DC is bringing ‘Gods and Monsters’ to our screens. The first chapter of DC Studios’ 10-year-plan to reboot and re-energize a flagging cinematic universe was unveiled by James Gunn in a five-minute video filled with surprise announcements, punchy pitches, and a slate packed with exciting movies and shows. From the emergence of the Bat-family in The Brave and the Bold to a True Detective-style take on cosmic heroes in Lanterns, it’s the exciting fresh start DC needed after years of creative mismanagement and envious glances over at Marvel Studios.
On paper, this may not be a newcomer-friendly lineup – Creature Commandos and The Authority are about as far as it gets from household names – and there is much still to be untangled. But it is a welcome first step to building out a pop culture behemoth to rival the MCU.
First, the overwhelming positive: We’re getting the heavy hitters early. Superman and Batman will both have a presence in the newly christened ‘DCU’ within its first few years. Both are proven box office winners and, as the choice of images in the announcement teased, each story will be drawing heavily from the work of legendary writer Grant Morrison.
Morrison’s runs on Batman and All-Star Superman are beloved by fans and critics alike, fusing the silliness of camp Silver Age sensibilities with the confidence and swagger of a storyteller at the top of their game. Comic book movies should be poppy and fun, after all. The combination of the World’s Finest working in tandem as a one-two statement of intent could be a worthy antidote to DC’s previously more intense body of work.
It’s also an exceptionally deep and varied lineup and one that, crucially, features a heavy emphasis on female-led projects. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Paradise Lost, The Authority, and Waller – almost half of the slate – include female leads or ensembles. It’s a small step in the right direction towards more diverse representation, but a step nonetheless. It’s all part of a creator-led mandate laid down by Gunn, which he calls “unique and something special.”
Gods and Monsters is also going to be all-encompassing. Gunn unveiled plans for actors to portray the same characters across live action, animation, and video games. There’s even talk of games potentially bridging the gaps between movies. It’s a bold, perhaps unachievable, goal, yet it speaks to a plan being in place from the ground floor, not retrofitting a cohesive vision four or five years down the line. For the first time in a while, this feels like someone has taken the time to sit down in a room and connect the dots – without looking at spreadsheets first.
Gunning for glory
Having said that, DC’s vision has some glaring flaws. Most pressing and obvious of all is that it’s not a complete reboot. The inclusion of Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller and other remnants of Warner Bros’ previous attempt at a DC universe still remain, which makes it a confusing proposition for casual audiences. 2023’s upcoming movie The Flash may, in Gunn’s words, “reset” the universe, but a sizeable chunk of the moviegoing audience won’t care for multiverse explanations when there are potentially four Batmen (Robert Pattinson, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, and a new Batman actor) within the span of a few years.
The Batman and Joker sequels will also be labeled ‘DC Elseworlds’ – essentially existing in different realities – which confuses matters further. If rumors are true, Jason Momoa could even be swapping Atlantis for the far reaches of outer space if he switches comic book roles from Aquaman to Lobo. All told, it’s a lot to take in – and what we have so far is an inelegant solution to a knotty mess of a problem.
Despite all that, this is DC at its strongest position in years. Gunn, co-captain of the ship alongside Peter Safran, has proven he has the knack for reinventing and popularizing obscure characters. Creature Commandos getting the Guardians of the Galaxy treatment felt like a pipe dream just months ago and could now become a reality. Beyond that, there are tons of elevator pitches – Swamp Thing’s horror film and a Game of Thrones-style Wonder Woman prequel, for starters – that scream ‘Day One’ and appeal to a broader spectrum of viewers than a by-the-numbers superhero adventure.
DC Studios may not succeed in its grand plans. Yes, there are still reasons to be doubtful amid all the excitement. But if it fails, it’s going to be a big, glorious failure that’s set to adapt cult heroes, beloved stories, and embrace DC’s weird and wonderful side. In a world where superhero fatigue is creeping in, that’s all we can ask for.
For more on DC's future, check out our guide to new superhero movies and upcoming DC movies and shows.