It might take James Gunn becoming a co-CEO of DC Studios for Warner Bros. to ultimately realise their initial vision for their DC movie world. While the DCEU has been without a strategy for a while, the franchise began with a much clearer concept for the tale as well as how its filmmakers would work together. Unfortunately, a lot of drama that occurred behind the scenes led to the reshoots of Justice League in 2017 as that plan swiftly disintegrated.
The DCEU was going to embrace the audacious artistic perspectives of distinct directors like Zack Snyder, David Ayer, Patty Jenkins, and James Wan after Man of Steel. After Man of Steel, most of the films suffered from producer micromanagement, rewrites, reshoots, and studio-mandated changes. When Joss Whedon took Zack Snyder's place on Justice League, the franchise's pretence of being director-driven was dropped. Fortunately, Warner Bros. Discovery may finally fulfil the DCEU's original promise thanks to James Gunn.
It was intended for the DCEU to be director-driven.
The jokes about the DCEU being dark weren't entirely false, but the first several DCEU films had much more variety than most people realise. Even Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, despite their obvious parallels, have different tones, genre influences, and colour palettes from Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman and David Ayer's Suicide Squad. When it first came out, Aquaman, which was also created around this same period, was unquestionably even more unique than anything else in the franchise.
The strategy served as a type of counterprogramming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which had a reputation for having a "house style," with many critics complaining that the films were too identical to one another. The DCEU was going to be unique not only from the MCU but also from itself. The movies were all intended to reflect the distinctive characteristics of their directors, even if they all maintained a certain cohesion in character and story arcs. Even while some aspects of that approach still hold true today, the DCEU fell short of its initial expectations.
Warner Bros. executives panicked and began interfering with the films, ordering massive rewrites and reshoots for both Suicide Squad and Justice League, pushing Snyder out of the franchise entirely. This was despite the studio's initial claims that the DCEU would be "director-driven," a rocky start to the franchise due to low rotten tomatoes scores and below-expectations at the box office (even though all the films still qualified as box office hits). While the DCEU still employs directors who give their own unique stamp to the films, ultimately all of the films fall under a much more constrained range of tone and subject that is aimed at more general audiences.
Warner Bros. continued to lose faith in its filmmakers, and even after Justice League was a box office fiasco, studio management continued to meddle in the films, most notably by requesting rewrites and reshoots for Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. With The Suicide Squad, James Gunn was infamously given unlimited creative control, but the DCEU's track record of stifling its directors casts a lingering shadow.
Snyder preferred to concentrate on directing and was never in an official studio capacity comparable to Kevin Feige's Marvel Studios job, despite creating the world, having a significant influence on the DCEU strategy, and producing other DC movies. Therefore, although having much creative freedom in the early stages of the DCEU, he had much less power to resist later requests to alter Justice League.
How James Gunn's New Role Will Comply With The Initially Developed DCEU Vision
The studio's decision to employ an actual filmmaker to fill a position often held by executives with less writing or directing expertise is one of the most startling aspects of Gunn's appointment as one of DC Studios' co-chairs. The tension between executives and creatives has long been one of Hollywood's most infamous issues because executives often hold all the power. Gunn will oversee the development of the DCEU while Peter Safran, the other co-CEO of DC Studios, will oversee the company's commercial operations. With a filmmaker in that position, particularly one who is as willing to push boundaries as James Gunn, DCEU directors will have a far greater ally than in the past.
The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad are just two examples of Gunn's work; however, anyone familiar with his pre-Marvel work knows he has a much wider range of styles. In addition, Gunn has served as a producer on films that don't follow his known aesthetic, such as Brightburn, a dark retelling of Superman. Warner Bros. made a daring move by appointing James Gunn as the co-lead of a studio; you don't place a director in an executive position at a studio unless you want an executive with James Gunn's sense of cinema.
For Troma Entertainment, a company renowned for its edgy line of pictures, Gunn first began producing transgressive flicks. Even though his more recent films have been box office successes, he continues to challenge genre norms with films like The Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Peacemaker. James Gunn wasn't given the responsibility of creating a traditional blockbuster franchise starring DC characters, and David Zaslav and Warner Bros. Discovery didn't give him the power to shield directors from other studio executives.
It can be difficult to believe that yet another executive shuffle will finally resolve a decades-long problem, but the major wildcard that comes with putting James Gunn in charge of DC Studios means they're finally learning from previous mistakes. Warner Bros. executives have historically mismanaged the DCEU. James Gunn is exactly what the DCEU needs to realise that original director-driven ambition at a time when the DCEU is finally recovering from all the harm caused by Joss Whedon's Justice League in 2017.