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. Yeap, and they always have been.

    Gotta build towards something.

  2. At this point I really don’t care I just can’t wait to go see MoS again.

  3. Solo character film or not, it rarely matters anymore. Look at the Green Lantern for instance.
    The lifeblood of a good movie is a great story, i.e. competent screenwriters that understand that sacrificing story for “cool” effects and merchandise won’t pay off.

    A pig’s still a pig no matter how much makeup you throw at hit.

    Never compromise the integrity of a film’s character or story by surrounding it with plastic boobs or red-hot explosions…unless necessary.

  4. Just throw it all at the wall.

    Something’s bound to stick. Right?

  5. Solo films . If they start with Justice League and it isn’t good then they are stuck back at a reboot stage I think.

  6. Make a Crisis movie and fold all of your character versions into one universe.

    It works for the comics.

  7. Individual stories please.

    I just hope that if they go that route, they turn out a better (ie, not average but a great) movie than MOS was.

    Just pains me to say that MOS was only an “ok” movie because I’d been looking forward to it but I hope the next solo film will work out because it’s a fine line between drawing in casual viewers who don’t know the characters or mythos and pleasing the fans.

    The Flash should be the next movie though.

    • OK movie?!?! Standards must be so high to satisfy you.

    • I think it was great, that being said, I think there are some areas where it could’ve been a little better. Keep in mind, I thought that Batman Begins was great too, but now after having seen The Dark Knight, it pales in comparison. In a superhero story arch for a “begins” series you have to make some allowances because they are cramming a lot of history and extras in for the sake of the foundation. Now that we have that out of the way it’s time for our TDK movie for MoS =D

    • It is funny you consider Man of Steel just okay while think Iron Man 3 is great.
      I am no the side that thinks Man of Steel is great (not perfect) but Iron Man 3 never rose above “meh- okay”.

      Just goes to show how opinions are divided between those two films.

  8. They absolutely need to make solo films. Just introducing new heroes out of the blue would be terrible. What is worse is the asinine idea to not use the Dark Knight Trilogy and characters already established. It could totally fit into the MOS universe with careful writing. It is stunning that some executive decided to go this route which is going to hurt the justice League critically and likely financially as well.

  9. I’m still hoping for a Aquaman film !

  10. Does it really matter what we vote on now? By showing The Man of Steel, DC is already saying that they are doing individual movies. If it were up to me, in the last Batman movie, Batman should have said something like, “It’s time to call in the troops” or while in the cafe, “It’s gotten to the point where Batman needs to call the team in.” DC tried to make Batman such an amazing individual character (but did a great job incorporating Robbin), that they forgot Batman is the man who needs to become a leader to save the Earth. Considering this, I think each movie should be a “file” of each character that Batman has put together to create this ultimate team, the Justice League.
    Saying this, I don’t think MoS is going to be a bad movie, in fact I really want to see it. I wish DC would have thought out their plan a little better though. I do hope that there is a Justice League movie though, I’ll always be a huge fan. I’m off to see MoS!

    • Have a nice and safe viewing! Hope you enjoy it!

  11. After seeing Man of Steel today (which I thought was very good, but not great), I can honestly say I could care less about Justice League, Flash, Aquaman, new Green Lantern, etc.

    I want the Snyder-Goyer-Nolan trio working on more movies with just this Superman character. When I walked out of the theater, I was thinking of what they could do in a Man of Steel sequel. I want my epic Superman trilogy. This was a good first step.

    It’ll be interesting to see what WB does next. I think Man of Steel 2 should be next no matter what. I’m just happy Man of Steel was good after seeing the low RT score.

    • I think people shouldn’t immediately pass their judgments after only seeing the score. They should read the actual reviews to actually understand what they would be watching and what to expect. I did, and while I’m not fully satisfied by Man of Steel, I still find it to be good and want to see the sequel. Had I just trusted the score…

      Zack Snyder’s movies are often the victims of this blindness; they are very divisive and polarizing. If someone says his movie is good, the praise is very high. But when somebody says it’s bad, you think this director has no future. Really, whether the audience will like them or not, they will only know after watching.

  12. I dont really care as long as i like it

  13. 21 mil for man of steel via walmart screening and midnight.

  14. Problem is they need to move fast because if they keep at this one movie a year pace, the CBM interest will be dead by the time they are ready to do Justice League. Least do 2 a year with some crossover appearances.

  15. WB doesn’t need to rush things. In fact, actually I don’t think they should. Do separate character solo films first. DC characters are difficult to handle for them to appeal to general audience. They are so powerful and pure it’s hard to make a compelling story and conflict about them without going darker and edgier while people are hard to please.

    If I were to make a decision, a JL movie shouldn’t be a JL movie. Those superheroes shouldn’t be immediately united as an organization. I’ll have them meet each other, comparing their characters, saving the Earth together, and draw a significant theme from it while gradually building strong bonds as fellow good-doers.

    And then we will have Super Friends.

  16. If only they could just get Bale to come back they would be ready for a DCU NOW. That and just go with Reynold’s Green Lantern(but with some tweaks) and they would have 3 established heroes and then have Flash get his powers during the movie and introduce Wonder Woman and they be fine. I would even have Gordon Levitt as Nightwing in the movie but is killed by the villain, which then brings Bruce Wayne out of retirement to help Supes, Lantern and others save the world. Bam make it happen by throwing money at Bale.

  17. Dump Goyer. He’s the real Kryptonite in the DC movie universe. He’s a terrible script writer….. clunky ponderous exposition….. zero wit. Not a speck of humor in any of his writing. I need witty dialog. It doesn’t have to be laugh out loud funny. Just clever.

    I’ve ranted about Goyer before on the site. This is Screen RANT right?

    Look at his track record:

    Blade: Trinity
    Both Ghost Rider movies
    And the horrendous “Nick Fury: Agent of Shield” Starring David Hasselhoff! Ouch!!

    His influence on Nolan’s Batman Trilogy can be felt clearly in the dialog. Heath Ledger’s Joker was an exception because he went off script and improvised the best bits…… Heath was amazing.

    Now Man of Steel…… Again. Witless, ponderous sophomoric philosophizing. FX were great. Action was great. Acting was good. Story was ok. But what emerged from the actors mouths felt clunky and wooden to me.

      • there was some lines that felt off however i thought goyer did rather well, seen better seen worse. The dialouge to me felt very much like a comic book

    • The Dark Knight trilogy had fantastic dialogue, are you saying otherwise? Heath didn’t improvise a lot he only improvised the explosion.

  18. One more Superman film that teases the new Batman in the shadows.

    Superman and Batman team up movie where they investigate sightings of other super powered humanoids. (Batman detective work)

    WonderWoman movie

    Justice League. Matian Manhunter as villian (But he’s not really the villian) he joins the team. Green Lantern turns up because he is the space police.

    • “Superman and Batman team up movie where they investigate sightings of other super powered humanoids. (Batman detective work)”

      I LOVE that idea! However if they find said super powered humanoids it would not ONLY be a Batman Superman team up movie.


  20. Justice League first. That would make people want to see solo films to learn more about the other members.

    JL 1
    2-3 Solo movies

    JL 2
    2-3 Solo movies

    JL 3
    2-3 Solo movies

    etc etc etc.

    Just churn ’em out… you’re not making Oscar movies.

  21. First of all, I loved this article and I love that you guys of screenrant are in with the idea of a Nolan’s Batman and Snyder’s Superman crossover. Let’s face it, this IS the best way to proceed considering that a JL movie is way to far yet. I can’t understand why this is so hard to comprehend by the folks at Warner, and also thy Nolan is so short-minded by saying that his franchise is his and his alone.

    If I was doing this (I’m saying this as a fan but I know I’m not the only one), I’d make a sequel for MOS that would include Bale’s Batman, maybe in the end of the film or in the post-credit scene…obviusly I’d fill almost the whole movie with easter eggs and clues that another man and hero is wandering around. Then, after this movie I’d make a Batman/Superman film, in wich I would introduce Wonder Woman to finally make the Trinity.

    With those 3 characters, plus two other solo (but connected) solo movies of The Flash and Aquaman I believe the package would be almost complete to finally make the final step. This is a dream of course but I hope somethig like this would happen some day in the future 😀

    • I am with you 100%. One possible path is that Nightwing becomes a part of justice League. Make a Nightwing movie that shows how he and Nolan’s Batman respond to the events of MOS. They would have to deal with Lex Luthor’ corp. Which is reverse engineering Krypton technololgy. Luthor develops weapons that rival Batman’s and at the end of the movie they turn to Superman for help realizing that they need to work together to deal with alien threats and prevent humans from abusing Luthor’s new technology.

      • I like it, I’d put Brainiac in there too, him and Lex would be a menace worthy for Batman and Supes to unite! Something like the last episodes of the JL animated series but without the League just yet.

  22. No. Make a World’s Finest movie, and have them barely defeat the villain. In that case,they can gather more heroes, so they can stand a better chance. Or something along the lines.

  23. Loved MOS. It was very good. I think it’s one of those movies after you watch it again it will turn out great. I thought Amazing Spiderman was very good last year and after I watched it again it turned into great. Man of Steel had its hiccups yeah but I’m sure they will correct things for the sequel. Looking forward to seeing MOS again and can’t wait for MOS2.

  24. World’s finest, that way they can introduce the new “Batman and then have “Wonder Woman” introduced herself at the end of the movie, maybe talking about “AQUAMAN AND FLASH”.

  25. The same way the “JOKER” was introduce in “THE DARK KNIGHT”.

  26. I want another MOS movie first, if I’m being honest. But maybe in MOS2 have another hero enter to help Superman at the end (Batman, Martian Manhunter, the Flash, WW, Booster Gold even?) Then give that character his own movie. Then go from there with the individual solos films. Then find a way to tie them all together into a JL movie.

    Whatever they do, they should have a thought out plan ahead of filming. (i.e Marvel’s Phase 2 and Phase 3, which are already outlined.)

  27. Mini-team-ups!
    Flash & Green Lantern
    Martian Manhunter & Atom & Hawkman
    Doctor Fate & Hourman

    & a Legion of Super-Heroes flick thrown in for good measure!

  28. These movies take years to make even after they find the right filmmakers, so it’s best to kick-start multiple projects in parallel like Marvel does.

    A new Batman(why wait till 2017?), Green Lantern, The Flash and Wonder Woman sound like no-brainers for the immediate future.

    Then a Batman/Superman teamup followed by Justice League.

    Afterwards lesser-known DC characters like Aquaman, Green Arrow and The Atom can get their movies.

    Meanwhile Warner or its divisons can also develop movies unrelated to the DCCU based on DC’s many non-superhero properties: The Sandman, Death, The Swamp Thing, Preacher, various Vertigo and Wildstorm properties etc. That’s something they’ve been neglecting since Jonah Hex bombed. These DC properties gave us movies like Road to Perdition, A History of Violence and V for Vendetta.

    • Green Arrow lesser known he has his own TV show!