There was a time when DC characters ruled the box office – at least compared to their lowly Marvel competitors, whose films were often the stuff of made-for-TV bins. On one side you had Tim Burton’s Batman and Christopher Reeves’ Superman films; both eventually descended to the bowels of camp, but not before making a small, Scrooge McDuck-like vault of gold coins for Warner Bros. On the other side were films like The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, guest starring a sad looking ninja calling himself Daredevil, and another one with Thor. Both were gobbled up by fans, but both were fairly bad. And the less said about the 1990 Captain America film starring Revenge of the Nerds’ Matt Salinger, the better. Times, of course, have changed.
Marvel’s movie properties have gone on to receive the Charles Atlas treatment, going from skinny weaklings to muscular brutes. Marvel Studios has a coordinated plan that extends for years, and even the Marvel characters outside its control are doing well.
DC, on the other hand, has stuck with standalone properties. It has had a lot of success with this model – just look at Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the recent Man of Steel – but they don’t have the framework in place that can easily develop several other properties like Marvel does. DC also lacks the central oversight that a film with a difficult background to convey, like Thor, had. That creates the possibility of a movie like the reviled Green Lantern. DC and WB are trying though, and things are slowly beginning to change.
DC has a lot of firepower at its disposal, both with the well-known characters and those published by wholly owned imprints like Vertigo. It also looks like it is hoping to ape Marvel’s plans and create one connected universe. As with Marvel, which is owned by Disney, DC has a powerful backer in WB. It’s really just a matter of getting all the right pieces in place, and then we could see films like the Justice League dominate the box office, and could create a platform to launch countless connected properties.
We’ve compiled all the current rumors on DC characters heading to the big screen. Unlike Marvel, DC may still shift its schedule, so a film in development now may not be in a week, and vice versa. This article will be frequently updated as more news and rumors begin to circulate following these films, so check back often.
(This article was original published on July 23, 2013. Any updates or additional news will be posted with the date of the update next to them.)
Films confirmed in development starring DC characters
Man of Steel 2 (July 17, 2015)
A sequel was all but guaranteed following the success of Man of Steel, but not many predicted that the sequel would also star Batman. Zack Snyder stopped a few fans’ hearts at Comic-Con by announcing that the next Man of Steel would feature both Batman and Superman, and that it would take one step more on the path to creating a Justice League film.
Henry Cavill is confirmed to return as Superman, and Ben Affleck has been confirmed as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The question of continuity remains, and the casting of Affleck of the 41-year old Affleck confirms the earlier rumors that the filmmakers wanted an older Batman. That could fit into the existing Nolan framework, and Affleck could be replacing Bale, or they could reboot the character completely.
The title is another big question. Traditionally in the comics when Superman and Batman team up, it is known as “World’s Finest.” That is the logical choice, but writer David Goyer claimed that it would be either “Superman vs. Batman,” or “Batman vs. Superman.” WB even purchased both of those domain names. The suggestion of a conflict between the two heroes adds a sensationalistic angle, but anyone that has read comics can probably guess how this will play out: the two will fight over a misunderstanding, then team up to defeat the baddie.
- Zack Snyder will return to direct. Christopher Nolan will be involved again, but to a lesser extent.
- The actor that takes the role of Batman will likely need to sign a multi-picture deal to appear in at least Justice League and almost certainly a standalone Batman film.
- The villain could be any number of characters from Superman and Batman’s past, but one foe they have both fought repeatedly in the comics is Lex Luthor, who was confirmed to be a part of the Man of Steel universe already. At one point the LexCorp tower can be seen in the first film, and in another a truck the Luthor name on it is seen.
- In Man of Steel, Superman flies past a Wayne satellite. This suggests that Wayne Enterprises, and possibly Bruce Wayne himself, are already active in Gotham.
- Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Diane Lane are all confirmed for a sequel.
- This news created some collateral damage to the CW TV show Arrow. The showrunners have been trying to get Nightwing and other Batman-centric characters to appear in the show, but they faced several legal hurdles. Those hurdles just increased exponentially with Batman returning to the big screen earlier than expected. [7/25/13]
- The movie may shoot in Toronto. [8/6/13]
- Bryan Cranston and Mark Strong are both said to be up for the role of Lex Luthor. [8/8/13]
- Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman. [8/22/13]
- Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara called the film Batman vs. Superman, which may mean the name is set. [9/16/13]
- Shooting has reportedly begun. The filmmakers have been spotted at the farm that stood in for the Kent farm. [11/2/13]
- Jaimie Alexander (Thor) has reportedly been talking with the studio about the film. She has been vocal about wanting the role of Wonder Woman, leading many to believe the charater will be in the film (even if Alexander ends up not winning the role. [11/2/13]
- The character of Batman will be portrayed as an older, more worn down character, and the bat suit will match. The design team is supposedly staying away from the hi-tech, atheltic suit Christian Bale wore, in favor of something that shows more wear and tear. [11/2/13]
- A new rumor suggests that the film will also feature Dick Grayson as Nightwing. If true, the former Robin will be a grown man, and the film will occur after Batman and Nightwing have had a falling out. [11/7/13]
- Warner is reported actively screen testing women for the role of Wonder Woman, and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) is said to have recently tested. [11/7/13]
Films rumored to be in development starring DC characters
The possibility of a Flash movie has been volleyed around for years now, but DC slowed down following the dismal showing of Green Lantern (which made a slight profit but was received poorly). With Man of Steel’s success and a Justice League film looming, it appears that the Flash will be the next DC superhero to head to the cinema. DC has confirmed this (although WB has not), but beyond that the film is still little more than a date on a calendar right now
- Despite sources claiming that Flash is tentatively next up on the docket, WB has not confirmed that this is the case and DC is remaining quiet. [7/25/13]
- The team behind the TV show Arrow is bringing The Flash to the small screen. He will be introduced in the second season of the show with a backdoor pilot airing late in the season. It isn’t clear how this will affect the movie. [8/5/13]
Justice League (2017)
The long and complicated history of the Justice League movie may finally be history, even though we may have to wait a few more years until it actually becomes reality. As early as 2007, DC and WB confirmed development on a Justice League film, to be directed by George Miller. The cast was to bring all new actors to the lead roles, and the budget was rumored to be around $220 million. Then the writer’s strike of 2007-2008 began. The project was never the same after that, and it quickly lost momentum. The budget was an issue as well. The cost of filming would make it almost impossible to cast A-list stars in the roles, which would in turn make it riskier in the eyes of WB.
Since then, the Justice League has remained firmly in limbo. Following the success of The Avengers, DC and WB began to once again discuss the possibility of a film combining some of the most recognized characters in DC Comics, but with the success of Man of Steel, the project has an actual chance. The 2017 release date may slip once again, but it does seem like a Justice League film is in the works.
- The rumored line up of the Justice League will be: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern.
- Darkseid will be the primary villain.
- Batman and Superman will put the team together to defeat soldiers from Apokolips and Darkseid himself.
- Several other DC characters may appear, or at least be mentioned.
Films in production, but stalled
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the big screen adaptation of Bill Willingham’s story published under the Vertigo line, about characters from fables and fairy tales living among us while fighting a cold war against a brutal empire, will head in to production later this year. The script is either done or nearly so, and a Danish director Nikolaj Arcel is attached.
The success of Man of Steel may be the final thing that WB has been waiting for in regards to giving this film the final go ahead. Ironically, it may also have been helped by the success of the ABC show Once Upon a Time, which many believe was itself inspired by Fables. ABC, which owns and produces Once, initially picked up the rights to Fables for the 2009-2010 season, then shelved it and debuted Once Upon a Time in 2011. Both Bill Willingham and Once’s creators have stated that the two projects are completely separate, and there is no bad blood between them. With a spin-off for Once recently debuting, the subject matter is hot.
Justice League Dark
One of the more unusual DC projects being discussed is Guillermo del Toro’s Justice League Dark, formerly known as Heaven Sent. The proposed film will star several of DC’s more obscure characters, and focus on the magical side of the DC universe. The rumored plot would focus on John Constantine, of the Hellblazer comics, recruiting a team that includes: The Demon Etrigan/Jason Blood, Deadman, and the Swamp Thing. The comic also features Zatanna and Madame Xanadu (as well as Frankenstein, which would be a tough sell to audiences, not to mention the complicated legalities).
Del Toro’s enthusiasm may or may not be enough. He recently said that he is ready to present the outline to WB, he has a screenwriter lined up, and he could begin work as soon as he completes his next project, Crimson Peak. Of course, he is also producing a TV show about vampire based on the The Strain book trilogy that Chuck Hogan co-wrote and he’s committed to writing both Pinocchio and Beauty and the Beast. Hellboy 3 may also still happen, and del Toro is hoping to bring back his H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, At the Mountains of Madness. The international success of Pacific Rim has also generated talk of a sequel, and del Toro claims the script for that is nearly done.
It seems unlikely that WB would greenlight a spin-off of the Justice League before releasing the Justice League film itself, but it could still happen. Del Toro has said he would work the film into whatever existing continuity DC and WB would like.
- NBC is currently developing a TV show based on the character of John Constantine. Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist) and David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) are attached as executive producers. It isn’t clear what formt he character will take, or if that could conflict – and ultimately kill – Del Toro’s plans to use the character himself. [10/2/13]
Y the Last Man
As with Fables, the Y the Last Man series from Vertigo went through many iterations in Hollywood that threatened to kill the project, but it now to seems to be moving towards pre-production. Earlier this year Dan Trachtenberg was hired to direct, with David Goyer attached as a producer.
Although the news for Y seems to be positive at the moment, Y: The Last Man has not had an easy time getting to this point. The film rights were first purchased in 2007. Since then numerous people have been attached, several drafts of the screenplay have been turned in, and the property was also considered for adaptation into a TV series.
As of September 2012, writers Mason Novick and Jake Weiner turned in a screenplay that New Line Cinema (who is also owned by WB) was said to be happy with, and production could begin later this year.
Green Lantern 2 (or possibly a Green Lantern reboot)
Despite a truly awful reception from fans and critics alike, the Ryan Reynolds-starring Green Lantern film from 2011 did make a profit – at least enough of one that it didn’t outright kill the franchise. As recently as April 2013, WB was said to be looking for replacements for director Martin Campbell, and Oblivion‘s Joseph Kosinski’s name was mentioned. Kosinski may be committed to a Tron: Legacy sequel first, but if WB was serious, it will find a director.
One thing in favor of a sequel is that the character of the Green Lantern is all but confirmed to be in Justice League. If Reynolds reprises his role, it would add to the continuity. A sequel done right could even help to further improve the prospects of the Justice League movie. Alternatively, a good turn in Justice League could spawn a Lantern sequel . Beyond that, there hasn’t been much said about a follow-up to the 2011 film, and it is equally likely that Justice League will reboot the character.
This one is a bit more of a wish than anything at the moment, but it does have one powerful backer. DC Entertainment boss Diane Nelson was recently asked what five characters she would like to see on screen. She answered “Sandman is right on top.” She went on to compare Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to the Harry Potter universe in terms of richness and depth. That might easily be written off as wishful thinking, but the thing is, if anyone person could push Sandman into reality, it would be Nelson.
Sandman is nowhere near as well-known as Harry Potter, but with WB having adapted all of the Harry Potter books, it does leave a gap. Dream of the Endless, the protagonist of the Sandman series, may have originated as a comic, but the stories also fill the fantasy void that Potter and the Lord of the Rings franchises will leave. With Potter’s final movie complete and The Lord of the Rings only two Hobbit films away from complete exhaustion, WB may be willing to take a chance on a new fantasy property.
People have been trying for years to get a Wonder Woman project tot he big screen without luck. Joss Whedon gave it a go before moving on, and even TV heavyweight David E. Kelly couldn’t make it any further than an unaired pilot. A possible CW show based on Wonder Woman titled Amazon is still a possibility, but that project is currently undergoing yet another overhaul.
Odds are that, barring the CW show, Wonder Woman’s next live-action debut will be in Justice League. That won’t stop DC from trying, and DC’s Nelson confirmed that a Wonder Woman film (or TV show) is a priority as well.
- With the CW pushing ahead with a possible Flash TV show, the Wonder Woman show Amazon has been put on hold. [8/5/13]
- Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tusjihara confirmed that Wonder Woman is a priority to develop as a TV show or film. [11/2/13]
- With the rumor that Wonder Woman may appear in the Batman vs. Superman film (possibly played by Jaimie Alexander), that film could act as a springboard for a Wonder Woman film. [11/2/13]
- Paul Feig (The Heat, Bridesmaids) recently pitched a Wonder Woman film to WB. It was a light-hearted comedy and turned down, but does signify that WB is taking pitches for the property. [11/2/13]
- It is looking more and more like Wonder Woman will appear in the Batman vs. Superman film. Warner is reportedly actively screen testing possible actors, and along with Jaimie Alexander, Olga Kurylenko has tested for the role. [11/7/13]
- If the rumor is true and Wonder Woman will appear in the next Man of Steel, based on what DC has said, it would likely be a springboard for a standalone feature film that could come either before or after a Justice League film. If so, the actor hired to play Wonder Woman will likely need to sign a multi-film deal. [11/7/13]
Check out our rundown of all the Marvel films in development, and rumored.
(Did we miss something? Is our info out of date? Let us know in the comments below)