March 28, 2023
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ColumnsPopped Culture

Column: The future of DC faces an uphill battle

In October 2022, the hierarchy of power at DC Studios underwent a massive shift. No, this was not because of the release of the highly underperforming “Black Adam,” but rather the announcement that James Gunn and Peter Safran were being handed over the reins as co-chairs and co-CEOs to the major Warner Brothers intellectual property.

When the initial news dropped, all eyes had been on Gunn, whose previous work as a writer and director includes acclaimed superhero films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Suicide Squad.” Gunn had teased via interviews and his personal Twitter that the initial DC slate of television shows and feature films for the next several years would be revealed sometime in January 2023. In the final hour Jan. 31, Gunn and Safran, who is most known for his major producer credits for Warner Brothers franchises like “The Conjuring” and several DC films, revealed to the world what the future of the turbulent superhero entertainment universe would look like.

One of the biggest reveals of the announcement was the confirmation of a sequel to Matt Reeves’ massively successful “The Batman” (2022), along with a release date. The film, titled “The Batman: Part Two” and once again directed by Reeves, will release Oct. 3, 2025.

However, quite possibly the most significant reveal was that Gunn is penning the script of a brand new Superman film, which will be titled “Superman: Legacy.” Although no director is attached to the film which has a release date of July 11, 2025, it was hinted by Safran that Gunn himself might step up to sit in the director’s chair.

While most of the announcements point toward a reset of the DC Universe over the next few years, nothing of the sort has been confirmed as of yet. Although Henry Cavil’s Superman won’t be making the leap to new films, the fates of other actors like Gal Gadot and the troubled Ezra Miller are currently unconfirmed.

In Gadot’s case, the third installment of the Wonder Woman franchise was shelved shortly after Gunn and Safran took over. While the odds of a third installment in director Patty Jenkins’ trilogy ever seeing the light of day look bleak, in part because of the poor reception received by its second entry, Gunn has denied having “booted” Gadot from the role.

Regardless of what becomes of the DC Entertainment Universe as fans have known it since 2013’s “Man of Steel,” it is undeniable that the future is bright. After all, Gunn himself is responsible for some of the only critically-acclaimed projects from the property since it first began. From a creativity standpoint, there is no one that fans should trust more than him to set the franchise back on track to in any way be the competitor to Marvel Studios that David Zaslav, Warner Brothers Discovery CEO, wants it to be.

The slate announcement itself should give fans an enthusiastic vote of confidence because it presents a cohesive and developed plan for the next several years. Up until now, this is something that had been overly lacking throughout the last 10 years.

Gunn and Safran know where their priorities should be. They understand that they have an uphill battle ahead of them to regain the trust of moviegoers around the world after the countless critical and financial disappointments that were produced by the studio’s last regime headed by Walter Hamada, and Geoff Johns before him. Even Zaslav recognizes that a sour taste has developed when anyone discusses the DCEU. Whether it be discussing the “Snyderverse movement or the slew of bad press around the harsh scraping of the “not releasable” “Batgirl” film, the DC brand has been in desperate need of a facelift for a long time. With bated breath, it seems as though it is finally going to get it.

However, the immediate road ahead is not cleared of potential bumps. The studio’s next major release after a sequel to the critically successful “Shazam,” which may be slowly developing controversy, is “The Flash,” starring Ezra Miller.

Since April 2020, Miller has been arrested twice, charged with assault and burglary and been accused of kidnapping and grooming a minor, among other offenses. In August 2022, a representative of Miller’s released a public statement saying that they were beginning to seek help for their “complex mental health issues.” While this is a very positive development, it is something that should have happened years ago for their own sake and action should have been taken by the previous regime at Warner Brothers long before David Zaslav took over.

Even though the needs of the studio are secondary to Miller’s mental health, Warner Brothers and DC are now in a position where they have a major upcoming release that is entirely unmarketable around its main star. This is also unfortunate because the film, which releases in June, apparently has the potential to be “one of the greatest superhero movies of all time,” according to Gunn. If the first official trailer that was released during the Superbowl and the initial fan reactions to it are any indication, there is a chance he may be right. Regardless of whether the movie ends up living up to these enormous expectations, Gunn and Safran will have to decide Miller’s future in the role once the film is released.

While Safran has said that he is supportive of Miller’s recovery and that discussions about the best path forward will be had with the actor when the time is right, it is clear that Miller must be let go from the role. If they are not, Warner Brothers will be setting a discouraging and dangerous precedent for the wider film industry. When an actor behaves in the ways Miller has, consequences must be administered. In this specific case, whether or not people choose to support DC and Warner Brothers in the future depends on the responsible choice being made, even if it is not the easiest.

For DC Studios to be a viable force to be reckoned with, Gunn and Safran must get rid of all previous baggage and initiate a fully fresh start. It is what is best for the franchise, but more importantly for Miller.

Evan Miller can be reached at