Superman! Batman! The Authority … ? James Gunn reveals the first chapter of the DCU
The slate has been wiped (almost) clean and a new era of superhero storytelling is about to begin. PLUS: ‘The Last of Us’ delivers a timeless episode, and Pedro Pascal gets ready to host ‘SNL.’
At long last, James Gunn has revealed his masterplan for the DCU.
After weeks of rumors and leaks — Henry Cavill is gone! Dwayne Johnson is gone! Jason Momoa is … I dunno! — the co-chief of DC Studios released a video on Tuesday walking us through his and Peter Safran’s path to create one, cohesive DCU.
There’s a ton to unpack here. First off, Gunn and Safran also spoke to the trades and a bunch of other pop culture sites, which simultaneously released their stories as Gunn’s video hit the Internet, so we have more than just that video to work from.
First off, this is almost a full-scale reboot. Gunn’s Peacemaker (and I assume his take on Suicide Squad) remains canon considering Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller will have her own show as part of Chapter 1 of the DC Studios plan.
Yes, Chapter 1. Gunn and his team already appear to have a major arch planned out, and they’re calling it Gods and Monsters. I assume this is the equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s phases. While it’s an ambiguous slate of movies and shows, it doesn’t seem to match what the MCU has presented as its sagas. (Infinity Saga, Multiverse Saga.)
So what’s in the first chapter of the new DCU?
Creature Commandos: An animated series on HBO Max.
Waller: A spinoff of Peacemaker that will air on HBO Max.
Superman: Legacy: The first film in the DCU. Scheduled to hit theaters on July 11, 2025. Gunn is writing this one and could possibly direct it. This is the film that will focus on a younger version of Superman — but not be an origin story.
Lanterns: A Green Lantern series on HBO Max. This replaces Arrowverse creator Greg Berlanti’s Green Lantern series.
The Authority: A movie based on Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s characters.
Paradise Lost: An HBO Max series about Themyscira, the birthplace of Wonder Woman. It takes place before the event of the Wonder Woman movie … which isn’t canon anymore … right?
The Brave and the Bold: Gunn calls this film “the introduction of the DCU Batman, of Bruce Wayne, and also introduces our favorite Robin, Damian Wayne, who is a little son of a bitch.” The Brave and the Bold will have a different Batman than Robert Pattinson, whose take will now exist under an Elseworlds banner along with projects like Todd Phillips’ Joker films.
Booster Gold: An HBO Max series.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow: A movie inspired by Tom King’s recent Supergirl miniseries.
Swamp Thing: A movie based on the Swamp Thing character. Deadline reported on Wednesday that DC Studios has an offer out to Logan and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny director James Mangold to helm this one.
Gunn didn’t hold back on the state of the DC superhero movies when he and Safran came on board.
“As everyone here probably knows, the history of DC is pretty messed up, it was fucked up,” Gunn told the trades. “No one was minding the mint. They were just giving away IP like they were party favors to any creators that smiled at them.”
Everything Gunn said and showed on Tuesday bodes well for the direction of the DCU. But let’s not throw a victory parade in downtown Metropolis just yet. There’s still a ton of distance between making these announcements and actually producing a cohesive cinematic universe.
Gunn is definitely aware of this and is doing what he can to break Warner Bros.’ cycle of announcing a ton of DC projects and then never following through on them.
“People have become beholden to [release] dates, to getting movies made no matter what,” Gunn told the trades. “I’m a writer at my heart, and we’re not going to be making movies before the screenplay is finished.”
I’ve mentioned my current stance in this newsletter before on any new Star Wars project these days: I need to see a cast, proof of production and maybe even a trailer before I believe a project is real. Gunn, Safran and the team they’ve assembled at DC Studios is playing this smart, only setting a release date for Superman: Legacy among the DCU films. (Batman II has an Oct. 3, 2025, release date, but that’s Elseworlds.) Let’s see who’s directing Superman: Legacy (my money is still on Gunn) and who they cast as Clark Kent/Superman.
This is also an exciting mix of projects. There’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but at the time, Gunn and Safran are tossing in The Authority, Booster Gold and Swamp Thing. (Gunn’s influence is strong on this mix.)
A quick question about the Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow movie: What does the love being shown to Tom King mean for a possible adaption of his and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle? He was previously working on a New Gods adaption with Ava Duvernay. If you’re calling the first chapter of your cinematic universe God and Monsters …
Here’s the reporting from three of the major trades:
DC slate unveiled: New Batman, Supergirl movies, a Green Lantern TV show, and more from James Gunn, Peter Safran (Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter)
James Gunn, Peter Safran vow to put screenwriting first to fix the once ‘fucked up’ DC Studios (Matt Donnelly and Adam B. Vary, Variety)
James Gunn and Peter Safran unveil vision for the new DCU: Locked scripts, a unified storyline and wiggle room (Drew Taylor and Umberto Gonzalez, TheWrap)
Gunn and Safran also addressed three big personnel issues for DC Studios:
“We didn’t fire Henry. Henry was never cast,” Gunn told THR. “For me, it’s about, Who do I want to cast as Superman, and who do the filmmakers we have want to cast? And for me, for this story, it isn’t Henry.”
Woof. Sounds like Johnson really stepped in it with his nonsense of bringing Cavill back as Superman for Black Adam and then pretending he was back for good. What a disaster there.
Despite Gunn calling Ezra Miller’s The Flash movie “probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made,” Safran wasn’t quick to lock in Miller as the DCU’s future Flash.
“Ezra is completely committed to their recovery,” Safran said. We’re fully supportive of that journey that they’re on right now. When the time is right, when they feel they are ready to have the discussion, we’ll all figure out what the best way forward is.”
There’s also the question of how The Flash will spin into the new DCU. The film was set to not only bring Michael Keaton back as Batman but also introduce Sasha Calle as Supergirl and see Ben Affleck return as Batman. Cavill and Gal Gadot also had cameos, but they’ve reportedly already been cut.
“We’re figuring it all out,” is all Gunn would say on the matter.
And then we have Zachary Levi. The Shazam! Fury of the Gods star decided that the right time to reveal himself as a potential antivaxxer was right before his big film’s press tour was about to kick off, tweeting an allegedly anti-Pfizer stance a few days ago. It turns out Levi is not as fun as his Shazam persona would lead us to believe.
Would this affect Levi’s status going forward in the DCU?
“Just real simply: Actors and filmmakers that I work with are going to say things that I agree with and things that I don’t agree with,” Gunn told the trades. “And that’s going to happen. I don’t have a list of things that somebody should say because of what I think. And you know, I can’t be changing my plans all the time because an actor says something that I don’t agree with.”
Levi has previously declared that “I’m Gucci” when it comes to his future in the rebooted cinematic universe. Of course, Johnson claimed that he was changing the hierarchy of power in this franchise with Black Adam — and look how that went.
I was originally planning on kicking off this edition of Popculturology with my thoughts on the fantastic latest episode of The Last of Us, but then the DCU news broke. Head down to the Playlist section to read up on “Long, Long Time.”
Happy Thursday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. If you do, please subscribe. It’s the easiest way to make sure you get every edition of Popculturology. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter. Now let’s get to the news.
The Academy won’t take action over Riseborough nomination campaign
Awards are a funny thing. You’re supposed to pretend you don’t need them. You’re supposed to pretend you’re embarrassed or flattered to be honored. You’re not supposed to seek them out.
But we all know that campaigns for awards like the Oscars are a huge deal. They can make a career. They add box office dollars to a film’s bottom line.
All the unwritten and unspoken rules around awards season seem to be what led to the situation where Andrea Riseborough scored a Best Actress nomination for her performance in To Leslie, a film that doesn’t even have a domestic box office number reported on the major sites that track that kind of thing.
I’ll let Forbes explain why Riseborough’s inclusion in the Best Actress field was such a surprise and how it possibly broke the Academy’s rules. The major news on this story now is that the Academy has declined to take any action as a result of the campaign and will not revoke Riseborough’s nomination.
“The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer said in a statement. “However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.”
Bad Boys 4 Life
As Will Smith wisely notes in the announcement video, they can’t call the fourth Bad Boys movie Bad Boys 4 Life since they already called the third Bad Boys movie Bad Boys for Life. But there is a fourth Bad Boys movie on the way.
Bad Boys for Life made a pretty respectable $204.4 million domestically. Not a surprise there’s another installment on the way.
Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who directed Bad Boys for Life, are bouncing back without any negative effects from Warner Bros. Discovery killing their Batgirl film.
The Michael Jackson biopic finds its star
When news broke that a Michael Jackson biopic was in the works, one of the biggest questions was who would play Jackson? (The other big question: Are they going to include the controversial stuff about his life?) Who would take on such a role?
Turns out they’re keeping it in the family.
Director Antoine Fuqua announced on Monday that Jaafar Jackson would play his famous uncle.
There’s no way they include anything controversial in this film now.
The streaming services get weird
Weird, weird, weird week in the streaming world.
Paramount+ and Showtime
Paramount announced earlier in the week that it would merge Paramount+ and Showtime, its two streaming platforms. The combined streaming service will be called — wait for it — Paramount+ With Showtime. I know. Pay the marketing genius that came up with that one. At least CBS All Access, Paramount+’s former name, felt dumb in a fun way.
To make Paramount+ more enticing, the streamer removed several shows, including Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot. What, that’s not how you make people want to subscribe to your service …
NBCUniversal killed new access to the free tier of Peacock. If you’ve already signed up for that level, it looks like you’ll still be able to use it, but any new subscribers will be directed to the Premium level, which costs $4.99 a month. (I’m actually not sure what version of Peacock I use. I’m able to watch Poker Face but there are ads.)
Roku Channel and Tubi
Shows that Warner Bros. Discovery pulled from HBO Max, which included Westworld, will soon be available on Roku Channel and Tubi in free but ad-supported form. I don’t subscribe to either of these services, but the FAST services like Roku Channel and Tube are growing in popularity. The folks over at WBD did the math and realized they could make more money off shows like Westworld by renting them to FAST streamers instead of keeping them on their own platforms.
Netflix wants you to stop sharing your password. Or, if you’re using someone else’s password, they want to make it so you can’t. After years of pretty much encouraging people to share passwords, Netflix needs to grow its subscriber base, and that means it’s time to crack down on password sharing.
Just how the streamer does that is another question.
Gizmodo reported on Wednesday that the streaming giant had quietly changed its support pages to reflect new rules for verifying that a user was part of a household or allowed to use a password. Short of an official statement from Netflix, though, the rules remain murky.
King of the Hill revival coming to Hulu
King of the Hill was never weekly viewing for me, but I did catch it often while it was in syndication. (I did enjoy Pamela Adlon’s exploration of her voice role on a fictionalized version of the show on Better Things.) King of the Hill has long had its diehard fans, though, and those fans are finally getting rewarded with a revival of the show.
It was announced on Tuesday that King of the Hill would return in the form of a series on Hulu. The revival has a straight-to-series order, but I haven’t seen stats on how many episodes or seasons the order is for.
Wanna send me your comments, questions or recommendations? Write to Popculturology at email@example.com, and I might run your mail in a future edition of the newsletter.
The Last of Us
“Long, Long Time”
“I was never afraid before you showed up.”
It took The Last of Us only three episodes to deliver something timeless.
The show took a beat from Joel and Ellie’s journey west to tell the story of how love — hope, purpose, life — can survive and thrive in the middle of something awful.
By this point, you’ve probably already read tweets and articles calling “Long, Long Time” one of the best episodes in television history. We didn’t watch this one until Monday night, but as soon as I saw the reaction tweets rolling in on Sunday night, I quickly closed Twitter and successfully avoided spoilers the following day.
It was worth it.
The story of Bill and Frank was beautiful and heartbreaking.
I’m in awe of The Last of Us co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Bruckmann having the faith in their show, in their writers and cast, and in all of us watching that we could go on this journey so early in the series.
(As Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk has passionately pleaded, though, “Long, Long Time” isn’t a bottle episode. It’s fully part of the story The Last of Us’ telling.)
Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett were perfect in this episode. To fully show the evolution of these characters over twenty years in roughly 80 minutes is amazing. Offerman’s Bill going from “not today, you new World Order jackboot fucks” to “you were my purpose” — just another level from the Parks and Recreation star.
I know that Linda Ronstadt’s “Long, Long Time” was the musical star of this episode — you’ve all been streaming it like crazy on Spotify — it was Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” that crushed me. If you’re not family with this song, it’s the music that plays at the beginning and end of Arrival. There’s no way I can hear that song and not think of Arrival and those moments.
I told you all last Thursday to start watching The Last of Us. Hopefully you were caught up for this past episode. And you’re not yet, start watching now.
Prime Video released the first trailer for The Power, its adaption of the book by Naomi Alderman. The show takes place in a world where teenage girls — and then the all women — suddenly gain the power to shoot electricity from their hands.
Toni Collette, Auliʻi Cravalho and John Leguizamo lead the cast.
The Power premieres on March 31.
My printer is extorting me (Charlie Warzel, The Atlantic)
Reality Check: The boom — or glut — in television documentaries has sparked a reckoning among filmmakers and their subjects (Reeves Wiedeman, Vulture)
Ex-Twitter workers puzzle over Elon Musk’s abandoned laptops (Paresh Dave, Wired)
Spread the news! Share a free Popculturology subscription with your friends.
Pedro Pascal hosts SNL
Is there a busier person in Hollywood right now than Pascal? The guy is everywhere. The Mandalorian. The Last of Us. And now he’s hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time.
NBC released a promo for his episode on Wednesday.
“Don’t hit the castmembers with a hammer, you maniac.”
Thanks for the advice, Sarah Sherman. Also great to see Molly Kearney in this promo after they didn’t appear in last week’s episode.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor delayed six weeks
I’ve successfully played three video games over the past few years: Pikmin 3, Spider-Man and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. (Well, “successfully played” if you mean “on the easiest mode possible since I need to stop falling off ice slides and restarting.”)
My lack of a PlayStation 5 makes me unprepared for the upcoming release of the sequel to Fallen Order, but it looks like I might have a bit more time to fix that since EA announced on Tuesday that it was delaying the release of the game by six weeks.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was originally supposed to release on March 17 but will now be available on April 28.
Just realized I can put Animal Crossing: New Horizons in my “successfully played” listing too. Thanks to a broken foot and early pandemic life, I played the crap out of the game. My islanders are probably wondering where I’ve been for the last two years, though …
That’s the end of this issue of Popculturology. Thanks for reading. If you don’t already subscribe, please hit the “Subscribe now” button. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter.