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Keep James Gunn Away From Directing 'Gotham City Sirens'

By Brian Richards | DC Movies | August 19, 2021 |

By Brian Richards | DC Movies | August 19, 2021 |


Harley Quinn TSS.jpg

The Suicide Squad, the sequel/remake/soft reboot to the 2016 film Suicide Squad, opened in theaters earlier this month to glowing reviews from critics, disappointing box-office returns, and the constantly rehashed narrative that has accompanied every film in the DCEU since 2017 back when Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League was seen by critics and audiences: “X has saved the DCEU” and “DCEU is finally on the right track and taking a step in the right direction.” The week after its release, The Hollywood Reporter wrote an article about James Gunn and his future with Warner Bros. and the DCEU.

Even as the DCEU lines up its future projects and attempts greater connectivity while also exploring the multiverse, one thing seems certain: Gunn will be playing in the world of DC properties for some time to come.

The Suicide Squad spin-off series, Peacemaker, starring John Cena, is set to hit HBO Max early next year, and there have been teases of other projects to come. At the premiere of The Suicide Squad, DC Films president, Walter Hamada said, “He’ll be back. We have more stuff planned.” Even after the pandemic hampered opening weekend box office results for The Suicide Squad, the film was a clear win for the brand, opening the door for new characters, concepts, and stories. The big question is: What will Gunn tackle next?

There have been rumblings of a Gotham City Sirens film since Suicide Squad (2016). David Ayer was originally set to do it, and after Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), there was online buzz about Cathy Yan taking on the project. But Gunn may be the one to actually bring it to fruition. In that same chat with THR, Gunn said that he felt he had a knack for writing Harley Quinn and that Margot Robbie was his favorite actress he’s worked with. Robbie expressed similar enthusiasm for Gunn at the premiere. Another team-up between the two seems like the natural answer.

Gotham City Sirens, created by Paul Dini and Guillem March, features Harley, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman, who with the help of the Riddler, take on Hush. Although Catwoman and the Riddler will be appearing in non-DCEU film The Batman, portrayed by Zoe Kravitz and Paul Dano respectively, the multiverse would allow for other iterations of those characters to appear within the DCEU. Fans have been waiting a long time to see Harley and Ivy’s romance on screen, and Gunn, so adept at telling unexpected love stories, could be the director for the job.

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The very possibility of Gunn being such a strong and likely candidate to write and direct an adaptation of Gotham City Sirens did not make a lot of people in DCEU Twitter very happy. In their eyes, if there’s anyone who should be next in line to direct Gotham City Sirens, it should be Cathy Yan, who directed Birds Of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).

Birds Of Prey made $201 million worldwide on an $82 million budget, but because it didn’t break even by reaching $250 - $300 million, it is still viewed by some as a flop and an underperformer compared to other comic-book films. (There were some articles and tweets that pointed out how the media was much harder on Birds Of Prey regarding box-office compared to how they treated Ford v. Ferrari, which had a slightly higher budget and a similar box-office performance during its release) Also because it didn’t make a billion dollars at the box-office like Joker, another R-rated comic-book film from Warner Bros./DC, and there are too many comic-book fans who have ridiculous expectations when it comes to comic-book movies. This explains their confusion as to why Shazam! even got a sequel due to their belief that it also flopped at the box-office (despite it making $363 million worldwide on a budget of around $85 million), and that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is constantly referred to on Twitter as a vastly underappreciated film that also underperformed at the box-office because it didn’t make close to a billion (even though it won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, a BAFTA award for Best Animated Film, a New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Animated Film, has a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and made $375 million on a $90 million budget). But it also suffered from opening in theaters during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as misogynistic behavior from Internet trolls who saw Birds Of Prey as anti-men (and used Ewan McGregor’s interview on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as proof) and not comic-accurate enough to their liking (changes made to Cassandra Cain, the main characters not wearing their familiar costumes and not looking sexy enough to satisfy audiences, Black Canary not being played by Katheryn Winnick or by any other blonde-haired white woman), hence their unwavering support for Sonic The Hedgehog (despite their previous complaints about Sonic’s original appearance and all of their accompanying bullying and harassment until the visual-effects crew for the film decided to scrap their work and start over) and their attempts to turn Sonic in to another Pepe The Frog.

Warner Bros. clearly wants to be in business with Gunn (after all, he directed Guardians Of The Galaxy and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 to glowing reviews and box-office success, and helped make the Marvel/Disney brand even more of an unstoppable juggernaut than it was already) and have a future with him so he can bring the magic touch to their studio like they hoped Joss Whedon would do when he took over as director of Justice League after Zack Snyder stepped down to be with his family. They want this so much that they gave the green light to Peacemaker before we even saw the trailer for The Suicide Squad, and even offered him a chance to direct a Superman film. Granted, Warner Bros. has been hemming and hawing since 2017 as to if and when Henry Cavill will appear onscreen as Superman again, which was one of the reasons why Gunn’s decision to have Superman be the main antagonist in The Suicide Squad was briefly considered and then scrapped so that Starro The Conqueror could be the Big Bad after all.

Oh, and don’t let Gunn see you trying to imply otherwise, or else he will call your ass out on Twitter, as he already did when he saw this headline.

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The reasons why DCEU Twitter has little to no interest in James Gunn directing or writing Gotham City Sirens or any other Harley Quinn-centric films are mostly the same reasons why they had little to no interest in watching The Suicide Squad and why they’ve felt this way ever since they first saw the trailer for it: Because they hated his juvenile and misogynistic sense of humor in the Guardians Of The Galaxy films (as well as in The Suicide Squad, for those who watched it via online piracy and were so proud to let others know it) and don’t think he would be a good fit for Gotham City Sirens in part because of his now-deleted jokes on Twitter and on now-deleted blog posts that illustrated his juvenile and misogynistic sense of humor. Because Gunn has practically been given permission and free rein by Warner Bros. to do whatever he wants, when there are fans who are still wanting and waiting for a Black Canary movie/limited series with Jurnee Smollett (especially now that Lovecraft Country was recently cancelled by HBO), a Huntress movie/limited series with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, another Superman film with Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent and Amy Adams as Lois Lane, David Ayer’s original cut of Suicide Squad, sequels to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a movie/limited series with Ben Affleck returning as Batman, a movie/limited series with Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, and a solo movie for Detective Chimp.

(Granted, I may be one of two people who wants to see Detective Chimp get his own movie, but I still think it would be awesome to see, if it’s done right.)

Birds Of Prey has only grown in popularity since its release on Blu-ray and DVD, and began airing regularly on HBO (as well as its availability on HBO Max, though good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor if you need to rewind or fast-forward while watching it). People who watched it at home have kicked themselves with soccer cleats for not seeing it in theaters when they had the chance, and those who did see it in theaters often said how this was actually the last film they got to see on the big screen before movie theaters began to temporarily shut down in March of 2020. After The Suicide Squad was released, many people on Twitter pointed out that Birds Of Prey deserves a hell of a lot more appreciation (along with Cathy Yan and the film’s screenwriter, Christina Hodson, who has also worked on the screenplays for the upcoming DCEU films The Flash and Batgirl), and for how it helped give the DCEU the tonal shift that it needed after the near-unwatchable catastrof-ck that was Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League.

(The woman in this video got a lot of support and retweets from other fans in DCEU Twitter, until some people pointed out another video of hers in which she ranks all of the films in the DCEU and practically says that “James Gunn rules and Zack Snyder drools!”, so a lot of that goodwill she had acquired seems to have dwindled not too long after that.)

However, there were others who felt that since each director in the DCEU was able to bring their own tone and do their own thing (minus all of the usual behind-the-scenes interference from Warner Bros.) with each of the stories being told in their own films, there was really no need to act as if any kind of tonal shift was happening in the DCEU, or even necessary in the first place. Kate Sánchez of the But Why Tho? podcast had a differing opinion as to which film and director really helped change things in this cinematic universe instead of Yan and Birds Of Prey (which she really likes, FYI):

It’s kind of hard to argue against a film that has a whole-ass octopus playing the drums to hype up a crowd right before the start of a fight, so she does have a point.

If and when Gotham City Sirens ever does get the green light, the last thing that Cathy Yan deserves is to be treated by Warner Bros. the same way that Summit Entertainment treated Catherine Hardwicke after she directed Twilight and Universal Pictures treated Sam Taylor-Johnson after she directed Fifty Shades Of Grey. They were hired to direct films based on source material popular with and beloved by women, and once those films became box-office hits, they were kicked to the curb so that men could take over the director’s chair for the sequels and finish what they had started.

I don’t blame Gunn at all for wanting to continue working with Margot Robbie on another film where she gets to play Harley Quinn (Robbie as Harley Quinn still remains one of the very best casting decisions for any comic-book movie), but he would be much better off standing aside to let Cathy Yan (or any other female director who is willing and able to do the job) direct Gotham City Sirens and/or any other Harley Quinn-centric films, and use his connections with Warner Bros. to act as a producer instead of writing, co-writing, or directing it. And not just because he’s already been called out for trying to act as if he wrote Guardians Of The Galaxy by himself without any assistance from co-writer Nicole Perlman, so taking another opportunity from a woman in the film industry really wouldn’t be a good look for him.

I don’t know what the future holds for Gotham City Sirens, for Harley Quinn, and for the rest of the DCEU (especially if the rumors on Reddit are true and The Flash really is used as a reset button by Warner Bros. for a soft reboot of the entire DCEU), but when it comes to James Gunn and any other properties he feels like adapting after The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, and how DCEU Twitter still has their feet planted firmly on his neck, all I can say to him at this point is…

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Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.



Image sources (in order of posting): Warner Bros., HBO Max, DC Comics