James Gunn moving to DC proves that Disney made a mistake in firing him. Gunn had spent the last six years dedicating most of his time to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He directed two following another racist remark by Roseanne Barr, but the difference between these two instances is large. Gunn’s tweets were old attempts at comedy that don’t reflect who he is now, while Barr’s tweets were made in the here and now and reflected her current personal worldviews. Disney treated them as if they were the same when they are in fact not.
Disney still could’ve made this same decision, but allowing some time to pass to investigate the tweets themselves, why they resurfaced, and to meet with Gunn could’ve resulted in an entirely different outcome. Indeed, the company didn’t even sit down with Gunn before firing him, only having what was described as a “courtesy meeting” with him afterward to discuss his return, which Disney chairman Alan Horn wasn’t interested in… right now.
Disney Didn’t Actually Want to Get Rid of Gunn Entirely
Making matters even more complicated are the various reports regarding Disney and Marvel’s actual stance on Gunn and his future. As the days past by after his firing, there were multiple reports that Gunn could in some way make a return to Marvel down the road. Coming back to direct Guardians 3 looked to be a long shot, but other future movies appeared to be on the table. If this is true, then Disney didn’t really want to get rid of Gunn and his firing was instead done to create separation between them as the situation cooled.
In fact, Disney likely won’t be able to get rid of Gunn anyways, so finding a way to bring him back made sense. Thanks to the WGA crediting system, there is no easy way out of Gunn getting credit on Guardians 3 and any subsequent movies that the Guardians may appear in. Possibly because of this, it has been reported and further stated by Sean Gunn that Marvel will keep Gunn’s script for the next Guardians film. They would basically have to have an entirely new cast of characters and story for the third film for Gunn not to receive story by credit anyways, and even then it isn’t guaranteed, so it is simply easier to use what they paid for. And, it also guarantees that Gunn’s larger vision for the core characters will be fulfilled as he envisioned. That’s a consolation prize at best, as it will be up someone else to deliver on his take.
Gunn Would Have Been a Major Player in Defining Marvel’s Cosmic Universe
Gunn wasn’t just going to be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s writer and director though, as he was also going to be a major voice in creating the future of the MCU’s Cosmic wing. He established the look and tone of the cosmos through the first two Guardians films, and the way Thor: Ragnarok differentiates itself for the previous Thor movies is the prime example of how future cosmic films will likely maintain this style. He created the Guardians, introduced major cosmic elements, and his script for Guardians 3 sets up 10-20 years of Marvel stories. It is safe to say that Gunn wouldn’t just be a director for the MCU moving past Phase 3 and could instead be the overseer of all cosmic Marvel movies.
Gunn had effectively become Feige’s unofficial right-hand guy for all cosmic stories, so his future may have been well beyond the capacity of a regular director. After all, Feige’s reach keeps expanding and will soon include reign over original Marvel TV series for Disney’s streaming service and the ability to use the X-Men and Fantastic Four, so he may have needed someone else who understands these characters to help lighten his load. Gunn appeared ready to become a version of that guy for Marvel Cosmic; he already was a hands-on producer on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4, and could’ve served in a similar capacity on The Eternals and Marvel’s other mystery cosmic properties. A few of these future films could even be projects that Gunn himself would decide to direct, but he would’ve likely produced most of these films if nothing else.
Being Hired by DC is (Probably) the Point of No Return
Now that Gunn has moved to DC, it’s difficult to imagine him coming back to Marvel. If Marvel and Disney weren’t going to give him the opportunity to continue creating new, exciting franchises for them, then taking his talents to DC is the next best thing – and may even be a better fit. Despite him joining a reported sequel, his version of Suicide Squad is said to be a completely new take. This should give him almost complete freedom to do as he pleases, maybe even when it comes to a darker, edgier tone that Gunn established in some of his earlier, pre-Marvel films. And, as long as his Suicide Squad movie is a hit, then he could climb the ranks with DC and become a larger part of their cinematic universe.
It should be noted that the DC vs Marvel “rivalry” isn’t a real thing when it comes to how studios operate, but this is still a statement made by Gunn and DC. If Marvel wouldn’t take him back, what better way to show them how wrong they were then making DC tons of money. And if you’re DC, why wouldn’t you want a talented director like Gunn to join your ranks if Marvel isn’t going to use him anymore? There is no exclusivity clauses in these contracts, so Gunn could theoretically still return to Marvel in the future. But, that relationship is fractured if not completely broken and it would be a humbling move if nothing else for Disney and Marvel to bring Gunn back after he potentially delivers a few hits for DC.
Even if they would have him back, his schedule could be dictated by any future plans for Warner Bros. At this point, Gunn’s decision has been made and Disney will be left looking foolish for letting him go.