skywalker and change things just for fandom satisfaction and take the safe options. We need superhero movies, at this point in their nearly 30 years’ worth of films, that move past tropes and expectations. Let’s hope he can provide more substance than flash but still big enough for the tone of a phase of films dubbed “Gods and Monsters.”

Ben

Game of Thrones on Themyscira sounds like a blast!

I feel like Gunn works well with meta-commentary. He shines with an ensemble cast. Therefore I worry that his handling of iconic juggernauts like Superman and Wonder Woman won’t work well. He’ll need to maintain the character’s stoic and larger-than-life presence. They’re so entrenched in the DC universe I doubt deviation from the authorial pressure the characters exude will attract viewers.

Paradise Lost particularly feels so estranged from Gunn’s style that I worry. 

Without a doubt, the strongest addition to the slate is Booster Gold. A carefree, happy-go-lucky type. Seeing how Star Lord was portrayed successfully as a wannabe space cowboy, Booster couldn’t ask for a better caretaker, in my opinion.

Lanterns will hopefully be decent. I haven’t seen good use of the Green Lantern property in the media, well, ever, to be honest. Using Hal Jordan and Jon Stewart at least inspires confidence.

Waller will be good. The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker show Gunn is firmly in control of the Suicide Squad characters. I have faith in it.

The new Batman movies have me flipping a coin. Damian Wayne is an odd but good choice, as it almost certainly will bring Ra’s Al Ghul into the mix. I wonder if Liam Neeson will return?

I’m excited for sure, but it’s wary excitement. Two steps forward and one step back depends on how far back the step is.

Josh

Booster Gold!

Yo, Josh here. So Zack Snyder is out the door? Good riddance, don’t let the door hit you in the rear! Look, it’s no secret that I was never a fan of the Snyderverse. You can see my points in; “CAN WE PLEASE DITCH THE SNYDER-VERSE FOR A BUDDY COP SUPERHERO FILM?

As a comic fan that leans more toward DC, you will never see me hype for a DC movie. I learned my lesson with the 2011 Green Lantern. With James Gunn taking control of the DC properties, I’ll be less pessimistic about the upcoming lineup.

I’ve always felt that most directors/writers (mostly you, Zack) never understood how to adapt a comic book to the silver screen. Sure, he knocked it out of the park with 300 with its darkness and grittiness. Unfortunately, it does not work for all superhero films.

One of the biggest strengths that James Gunn has in his belt is making memorable characters in every movie, no matter how big or small the role. If we look at the 2016 Suicide Squad vs Gunn’s 2021 Suicide Squad, which had the more memorable group of misfits? If you said 2016, never talk to me because it’s also saying you liked Jared Leto as Joker.

During Gunn’s announcement, Booster Gold piqued my interest. I’ve been a fan of that character over the last few years, especially with Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis. Gunn should be able to flesh out a character known for looking for ways to build a brand rather than being a humble hero. 

Louie

Damian Wayne’s Robin is an interesting fella

I’ve always said that Snyder is an incredible cinematographer but shit writer. He never truly seemed to grasp the concept of what makes comic characters so rich and well-received. I welcome him with open arms into the nerdom but politely ask that he step away from the captain’s deck. 

That being said, much like Jon Favreau, James Gunn has an incredible grasp on the fundamentals of comic characters. He has this weird but welcomed affinity for the characters that others either forgot about or haven’t heard of before. And he has a bombast unlike any other that definitely makes him stand out. I was excited to hear about his appointed position in the DC film world. 

As for his announcements… I am very much excited. More than anything, I am interested to see how they will completely take this property in a new direction from point A. I may not agree with all of the decisions made (neither Superman NOR Geralt now!?!?!?!?), but I am anxious to see them not play the game of “look how much faster we can get the super friends going than Marvel” and instead are aiming to take it slow and tell stories that DESERVE to be told and not NEEDED to be told (to make their universe happen tomorrow).

Y’know… like they should’ve done from the start.

So here are our reactions. What about yours?

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4 comments on “Couch Soup Reactions: James Gunn’s DCEU”

  1. With everything that has happened with some of the actors and all. And the fact they want to go forward in the DCEU with those actors. Has baffled me. (They are ruining the return of one of the greatest Batmans ever too…)

    And the stories they want to tell this time… It’s insane.

    I definitely am not looking forward to any of the new movies, aside from “maybe” Lobo.

  2. I think the DCU missed the boat here. The superhero genre is already starting to wain. If you look at the underwhelming performance and reviews for Black Adam (with the usually bankable Rock), Ant-Man Quantumania, Eternals, and the easily forgotten Marvel Streaming shows. I think the message is clear… the well for new ideas and stories is dry in this genre and people are kinda tired of the same special effects-laden super hero movie. I think Gunn is a good choice to lead the DCU in a consistent story and unified universe I just think he’s destined to fail since these movies are going to make less and less over time. While the big practical effect-driven films like Mission Impossible, Top Gun, and James Bond will become more and more the way to get butts in seats. Then there is Avatar, redefining expectations as well, on a level with which no one can compete really.

    1. I still think there’s room for Superhero content but it cannot be generic, forgettable stuff. I think that it’s easy for MCU and DC to just use a “this worked before” formula that I think is getting a bit tiresome. I mean, I like the Fast and Furious franchise (they’re ridiculous and I don’t care) but if there were 3 films a year and tie-in series, I think I’d overdose. Give me something a bit wacky in the same universe or a bit dark in the same universe rather than 3 copies of the same story structure with little or no surprises, I’d be done

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