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Here's How To Fix The DCEU

It's fair to say that the DC Extended Universe, since kicking off with 2013's "Man of Steel," has had an interesting — but rocky — journey.

In the wake of Marvel Studios' runaway "Avengers" success, Warner Bros. was understandably keen to kickstart its own superhero cinematic universe, but the studio has made severe miscalculations along the way. The polarized reception to "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" was the first stumble, followed by its disastrously wrongheaded studio interference in David Ayer's "Suicide Squad." Things only got worse with "Justice League," when Zack Snyder heartbreakingly left the project midway through production, leading to now-controversial director Joss Whedon being brought on to finish the film. The disappointing debut of what should have been WB's "Avengers"-level crossover caused Warner Bros. to reorganize DC Films.  

Thankfully, the DCEU has since broadened its horizons, with delightful adventures like "Shazam!," "Aquaman," "Birds of Prey," and James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad." These movies have taken a more lighthearted approach to the DC universe, to great success, but there are still a few issues that could spell disaster for the DCEU ... and chief among them is Ezra Miller.

The fact is, Ezra Miller was recently arrested in Hawaii for "disorderly conduct." A restraining order was also filed against "The Flash" star after they broke into an apartment and threatened to kill the owners. News later followed that Warner Bros. held an emergency meeting to address the situation, and that they've even discussed replacing the actor. It's a difficult situation considering the 2023 release of "The Flash" is supposed to the biggest DC movie on the horizon. 

However, if the studio does decide to get rid of Miller, this film — even with a recast – is the prime place to fix the franchise, and to begin rebuilding their universe with a more consistent creative vision.

How to solve a problem like The Flash

Let's get the most pressing matter out of the way first. If Warner Bros. really does decide to replace Ezra Miller for their controversial actions over the last few years — remember, they choked a fan in Iceland back in 2020 — then "The Flash" movie really needs to address this. Principal photography wrapped back in October 2021, so as much as WB might wish they'd recast Miller earlier, it's now impossible to reshoot the entire movie with a brand-new actor.

However, that doesn't mean "The Flash" can't end with a new Barry Allen. 

Recall that "The Flash" is taking its cues from the 2011 story in the comics, "Flashpoint," where Barry travels back in time to stop his mother's murder, but in doing so, inadvertently changes the future into a dystopian hellscape. By the end of the comics storyline, Barry manages to fix things — but the reality he knew before remains altered in various ways. In the comics, this event was crafted as a way to jettison old continuity and make way for new stories with a less complex timeline, and it's presumed that 2023's "The Flash" will do something similar. Indeed, the first trailer for the 2023 movie confirms Barry will travel back to the past to save his mother, but this version of the story will delve more into the multiverse than the original. 

This gives Warner Bros. the perfect opportunity to make a course correction — not just for the DCEU, but for replacing Miller. All it takes is for the film to end in a brand-new timeline, and for Barry — thanks to his timeline hijinks — to suddenly have a brand-new face, paving the way for future Flash appearances to not have Miller involved.

Who should be the new Scarlet Speedster?

Obviously, this comes with the inevitable question of who should step into the Flash's red jumpsuit if Miller is asked to leave. The most obvious choice is Grant Gustin — after all, he's been playing the Scarlet Speedster longer than Ezra Miller. In fact, "The Flash" TV series debuted a week before Miller was confirmed as the DCEU's version of the character (via Variety), which many found slightly baffling at the time. Gustin has proved time and again that he's an excellent version of both Barry Allen and the Flash himself, balancing the hero's lighthearted personality with his guilt and dedication to crime-fighting.

Unfortunately, Gustin has stated on a number of occasions that he doesn't want to play the hero forever, and that he's missed out on various projects because of his commitments to The CW TV series (via ComicBook.com). So, it's not clear whether he'd be interested if Warner Bros. asked him to step into Miller's shoes. 

The best possible option is to search for a relatively unknown star to join the franchise, instead, who could hypothetically be in for the long haul. Now, if Warner Bros. handed the role over to a notable star — then our picks would be Sam Claflin or Garrett Hedlund — but that reveal could be marred by a reaction of "Oh, it's that guy!" Alternatively, an unknown star would likely keep audiences more interested in what's in the future for the character. 

At this point it's still not clear what Warner Bros. is going to do with the role. They might even keep Miller. However, going forward, they also need to ensure a more consistent creative approach to this universe, and in that regard, they should look toward the man who fixed the Suicide Squad.

Once a new Flash is established, give James Gunn the keys to DC

Fixing the DCEU is not as simple as just rebooting the timeline and then hoping for the best — Warner Bros. needs to follow through, to ensure that they keep things fresh. Thankfully, the studio has already been on a hot streak for the last couple of years with the hopefulness of "Aquaman" and "Shazam," while "Birds of Prey" and "The Suicide Squad" take a cheeky, mature approach to superheroism. There are already a number of movies in the pipeline, as "Black Adam," "Shazam: Fury of the Gods," and "Batgirl," but after "The Flash" arrives in 2023, Warner Bros. would be wise to establish James Gunn as the creative mind behind the franchise.

Now, Gunn shouldn't dictate every story in upcoming DC movies, but bringing him on to oversee the general direction of the universe would probably push the franchise to greater heights. He's already proved that he can flourish with these characters — just look at how thrilled fans have been with both "The Suicide Squad" and the "Peacemaker" HBO Max series. The writer-director is a master at balancing big bombastic action with heartfelt storytelling and smaller, meaningful character development. Who else could've gotten audiences so emotionally involved in seeing Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) overcoming his childhood trauma, or Bloodsport (Idris Elba) dealing with his rat phobia? That's Gunn's secret. He takes something truly weird and finds a way of making the audience truly care about it. That same approach could apply to untapped DCEU characters like Martian Manhunter and the Spectre.

Thankfully he's already set to work on "Peacemaker" Season 2 — as well as a mystery project spinning out of "The Suicide Squad" — but let's hope there's more on the way from Gunn.