James Gunn has been refreshingly transparent about future plans for the upcoming DCU franchise, revealing juicy details and debunking myths aplenty via social media. Due to a myriad of factors that include the DCEU's critical and commercial struggles, Warner Bros. leadership changes, and the continued success of Marvel's MCU, DC found itself in need of a serious movie shakeup in 2022, with David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, openly proclaiming his desire to mirror the long-term planning and overarching structure seen at Marvel. Ultimately, this led to James Gunn and Peter Safran being appointed co-heads of DC Studios, overseeing a franchise rebirth across a variety of mediums behind closed doors.
In the outside world, meanwhile, movies tied to the previous Zack Snyder DCEU canon continued to pour forth. Most notably, these included Black Adam, which Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson repeatedly touted as the true beginning of DC's new movie franchise. Confusion poured forth, but an unlikely savior appeared in the form of James Gunn's thumb. The newly-appointed DC Studios co-head has used his Twitter account to vanquish false theories and confirm others, giving a broad sense of what to expect from the DCU's future.
The DCU Will Be A Multi-Platform Franchise Across Different Mediums
One of the earliest and most fundamental details James Gunn has confirmed regarding the new-look DCU concerns its reach across different media. While the backbone of the DCU will consist primarily of cinematic movie releases, Gunn has declared that TV shows and video games will connect directly to the main franchise. These TV projects, likely intended as HBO Max DC content, will incorporate live-action, 2D animation, and 3D animation, meaning a broad palette of DC material awaits under the new regime. This development is not hugely surprising. Not only does Gunn already serve as showrunner on Peacemaker, but Marvel has enjoyed tremendous success adopting the same model on Disney+.
The Snyderverse, Ayer Cut & Other Lost Projects Aren't Happening In The DCU
Thanks to numerous instances of DC changing direction over the years, a series of fan campaigns have materialized in support of lost projects, including #RestoreTheSnyderverse, #ReleaseTheAyerCut, and #SaveLegendsOfTomorrow. Soon after taking his position as the new DC Studios co-lead, James Gunn addressed these passionate fan movements with a polite acknowledgment of the passion and dedication involved. Regardless, Gunn's statement left no doubt that DC's focus was firmly on the future, nixing any lingering hopes that Snyder's abandoned DCEU Knightmare storyline, David Ayer's Suicide Squad, or canceled Arrowverse shows would be saved by the DCU.
Matt Reeves' The Batman Universe Will Not Be Folded Into The DCU
Matt Reeves' 2022 The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the titular thug-botherer, exists in isolation from DC's other movies. Indeed, plans are afoot for The Batman to develop into its own shared universe, with spinoffs based around Colin Farrell's Penguin and Arkham both in the pipeline. In December 2022, however, reports claimed that James Gunn and Peter Safran were exploring the possibility of incorporating The Batman into their DCU.
Given that The Batman's separation from wider DC canon is largely considered a key reason behind its success, the report was predominantly met with concern and anger. Mercifully, Gunn took to Twitter and confirmed the original article as "entirely untrue," allowing Matt Reeves to lead a collective sigh of relief. In effect, this must mean The Batman shared universe will continue as a separate entity running parallel to the DCU.
Batman Is Still A Major Part Of The DCU's Future
The DCU may not be swiping Robert Pattinson from Matt Reeves' sandbox and running off with him, but the Caped Crusader still has a major role to play in James Gunn and Peter Safran's shared universe. After previously denying reports of incorporating The Batman into the DCU, Gunn followed up by reassuring concerned social media users that Batman is still a "big part" of the DCU. Exactly what this means for both DC franchises remains to be seen.
Most likely, DC will forge ahead with Robert Pattinson in The Batman's universe and another actor playing the role in the DCU. Alternatively, Gunn and Safran could hold their nerve and wait until Robert Pattinson's time in the Batsuit is over before introducing their own DCU version of Batman. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has already spoken out against the idea of multiple Dark Knights on the big screen simultaneously, and by the time the DCU kicks into gear proper, Pattinson may already be edging towards his final The Batman movie.
Henry Cavill Is Out As Superman
While many James Gunn social media musings have either assuaged fears or conjured excitement, one triggered ferocious controversy. Henry Cavill is officially out as Superman. Campaigns in support of Man of Steel 2 demonstrate a huge groundswell of love for Cavill's dual portrayal of Clark Kent and Superman, as well as a belief that the DCEU failed to unlock his full potential as DC's Kryptonian hero. Mere weeks before the Gunn was fired on Cavill's Superman career, Henry Cavill officially confirmed his Superman reprisal after a post-credits cameo in Black Adam, promising exciting things to come and quitting his gig as Geralt in The Witcher around the same time.
Then, faster than a speeding bullet, Cavill was asked to hand over his cape. From an outside perspective, it would appear that Henry Cavill's Black Adam cameo was planned before DC hired James Gunn to help forge its new direction, at which point the decision was made to move forward with a new Supes. Regardless, Cavill's Abe Simpson-like DC return is a concerning sign that the chaos and lack of direction that tarnished the DCEU has not completely disappeared.
The DCU Will Feature A Younger Superman (But Not An Origin Story)
Despite online rumors that James Gunn's dislike of Henry Cavill led to his Superman exit - rumors that Gunn has flatly denied - the true reason is creative in nature. The DCU is looking for a Young Man of Steel rather than a Man of Steel. With Cavill an established leading actor in his late 30s, he no longer fits the bill as the fresh-faced Clark Kent Gunn and Safran want for their upcoming DCU Superman movie, which Gunn has confirmed as "a huge, if not the biggest priority."
Despite angling for a less seasoned hero, James Gunn's Twitter account has clarified that the DCU's upcoming Superman effort will not be another origin story. DCU Superman will seemingly follow in the footsteps of Robert Pattinson's Batman and Tom Holland's Spider-Man as younger heroes arriving fully-formed, skipping over tired origins audiences are painfully well-versed in. Likewise, yet another exchange between Gunn and a Twitter user yielded confirmation that the recast DCU Superman would not be meeting other characters within his world for the first time. This presumably refers to perennial figures like Lois Lane and Lex Luthor.
Green Lantern Is Important To The DCU Franchise (On HBO Max?)
Perhaps due to the abject failure of Ryan Reynolds' 2011 movie, Green Lantern's presence in the DCEU proved virtually non-existent, despite the character's traditional status as a key Justice League hero. The DCU seeks to resolve that, with James Gunn confirming on Twitter that "Green Lantern content" would be important to his and Safran's franchise. Gunn leaves room for interpretation, and while a fully-fledged Green Lantern DCU movie could be on the cards, the promise may be referring to HBO Max's Green Lantern Corps TV show, which is confirmed as moving forward despite the DC Studios shakeup. Whether in film or on TV, no evil shall escape the DCU's sight.
The DCU Is Eyeing Ben Affleck To Direct A Movie
After appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, Ben Affleck was set to direct and star in The Batman. Due to personal factors and ongoing creative upheaval, Affleck first stepped down as director, then exited the job entirely, leaving The Batman to become something very different. Batfleck will make his return in 2023's The Flash, but it seems James Gunn and Peter Safran are eyeing Ben Affleck for the DCU in a behind-the-camera capacity. In a December 2022 post, Gunn confirmed talks with Affleck had taken place with the intention of finding the right project for the Argo director to take charge of.
Gunn & Safran's DCU Will Balance Well-Known & Obscure Heroes
One area where the MCU beat the DCEU was taking relatively obscure Marvel comic book characters and turning them into household names, and this is something James Gunn knows only too well thanks to his work on the Guardians of the Galaxy series. The DCEU struggled to replicate that trick, relying instead on its big-hitters. After the question of including more minor characters in the DCU was put to Gunn by an inquisitive Twitter follower, however, the DC Studios co-lead confirmed a blend of both major and lesser-known characters was being prepared for the DCU's roster.
James Gunn Comments On A Full DC Movie Recast
Due to Henry Cavill's confirmed departure, the DCU will clearly be recasting at least some existing DCEU roles. This raises a potential conundrum over whether James Gunn and Peter Safran can recast a proportion of the current roster and leave other actors in place when many of these heroes have interacted at some level. For example, it makes little sense to recast Ben Affleck as Batman but leave Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn when those characters have appeared together and referenced each other, albeit briefly.
Addressing this problem, Gunn fired off a partial answer via Twitter when the DC Studios co-lead promised, "We're not recasting everyone except The Suicide Squad." Somewhat ambiguously, this tweet could point toward two very different eventualities. Either Gunn's comment means every single DC movie character will be recast, Suicide Squad included, or only a selection of existing DCEU roles will be recast, but those carried over will not be exclusively Suicide Squad characters.
Patty Jenkins Is Out, But Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman May Not Be
With DCU plans causing confusion over Superman and Batman, it comes as no surprise that Wonder Woman completes the trinity of DC movie uncertainty. After directing the rapturously-received Wonder Woman and the not-so-rapturously-received Wonder Woman 1984, Patty Jenkins confirmed through her own social media that the DCU was not continuing with Wonder Woman 3, marking her exit from the franchise and the end of Diana Prince's DCEU narrative. Whether that means the end of Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman, however, remains unclear.
Discussing the topic on Instagram, James Gunn denied the accusation that Gal Gadot had been "booted" from her Wonder Woman role. This potentially indicates the actress could continue as DC's iconic Amazonian, even without Jenkins' involvement or the original plans for Wonder Woman 3 happening. Gunn's comment could also mean that Gadot left the role of her own accord, and with no firm word from the actress herself, the status of Wonder Woman in the DCU requires a Lasso of Truth to untangle.
Wonder Woman Will Be A Vital Early DCU Figure
Following reports that Wonder Woman would not feature in the DCU's first few years, James Gunn stepped in, debunking the idea with Amazonian ruthlessness. Variety had initially claimed that Diana Prince would be missing from the DCU for the franchise's opening three years, but Gunn's denial suggests Wonder Woman will be a key figure from the beginning. This admission becomes especially curious when considered alongside the previous announcement that Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman 3 had been axed from DC's slate. A return to Themyscira, with or without Gal Gadot, could come sooner rather than later.
DC Is Actively Developing Elseworlds Projects
James Gunn is officially bringing Elseworlds to the DCU. In DC comic lore, the Elseworlds imprint allows for the telling of stories that are completely disconnected from mainline continuity. In an early Christmas gift, Gunn announced that Elseworlds projects are currently in active development at DC Studios. These movies and/or TV shows will be unrelated to the core DCU, giving Gunn and Safran a degree of creative flexibility unrestrained by the confines of canon. Helpfully, existing franchises such as Matt Reeves' The Batman and Todd Phillips' Joker could slot neatly into DC's Elseworlds bracket.
The DCU Will Have Synergy With DC Comics
Posting on his Mastodon account this time, James Gunn revealed plans are afoot for synergy between the DCU and the DC comic division. Gunn described actively working with Jim Lee, his personal friend and the current CCO of DC Comics, on improved coordination between DC onscreen and in print. This is another trick Marvel's MCU has mastered to great effect, with comic storylines capitalizing on major movie and TV releases to benefit both arms of the company.
Deathstroke Could Appear In The DCU
Deathstroke's DCEU career was cut abruptly short due to the changes wrought by The Batman's reinvention and the abandoning of Zack Snyder's vision. After Justice League teased Joe Manganiello's Deathstroke working with Lex Luthor, the villain's introduction hit a dead end, with only a brief cameo in the Zack Snyder's Justice League Knightmare epilogue giving Deathstroke a slither of redemption. In an encouraging social media update, James Gunn cryptically answered a question regarding potential Deathstroke DCU plans with "could be..." The capacity in which Deathstroke could appear and whether Joe Manganiello will play him remains unknown, but Gunn's tease means the DCU could finally adapt a missed DCEU opportunity.
James Gunn & Peter Safran's Slate Lasts 8-10 Years
With the first wave of DCU announcements now imminent, James Gunn revealed via Twitter that the plan drawn up over the past two months covers "8 to 10 years" of DC's movie future. Again, this revelation moves DC closer to the Marvel model that David Zaslav expressed admiration for, with Kevin Feige's slate unveilings now a veritable MCU tradition. Assuming each year contains an average of three movie releases and two TV shows, that could mean up to 50 DCU projects, possibly even more, are currently being considered behind closed doors at DC Studios. That should ensure plenty of Twitter material for James Gunn over the next decade.