From this view, the new era of Superman bequeathed by James Gunn’s 2025 saga is something we must all look forward to.

The pillars of the DC Universe have once again been moved by the wind One of the most radical superhero transformations in screen history is in motion … Star puncher. Global threat. World breaker.Humanity has been closer to destroying life on Earth than ever before. Planet-killing asteroids. Indiscriminate terrorist attacks. A planet-sized god bent on destroying humanity. An all-powerful being bent on his own destruction. Incredible powers across the worlds of gods and humans. A sea of chaos. Extinction‑level threat.Nature itself fights back with earthquakes, tsunamis and cataclysmic storms. Others come to the rescue. The Man of Steel. The hero who ‘stays true to the people’. Superman’s exploits make him the heart of a DC Universe he shares with anyone willing to put on a cape and cowl. Not everyone is invited. Bruce Wayne turns the gritty streets of Gotham into the criminal underworld. Tony Stark builds his own villainous kingdom out of advanced technology. Galactic heroes fight alongside supervillains. We all have our place in the vast world that Marvel Studios, Warner Bros Pictures and Disney have built with us.But the pillars of the DC Universe have once again been moved by the wind. James Gunn, the crazy new co-CEO of DC Studios, once said he’d like to pick apart the Marvel Cinematic Universe and see how it ticked. He’s about to apply some of those ideas. Starting in 2025, a series of Gunn-produced and directed films will try to make Superman and other DC properties stop behaving like they belong to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Just a few images from the set of the new Superman movie have inspired already-fizzing excitement. To be played by an unknown, this Superman will wear a reimagined suit that breaks with tradition. Darker colours, a cape that literally ripples with the wind, and a seemingly defiant ‘S’ shield make this more than just a passing version of the superhero. It ushers in a new age.


But James Gunn’s project is not James Bond getting the Reboot treatment, donning a new tuxedo and a new cigarette holder but otherwise operating within the same parameters from one movie to the next. His project is a new Superman story, not a incremental re-fashioning of the old Superman story. Because Gunn is rebooting the Superman brand altogether, he is working within an entirely different narrative frame from other earlier Superman movies. He is going back to the beginning of the myth and telling the story of Superman anew, a true origin story that will join old cloth to new to make the cape of Superman’s redemption.


The Superman project is only the start. Gunn’s blueprint for a DC Universe contains all manner of projects, including a reboot of Batman, a new Green Lantern series, and a Wonder Woman sequel. Gunn isn’t just making a movie or two: he’s creating a unified universe where characters jump from screen to screen, deepening their histories and relationships. It’s a smart and innovative way to do a shared universe, and shows respect for legacy while boldly moving forward.


Now, as he begins to navigate DC’s cinematic universe under his stewardship, he plans to use his brand of legacy-minded innovation to both wow the long-time fans of Warner Bros’ comics-based adaptations at the same time as dragging new people into the DC library – and the stakes could be huge. Depending on his success, Gunn’s future universes could lead the studio forward for years to come. With Gunn at the helm, the DC Universe is poised to bring about nothing less than a new phase for superhero cinema.


At the centre of his approach is a balancing act – a commitment to honouring the legacy of these characters, while also finding ways to bring them into new realms. The look and tone of the modern Superman film, coming to theatres this year, is just one example of this. That film and all that came with it was by design an affirmation of Gunn’s vision – the promise of a film that doesn’t forget its roots but affirms them, while also looking ahead.


This legacy could be said of superhero mythos at large as well, in which the big idea isn’t just capes and shields and webslinging but a cultural phenomenon involving generations upon generations of characters coming and going, morphing to match their times, for better or worse. Gunn’s reboot of DC – of Superman in particular – represented the largest-scale gamble on legacy that a creator has ever attempted on the page: he’s not here to turn away from the past; he’s here to build upon it, to extend the legacy of characters and their impact on audiences of all eras, if only so that they may endure and thrive in our individual and communal imaginations for perpetuity.

Jun 06, 2024
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