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GOTG Vol 3 Has Officially Sold Us On James Gunn's Superman

Contains spoilers for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3"

When it was announced that James Gunn would be heading up DC's cinematic universe for the foreseeable future, it made perfect sense. After all, the director cut his teeth on some of Marvel's best films via the "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise, and he helmed the best-reviewed DC movie in years, "The Suicide Squad," in 2021.

However, you'd be forgiven for doing a double take when it was revealed that Gunn would be writing and directing a new Superman movie himself. The character has been notoriously challenging to adapt for the big screen in the modern era, and though Henry Cavill's version has staunch supporters, it failed to stick around. Gunn also has a reputation for wisecracking snark that works great in "Guardians of the Galaxy" but might not be quite so fitting for the Man of Steel. So the question lingers: Is Gunn the right choice to direct a Superman movie?

After seeing "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," the answer is a resounding yes. Though the two franchises are quite different in style and tone, "Vol. 3" shows how good Gunn is at the things that matter: character development, emotional poignance, and heart. Amid all the banter and colorful alien locales, the movie gets back to what once made the Marvel Cinematic Universe great, respecting both its protagonists and the time fans have invested in them. Suffice it to say, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" has sold us on James Gunn's "Superman: Legacy" movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 remembers why we love superheroes

Superman may not have been the first superhero ever imagined, but that's how history remembers him. His bright outfit, catchy name, and dedication to helping those in need set the standard for everything that followed, including the modern comic book blockbuster-industrial complex. However, the world of cape-clad comic characters has changed a good bit in that time. It's not enough to simply save people anymore — you have to have nemeses, a multiverse, and a hundred different crossovers.

And yet, Superman still embodies the spirit of those golden days. Maybe it's the simplicity of his costume or his Swiss army knife powers, but he's managed to stay above the noise. Clark Kent is famous for being good and kind and brave and true, even in the darkest of times. He does the right thing, which is why we love superheroes to begin with.

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" gets that message. It's spot-on in its assessment of what makes its heroes heroic. In the film's final act, the team battles through a whole ship of bad guys, not to kill the main villain or find the last Infinity Stone, but simply to save the many innocents trapped there. Kids, aliens, baby animals — every single life matters, and they all get out alive. After close to a decade of action-packed climaxes and battles against Thanos and his ilk, the Guardians end their trilogy by saving lives, not doing stunts.

And that's what Superman is all about.

Characters, not cameos, lead Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Marvel Studios has had plenty of hits since the Infinity Saga ended, including "Loki," "WandaVision," and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." But there have also been more than a few duds. At its worst, the franchise has become a focus-tested amalgam of setups, Easter eggs, and "Hey, it's that other guy" moments. Fortunately, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is the good kind of Marvel movie — one that focuses on real character development instead of cheap callbacks.

"Vol. 3" cashes in on nine years of buildup. We get to see Nebula (Karen Gillan) become an inspiring leader after a tragic, rage-filled life. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) overcomes his immense trauma and finally accepts himself as he is. These arcs play because of how much time we've all spent with the characters.

Though he's a larger-than-life figure, Superman needs that same kind of attention. The character fails when he's treated less as a person and more as a god — a titanic emblem of goodness with no actual arc to speak of. The appeal of Kal-El is that he chooses to be Superman, time after time, even though he could just as easily conquer all of Earth in an instant.

Additionally, Superman needs to stand on his own, apart from any other subseries or Justice League teammates. If he is to be the heart of James Gunn's new DCU, it needs to be a heart that beats and bleeds, and not just a logo.

The emotional core of Guardians of the Galaxy is perfect for the DC universe

Though they're still silly more often than they're not, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" films may also be the most emotionally complex in all of the MCU. Each one of the main characters is deeply flawed and haunted by the ghosts of their pasts. Over the course of the story, they're all forced to confront their traumas, ultimately finding new things to fight for and ways to improve themselves. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" continues with that trend, giving the team an emotionally resonant send-off.

James Gunn's ability to handle messy characters and emotionally muddled storylines makes him a great choice for the DCU, and for Superman in particular. Clark Kent might seem like a much more sunshine-and-rainbows character than other DC heroes like Batman or John Constantine, but telling his story the right way requires an understanding of the complicated world around him. He too is a man born of tragedy, shipped away from his family and his entire home planet while just a baby. Out of that tragedy, and with the guidance of some compassionate adoptive parents, he discovers the drive to help the helpless wherever they might be.

Superman's strength is born of grief, just like the Guardians of the Galaxy. Hopefully, Gunn's strong track record of writing nuanced comic book character arcs will parlay into a fantastic Man of Steel film.

What James Gunn's Superman: Legacy could look like

Few details have been revealed about James Gunn's Superman movie, which is set to be released in 2025. However, the writer-director has dropped a couple of clues. Speaking about the script on Twitter in March 2023, Gunn said that the story will largely focus on "Superman's heritage – how both his aristocratic Kryptonian parents and his Kansas farmer parents inform who he is and the choices he makes." What exactly does that have to do with "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3"? Well, a lot, actually.

Consider Rocket's arc in the third "Guardians" film. He has to deal with a violent and complicated history in order to become the hero he knows he can be. Sound familiar? How about Nebula and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who both have to grapple with their dark upbringing by Thanos in order to take ownership of their lives? For his entire comic book movie career, Gunn has been telling stories about how our history shapes us, about how it determines our paths and the ways we can break away from it.

From the sound of it, Gunn's "Superman: Legacy" will be as much about Krypton as Earth. For a director who's built his reputation on the backs of sci-fi superhero movies, that makes a lot of sense. Of course, the two will still be quite different, with Gunn telling Rolling Stone in April 2023, "It's not like Superman is going to have exactly the same vibe as a Guardians movie. It's actually quite different."

We still have a while to wait before Gunn's Superman vision becomes clear, but "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is a strong endorsement of what the director could be cooking up.