Let there be peace on Earth and across all cinematic universes.
On Sunday night, writer-director James Gunn took to social media to announce the imminent kickoff of production on the new DC Comics film, The Suicide Squad, and share a gift he received from some familiar friends.
Starting production on #TheSuicideSquad, I received perhaps the coolest & sweetest start-of-production gift ever, along with a note of how excited they are for the movie from Kevin, Lou, Victoria, Mary & Jonathan at @marvelstudios. pic.twitter.com/kjWrF55mC2— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) September 29, 2019
That would be Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Mary Livanos, and Jonathan Schwartz, the instrumental producers who bring each Marvel movie to life. The loving gesture comes after a turbulent saga that at one point saw Walt Disney chairman Alan Horn call Gunn’s past work “indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values.”
After directing Guardians of the Galaxy and the sequel Vol. 2 for Marvel Studios, Disney cut ties with Gunn after a group of far-right firebrands resurfaced his old, controversial tweets. While Gunn issued a full apology for his decade-old statements, the cast of Guardians rallied behind him forcing Disney and Marvel to put Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on hold. Gunn emerged as a writer-director on the Suicide Squad sequel in late 2018, and this past March, Disney and Marvel rehired him to helm the third Guardians movie, which he’d begin after work on his DC movie.
With a foot in both DC and Marvel’s comic book movie futures, Gunn is a one-of-a-kind creative entity. But can a fan-friendly director have it both ways? Over the years, abstract partisanship has provoked the chief creatives of both companies to speak about a theoretical rivalry. Gunn and former DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns collectively pushed back against the idea that the run of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League was some sort of superhero space race. During press for Ragnarok, Feige had his own declaration about the imagined battle for comic book dominance when asked about Joss Whedon crossing the line to shoot Justice League.
“I think movies are awesome and people should go out and support awesome movies,” he said.
One can only imagine how Gunn’s choices over the last year have affected his mentions, but the writer-director piggybacked off the Marvel Studios pre-shoot gift to assuage any friction between the Marvel and DC factions. He threaded this comment on Twitter and Instagram:
As I’ve said so many times, at the end of the day, Marvel and DC fans have a lot more in common than they do not. I am now and have been for almost all my life, both. Maybe you like one more than the other — that’s cool — but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them all or that you have to tear the other down. I know that I and my partners at both Marvel and DC believe that what’s good for one studio is generally good for all: spurring each other on daily with heartfelt, spectacular, and innovative entertainment that keeps audiences around the world loving movies based on or inspired by sequential art. Let’s go team(s)
In the era of fans following box office numbers like they’re fantasy football stats, review-bombing the Rotten Tomatoes pages to troll the other side, and the perpetual, conspiratorial claims that critics are paid by one mega-corporation to ding the movies of another mega-corporation, Gunn sees room for people to get along. The entertainment value of the product he’s delivering is what matters in the end.
Earlier this month, Gunn made his point by revealing the full, stacked cast of The Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie returns to the sequel as Harley Quinn, with Viola Davis resuming her supervisor role of Amanda Waller. Idris Elba was expected to fill Will Smith’s role of Deadshot, but will now play a new, unnamed character. The rest of the cast includes Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, John Cena, Peter Capaldi, Taika Waititi, Pete Davidson, David Dastmalchian, and newcomer Daniela Melchior. The Suicide Squad will hit theaters on Aug. 6, 2021.
As for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, Gunn is fully committed to turning it around when time allows. The movie is not currently on Marvel’s schedule, as of the sprawling timeline revealed at Comic-Con and D23, and according to a comment left on his Instagram, the writer-director won’t get to it until he completely wraps The Suicide Squad. “I won’t start Vol. 3 until after Squad is finished editing, not filming,” he said.
Deep breaths, everyone.