Back in 2012, as Marvel was reeving up for its next phase in — at the time its new and expanding cinematic universe — DC was preparing for its launch.
A year out from what would become ground zero for the Snyderverse—a term dedicated to Zack Snyder, the artist of choice to lead this new franchise—“Man of Steel” would bring Superman back to the big screen.
The story would fail to fly as high as its titular character, disturbing viewers with its grittier take on the famed wonder boy. Despite the critics, DC saw this rough edge as an opportunity to separate from the kid-friendly commerce over at Marvel. They will move forward with Snyder’s vision in the ensuing “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Labeled as one of the worst superhero movies of all time, it was the studio’s commitment to distinction that would be its downfall.
After a botched attempt at a “Justice League” movie, with directors swapping out mid-production due to a death in Snyder’s family, the studio had lost its continuity. Proceeding projects like “Birds of Prey,” “Shazam,” and “Aquaman” would provide novel superhero stories, but with only a tinge of connection amongst the sprawling cannon. Lacking a sense of direction, a full-stop reset on the franchise became the only answer. But who would take the creative lead for a brand layered in cinematic turmoil?
DC would find its future through the very beast it hoped to conquer, pulling artistic talent from the bowels of Marvel. James Gunn, the director behind the “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, was appointed co-CEO of DC Studios alongside Peter Safran last October, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
In a move that has since been upheld by a revised timeline for upcoming DC projects, Gunn’s commitment to the DC material has been nothing short of vivid. Following the same trend that Snyder founded over 10 years ago, Gunn himself will direct the franchise’s first project, “Superman: Legacy,” a film that already seems to be moving with intent.
According to Deadline, Gunn’s “Legacy” is beginning its pre-production, with separate sources slating physical production to start at the beginning of 2024. Quick to bring audiences his new spin on the pop culture icon, this speed is even more surprising given the director’s upcoming release of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3”, his third and final installment in the Gunn-oriented trilogy.
With a release date set for May 5, the film’s stakes are higher than ever in light of Gunn’s new position at DC and Marvel’s lackluster performance in recent years. Having favored quantity over well-needed quality, Marvel’s expansion into television has been added atop an already booked film rollout.
Subpar reviews for “Moon Knight” and “Ms. Marvel” coincide with a drop on the studio’s movie front, as “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” became one of the worst-reviewed stories in all of MCU history.
As the Guardians have served as the comedic evangelists of Marvel Entertainment, Gunn’s stories have been defined by their focus on family, specifically one found by chance. However, this is an ironic parallel to his relationship with Marvel, as the company would fire him in July 2018 due to offensive tweets, as reported by Deadline.
Bringing him back into the fold only a year later to conclude his trilogy with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3,” Marvel’s creative relationship with Gunn looks to be at an end. The director stated on Deadline’s Hero Nation Podcast that this will be the current lineup’s last iteration on screen.
In closing his doors to the business that promoted his talent, Gunn’s separation from Marvel will be defined by his addition to DC. Now wielding the creative authority to not only make a Superman movie but an entire franchise, the burden of appeasing a distorted fandom lies in his hands.
DC fans still reeling from the ringer that Snyder put them through can look to “Superman: Legacy” as the first showing of what lies ahead for the franchise. Set to release on July 11, 2025, Gunn’s time until then will be committed to one ideal alone: the expansion of a universe rife with material and characters that have never quite gotten the justice they deserve.
Source Photo: AP and Alex Ross/Twitter
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