Thursday, February 2, 2023

A New World of Gods and Monsters

The details of the first stage of the James Gunn era of DC Films are now known with this week's announcement shedding some light on Gunn's and his co-DC Films CEO Peter Safran's plans for giving the DCU a new focus, dubbing this initial chapter as "Gods and Monsters." While the exact details of the underlying, unifying narrative are unknown, we do now know what movies and TV shows we can expect when this new era kicks off in July of 2025 with the Gunn scripted Superman: Legacy

As a DC fan, my initial impression towards yesterday's announcements is very favorable. Mostly I'm just glad to see that Superman is spearheading this new era. If Gunn can bring Superman back to the screen successfully, in a way that truly honors and understands the character (like not letting him murder an opponent with his bare hands), I think the rest of his DC plans will easily come together. Superman is the linchpin of the DC Universe. Getting him right and putting him at the center of the DCU is the only way to have a solid foundation to build on. 

My main nerdy hope with Superman: Legacy - outside of wanting them to finally go deeper into Superman's rogues gallery and give those over used standbys Luthor and Zod a rest - is that I'd love to finally see Metropolis brought to life the way it should be. Metropolis should be as stylized a city as Gotham is. I imagine Tim Burton would have gone this route had he done his proposed '90s Superman movie with Nicholas Cage but that never came to be, obviously, and every Metropolis that's been on film has just been NYC or Chicago rather than the gleaming City of Tomorrow that it ideally should be. I will say I am prepared to be disappointed on this front, it won't be a deal breaker for me if it doesn't happen, but just the same here's hoping that Gunn plans to make the Metropolis skyline a unique and distinctive one. 


My secondary nerd concern is whether or not Superman will wear trunks. I know debating whether a character should be wearing their underwear over their clothes is ripe for ridicule but hey, these things do matter. For whatever reason, Batman can ditch his trunks and it's totally fine but Superman's suit never looks right without them. It's a costume so iconic that if you screw with it too much it doesn't look classic any more and above all Superman has got to look classic. In the same way you wouldn't want to mess with the design of a Coca-Cola can, because everyone knows exactly what it's supposed to look like, from the logo down to the specific shade of red, I say it's best to keep Superman looking as traditional as possible. 


Moving from Metropolis to Gotham, it's reassuring to hear that Matt Reeves' Batman films will be operating independently of the main DCU. I was worried that they might try and fold those films into the main continuity, which I think would have been disastrous, so it's great to know that won't be an issue. Additionally, I love that we'll be getting a Brave and the Bold movie that will bring in a new Batman for the main DCU as well as introduce the broader Bat-family. And being based on Grant Morrison's Batman run, it's going to have a very different, much more overtly comic book-y, flavor than we've seen in live action till now and it'll be the first time we'll have an actually fun Batman film since the Schumacher days. As a Batman fan who laments that the character has been stuck in one groove since Batman Begins in 2005, I welcome the change of pace and the long awaited introduction of some real variety for the character. 

My one and only actual nerd nitpick among all of the new announcements is how they're using the Elseworlds banner to label stuff like Reeves' Batman and Todd Philips' Joker movies. In the comics, Elseworlds typically referred to stories that had one pivotal difference (such as "What if Superman's rocket had landed in the Soviet Union rather than Kansas?") that altered the stories that we know. In contrast, Reeves' Batman and Philips' Joker movies are just straight up multiverse tales. But I suppose the thought must have been that "multiverse" is a term that has become so associated with Marvel (ironic given that in the comics the multiverse was always a DC thing) that they didn't want to have any branding tied to it. They'll still refer to "the multiverse," sure, but in terms of marketing, having a label bearing a word that's so associated with the competition probably seemed like a bad move while "Elseworlds" is a copyrighted, DC-specific term that was right there. 

It's no big deal, of course, but I would have loved for the imprint to be used for actual Elseworlds projects. I think it would have been neat to have live action adaptations of stuff like Gotham By Gaslight and Red Son, for instance, rather than the animated adaptations that we've gotten in the past. I know that's strictly a pipe dream on my part and they'd probably never would have dropped big money into these alternate reality takes but I say it's cool to imagine if they had, don't you think? But I suppose that's just an "Elseworlds" all of its own. 

While we await the realization of all these new projects, it'll be interesting to see how the already completed DCU films due this year will set up the next chapter. In particular, I wonder how The Flash and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom are going to tee things up and how smooth the transition will be from one era to the next. The cinematic DC universe has been defined by turmoil and instability for so long that it's exciting to think of what it's going to look like under a steady hand. 

I do have to say, though, that I feel like we've been down this road before. Back in December I wrote about the CW Special from 2016 hosted by Kevin Smith and Geoff Johns where they touted the upcoming slate of DC Films in the Snyderverse. Things seemed set in stone then too. I mean, most of the movies they were talking about were all done and ready for release. And if you watch the Special Features on the Black Adam DVD, oh boy, it's like a glimpse into an alternate universe. 

Between the time Black Adam was released in theaters in October of last year and the time the DVD came out this January, the future of the DCU that the cast was hyping in the special features had been completely erased (it's awkward and frankly a little sad to hear Dwayne Johnson earnestly say "...Building out this new era of the DC Universe is critically important to me."). I'm sure Gunn and Safran will fare better then their predecessors (no reason to think they won't) but, you know, time will tell. For now, here's to the promise of a new world of Gods and Monsters.  

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