Warner Bros. Pictures’ cinematic universe of DC Comics heroes and villains didn’t get off to the best start. Fortunately, after a string of films that fell short of their potential at the box office and received a harsh response from critics and audiences, Wonder Woman came along and made audiences (and superhero movie fans) optimistic again about the studio’s “DC Extended Universe.”
Some of those hopes were dashed again by the underwhelming debut of Justice League, the movie that all of those early projects had been building toward and the lynchpin of the DCEU. So where does the studio go with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of its cinematic universe from here?
When the most important film in the DCEU scores the lowest premiere of any installment so far ($96 million on a $300 million budget), it’s reasonable to expect the studio to take a long, hard look at its plans for the future. Given everything we know about WB’s ambitious slate of upcoming films, here’s our assessment of which ones will live to see the light of day, and which could get the ax.
After making a cameo in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and sharing the spotlight with rest of the team in Justice League, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman will get his own solo feature in December 2018. This one’s a sure thing, as principal photography has already concluded on the film under director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7), and unlike many of the DCEU movies that preceded it, there weren’t any major issues that plagued production or caused it to be in the news for all the wrong reasons. That’s one quality Aquaman shares with Wonder Woman, and at this point, anything a film has in common with Wonder Woman is a good thing in the DCEU. Barring any calendar shuffling over the next 12 months, you can expect Aquaman to hit theaters December 21, 2018.
Wonder Woman 2
On the subject of Wonder Woman, the premiere of a sequel to the studio’s only critical and commercial success so far is about as certain as you get. Not only is director Patty Jenkins returning behind the camera for Wonder Woman 2, but the studio gave her one of the biggest contracts a female director has ever received in order to try and replicate her success with the first film. That’s not the sort of arrangement that gets abandoned easily, so you can bet on seeing Gal Gadot back as Wonder Woman for another solo feature on November 1, 2019.
Sure, there are a lot of question marks surrounding this solo feature for The Dark Knight, from the likely departure of Ben Affleck from the title role, to the seemingly never-ending updates regarding script rewrites and behind-the-camera shuffling of the film’s creative team. However, The Batman has a few big things going for it: First and foremost it’s a Batman movie, and solo films featuring The Dark Knight have historically done well regardless of who’s in front of the camera or behind it; and second, the film has an excellent director in Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes), and he’s stuck with it since he was first hired in February. Less committed directors would have exited stage left by now, so it seems safe to assume that the studio will make The Batman a priority, even if it doesn’t have a release date (or possibly a star) right now.
The Flash solo feature has been one of the most problem-plagued films in the studio’s cinematic universe over the last few years, with not one but two directors exiting due to creative differences and a script that’s been scrapped and rewritten more times than we can count. So why should anyone be optimistic about Flashpoint making it into theaters? Well, actor Ezra Miller’s portrayal of speedster Barry Allen was widely regarded as one of the standout elements of Justice League, so that fact’s probably going to give Flashpoint some momentum — but the narrative possibilities the film offers are intriguing, too.
The movie is expected to have Barry use his powers to alter an event in his own timeline — much like the character has done in The Flash television series and the comic book story arc that inspired it — only to discover that his actions have profound effects on the timeline when he returns. This sort of “everything changes” plot device could be a useful tool for WB to course-correct certain elements of its cinematic universe if used wisely, making Flashpoint an important piece of the franchise puzzle.
All of the pieces are in place for this film, which casts young actor Asher Angel as DC Comics kid character Billy Batson and Zachary Levi as the titular superhero that Billy turns into when he says the magic word. The film also has a critically praised filmmaker attached in David F. Sandberg (Lights Out), who shifts from horror to superhero adventures with Shazam!, and the always excellent Mark Strong reportedly circling the villain role. It also has an expected start of production in February 2018 and a release date on the calendar for April 5, 2019. The cast and director are low-profile enough to be flexible with their schedules and not make the film too expensive, so if any film is going to be axed form the studio’s upcoming schedule, this doesn’t seem a likely target. Then again, the character isn’t exactly a tentpole of the franchise, either.
Suicide Squad 2
Supervillain team-up film Suicide Squad was savaged by critics when it hit theaters, but it managed to rake in more than $325 million in U.S. theaters and $745 million worldwide, which isn’t too shabby for a film featuring a bunch of characters mainstream audiences neither knew nor cared much about going into the theater. Of course, it helped that the film put A-list actor Will Smith and rising star Margot Robbie in featured roles, and with both actors attached to return for Suicide Squad 2, the chances for commercial success are good — even if critical success is less certain. Rumors that Dwayne Johnson will make his debut as the villain Black Adam in Suicide Squad 2 only gives the film additional box-office appeal.
Announced back in March 2017 with Joss Whedon attached as writer and director, the Batgirl movie is expected to begin production in 2018, but has yet to settle on a star or reserve a release date on the upcoming calendar. It remains to be seen whether Whedon’s involvement with Justice League works in his favor or against it in the long run, and there’s a very real possibility that the studio will want to wait for all of the issues surrounding The Batman to settle before making any big decisions regarding Batgirl.
At this point, the involvement of Dwayne Johnson in this film about Shazam’s antihero rival is the only thing keeping it from sliding into development limbo. If the character is indeed introduced in Shazam! or Suicide Squad 2, then a Black Adam movie becomes a very real possibility — but if not, there’s a good chance Johnson finally gives up on the film after being its biggest cheerleader for the last few years.
Ray Fisher’s solo feature as Cyborg has an April 2020 release date assigned to it, but it still doesn’t have a writer, director, or producers. That he was given the least amount of screen time of the three new heroes certainly doesn’t bode well for the studio’s faith in Cyborg, and it seems likely that the character is one of the lower priorities for the DCEU, unfortunately. Of course, some big announcements regarding the film’s creative team and schedule could change that perception in a big way.
Gotham City Sirens
Suicide Squad director David Ayer pivoted to direct this project instead of a sequel to the supervillain team-up movie, so it has that going for it, but with star and producer Margot Robbie already involved with the Suicide Squad sequel and a growing number of other projects (including a few legitimate Oscar contenders), there’s only so much time she’s likely to have for the DCEU. A movie about a team of female supervillains is a cool concept, but will the studio make it a priority amid so many other sequels and other projects that are farther along — and be able to squeeze it into the increasingly busy Robbie’s schedule? That’s the multimillion dollar question.
Don’t hold your breath
Justice League Dark
This film would have been the perfect project for Guillermo del Toro, who revealed that he was working on it all the way back in 2013. Unfortunately, he exited the project in 2015 after two years of discussions with studio execs went nowhere. Since then, various directors and writers have been brought on board with few updates as to its progress. Justice League Dark was expected to spotlight the occult heroes and villains of the DC Comics universe in much the same way Doctor Strange did for Marvel’s cinematic universe, but the critically disappointing performance of the studio’s primary heroes (in Justice League) puts the project on exceedingly shaky ground.
Green Lantern Corps
It has a July 2020 release date, but getting Green Lantern Corps into theaters certainly doesn’t seem like a safe bet right now. Not only does the film have the spectre of 2011 flop Green Lantern looming large over it, but the studio’s decision to leave a Green Lantern character out of the main Justice League roster speaks volumes to WB’s faith in the ring-wielding guardians of the universe as viable members of the DCEU. Sure, a few Green Lanterns appeared in a flashback sequence in the film, but the conspicuous absence of John Stewart, Hal Jordan, or any of the human Green Lanterns from a story involving a cosmic threat doesn’t bode well for their introduction at any point in the near future.
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