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

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.

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

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.

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

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).

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.