5 things James Gunn needs to do to fix the DC Universe movies and shows

(L, R) James Gunn at The Suicide Squad premiere and Henry Cavill as Superman in Man Of Steel.
(Image credit: Rodin Eckenroth / Getty Images, Warner Bros. Pictures)

A new day may finally be dawning in Gotham (and Metropolis and Atlantis) as James Gunn is taking over the DC Universe (formerly DCEU) creative duties. Because it seems like the right person is taking over: Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind James Gunn, who also worked wonders for DC with The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker.

Now a co-CEO and co-chair of DC Studios (one half of the new regime, as Peter Safran will run the business side), Gunn gained great power and an even larger responsibility. Now, the man who brought Marvel's Guardians to life is tasked with saving the DC Extended Universe movies (while also working on its TV projects, including animation). 

'Saving' is the important word there because the DC Universe stands in stark contrast with Marvel Studios and Disney's MCU. Sure, MCU fatigue is real, and their CGI has frequently been bad as of late, but the DC Universe is in shambles. Importantly, though, Gunn can't dig DC out of this ditch by copying Marvel. 

But if Gunn can get the DC Universe in proper order, everything will actually matter. You will feel like these aren't just movies based on comic books, but good movies where relatable characters mean something to you — even if you don't know the Justice Society from the Justice League. 

We will see Superman as multi-dimensional, and not just an iconic bastion of goodness. And the amazing rogues' gallery of Batman's villains could even remind you of all the serial killers that fill the Netflix documentaries section. The DC Universe needs variety, and I won't break down a whole map of every single IP, but if we can get a horror movie in the DCEU, as well as a buddy-comedy and a noir or few? We'll be on our way to a better DC movie world — and one where I'm as excited about the upcoming DC movies as I am about the upcoming Marvel movies and series.

So, here's my blueprint on saving the DC Universe. If James Gunn likes the below ideas, he's free to take them. As long as I can get a photo with Peacemaker.

1. Destroy The Flash movie and publicly say goodbye to Ezra Miller

Yes, I know this is a long shot — which is why I'm leading with it. Warner Bros. Pictures (which is inside Warner Bros. Discovery) has invested $200 million in The Flash movie (Safran will likely be his biggest opponent here). But, hey, WBD destroyed the $90 million Batgirl movie for a write-off. Why not erase The Flash, which puts the self-destructive and chaotic force known as Ezra Miller front and center? Miller has been, to put it politely, a headache to all involved with the movie, and far worse to the public at large (opens in new tab)

No matter what The Flash movie is doing, there is no way DC cannot achieve it without Miller. Sure, this is expected to be Miller's final appearance in the DC Universe, but why give them the spotlight at all? The DC Universe has been plagued by failures, bad movies and bad energy — and to give Miller one last starring role would be a mistake. 

Ezra Miller in Batman's Bat-cave in The Flash movie teaser

(Image credit: DC)

Recast Miller (as is currently rumored (opens in new tab)), bringing someone else (possibly Grant Gustin, the Barry Allen of the Flash show on TV) in. Or don't make the movie at all. This is all highly unlikely not just because of WBD's investment in The Flash movie, but because of how the film's storyline is already expected to 'reset' the DCEU in certain ways (look up the Flashpoint comics for spoilers, or watch the 1978 Superman movie). 

But the faster that James Gunn and Peter Safran wipe the DC Universe's hands of Ezra Miller, the faster everyone can move on. The DC Universe, in some regards, needs a reset, and this is definitely one of them.

2. Reduce Dwayne Johnson's creative control

I'll be brutally frank here: Black Adam is one of the worst movies I've seen in a while. And it reeks of lead actor Dwayne Johnson having too much creative control. Sure, said creative control did lead to the Black Adam post-credits scene that I won't spoil here, sure.

But outside of that? Black Adam is what happens when one person's will to make a movie happen for 15 years blinds them from making many bad decisions. Black Adam is a bad movie for many reasons, but the most glaring is how it tries to fit about two or three movies worth of stuff into one film.

DWAYNE JOHNSON as Black Adam in BLACK ADAM

(Image credit: Frank Masi)

And because of that (and because the dialogue is tacky and the acting is a bit wooden) nothing really matters in Black Adam. This worsens throughout the movie when an almost-farcical (comical, some might say) villain is introduced. All while Dwayne Johnson hides his charisma for ages until Black Adam is allowed to crack a joke.

So, looking at all of that, and thinking about how the Man of Steel 2 news suggests Johnson is a serious power broker in the DC Universe, you start to wonder ... if he knew this would make for a bad movie, wouldn't he have stopped it? Unless all of these mistakes were DJ's idea? And, listen: I love The Rock. I'm a pro wrestling-loving trash person — I should love anything Johnson does. But I was utterly bored by Black Adam.

3. Keep The Batman and Joker in their own bubble

So, while many people love to compare the MCU (where everything is connected) and the DC Universe, this is one area where it's OK for DC to do its own thing. Even though it makes things a little messier.

Todd Phillips' Joker (and the upcoming Joker 2: Folie à Deux) and Matt Reeves' The Batman (to be followed by the to-be-titled The Batman 2) have given DC's films two nearly-inarguable successes. I may not have loved Joker as much as the next person, but its a decent-enough movie that made over $1 billion USD at the box office. And then The Batman is a much better movie, even if its color palette is a bit on the monotone side. 

Robert Pattinson as Batman and Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman in the poster for The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

These movies show that you can have standalone stories. Sure, things will get complicated if and when a new Batman and Joker appear in the DC Universe. But we're all adults. We've learned about the multiverse. We know that two Batmen can exist at the same time. Heck, the Harley Quinn animated series' take on Commissioner Jim Gordon being a pathetic sad-sack proves it. 

So: resist the urge to connect everything. Heck, make more standalone projects. Just make sure DC movies and shows are good movies and shows. That's all we really want.

4. Man of Steel 2 needs to be its own thing: No Snyderverse allowed

The untitled Man of Steel 2 movie stands (at least to me) is a very exciting opportunity. No, not to "restore the Snyderverse," though some are likely taking Cavill's return as a cause to celebrate a way to potentially bring Zack Snyder back to the DC Universe. He did direct the first one.

The good news is that it doesn't look like Snyder will be involved. The original The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) post about Cavill's return and Man of Steel 2 suggests that WBD wants Christopher McQuarrie (who worked with Cavill on Mission: Impossible - Fallout) and is working on Mission: Impossible 7 and 8.

Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

This is because Man of Steel 2 could be the standalone Superman movie that Henry Cavill actually needs. At this point in the DC Universe, Supes has fought Batman, died and been brought back to life from the dead. 

And so Man of Steel 2 should just be a Superman story. A good one, of course, but a Superman story that lets us better get to know the character. Let Superman be Superman, and not this icon in a sea of other icons. Cavill, as has been proven elsewhere, is great at this stuff. Now, let's get to know his Superman already. 

5. Let the Birds of Prey spread their wings

One of the biggest failures in the DC Universe was the inability to make the quite-great Birds of Prey a financially successful movie. A load of fun that was mangled by the marketing team — its full title is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and it was re-nammed and Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey — this girl-gang jaunt is too good to leave by the wayside. 

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Not only is Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn one of the best-realized characters in the DC Universe, but Birds of Prey's supporting cast need to live on. Mary Elizabeth Winstead's super-awkward take on vigilante The Huntress was fantastic, and the kind of character who should be popping up throughout the DC Universe. Jurnee Smollett-Bell's Black Canary was under-utilized, and we need to follow Ella Jay Basco's Cassandra Cain. 

That said, the more Rosie Perez's frustrated and put-upon Renee Montoya can pop up and use her detective skills outside of the GCPD? The better other DC movies will be. James Gunn knows how make smaller characters matter more, just look at his work on The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy. So I hope he's already aware that the Birds of Prey should fly throughout the DC Universe.

Outlook: Bring the DC Universe to life

And it's characters like the Birds of Prey that will show if the DC Universe is truly saved. If Gunn can make the minor characters household names — much like he did with Drax and Gamora in the Guardians movie? 

We'll feel like the DC movies are actually a coherent world with a plan. And not a flaming car, barreling down a highway trying to stay together.

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.