James Gunn’s recent comments concerning cameos in the upcoming DC Universe will help the rebooted franchise avoid a major criticism aimed at the MCU.
- James Gunn criticizes empty fan service cameos in superhero films, emphasizing the need for a valid reason for characters’ involvement story-wise.
- The DC Universe reboot aims to avoid unnecessary cameos, instead delivering characters with substance and benefiting the story.
- Both the MCU and DCEU have faced criticism for using pointless cameos, but James Gunn’s comments suggest the DCU is changing its approach.
DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn has commented on cameos in the upcoming DC Universe, suggesting that the rebooted franchise may actually avoid a major criticism that has befallen the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe in recent years. Since superhero storylines from Marvel and DC Comics started to be adapted into live-action, certain actors and characters have been featured in these projects in cameo appearances that don’t always have an impact on the larger story. While cameos in DC and Marvel projects can sometimes be fulfilling and entertaining, they have more recently become a crutch for studios, acting purely as fan service with no valid reasoning for their involvement.
The rise in empty fan service cameos is a criticism that has now been addressed by James Gunn, acclaimed director of the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and co-CEO of DC Studios. Gunn and producer Peter Safran are leading the reboot of the DCEU into the new DC Universe, and this role has opened them up to questioning regarding what the new franchise will entail. This includes a prompt on Threads in which Gunn responded to a criticism that cameos had been used in recent superhero media simply to “mark a checkbox,” with Gunn stating that this “Cameo Porn” is “one of the worst elements of recent superhero films.”
I call that “Cameo Porn” and it has been one of the worst elements of recent superhero films. If a character is in film, they have to have a reason to be there story-wise.
The DCU Avoiding Empty Cameos Is Great News
The fact that James Gunn has stressed that actors and characters who make appearances in superhero projects “have to have a reason to be there story-wise” spells good news for the new DC Universe. Arguably, needless fan service cameos have contributed to a huge increase in scrutiny on recent superhero projects in both the DCEU and MCU, so the fact that the DC Universe will trim these right down and only include characters that benefit the story is great news. It means that characters included in the upcoming DCU reboot will all be delivered on and have true substance, hopefully avoiding this major criticism that has plagued recent superhero media.
Following recent casting announcements for the DC Universe’s first feature film, 2025’s Superman: Legacy, concerns have been expressed regarding the involvement of several superhero characters other than David Corenswet’s Superman. The inclusion of Nathan Fillion’s Guy Gardner, Isabela Merced’s Hawkgirl, Edi Gathegi’s Mister Terrific, Anthony Carrigan’s Metamorpho and María Gabriela De Faría’s Angela Spice, a.k.a. the Engineer, in Superman: Legacy’s roster of characters led some to imagine Superman himself being overshadowed. However, after Gunn’s recent comments, it seems these major DC Comics characters will have a clear reason for being included in the upcoming film, instead of simply being involved in a cameo capacity.
James Gunn’s Cameo Promise Avoids Recent MCU Mistakes
Actors and characters from superhero media have always made cameo appearances in live-action projects from Marvel and DC, but this has become a much more prevalent issue in recent years. This has been displayed perhaps to the extreme in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has relied heavily on cameos throughout the expansive Multiverse Saga. Pointless MCU Cameos by the likes of Harry Styles in Eternals, Megan Thee Stallion in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Brett Goldstein in Thor: Love and Thunder and Michael Mando at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming will likely lead nowhere, or at least won’t be addressed for several years.
2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is widely regarded to be the biggest offender of cheap fan service, thanks to the inclusion of high-profile characters in small roles on Earth-838’s Illuminati. While the Illuminati were an interesting addition to the MCU, the team’s introduction was simply used as fan service. John Krasinski had been a popular fan-cast for Reed Richards, Patrick Stewart returned as an entirely different version of Professor X from Fox’s X-Men Universe, and the likes of Anson Mount’s Black Bolt, Lashana Lynch’s Captain Marvel and Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter were given very little substance before being killed off, meaning their appearance amounted to very little.
The DCEU Had Its Own Issues With Empty Cameos… It Has To Stop
Indeed, this cameo problem hasn’t only been a problem in the MCU, as Warner Bros.’ DCEU has also recently included a huge number of needless cameo appearances. Perhaps the most offensive of these inclusions came during 2023’s The Flash, which used CGI to create cameos of previous DC superhero actors, including Christopher Reeves’ Superman, Helen Slater’s Supergirl, Adam West’s Batman, George Reeves’ Superman and Nicolas Cage’s unseen version of Superman. The Flash’s use of CGI to recreate actors for cameo appearances led to major backlash, but this wasn’t the first time Warner Bros. had included pointless cameos in a DCEU project.
Gal Gadot appeared briefly as Wonder Woman in Shazam! Fury of the Gods and The Flash, though had no impact on the overarching storyline of either project. George Clooney’s appearance at the end of The Flash made very little sense for the story, and confused the idea of the DCEU’s reboot, and the inclusion of Jennifer Holland’s Emilia Harcourt and Steve Agee’s John Economos in Shazam! Fury of the Gods was completely unnecessary. Luckily, James Gunn’s recent comments regarding these cameo appearances suggest the DC Universe will take more care to slim down these pointless appearances, hinting at the new franchise avoiding this major criticism.