James Gunn, the co-CEO of DC Studios alongside Peter Safran, is well aware that the superhero genre is currently struggling. In a recent interview on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast, Gunn candidly discussed what he perceives as the flaws in modern superhero movies.
Gunn expressed his concern about the laziness prevalent in superhero storytelling today. He criticized the mindset of creating a superhero film simply because it’s a popular genre, followed by churning out sequels based solely on the success of the previous installment.
Gunn emphasized the need to focus on what makes each story special, how it stands apart from others, and why it resonates with audiences. He questioned the importance of the characters and the distinctiveness of their stories, stressing the need to fulfill a genuine need for moviegoers.
The underwhelming box office performance of some recent superhero films further supports Gunn’s observations. While his own Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, ranks as the second-highest-grossing movie of the year, other highly anticipated releases like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and DC’s The Flash have struggled to captivate audiences. Gunn criticized the lack of creativity and coherence in many third acts of superhero films, feeling detached from the characters and perceiving a generic quality to them.
Although Gunn refrained from mentioning specific titles, it is not difficult to apply his criticisms to recent releases from DC Studios. For example, the notion of sequels failing to distinguish themselves from previous stories resonates with Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which deviated from the fresh and energetic approach of the first Shazam! film, instead emphasizing excessive violence and introducing fantasy characters with little connection to the comic-book source material. The absence of logic and coherence in third acts could also be seen as applicable to The Flash.
While Gunn expressed support for the films he inherited upon joining DC Studios, his critique can easily be interpreted as commentary on the studio’s recent output. Gunn’s ideas for revitalizing the genre include reducing the number of superhero movies to avoid overextension, despite the already announced projects under the new DC regime, including Gunn’s own Superman: Legacy film. Additionally, Gunn advocates for exploring different subgenres within the superhero realm, ranging from serious to comedic and even incorporating murder mysteries. This desire for diverse storytelling is reflected in DC’s upcoming projects, such as Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, set predominantly on alien planets, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which aims for a lighter tone alongside Robert Pattinson’s darker-themed The Batman franchise.
James Gunn’s insights and proposals aim to inject new life into the superhero genre, challenging creators and studios to think beyond the formulaic and repetitive, and to deliver fresh, compelling stories that resonate with audiences.