After his high-profile exit from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise this summer, James Gunn has found his next gig: on Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad.
According to Deadline, Warner Bros. has hired Gunn to develop and write a script, with the possibility to direct a “completely new take on the property,” noting that “the studio has been in talks with Gunn to step in and develop this film, and the deal was made after he was settled out of Guardians of the Galaxy 3 by Disney.”
The deal is significant because Disney and its Marvel Cinematic Universe, which Gunn played a major role in, are seen as Warner Bros.’ major rivals, and because of the fashion in which Gunn was pushed out of his role as writer-director of the Guardians franchise.
Back in July, Disney cut ties with Gunn after far-right personalities uncovered old (now-deleted) tweets in which Gunn joked about rape, pedophilia, and masturbation. Although the jokes were in poor taste (which Gunn apologized for), there was a bad-faith effort to strip them of their context and read them as if Gunn was seriously and literally promoting rape and pedophilia, with the sole purpose of getting Gunn fired.
Gunn has been a stern critic of President Donald Trump, and the right-wing brigade seemed to be politically motivated. After Disney severed its connection with the director, both Guardians fans and Gunn’s entertainment industry peers contested the decision through petitions, public statements, and direct appeals to Disney. One such appeal included a letter signed by the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy, asking the company to reinstate Gunn as writer and director and condemn the campaign that got him fired in the first place.
Dave Bautista, who plays Drax in the Guardians films, was the franchise’s most vocal cast member, voicing his displeasure not only with the bad-faith effort to get Gunn ousted, but also with what he described as Disney’s “empower[ment] of a smear campaign”:
I will do what Im legally obligated to do but @Guardians without @JamesGunn is not what I signed up for. GOTG w/o @JamesGunn just isn’t GOTG. Its also pretty nauseating to work for someone who’d empower a smear campaign by fascists #cybernazis . That’s just how I feel https://t.co/Ym4FwruVDu— Dave Bautista (@DaveBautista) August 5, 2018
To some, Warner Bros.’ hiring of Gunn might look like a rebuke of the lack of support that Disney showed for Gunn, especially given that Gunn was an integral part of turning the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise into a surprise success — the first Guardians movie hauled in over $773 million worldwide; the second movie topped it with over $863 million.
But from a franchise standpoint, hiring Gunn is also just a smart business decision for Warner Bros., giving the studio a writer and director who has proven he can turn esoteric comic book characters into box office champions.
While 2016’s Suicide Squad boasted a star-studded cast that included Viola Davis, Will Smith, and Jared Leto and was a box office hit that made $746 million worldwide (in addition to winning an Oscar!), it was critically panned. Had it actually been a good movie, not only could it have potentially made even more money, but it also could have generated real excitement for a second Suicide Squad film. By adding Gunn to the franchise — and allowing Gunn to put his own unique spin on whatever he does with it — Warner Bros. may get the opportunity to make that possibility a reality.