DC doesn’t have to be Marvel. It’s a lesson that Warner Bros. needed a few years to learn as the studio tried to catch up with its competition over at Walt Disney Pictures. But after spending time trying to get a connected and interwoven cinematic universe off of the ground in movies like Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s now clear that WB and DC are focusing on one movie at a time, trying to make each of them the best they can possibly be on their own.
This was a massive takeaway learned on the set of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which CinemaBlend visited a few years back (the movie has been delayed, like most other blockbusters, while the industry was in limbo). We were able to tour major sets and speak with several members of the sprawling cast, But one question the journalists on set kept lobbing at talent was HOW this movie fit into the overall Big Picture of the DC Universe. And it was producer Peter Safran who made it very clear to CinemaBlend:
It’s very much a standalone film. … I think The Suicide Squad very much is in line with what we did on Aquaman and Shazam! in the sense that the idea was to make a great standalone movie, and don't worry about how it fits in any broader universe. That's obviously what we did with Aquaman and with Shazam! That's what we're doing here. We're just making a great movie. We hope. But that's the focus. It doesn't have to live within some broader universe, automatically. It's something that if you go back -- I think James probably said this years ago. He was quoted... Whenever he was talking about building universes, the Monster University at Universal, or this universe, he was always, like, ‘Just make a good movie. Make a good movie, and if it merits being built out into something more than that, then you'll figure out a way to do it.’ But you don't have to have the preconceived idea of how it all fits together as you make that first movie. So for us, it's very much about, just go make one great movie.
This is an incredibly healthy approach to moviemaking. Yes, Marvel Studios has a model where some movies set up plot turns in subsequent sequels. And now we’re at a point where developments in a Disney+ show such as WandaVision might have an impact on a feature film like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But on the DC side of things, producers and directors driving stories forward claim to be focusing on the narrative that’s right in front of them, and not worrying about how it affects a larger universe.
That doesn’t mean that the existence of a larger DC universe is ignored. To that end, The Suicide Squad producer Charles Roven brings up the Superman reference that is heard in the trailers for the new film. It turns out that Bloodsport (Idris Elba) has been imprisoned because he successfully put the Man of Steel in the ICU with a Kryptonite bullet. Roven tells CinemaBlend:
I think each one of these projects do stand alone, but some of them stand alone inside the universe, and some of them stand alone outside the universe. … Just that concept (of a Superman reference in The Suicide Squad) lets know that there's some version of him inside the universe. Or referencing Harley's relationship to Joker inside the universe. And the fact that you've got characters from the previous Squad and many new characters, that's at least inside of the universe of Suicide Squad. But the story itself can easily stand alone.
This will take some getting used to, but as Peter Safran points out, movies such as Aquaman and Shazam! Started DC fans down these paths, and movies like Black Adam and The Flash will keep establishing standalone films that may or may not connect. Look for more DC references in The Suicide Sqaud when it hits theaters and HBO Max on August 6. And to keep up to date on all future DC projects, make sure that you are checking our guide to upcoming DC movies on the regular.