Werewolf By Night introduced a new thing into the MCU, the “special presentation”, a one-off story that can just be 50-60 minutes of a good time without worrying about the rest of the MCU, and it was good largely because of that unburdened, light-touch storytelling. The next special presentation is coming in November, and it features the Guardians of the Galaxy on a side quest.
The trailer for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special dropped yesterday, and it looks cute enough. I generally like the Guardians movies, they’re among the strongest films in the MCU (especially Volume 2), but the idea of the Guardians coddling Peter Quill through a lonely Christmas on the other side of space from Earth… Remember in What If… when T’Challa was abducted by Yondu and became Star-Lord, and he was so good at it, Thanos never attacked Earth? It really drives home what a drip Peter Quill is.
Which is the point! I know! Through two features, the Guardians films are explicitly about a man-child growing up and putting away childish things to be a better friend and teammate, and a better prospective partner to Gamora. Still. Ugh. It might be the Chris Pratt exhaustion speaking—it is probably the Chris Pratt exhaustion speaking—but I am over Quill and his whole deal. But that is front and center in the trailer, as Drax and Mantis set off to get Quill the perfect Christmas present to cheer him up after losing Gamora, again, after Endgame. Shades of Uncle Eddie kidnapping Clark Griswold’s boss, but that’s fine. If you’re going to copy, copy from one of the best Christmas movies ever made, for sure.
But this is not the only Guardians news that hit yesterday. James Gunn, the writer-director behind Guardians, including the Holiday Special, is now co-CEO and co-chair of the newly rebranded DC Studios at Warner Bros. Discovery. Working alongside Gunn is super-producer Peter Safran, who has produced films written by Gunn in the past (The Belko Experiment) as well as his DC projects The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker. Safran also produced The Conjuring franchise with Warners’ subsidiary, New Line, and he produced Aquaman and Shazam!, two of the best movies in the DCEU. So, these are two guys with solid track records with superhero movies, they know how to work at this level of big-budget filmmaking, and how to make money with franchises. It’s a sensible, if surprising, choice to head up the reformed DC unit.
It’s also basically the Marvel formula, pairing a director with a producer to run a large-scale production house. Kevin Feige was the wunderkind producer back in 2007 when he produced Iron Man with Louis D’Esposito, a director who got side-tracked into co-running Marvel Studios after he produced a couple movies for Jon Favreau, including Iron Man. That partnership proved incredibly profitable, and Warners is obviously hoping to repeat that alchemy with Gunn and Safran.
There’s a sort of bizarre irony to it, though, given that only reason Gunn was free to make The Suicide Squad is because he got sacked by Disney back in 2018. That happened because a far-right cyber mob wanted to punish Gunn for being a strident progressive on Twitter (and probably also as retaliation for ABC, a Disney subsidiary, previously firing Roseanne Barr. There’s a real “you take one of ours, we’ll take one of yours” mindset at play in the culture war). It almost worked, except it pissed off Kevin Feige so badly Disney risked their golden goose, and after a little time passed, someone was able to get through to Disney brass that the whole thing was an orchestrated campaign, not an actual public outcry against James Gunn. They rehired Gunn the next year, but the damage was done. He’d already signed on to make The Suicide Squad for DC, delaying Guardians 3 for years, and now, Gunn is co-chief DC Studios.
However, this does not mean he—and Safran—have carte blanche with all DC properties. Todd Phillips’ Joker sequel, Joker: Folie a Deux, is not under the new DC Studios banner but will be produced by Warner Bros. film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. And no one is clear on where Matt Reeves’ burgeoning The Batman universe falls, but the answer is probably wherever Reeves wants it to. Batman is a goldmine, they’re not going to mess with Reeves unless and until he makes a bomb of a movie.
As for Gunn’s future with Marvel, it’s probably over once he puts Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 into the world next year. That film is currently in post-production and is due next May. Gunn’s new job with DC is effective November 1, and once he’s done with the Guardians, I don’t expect he’ll keep crossing streams. A director can work for many studios, but a production boss can’t. As the co-chief of DC Studios, it’s unlikely Gunn will continue making billions for their #1 rival. Four years ago, diaper babies tried to cancel James Gunn and now he’s running DC Studios, home of their beloved grimdark superheroes. It’s so f-cking funny I can hardly stand it.