With James Gunn at the helm, DC studios are entering a new era with hopes of catching up to the unstoppable Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The true start of Gunn and Peter Safran-led DC reboot is still more than a year away, but the reception the DCU’s first character – Blue Beetle – has received at the box office paints a grim picture of the much-hyped transformation. Moreover, Blue Beetle’s failure comes on the back of an underwhelming era for DC that also saw the much-hyped Snyderverse fail to properly challenge The Avengers and company.
Fortunately, Gunn has plenty of time to analyze and learn from projects like Snyderverse and Blue Beetle before introducing his very own Superman in 2025. Accordingly, let’s take a look at some of the mistakes that crippled the DCEU’s performance.
DC Lost Sight of Its Own Plot in Chasing Marvel
Man of Steel (2013) kick-started the DC Extended Universe and performed impressively well at the box office. One of the standout things Zack Snyder did was giving fans enough time to grasp Henry Cavill’s Superman on a superficial as well as emotional level. Cavill’s character was more than just his physique and power. It’s the dynamic he shared with Lois Lane or the way he handled his father’s fateful decision that made him more human and likable.
However, in studios’ apparent attempts to not lose ground to the MCU that steady-paced approach was dropped as the Snyderverse progressed, with both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League failing to give major storylines apt time to build and key characters enough space to grow, subsequently leaving fans overwhelmed by making them unnecessarily connect the dots at every stage.
In that regard, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how James Gunn will shape David Corenswet’s character in Superman: Legacy.
No Hype for the First DCU Character
Blue Beetle is one of the oldest superheroes in the comic world, however, when it comes to popularity, he falls far behind the likes of Superman or Batman. As such, the first character of Gunn’s DC reboot, needed a star power to get the fans talking about Jaime Reyes and his origin story.
Cobra Kai actor Xolo Maridueña is undoubtedly an exciting talent, but in the summer that saw star-laden movies, Oppenheimer and Barbie, dominate at the box office, the 22-year-old failed to make any noticeable tremble.
Considering how bullish Gunn has been about the future of the character in the DCU going forward, it’s surprising the studio didn’t rope in an A-lister to lead the project. Their mixed signals contributed to Blue Beetle failing to generate any substantial hype, and bombing at the box office with a frustrating gross collection of $115.1 million so far.
Failure to Progress Narratives
The trend of frustrating sequels started with Snyder’s Batman v Superman and continued even this summer with Shazam! Fury of the Gods under Gunn’s watch, has plagued the whole of the DC Extended Universe.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown, it’s vital for a shared universe to build on the success of early chapters and progress respective narratives with the same clarity as the origin stories. But the DCEU failed to make the most of the successes of Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Shazam!.
Batman vs Superman was filled with forced coincidence and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman sequel couldn’t impress due to inconsistent character arcs. Meanwhile, much of the failure of Shazam 2 (and other 2023 DC releases) has been accredited to Gunn’s announcement of his reboot.
Now, all eyes now on how Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom – the sequel to the DCEU’s highest-grossing film Aquaman – will fare at the box office and what lessons it would leave for Gunn and Safran to learn.