DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to ‘Justice League’?

Published 2 years ago by

Justice League Movie Man of Steel Dark Knight Discussion DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?

Man of Steel is now in theaters (read our review), and despite a somewhat divisive opinion amongst critics, fans seem to be enjoying it well enough ($$$) that Warner Bros.’ already-in-development Superman sequel seems like a sure bet. Of course, before the new Superman took his chance at box office glory, there was much debate as to where Warner Bros. would be taking their superhero universe in the wake of Zack Snyder’s reboot film.

Justice League has been the talk of Internet ever since Warner Bros. executives dropped the news late last year that a Justice League movie was coming in 2015  - a claim that has since been denied in the wake of Man of Steel‘s projected success. Now a Superman sequel seems to be the game plan, and after seeing MoS, one has to wonder: is the standalone film approach (that led to Marvel’s Avengers glory) the right way for DC/WB to go, after all?


DC: Character First

Man of Steel Suit DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?
Our own Andrew Dyce recently did an in-depth breakdown of the differences between DC and Marvel characters, and in that same article, he clearly identified how the DC/WB is now forming a pattern in their storytelling approach, focusing on grounded character stories over Marvel’s preference for heightened fantasy action. Indications (at the time of writing this) are that this blueprint will make the Superman reboot a success like Chris Nolan’s Batman reboot – consequently cementing the notion that character drama works better for DC films than the Marvel-style tone of the studio’s 2011 under-performer, Green Lantern.

Justice League Movie Character List DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?

At this point, the WB would have to be pretty thick-headed to not recognize the formula written on the wall. While Marvel makes fun escapist comic book flicks, Warner Bros.’ best investment seems to be deep, probing character origin stories set against a ‘real world’ backdrop. So, films exploring a bi-racial outcast trying to find acceptance in two worlds (Aquaman); an indoctrinated xenophobe who learns to accept and appreciate the outside world (Wonder Woman); the fastest man alive is unable to outrun his own personal tragedy (Flash) – these seem more like the drama-heavy superhero films that could possibly turn even low-tier DC characters into modern box office draws, making an eventual Justice League teamup that much more lucrative and easy to pull off.


Companion Pieces

Justice League Movie Logo DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?

For better or worse (depending on who you ask) Man of Steel feels, in many ways, like a companion piece to Batman Begins. Yes, it’s obvious that both films were written by Chris Nolan and David S. Goyer – and yes, I’m well aware of the fact that Nolan, Goyer, Zack Snyder and actors from  all over the Batman and Superman reboot franchises have all stated (repeatedly) that Nolan’s Batman trilogy is its own, separate, isolated universe. But come on: in terms of narrative approach, structure, tone and themes, Man of Steel really is just “Superman Begins.” And, continuity issues aside, that precedence may be something DC/WB wants to run with.

Despite a very vocal section of detractors (who never liked Nolan’s somber approach), sticking with the format of Batman Begins and Man of Steel for other standalone DC hero films is probably the best way to march toward something as big as Justice League. Aside from the Marvel approach of plot and/or character crossovers used to thread together their Phase One road to The Avengers, there is something to be said for building a universe along the lines of tonal and thematic blending, rather than outright crossover.

superman batman movie DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?

Batman Begins and Man of Steel both shine the same sort of introspective, emotional complex light on why their respective iconic characters became the heroes they are. A similar approach to other heroes could firmly establish said heroes’ identities within a similar tonal and thematic frame, which would make seeing them all team up just as easy to accept as Marvel’s method of character/plot-point swapping to build a foundation under Avengers.

Think about it (purely for the sake of argument): Having seen both the Batman and Superman reboots, how hard would it really be to imagine Bale’s Batman (retired) seeing the emergence of Cavill’s Superman and once again donning his costume? The worlds of these “separate” films at least feel similar enough to make it plausible for both Cavill and Bale’s versions of the characters to exist in the same film.


Two Before Many

Batman and Superman movie mashup DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?

It’s something we’ve talked about multiple times on the Screen Rant Underground podcast (herehere and here) – and a theory that Internet investigators are still backing: WB could already be seeing the crossover potential of the Dark Knight and Man of Steel universes, and could be utilizing that billion-dollar potential by bringing back Christian Bale to stand alongside MoS star Henry Cavill. Certain speculation goes so far as to say that Chris Nolan is already secretly at work shepherding the entire DC film universe; time will tell how true (or not) that speculation is – we do know, however, that the filmmaker has his own sci-fi project, Interstellar, keeping him busy right now.

Despite all the evidence and incentive for WB to abandon a Justice League film for the moment – and focus on its Man of Steel sequel – that doesn’t mean a team-up film is once again a dead dream. As stated, the Batman and Superman origin films have enough in common, tonally and thematically, to make a Batman/Superman movie a definite possibility (not to mention that certain Man of Steel Easter eggs directly reference that blending).

Dark Knight Man of Steel Logo Mashup DC Movie Universe: Are Solo Character Films the Right Road to Justice League?

Anyone who is a fan of either the classic World’s Finest Comics or the post-millennium relaunch, Superman/Batman, knows that the only thing more interesting than comparing Batman and Superman’s origins (tragedy vs. nurturing) is seeing the clash of their respective moral outlooks, crime-fighting tactics, and deep-seeded insecurities. That’s all good stuff we could see in a Superman/Batman crossover film. If DC/WB is looking to get any kind of Avengers-style event film off of the ground, this would be their best bet at the moment. (Again, time will tell if this project is already in works…)

How do you see the future of the DC Movie Universe unfolding in the wake of Man of Steel? What do you WANT to see happen? Let us know your opinion in the comments!

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Man of Steel is now in theaters. It is 143 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language. Want to discuss the film without SPOILING it for others? Head over to our Man of Steel Spoilers Discussion. If you want to hear the Screen Rant Editors discuss the film, be sure to check back soon for our Man of Steel special episode of the Screen Rant Undergound Podcast. If you want to know a lot of the in-jokes in the film, check out our Man of Steel Eater eggs Discussion. 


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  1. I loved MOS and if this is the start to a DC movieverse i’m all for it. I think that we’ll see a bit lighter film in MOS2 not any less grounded or contemplative but in terms of seeing a more developed split between clark and Supes, the question is do you introduce new characters through MOS or do you do solo films. i tend to side with solo films because DC has so many outstanding characters that need their own movies and i for one am a patient guy to wait for the JL movie, Henry is a relatively young guy so theirs time to pace it out a little bit. question i have is which characters will they go with obviously Batman, probably Flash, I hope WW she deserves some love. Am I the only one that would love to see a Hawkman/Hawkgirl movie, it seems like its made for the movies. either version thanagar or Egyptian pharaoh. it certainly a story that could be grounded, and still have a Indiana Jones feel to it. Aquaman would be cool to and he is a founding member of the JLA same for Martian Manhunter although he might not fit in the Nolanverse. Don’t know maybe I’m way off on these, but DC definitely has plenty of characters that would make great movies so i say go for it.

    • Benedict Cumberbach isn’t playing Khan either.

      Don’t believe what you read until the movie comes out but bet your bottom dollar that they will make a decision based on what will bring in the most dollars, as they should.

      I think it will likely be Bale for that reason.

      • Cumberbach was officially playing Khan on IMDB 3 weeks before the movie came out. It’s not the same as surprising the fans with an iconic character. I’m sure Nolan doesn’t want them to use his Batman and Bale has said before that he’d only do it if Nolan was involved. I don’t believe everything I read but this has been said over and over and over again, even by the studio. They are separate. Continuity issues aside, it would be horrible for the character and the actor to be reduced to solely sell tickets. Of course they want to make money but the directors, producers, and actors have all invested much more into these films than the desire for money. It’s always been about the characters. They’re all there to tell a story and a good one at that. The studio and Nolan fans can beg all they want but I think at the end of the day the artists’ visions will prevail.

    • I was watching TDKR. I realize that I cannot stand that Batman voice.

  2. I want them to develop solo films first before they team up. The films may or may not work (MOS was a disappointment) but at least they will introduce the characters.

    • Chris, I’m wondering why MoS was a disappointment. I found it to be great, but everyone has their own opinion. Just curious what people who didn’t like this film look for in a Superman film. I’m not being sarcastic or anything, just looking for the reasons behind an opinion on the other side.

  3. I would like to see Bale or even JGL back as the Batman character, but if they were not I would still go see it. I personally don’t think they have to have stand alone films for every character. I feel like Wonder Woman and Aquaman would be hard sells for the general public. Also, please don’t do more Batman origins if you have to reboot the character. It’s too close to the DKR trilogy. Plus, as much as I’d love to see Bale and Cavil together, I don’t think they could go with the typical Batman and Superman don’t trust eachother and fight until a mutual respect is formed. A Batsuit capable of standing up to Superman doesn’t really fit into this universe, so unless you rely on Batman being the one to discover Kryponite or formulate some sort of spray that would utilize what Zod did to Superman on his ship then I don’t see it being realistic that Batman could survive even with Superman pulling punches.

  4. Zods voice kinda threw me off the whole movie.

  5. To get the ball rolling, DC just needs to say that MOS takes place after the events of TDKR. Bale is in Europe (retired), and JGL (Knightwing) is busy taking care of Gotham.

    Now any new movie has to give some perspective of timelines (i.e. when did those major events happen as they relate to the time period of the current movie). Basically, it has to be a continuing story of news events, and can’t be ignored. In IM3, they spoke about the events of NY.

    Both Wonder Woman, or Aquaman movie can start off with their countries being concerned about Zod’s alien invasion. Zod’s world device disrupted Atlantis, which forces their reveal.

    For MOS sequels, there can be no kryptonite unless Braniac, Supergirl, or some other Kryptonians bring some of the exploded planet with them.

    • It’s Nightwing. No ‘K’.

      • I think it was supposed to be a pun… The Dark Knight

  6. How I think the story should progress:

    US government develops Cadmus, a shadow operation, and salvages all the debris leftover from the encounter between Superman and the Kryptonians. They enlist Lexcorp and Lex because he’s more okay with developing weapons and militaristic technology rather than Wayne Enterprises.

    Superman, in an effort to build more good will with his existence, helps the military and Earth out doing little things here and there. He helps Lexcorp set up an underwater geothermal station far beneath the ocean. However, the station disappears and Superman is sent underwater into the deepest depths of the ocean due to a thermal trail. There he discovers Atlantis but is promptly greeted by Aquaman. Aquaman tells him you may be a god up there, but I am King of the sea and sends Superman out of the depths of his territory displaying an unusual amount of strength and speed underwater. The city disappears when Superman goes back to the same place after he gets ejected from the water.

    Batman starts to investigate into massive funds being diverted in the government to some secret operation. He finds out some of it is tied to Lexcorp and decides to visit Metropolis. Lex hires some crooked people for his more unsavoury activities and Batman starts attacking them and starts to intimidate one of them who is still conscious for information. Superman drops in and rushes at Batman, but Batman diverts his rush by redirecting it and throwing him off with his reflexes.

    Superman sees his identity and attempts to rush him again, but Batman tells him do you have any idea what you’ve done? The consequences of your actions, what it has done to this world. Batman had been uncovering secret immoral experiments and questionable research by Lexcorp that Superman unwittingly spawned but did not investigate about. Batman throws him a usb drive and disappears when Superman catches it.

    More stuff can involve a fragment of Brainiac being activated when brought in proximity with Kryptonian tech in Cadmus. Then it starts to gain further knowledge and manages to set up a trap for Superman with his superiour intellect to harvest some of Superman’s blood in a fight. Then more experiments with Lex discovering Brainiac’s existence and assisting him, etc.

  7. Don’t reboot Batman, it’s entirely too soon coming off the most successful Batman/Superhero franchise to date. That’s like saying “let’s reboot Ironman.” Joseph Gordon Levitt as Nightwing is their best bet. Either that or they wait to reintroduce Batman last of all the JL solo films (years down the line).


  8. I think they should make World’s Finest instead of MoS2 and reintroduce/reboot Batman; bring him from Nolan’s real world back to a more fantastical approach where Man-Bat, Poison Ivy and Mr Freeze exist, as well as an immortal Ra’s al Ghul, a reptilian Killer Croc and a metamorphic Clayface.

  9. Unless DC connects the DC Cinematic Universe with the Dark Knight Trilogy, there is absolutely no way DC can make a good Justice League movie in 2015. This obsession with rebooting Batman is just going to confuse and turn off audiences. The fun of Batman is that he IS realistic; only a developed Batman that we know and care about can lend a Justice League movie the gravitas it’s going to need to be believable. If DC plans to make us care about a completely foreign cast aside from Henry Cavill in 2015, it’s due for a rude wake-up call. I’m not interested in seeing DC shoot itself in the foot, but my intuition is telling me to brace myself for disappointment….

  10. Sick of dark superhero movies, and DC movies, well Superman should be a lot lighter and less depressing, he’s the biggest Grandaddy of them all ffs!

    We need the magic back in Superman movies.