James Gunn Is Playing It Too Safe with DCU Casting

The new DC universe is starting fresh, but it still seems to be playing it safe.

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #6 by Bilquis Evely and Mat Lopes
DC Comics

Supergirl may be the Woman of Tomorrow, but comic book fans won’t have to wait too long for her debut on the big screen, again. DC Studios co-chairs James Gunn and Peter Safran are hard at work rebuilding the superhero universe, and their 10-year plan, titled “Gods and Monsters,” is quickly taking shape. First on the docket for Gunn — after appetizers like Waller and Creature Commandoes — is Superman: Legacy, the film that promises to be our first deep dive into the DC Universe.

With Legacy, Gunn is aiming to reboot the Man of Steel in the vein of classic comic runs. That Golden Age sensibility will likely trickle down to other films and shows, like Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. Adapted loosely from the Tom King comics of the same name, Woman of Tomorrow is said to introduce Supergirl as a “much more hardcore” foil to her Kryptonian cousin, Kal-El.

“She’s not exactly the Supergirl we’re used to seeing,” Gunn stated during the DC slate announcement in 2023. With casting news beginning to emerge, however, it seems like Supergirl will be exactly the type of superheroine that most expect to see.

House of the Dragon’s Milly Alcock is reportedly a frontrunner for Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

According to Deadline, the search for Supergirl is nearing its end. DC Studios has reportedly narrowed the list down to a handful of young actors, with Milly Alcock (House of the Dragon), Emilia Jones (CODA), and Meg Donnelly (The Winchesters) among the frontrunners.

Like the casting for Superman: Legacy, DC seems keen on bringing characters back to their classic roots. Given the state of the franchise, that’s not exactly surprising. For the past 10 years, Zack Snyder’s DC Extended Universe subverted audience expectations with a few left-field casting choices. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, for example, or Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, weren’t in line with traditional ideals for the characters. They also weren’t the most popular. It makes sense for the pendulum to swing back into more familiar territory, especially with all the scrutiny facing superhero movies as of late.

But these casting choices, while safer, also close the DCU off to more exciting possibilities. Woman of Tomorrow may be the first film in 40 years to put the character center stage, but the image of another Supergirl is still pretty fresh in fans’ minds. Sasha Calle appeared as Supergirl in 2023’s The Flash and was the highlight of an otherwise dismal film. That DC is rebooting the character, effectively denying Calle another chance to make the character her own, doesn’t leave the best taste in the mouth. (Especially when some of Gunn’s handpicked actors have been invited to stick around.)

Sasha Calle might officially be out as Supergirl.

Warner Bros. Pictures

DC Studios has yet to confirm the Supergirl news, but it’s already sparked a contentious debate among fans. As Gunn is the face of this ongoing reboot, he’s being criticized for the decision to pivot away from a non-white actress. It doesn’t help that his Superman: Legacy cast is woefully homogenous, as well, a far cry from Gunn’s ensembles in films like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad.

Others cite “comic book accuracy” as a priority for this new age of DC films, an excuse that’s becoming less of a priority elsewhere. DC’s rivals at Marvel have steadily been introducing more diverse heroes and villains, occasionally through the practice of “colorblind” casting. Of course, not all of those efforts have been met with open arms, and there’s an unfortunate difference between Marvel’s most inclusive films and projects that are more loyal to the source material.

The issue of diversity in comic book films will always be a thorny topic, but it’s clear DC is hoping to avoid as much backlash as possible. Its efforts to play it safe could come at the cost of the promising developments that the old guard already established. That’s a shame. Then again, it’s still early days for the DCU and there are plenty of opportunities to keep this franchise fresh if Gunn and DC are open to them.

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