After three films and with two more on the way this year in Wonder Woman and the first Justice League, Warner Bros. and DC Films are still in the process of establishing the timeline of the characters who inhabit their movies. Often eschewing origin tales favored by Marvel Studios, which most recently delivered the beginnings of Dr. Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange, films like Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad introduced characters who had been operating in a fully functioning DCEU for, presumably, many years.
Man of Steel was an early exception, as it set out to tell the origin of the DCEU’s Superman. But the move away from origin stories leaves the studio and its filmmakers with interesting choices in terms of establishing a character’s backstory. Zack Snyder worked around a retelling of Batman’s entire history in BvS by using a few flashbacks to the night his parents were murdered. But the film also made conspicuous use of a dream (or flash forward) to warn of danger on the horizon for the heroes of the DCEU. As it turns out, this may be the norm moving forward.
While speaking with Comicbook about Wonder Woman, producer Charles Roven addressed the issue of a fluid timeline. Roven described how upcoming DCEU films will implement flashbacks to the origins of many characters — some of which may take the audience to other worlds entirely. But Roven suggested the possibility of more flashforwards happening as a way to build toward future storylines.
“For example, the Justice League movie will take place in a universe that’s post-Batman v Superman, just like Batman v Superman takes place in a universe that’s post-Man of Steel. When we’re dealing with either The Flash or Aquaman, since they will take place in a universe that has happened after Justice League, the characters and the world will be informed by the movies that preceded them, except that there’s flashbacks or whatever within those particular movies, [and] flashforwards within those particular movies.”
Again, the use of flashbacks and flashforwards are already nothing new to the DCEU. Man of Steel used flashbacks to critical moments that helped shape Clark into the man who would become Superman. Similarly, Suicide Squad used them to show the lives of Task Force X members before they were captured.
Moving forward, this suggests fans will get to see the origins for future heroes like Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and more. While the characters have already been introduced, the story of how each came to be has yet to be told. This makes for a convenient workaround to the typical origin story as single movie, as it allows the DCEU films to operate more closely in conjunction with each other, without first needing to set the character up in his or her solo film. Obviously DC Films has made an exception with Man of Steel and Wonder Woman, but it seems they may go another route with other heroes.
The inclusions of flashforwards on the other hand could get a bit confusing. Batman V Superman used Flash’s abilities to show a possible future, which may have been a confusing moment for many audience members, so the studio may want to use this technique sparingly. Hopefully the studio has a great idea how to incorporate both of these moving forward, and fans can prepare now for more flashbacks/flashforwards in the future.