THE DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE
At a crucial time for the DCEU, our panel offers expert insight on a superhero universe looking to its future — and past
Where does the DCEU go next? We have answers (and some educated guesses).
IT’S BEEN HALF a decade since the DC Extended Universe launched with Man Of Steel, and at times it still feels a little like it’s playing catch-up: while Marvel luxuriates in billion-dollar successes and glowing critical notices, the home of banner stars like Batman and Superman has been forced to accept the silver medal in the superhero race. And yet! Suddenly, it seems like an exciting time to be a DC fan, with a glut of promising projects recently announced, strong talent on the roster, and shock sequel revelations — all steered by new boss Walter Hamada. Here, Empire tackles the ten big questions facing the universe as it enters its pivotal next phase.
1 Wait, Steve Trevor is alive?
DAN JOLIN: Apparently so: he’ll be back for next year’s Wonder Woman sequel. Warner Bros. didn’t hold back with its Wonder Woman 1984 reveal, putting Pine’s supposedly exploded World War I ace in a dodgy black tracksuit, standing conspicuously in a shopping mall. After Superman’s Mother Box-aided return in Justice League, we shouldn’t be too surprised. Besides, there’ s Trevor resurrection precedent in the comics (of course), which could well make this a reborn Steve — or a nasty alternative version from a different universe, as in one Wonder Woman storyline. Then again, he might not be the Trevor we think he is. Perhaps he’s a Back To The Future Part Ii-style lookalike descendant;
that was a trick pulled in the Wonder Woman TV show, with actor Lyle Waggoner playing both Steve (in the show a World War II hero) and Steve Jr. Or maybe he’s not Steve Trevor AT ALL. The DC universe does have its fair share of shapeshifters. One mad-but-appealing theory posits he could be Martian Manhunter, taking Steve’s humanly form to try and win Diana over in some way. That… could work?
What does the 1984 setting mean 2 for Wonder Woman?
HELEN O’HARA: For all that we gain in hair volume and shell suits, a 1980s setting throws up serious Wonder Woman timeline issues (how can she be openly superheroic in 1984 if she’s deeply hidden in the present? Did nobody have a camcorder?). However, the era offers interesting Cold War possibilities: this was the year Reagan was re-elected, that the Soviet Navy endured the Severomorsk disaster and the USSR boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. The Washington filming locations could relate to that election, but planned filming in Tenerife and Fuerteventura, both of which have handy deserts, may suggest Diana’s involved with the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
What will the Todd Phillips Joker 3 movie look like?
DAN JOLIN: Well, it’s early days, but we know Phillips’ film will star Joaquin Phoenix (good casting) in an origin story which, like the new WW, will be set in the ’80s. Intriguingly, it’s going to shoot on location in New York City from September with a relatively modest budget of
$55 million and the promise that it’ll have a gritty crime vibe. The presence of Martin Scorsese as producer and the rumour Robert De Niro’s considering joining the fun in a supporting role only back that up. Fingers crossed they’re studying Alan Moore’s definitive origin take, The Killing Joke.
How will this affect the Jared 4 Leto Joker movie?
SEB PATRICK: It was revealed a little while back that in DC Comics’ current continuity there are actually three Jokers — although any explanation of or elaboration on that fact is still yet to
emerge. So it’s not without precedent that we could end up with two completely different Jokers co-existing in the movie universe as well. But it would also be very, very strange. The simultaneous development feels instead more like the hedging of bets — with the Leto version as a back-up plan in case the Phillips/phoenix movie stalls. But then, giving this version of the character a standalone movie already seemed a crazy move in the wake of Suicide Squad, so the existence of a competing incarnation couldn’t actually make it that much crazier.
How will that affect Suicide 5 Squad 2?
seb Patrick: That’s an easier question to answer, if we assume that Suicide Squad 2 will have little or nothing to do with the Joker. Whatever you thought of the first film, it had individual elements that could successfully make the leap to a sequel, and so long as they can keep either or both of Margot Robbie and Will Smith on board, it should have a fighting chance. Whether Harley Quinn finds herself otherwise engaged in a Gotham City Sirens or Harley and Ivy movie is probably a bigger threat to the sequel’s chances of happening — but either way, a Suicide Squad 2 without the Joker is entirely feasible and possibly even quite welcome.
What is happening with 6 The Batman?
Dan Jolin: It’s in a strange place for sure. Development Limbo, you could say. Matt Reeves is definitely attached as director, says it’s going “really well”, and has spoken about making it a standalone film, having reworked the script since coming aboard in place of Ben Affleck himself. However, it’s now been suggested it will be connected to the Joker origin movie; not so surprising given the rumours that Reeves’ script concerns a younger Batman rather than the DCEU’S grizzled Affleck version, suggesting something closer to Nolan’s Batman Begins. So perhaps one will feed into the other, although there’s still no release date or any confirmation of Affleck’s continued involvement. In the meantime, like the Batcave’s original residents, we’re left hanging.
So now there are two DC universes? 7
Helen o’hara: At least. Certainly, current reports suggest that Matt Reeves’ The Batman and the Joaquin Phoenixstarring Joker origin film take place in a different reality to the Jared Leto Joker, who’s in the main DCEU. TV’S Arrowverse takes place in another universe again (and it’s dabbled in multiple realities!), and it remains to be seen how Shazam, et al, will fit in. Warner
Bros. film chairman Toby Emmerich recently told EW that, “I think the good movies work better. The best business strategy in motion pictures is quality,” which suggests that he’s less worried about continuity than making each film work on its own merits. But imagine: all these worlds could one day fuel a massive, on-screen version of the comics’ Crisis On Infinite Earths, where all the parallel DC realities crash together in spectacular fashion.
Will we see the Justice 8 League again?
SEB PATRICK: Well, given all the hassle involved in bringing them together, it would be a shame if we didn’t, wouldn’t it? They even found themselves a place to put their big round table and everything. The optimistic tone struck by the end of Justice League, though, wasn’t born out by the general public’s reaction to it — and so it’s likely that, with the departure of Zack Snyder and no-one figure stepping up as yet to drive things in his place, another Justice League film could be a way off. But it would be hugely surprising if we didn’t get one eventually, whether with the same line-up or with some new characters introduced in-between. After all, who else is Deathstroke going to fight?
Where do Aquaman, 9 The Flash and Shazam fit into all this?
SEB PATRICK: Aquaman is probably the film, outside of
Wonder Woman 1984, best-placed to shake off the bad rep associated with having debuted in Justice League. It’s got a strong director with vision in James Wan, and a lead character who could be a lot of fun in the right hands. All bets are off with
Flash, which seems to have ditched the ill-advised attempt to adapt the
Flashpoint alternative universe story and would be best served by just concentrating on harnessing Ezra Miller’s dorky charm. As for Shazam!, it’s anyone’s guess how that will turn out — it might just be utterly crazily brilliant, though, and we’re pinning hopes on it being a Wonder Womanesque fillip for the DC franchise as a whole. Plus, of course, it should be leading into Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam — and if anyone can boost a franchise, it’s The Rock.
Who else could join the DCEU? 10
HELEN O’HARA: With approximately 20 films in development, it’s hard to be definitive on who’s still unclaimed. But there’s one core Justice League hero yet to introduce: the green-skinned, gloriously compassionate and wildly overpowered J’onn J’onzz, aka the aforementioned Martian Manhunter. The DCEU could continue its strong streak on representation in comic-book movies by putting Apollo and the Midnighter onscreen (basically Batman and Superman, but lovers) — or go one better and bring in Wildstorm’s whole weird Stormwatch/the Authority series of grown-up super-stories. A focus on the ‘Bat family’ — the extended crew of sometime-robins and Batgirls — worked brilliantly in Batman: The Animated Series and would allow for lots of interesting, soapy storylines like Under The Red Hood down the line. It’s still all to play for!
Top: Justice League: Ben Affleck’s Batman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, Ezra Miller’s Flash and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman join forces. Above: Todd Phillips, director of the as-yet-untitled Joker origin movie. Right: Aquaman director...
Wonder Woman 1984 teaser tweet.
Clockwise from left: Comic book hero Shazam; Jason Momoa gets a soaking as Aquaman; The Batman director Matt Reeves; Director Patty Jenkins’