The DC Extended Universe has been in the news a lot lately due to the high profile exit of Ben Affleck from the director’s chair of The Batman – a decision which will likely push the film out of its projected 2018 release window. Similarly, The Flash lost its own director, Rick Famuyiwa, and has since been removed from the schedule until further notice.
That being said, neither of these films are cancelled; they’re just delayed, and they will eventually, hopefully see the light of day. Some factions within the fandom may be seeing blood in the water, but the state of the DCEU is still strong. Warner Bros. is currently preparing for the June release of Wonder Woman and the subsequent November launch of Zack Snyder’s mammoth team-up movie Justice League.
But with so many changes and new projects announced, it’s not easy to keep track of what the DCEU’s release slate looks like – so here’s a handy guide to what’s (currently) in the works.
The next film in the DCEU is Wonder Woman, due out on June 2, 2017. It’s only a few months away, and expectations are high for the Gal Gadot solo film – after all, the character of Diana Prince was arguably the breakout star of the otherwise sharply-divisive Batman v Superman. Wonder Woman will primarily be set during World War I and follow a slightly younger Diana of Themyscira, who rescues American fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) before resolving to aid in the war effort.
Director Patty Jenkins made a name for herself with the biographical drama Monster (for which star Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress). Jenkins was all set to jump into the world of comic book superheroes with 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, but ultimately dropped out of the project due to “creative differences.” Wonder Woman is her second shot at a big-budget superhero blockbuster.
Wonder Woman is the first female character to headline a post-Iron Man superhero movie, and Patty Jenkins is the first female director to tackle a film in either Marvel or DC’s cinematic universes. Needless to say, it’s long overdue, especially with the long-rumored Black Widow film seemingly dead in the water.
Long before the creation of the DCEU, and nearly a decade before he made waves with The Avengers, Buffy/Firefly creator Joss Whedon was attached to write and direct a Wonder Woman film, but nothing came from that. Once the film was finally confirmed for the DCEU lineup, Michelle MacLaren was the first choice to direct, though she left due to – here’s that phrase again – “creative differences.” Fortunately, Patty Jenkins stepped in to save the day.
Justice League (Updated 3/24)
Warner Bros. took some heavy criticism by introducing heavy hitters like Batman and Wonder Woman in the DCEU’s second film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and for essentially stopping the film before the climax to literally show teasers for Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash. Hopefully, though, that decision will pay off in Justice League, which is set to release on November 17, 2017.
The film was originally announced as a two-part event, Justice League Part One and Part Two, with Part Two to release in 2019. However, the sequel was ultimately pulled from the schedule to facilitate development on a solo Batman film – which, at the time, was expected to be directed by Ben Affleck (more on that in just a bit).
Director Zack Snyder returns for a third entry in the DCEU following Batman v Superman and Man of Steel, and he has promised that the tone of the all-star team-up film will be somewhat lighter and more upbeat than Batman v Superman. The plot of the film will involve Batman and Wonder Woman on a worldwide hunt for superheroes to protect the world from Steppenwolf and/or Darkseid. Meanwhile, Superman will need to take some time to recover from the grievous injuries (and subsequent death) he sustained in the closing battle of Batman v Superman before he can jump back into the action… Presumably, just in time to heroically save his friends from certain doom.
Update: A new trailer for Justice League is right around the corner, and the website for the film has been updated with a new look. Warner Brothers is pulling out all the stops and doing their best to make sure that JL is one of the biggest motion picture events of 2017.
Fun Fact: In 2007, director George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet) signed on to direct Justice League: Mortal, which would have co-existed alongside Superman Returns and The Dark Knight, but set in its own continuity. It would have featured the Justice League going up against Talia al Ghul and Maxwell Lord. Armie Hammer was cast as Batman, DJ Cotrona was Superman, and rapper Common was cast as Green Lantern. It would have been awesome, but, alas, ’twas not to be.
Aquaman (Updated 3/24)
James Wan is one of the most versatile directors working in Hollywood today. From modern horror classics like Saw and The Conjuring, to massive mega-blockbusters like Furious Seven and intimate dramatic thrillers like 2007’s underappreciated Death Sentence, it seems like there’s nothing that Wan can’t do. That assumption will be put to the test with what may be the DCEU’s riskiest film, Aquaman.
Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) is starring as hero of Atlantis, reprising his brief role from Batman v Superman. Amber Heard is playing Mera, the romantic interest and fellow aqauatic royalty. Aquaman’s protagonists will not begin the “swashbuckling adventure” as a couple; Wan describes their relationship as akin to the one in Romancing the Stone, with the two leads at each other’s necks before slowly falling in love.
Aquaman’s parents are being played by Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones) and Nicole Kidman (The Hours). As for villains, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down) is playing Black Manta, and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) is Ocean Master, though it is unclear which of these rogues will be the film’s main antagonist.
Filming is set to begin in Australia in May, and Aquaman is currently the only DCEU movie still on schedule for 2018. The film was originally due to launch in July of that year, but it was delayed several months – possibly due to the complex and unprecedented special effects of the underwater sequences. Audiences can expect the finished film to hit theaters on
October 5, 2018, taking the slot which had previously been strongly rumored to be reserved for the now-delayed Batman solo film… But more on that venture in just a bit.
Update: Aquaman’s release date has been delayed by more than two months, though indications are that the change is to take advantage of a prime spot on the calendar, and not due to any pre-production hitches. The film is now set to bow on December 21, 2018, a date which had previously been penciled in for James Cameron’s Avatar 2. With that film pushed back, Warner Brothers is now free to capitalize on the lucrative pre-Christmas window.
Shazam! & Black Adam
Shazam, formerly known as Captain Marvel, is currently not believed to be appearing in Justice League, and will be introduced in his own solo film, due out on April 5, 2019. That date is a little more than two years out, and writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) is currently hard at work writing the script for the movie. A director has yet to be formally chosen (Annabelle helmer David F. Sandberg is reportedly in talks), and the hero has not been cast yet, making Shazam! a bit of a wildcard in the DCEU stable. It has yet to hit any notable snags which could potentially lead to a delay, though, so here’s hoping for smooth sailing in the months ahead.
Shazam! is the muscular alter-ego of Billy Batson. Upon a shout of the magical word, “Shazam!” Batson is transformed into a hero with super strength, one of the few who can realistically fight a being as powerful as Superman to a legitimate stalemate. Batson is given the wisdom and power of the gods, but retains his youthful demeanor; after all, Billy is but a child in the body of a super hero, and is therefore the ultimate idealist. This tone might be tough to capture, but hopes are high that Shazam! will capture the essence of what’s made the comics popular for more that 75 years.
Meanwhile, Shazam’s arch-nemesis, Black Adam, is getting a solo film of his own. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is confirmed to be starring in the film, which will follow Black Adam as an anti-hero of sorts. No screenwriter or director has been announced for the solo villain story, and the film is currently without a release date. Still, Dwayne Johnson seems excited about putting a unique spin on one of DC’s most intimidating antagonists, so expect to receive lots of Black Adam and Shazam! news over the next few months.
Ray Fisher played Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg, in a brief sequence in Batman v Superman, depicting his horrific transformation from a normal teenager to a human/machine hybrid. His role will be further expanded in Justice League. Originally, it was expected that Cyborg would make a further appearance in The Flash, but with that film on an indefinite hold, it’s possible that audiences may not meet up with Cyborg after Justice League until the release of his solo film, currently on the docket for April 3, 2020.
That date is about three years away, so it should come as no surprise that the film is currently without a script, director, or supporting cast. However, it’s likely that actor Joe Morton (Terminator 2) will co-star as Victor’s father, Silas, reprising his role from Batman v Superman. With a release date that far out, it might take a while for information to trickle in, but Justice League will surely contain threads which are destined to be continued in Cyborg.
Green Lantern Corps.
As of the time of writing, the final DCEU film with a confirmed release date is Green Lantern Corps., which is set to hit theaters on July 24, 2020. Way back in 2011, Warner Bros. tried to kickstart a shared DC universe with Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. The $200 million production needed to make $500 million worldwide in order to be considered a financial success and be a viable springboard for sequels and spin-offs. Ultimately, the film brought in a meager global haul of just $219 million (way too low for a big-budget blockbuster), and plans for a sequel were quietly shelved.
Now that the DCEU is firmly established, Warner Bros. is hoping to give Green Lantern another shot. David Goyer (Batman Begins) and Justin Rhodes are currently in the process of rebooting Green Lantern for DC’s current cinematic landscape. The film is being described as “Lethal Weapon in Space,” and will feature both Hal Jordan and John Stewart as its lead characters. It’s extremely unlikely that Ryan Reynolds will return to play Hal Jordan, as this new film is in no way connected to the continuity of the 2011 Green Lantern misfire.
Casting is still up in the air, though it is rumored that at least one Green Lantern will be featured in Justice League, meaning viewers should expect big-time casting news relatively soon.
Without a doubt, The Flash is one of the DCEU’s most troubled productions, perhaps second only to The Batman. First, screenwriter and author Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) was set to make his directorial debut with DC’s most famous speedster, but he dropped out in April 2016. Then, director Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar) signed on to replace Grahame-Smith, and oversaw the pre-production process. He even oversaw the casting of principal actors Billy Crudup as Henry Allen, and Kiersey Clemons as Iris West. Unfortunately, “creative differences” led to Famuyiwa quitting the film in October 2016.
As of the time of writing, The Flash is indefinitely delayed; currently without a director, the movie is in the midst of a page-one rewrite by Joby Harold (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword), and may not see the light of day for a while. Before Famuyiwa’s unexpected exit, the buzz was that it would be a buddy piece featuring Flash working prominently alongside fellow Justice League member Cyborg, though what the film will entail now is anyone’s guess. Still, Ezra Miller is one of the hottest young actors out there today, and so whatever direction The Flash ultimately takes, the loyal DCEU audience will line up to see what’s in store.
The Batman (Updated 3/24)
Barring any Justice League crossover films, the single most highly-anticipated DCEU entry is The Batman… Or at least, it was. Ben Affleck was set to co-write, star, and direct a solo Batman adventure, but he abruptly changed his mind and decided to leave the directing to someone else, leading to speculation that he maybe even wanted to leave the Bruce Wayne role behind entirely.
With fans still reeling from the news that Affleck would no longer be directing the new Batman movie, some measure of solace was found when it was announced that Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) would step in to direct and co-produce the film, a choice which was met with unanimous approval from the fandom.
Although the film was subjected to yet another rewrite, the main villain is still going to be Deathstroke (possibly, see update). The character will be played by Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike) and make his debut in Justice League before taking on a starring role here. Additional casting has not yet been announced, but it’s a safe bet that JK Simmons will appear (after debuting his Commissioner Gordon in Justice League), as well as whomever winds up being cast as Nightwing.
Update: It seems like The Batman is in flux once again. While it had previously been rumored and debunked, the news is making the rounds once again that the film is being rewritten from scratch. Lending weight to this rumor is the fact that Joe Manganiello, who had been locked in play Deathstroke, is now unsure whether or not he will actually be in the movie at all, a complete reversal from his earlier exuberance over going toe-to-toe with Ben Affleck’s take on Gotham’s brooding anti-hero. Whatever the case may be, the movie will likely not enter production until 2018 at the earliest, due to Matt Reeves’s commitment to War for the Planet of the Apes.
Batgirl (Updated 3/30)
On March 30, it was announced that none other than Joss Whedon would be tackling a Batgirl solo film within the DCEU. The acclaimed director of 2012’s The Avengers and 2015’s Age of Ultron jumping ship to make a superhero film for Warner Brothers is huge news, and a grand coup for the studio in charge of the DCEU.
Whedon is currently set to write and direct the film, which will chronicle the adventures of Barbara Gordon, Batman’s female sidekick. Whedon has experience writing well-received female characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and River Tam from Firefly, so Batgirl should be a natural fit for the talented auteur.
Little is known of the film thus far, except that it is expected to draw from the “dark and gritty” New 52 incarnation of the character, which falls right in line with the sensibilities of the DCEU thus far. No casting or release date has been announced, but having Joss Whedon in their corner might just be the kick in the pants the DCEU needs to win the critical acclaim it’s been sorely missing up until now.
Gotham City Sirens
After the financial success of Suicide Squad last August, it was expected that director David Ayer would return for the sequel, but those expectations were only half-right. While Suicide Squad 2 is still on its way, Ayer won’t be at the helm. Rather than a direct sequel, Ayer is set to direct Gotham City Sirens, a Harley Quinn spin-off film which will focus mainly on the female rogues of Batman’s hometown.
Though the upcoming film is strongly rumored to feature Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy as its main leading ladies, and Black Mask as its primary antagonist, very little has been confirmed as of this writing. However, the film is being fast-tracked to enter production as soon as possible, so news on Gotham City Sirens is likely to come pouring in soon… If not soon enough for the rabid fandom who are in desperate need of more of Margot Robbie’s much-lauded depiction of Harley Quinn.
Suicide Squad 2
With David Ayer moving on to Gotham City Sirens and taking Harley Quinn with him, the future of Suicide Squad 2 is somewhat murky, and that’s not a bad thing; it means that anything can happen. One of the directors being floated around to direct Suicide Squad 2 is Mel Gibson, the star of such crowd-pleasing action/dramas as Lethal Weapon and Payback, and director of brutal, R-rated epics like Braveheart and Hacksaw Ridge. The news of Gibson being considered for the director’s chair dropped at the same time as Warner Brothers opened up to the prospect of making R-rated DCEU films.
After the success of R-rated superhero-themed films like Deadpool and Logan (and even the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman), it’s easy to see an ensemble of psychopathic killers like Task Force X starring in an R-rated thrill ride. On the other hand, given his previous track record, it’s almost impossible to imagine Mel Gibson making a this kind of film with anything less than the hardest R he can muster.
If this works out, and Mel Gibson directs an R-rated Suicide Squad sequel, then it would be a tremendous statement from Warner Brothers, that the studio is truly living up to its promise of making director-driven superhero blockbusters with minimal studio interference.
A Robin suit appears for a fleeting moment in Batman v Superman, and Harley Quinn is briefly implicated in the murder of at least one Boy Wonder, but none of Batman’s sidekicks have physically appeared in the DCEU thus far, or even been identified by name.
That’s all about to change with Nightwing. In the comics, of course, Nightwing is the moniker taken by Dick Grayson, the first Robin, after he leaves Batman’s side and embarks on a new journey as a solo act in Gotham’s nearby city of Bludhaven.
The film is to be written by Bill Dubuque (The Judge, The Accountant) and directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), in his live-action directorial debut. While it would be unreasonable to expect the Nightwing movie to be a riotous laugh-fest like The Lego Batman Movie, Nightwing is a much more relaxed character than his brooding father figure, and so a lighter tone would be a more natural fit for the erstwhile Robin.
The only information about the film right now is that it has a writer and director. No casting has been announced, and the prospective presence of Ben Affleck is unconfirmed. Nightwing is one of DC’s most fan-favorite characters, so expectations on this one are through the roof. Don’t be surprised if this one gets fast-tracked to 2019 or even earlier.
Man of Steel 2
2013’s Man of Steel was the first entry in the DCEU, and it serves the foundation upon which the other films have been built. While Superman had to share the spotlight in last year’s Batman v Superman, a new solo adventure for the Man of Steel is still in the cards for DC’s most iconic character, though when it might see the light of day is anyone’s guess.
A stand-alone Superman sequel is reportedly in development at Warner Brothers, who are dedicated to making the definitive Superman movie for today’s audiences, a lofty goal for which they have yet to genuinely hit the mark. In November, Amy Adams said that the film was in the process of being written, but no writers’ names have been revealed, and it is also unknown if Zack Snyder will return to direct.
Snyder directed both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and is currently busy on Justice League. After that, it is expected that he will jump straight into a Justice League sequel, though that film is currently without a release date. Will Warner Brothers wait until after Justice League 2 to allow Snyder to take another shot at a solo Superman flick? Or will they give the film to another director, relegating Snyder to a producing role? Audiences will find out soon enough.
Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim) was attached to a film adaptation of DC’s more supernaturally gothic heroes (John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, etc), and even completed his script, but he would eventually leave the project in 2015. The project was restarted from square one, with Michael Gilio (Kwik Stop) writing a new script for director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity).
The film doesn’t yet have a cast, but Warner Brothers is aiming to make Dark Universe “unconventional” in comparison to the rest of the DCEU. Most of Dark Universe’s characters hail from DC’s Vertigo imprint, which gets weirder, darker, and more mature-themed than most of DC’s mainstream comics. For a taste of what to expect from Dark Universe, check out the animated movie, Justice League Dark, which is based on the same source material. The film is currently without a release date, but inevitable casting news should start coming down the pipe soon enough.
DC’s Remaining Films
DC has a stable of superhero characters as deep, if not deeper, than that of their closest rival, Marvel. For one reason or another, however, it seemed like only Superman and Batman were able to make it to the big screen. There were exceptions, of course, but most of these DC films turned out to be outright bombs like Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and Catwoman, or modestly successful at best, like Constantine and Watchmen, though the latter film is likely what led to Zack Snyder getting his Man of Steel gig.
Now that the DCEU has provided a cinematic home for DC’s roster of heroes and rogues, audiences can expect more off-the-wall characters to make grand debuts. For example, Jason Fuchs (Pan) is currently scripting a film version of Lobo, the intergalactic motorcycle-riding bounty hunter. A Lobo film has been in various states of development hell for years, with Dwayne Johnson attached to the role for a time, before ultimately finding his calling as Black Adam. Time will tell if this latest effort pans out or if Lobo’s big-screen cinematic debut will have to wait.
In May 2016, it was reported that Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men: First Class) and Greg Berlanti (The CW’s Arrowverse) were working on a cinematic adaptation of Booster Gold, though it may be turn out to be a standalone film, and not part of the greater DCEU, provided it ever formally enters production.
As mentioned earlier, Warner Brothers is in the early stages of planning a Deadshot spin-off, starring Will Smith as the sharp-shooting assassin with a heart of gold. No director or writer has been publicly assigned the film, so this one may still be a long way off.
Justice League Part Two was originally scheduled for 2019, but had been pushed back to accommodate production of The Batman. Now that Batman itself has been delayed, the fate of Justice League Part Two is unclear. It’s virtually guaranteed that Justice League will be a smash hit when it launches in November 2017, so Part Two will surely still be made. The question is simply, when? The safe bet is sooner, rather than later. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if the Justice League sequel gets quietly restored to its original release window of June 2019.
That’s a lot of movies over the next several years. Naysayers be damned, the DCEU is here to stay, and it’s currently a great time to be a fan of comic book superhero movies. Which of these films are you most excited to see? Will Booster Gold ever make the jump to the Silver Screen? Sound off in the comments!