Chapter 1 of the new DCU could already pose a problem that the MCU managed to avoid in its early days. James Gunn revealed the new slate of DCU projects on January 31, 2023, proving that he and Peter Safran plan to completely revitalize DC Studios’ shared superhero universe after years of criticism surrounding previous projects in the DCEU. The new DCU will see many things change under Gunn and Safran’s watch. Actors in leading roles will be replaced, and there will be major tonal shifts in the storytelling and comics that are adapted to the screen. While there is excitement about the new direction for the DCU, it also poses some significant problems.
In his announcement, Gunn revealed ten new projects in development at DC Studios, with a new era set to kick off in 2025 after the DC Universe is reset in 2023’s The Flash. Superman: Legacy and The Brave and the Bold will provide new takes on Superman and Batman for the DCU, while other projects including The Authority, Creature Commandos, and Booster Gold will experiment with very different tones and genres to what DC audiences might be used to. While the DCU and the MCU have often been seen to be in competition, Gunn’s work in both franchises enables him to learn valuable lessons when developing the new DCU.
The DCU Is Way More Diverse Than The MCU Was
Marvel Studios’ 2008 release of Iron Man kick-started the profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in the years since, Marvel Studios has been met with some scrutiny for following its tried-and-tested formula with its projects. Until quite recently, projects in the MCU all shared a similar, comedic tone, and didn’t really divert from what was known to be successful. It’s only been with projects such as the comedic Thor: Ragnarok, the old horror-inspired Werewolf by Night, and the more character-driven Black Panther that the MCU has branched out into different genres. Gunn’s new slate for the DCU’s Chapter 1 seems to have avoided this problem already.
The DCU’s Chapter 1, titled “Gods and Monsters,” includes a much more diverse slate of projects from the get-go, with Gunn seemingly unfazed by the challenges that lie in developing several projects with wildly different tones. Projects such as Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow and Swamp Thing are set to take on much darker tones than the likes of Booster Gold, which is billed as an “outright comedy.” Paradise Lost is taking inspiration from HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Lanterns will see Hal Jordan and John Stewart in a True Detective-style mystery. This extreme level of diversity in the DCU could be a brilliant plan, but might also be incredibly risky.
Why The DCU’s Tonal Variety Could Pose A Problem
The fact that no two projects in the new DCU seem to share the same genre could pose a serious problem for the DCU going forward. It took Marvel Studios a number of years to develop a formula that was solid enough for them to feel able to branch out into new genres. While this recent experimentation has been driven by the new stories it has been telling, the MCU has still come under scrutiny in recent years as some believe that the MCU’s Phase 4 projects have lacked interconnectivity.
The DCU is running the risk of being met with the same criticism by including so many apparently disconnected projects. This is particularly true as Gunn did not provide a clear endgame for even the first era of the new DCU. This means that viewers won’t know where the stories are eventually leading, which has been a major criticism of recent MCU projects, even though this is part of the fun of experiencing an intricate shared universe such as the MCU or the DCU. The wildly different tones of the DCU’s upcoming projects might mean that viewers won’t have a clear idea of the overall story for potentially years to come.
The DCU’s Genre-Hopping Could Be Its Secret Weapon
While the genre-hopping nature of the DCU’s Chapter 1 could be a risk, there are also some huge positives, especially considering the darker tone of previous DC projects, and the poor reception that most of those projects received. Mixing up genres and tones of upcoming projects, and branching out into new stories that haven’t yet been told in live-action, could be the perfect choice moving forward, not least because that’s what Marvel Studios is experimenting with in the MCU. That’s not to say that the two franchises are competing, but the DCU will need to stay fresh in order to become successful in an ocean of MCU content.
James Gunn and Peter Safran are hitting the ground running with their new plan for the DCU, and although it will be a while until viewers actually see these plans come to fruition, the upcoming DC projects in 2023 will inform the storyline going forward. Even though the DCU’s Chapter 1 is pulling from many different genres, Elseworlds projects will continue to be developed outside the main continuity, which will also experiment with genre and form even further. Only time will tell whether this direction for the DCU will actually work to its benefit, starting with the release of Superman: Legacy in 2025.
More: James Gunn’s DCU Slate Won’t Stop Those Snyderverse Calls – Yet