Let’s Take A Look At How ‘Disconnected’ DC On Film Is Now
DC’s cinematic continuity has been a major topic of discussion- and, of course, debate– these last few days, and I wanted to chime in with some thoughts on the matter- since it’s something I recently touched on in an episode of The Fanboy Podcast.
I’d like to note something before I begin, though:
This is by no means a post meant to debunk anyone. It’s merely some analysis I’d like to share, and I’ll ask you to draw your own conclusions after sharing my own.
But here’s how things look from where I sit, and you can feel free to debate me in the comments below, or over on the twittuh.
“Let’s Take A Look At How ‘Disconnected’ DC On Film Is Now”
By Mario-Francisco Robles (@I_AM_MFR)
The big water cooler conversation if you’re a fan of DC on film lately has been the idea that the continuity is fracturing. There have been murmurs of late that one wave of DC’s shared universe is coming to a definitive end, while a different universe is being born right before our eyes.
With this weird combination of stars and characters from what’s considered the former DCEU still alive and kicking, even as new stars enter the fray and seemingly become the standard-bearers for the future DCEU (or is it Worlds of DC, or DCU, or…?), no one could blame you for being a tad confused about what exactly the plan is here.
Yet I think it’s this rush to define “the plan” that is tripping everyone up.
See, lots of folks have a very linear idea of what a shared universe populated by comic book characters can be. For many, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is seen as the archetype. With its well-defined Phases, its well-publicized long-range plans, its massively successful crossover events, and one central guru calling the shots, fans of superhero movies have developed a narrow definition for how this is all “supposed” to work.
And the fact that what Walter Hamada and DC Entertainment have in mind doesn’t fit into a neat little box seems to create a ton of (largely unnecessary) anxiety.
But I don’t have to convince you of anything. I only have to state the facts.
Since Justice League, which is seen by many as the final chapter of the former DCEU, we’ve had two films. And there are five more on the way, with trailers, release dates, and/or casting announcements already made.
Let’s take a look at all of them, their relationship to what’s already been established, and how it lines up with all of the lip service from folks close to the studio about everything being rebooted, disconnected, and ending at some pre-determined point in the future:
- Aquaman released 13 months after Justice League, meaning James Wan and co. had plenty of time to scrub the film of any connections to the established continuity. But not only did they keep a totally unnecessary spoken reference to Justice League in it by bringing up Steppenwolf, but the film went on to make over $1 billion despite centering on a character that was established in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and only receiving tepidly positive reviews.
- Shazam! came out 17 months after Justice League, and was shot entirely after that film seemingly brought the franchise to a screeching halt. The film was well-received by critics and fans alike, and despite not performing super-heroically at the box office, it did more than triple its budget. The film was jam-packed with subtle connections to what’s come before- including a Superman “cameo” where the iconic character is wearing what appears to be his JL costume.
- Joker, rumored to be the first film for an as-yet-unnamed Elseworld banner for DC, comes out in October and is the only film said to be set in its own standalone world, and is primarily spoken of as an artsy one-off.
- Birds of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn comes out next February, around 26 months after Justice League. The Cathy Yan film will be a direct spinoff from 2016’s Suicide Squad. It brings back Margot Robbie’s Harley, a scene was shot featuring a stand-in for Jared Leto’s Joker, and there’s simply no way to say that this is a reboot. If it is, it’s a soft one, at best.
- Wonder Woman 1984 comes out in June of 2020, starring the already established and hugely beloved and successful Gal Gadot as everyone’s favorite Amazonian. It’s said to take some substantial liberties, yet- in the eyes of anyone paying attention- it’ll still look like a direct sequel to the 2017 film that was set firmly in the former DCEU.
- The Batman comes out in June of 2021, and there have been all kinds of rumors about its setting. Is it set in the 90s? Is it a prequel to what’s come? Is it the start of an all-new DC universe? Sure, Deadline and others have tried to define it, but until we know more we cannot say anything with 100% certainty.
- The Suicide Squad comes out two months after that, in August of 2021. The James Gunn film, despite producer Peter Safran’s tone deaf claims that it is not a sequel, and is a “total reboot,” is set to bring back Robbie, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, as all four of their characters from 2016’s Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer. So, similar to Birds of Prey, the film will- at best- be a soft reboot that tweaks the tone and aesthetic of what’s been established, but keeps the nuts and bolts.
So those are seven films that have come out, or are coming to us, from DC Entertainment, spaced out to keep us engaged and entertained for the next 26 months, and most of them share a fair amount of DNA with what’s already been established.
And Hollywood is a town where money talks.
If these next five films all perform to their full potential, or possibly even over-perform the way Wonder Woman and Aquaman did, do you really think DC is going to pull the plug on any of it? Maybe you do. Maybe you think that Aquaman and Wonder Woman will each be handled like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and that each will end on a major third film that concludes things decisively.
But what about Harley? What about the fact that four of the five films we have coming are all related to Batman in some way and, with the exception of the standalone Joker, have some well-established connective tissue.
This is why I’m in no rush to define the game plan.
From everything I’ve seen and heard, the only thing that seems clear right now is that Hamada and DC Entertainment want to keep their options open.
To that end, I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Reeves’ The Batman tells such a focused, self-contained story that it’ll be up to you if you want to consider it a prequel or not. It’s not something Reeves is worried about, though if we see him put any effort into not contradicting what was shown in BvS, or to work with James Gunn and/or Yan on making sure their films about Gotham rogues and antiheroes all share some kind of common thread, then that’ll put this whole debate to bed.
So right now, we’re still pretty much where we were a week ago.
- We know things are unlikely to ever be as connected as they were in 2016 and 2017.
- We know the next two+ years of DC releases will continue to loosely build upon the foundations that were established back then.
- We know the studio is squeamish about drawing any direct connections to the films of Snyder and Ayer, so they’ll continue to publicly push the idea that everything is some sort of “reboot” now.
As for the status and continuity that films like Supergirl and New Gods (or that Geoff Johns-written Green Lantern Corps) will exist in, we’ll have to wait and see. These are projects that are still a ways off, and there’s honestly no need to jump to any conclusions at this juncture.
From where I sit, it simply looks like the studio is putting all of its energy into making these films as good as they can- regardless of whether it not it fits perfectly with what’s come before. So we’ll continue to see retcons and soft reboots, with nothing matching 1:1 with the former DCEU again, but that doesn’t mean they’re throwing out the baby with the bath water either.
They’ll make each movie and release it, then gauge after the fact where things go next (or how they may connect down the line) based on its relative success or failure.
It’s not a sexy plan. But it’s a conservative approach that I think it very smart after several years of putting the cart before the horse and racing towards a shaky destination.
So keep this in mind next time you hear about there being two or three concurrent cinematic DC universes. There’s really just one main one, an unnamed Elseworld branch, and a willingness to give their storytellers the freedom to pick and choose what they want to keep from the former DCEU, while allowing them to discard the rest.
That’s my conclusion. What’s yours, fans?
I’ve let my voice be heard, so now it’s your turn. Meet me in the Comments below, share this with your friends and invite them into the conversation, or go call me crazy on twitter. Regardless, I want to know what you think of this whole situation now that I’ve laid out what DC’s cinematic future looks like between now and August of 2021.
Heck, e-mail me a rebuttal at MFR@RevengeOfTheFans.com if you’d like your thoughts be our next Revenger Submission, cause this is what Revenge of The Fans is all about- giving fandom a voice.
Thanks for reading!
Editor-In-Chief and Co-Founder of Revenge of The Fans. Previously, he's written for Latino-Review, IGN, Moviehole, and The Splash Report. He's also the host of the top-rated show The Fanboy Podcast and the co-host of The Revengers Podcast. E-Mail: MFR@RevengeOfTheFans.com | Twitter: @I_AM_MFR