It’s Hard to Be Excited Over DC Movie News, Even for Fans of James Gunn’s Work
Recently, it was announced that James Gunn and Peter Safran would both be the top creative leads at DC. While I like some of Safran’s work, and much of Gunn’s over the last few years, it’s very hard to be excited about this announcement considering the decisions of Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) over the course of most of this year and the circumstances around the recent departure of previous DC head Walter Hamada.
The first reason for concern was outlined extensively in the report that whoever would head DC would still have to report directly to WBD CEO David Zaslav. In a perfect world, this would actually streamline things because reporting to a full board would be messy and subject to having too many chefs trying to write a menu. However, considering how Zaslav rose to power and his toxic strongman approach to leadership, this is a red flag. Now, even before Zaslav and his wrecking crew came in, guns a-blazing, Hamada was not going to stick around. Shake-ups like this aren’t uncommon, even if it’s not so sudden and violent in every sector (see the gutting of animation), and Hamada found out about Batgirl‘s cancellation at the same time as everyone else. If he didn’t know he was leaving or not valued, this definitely sent that signal.
Also, there’s a lack of patience and a demand for results regarding making the DC Universe comparable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s despite the critical and/or commercial success of the films released since Hamada’s appointment in 2018. This includes Shazam!, Joker, Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman 1984, the Zack Snyder’s Justice League, The Suicide Squad, The Batman, and now Black Adam. Although, with Justice League come accusations from Ray Fisher of undermining the investigation into the abuse Fisher faced on the film’s set. That alone is a reason for many to be wary of Hamada’s leadership and show the limits of representation.
Yes, I’m going to make it about race
All of this aside, even if everything were sunshine and rainbows, I fully expected Hamada to be replaced by a white man. I’m just surprised it was two of them. That Dan Lin rumor didn’t phase me when projects and positions led by marginalized communities in WBD were cut left and right. Days before the announcement of DC films’ new leaders, WBD cut and then reinstated (possibly because they legally can’t cut it) a pipeline for more diverse talent behind the scenes.
This is because Discovery (pre-merger) was super white, and the first investor call for the merged company spoke so much about nostalgia, capitalizing on existing IP (which is mostly white), and the need to court more audiences in middle America. Middle America is home to people of all types, including many refugee and immigrant populations, but that’s not what most people mean when they allude to this region.
Also, I suspect that by naming two heads of DC, he is also diluting the creative power of each of them. Now, here are three visions for how to move forward. Based on Peacemaker and The Suicide Squad alone, I see Gunn and Zaslav with competing visions. Ideally, Gunn and Safran would always work together and be cohesive, but it will only take one begrudged head to ally with Zaslav. Or if one has a falling out or public clash with Zaslav or anyone at WBD, the other can be used as insurance.
(featured image: Jesse Grant/Getty Images)
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