James Gunn, Peter Safran and The Road To Freedom For DC Studios

Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter published an extensive piece regarding the future of DC studios. James Gunn and Peter Safran have started to carve out their path, and it seems to be a fresh one. After hearing that Wonder Woman 3 and Man Of Steel 2 are being canceled or shelved, there is one thought that comes to mind: there’s nothing like a clean slate.

Since Man Of Steel came out in 2013, DC has been trying to carve out its own lane in comic book film storytelling. Regardless of what anyone thought of the films, this business is about the bottom line and the bottom line is they didn’t hit the notes they needed to hit. The audience didn’t receive the content the way it needed to be received. There’s been so many stories of too many cooks in the kitchen, egos running amok, and an unclear vision. We can talk about Black Adam and the conversation around how Dwayne Johnson has handled that whole situation. Quite frankly, the film was entertaining but not something you’d say let’s start a franchise with. Financially that’s proven to be the case at this point. It is a hard sell globally when you bill your post-credit scene as the most memorable moment of the film

In a lot of ways, Johnson has tried to book his foray into comic book film just like he’s booked his movie career. It’s been like professional wrestling where perception is more important than anything. That’s fine enough when it’s wrestling. This is not that. When you try to bogart your way into the franchise game when most fans want to see Black Adam vs Shazam, it’s just not gonna work how you want it to. 

Earlier this year in Vanity Fair, Johnson talked about separating the stories between the two characters. “When the first draft of the movie came to us, it was a combination of Black Adam and Shazam: Two origin stories in one movie,” Johnson recalls. “Now that was the goal—so it wasn’t a complete surprise. But when I read that, I just knew in my gut, ‘We can’t make this movie like this. We would be doing Black Adam an incredible disservice.’ It would’ve been fine for Shazam to have two origin stories converge in one movie, but not good for Black Adam.” This refrain from Johnson is not surprising in the least. Let’s dive a bit further.

All of what Johnson says sounds incredibly altruistic on its face, but let’s be honest. In stories with heroes and villains, Shazam would beat Black Adam eventually because the hero wins. Considering everything we know about the Fast & The Furious franchise and the ego clash with Vin Diesel, it’s easy to be skeptical.

The moral of the story here is Johnson is emblematic of a culture that’s existed over at WB that hasn’t actually been in service of the fans. You can claim to want to treat the fans well and service them but you do that with good storytelling. The stories haven’t been quite good enough and the agendas are many. If you can tell good stories the people will come and they will stay. DC has a very passionate fanbase that deserves much better than it’s gotten over the past decade. 

The reason that James Gunn and Peter Safran were hired is to change all that. The expectation is that they are minds and voices that we as fans can trust. With that trust comes patience, and a willingness to have an open mind. Yes there will be some tough changes and we may lose people we liked in their roles, but let’s get this right. That should always be the goal, getting it right. One thing is crystal clear, the hierarchy of power in the DC universe has changed, and it’s about damn time.

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