Warner Bros.' new DCEU has found a way forward without its biggest stars, but leaving Superman behind would be a big mistake. With WB and the DCEU finding its feet after a few difficult years of critical disappointment, it’s an exciting time to be a DC fan. Yet it's happening without the franchise's two biggest and most historically significant characters at the helm. It seems almost baffling to any comic book fan that DC's most recent movie iterations of Batman and Superman stumbled so significantly.
While Man of Steel kicked off a new age of the DC canon on the big screen with relative success, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a notorious critical disaster upon release, and Justice League's financial under-performance had fans wondering if the franchise was on life support. Yet a new way forward formed through DC's other heroes. Wonder Woman was a true cultural zeitgeist, Aquaman made over $1 billion worldwide, and while Suicide Squad wasn't exactly beloved, the upcoming sequel/reboot helmed by James Gunn has garnered much enthusiasm. Now, the upcoming Shazam! has garnered rave reviews and looks set to do well at the box office. The future of DC looks bright, from the Wonder Woman sequel to the Birds of Prey movie to the highly intriguing Joker film that will happen separate from the DCEU canon. While it seems likely that Batman and Superman may make cameos or be referenced in some of these films (a Superman cameo in Shazam! has long been rumored), it's notable that they are no longer front and center in this narrative.
Batman will return to the big screen in Matt Reeves's solo film, The Batman, although Ben Affleck will not reprise his role as Bruce Wayne. However, the future of Superman is far less sure. A Man of Steel sequel has been oft-reported since 2016, where it was reportedly a top priority for WB - but nothing official has come from it. It didn't help that many of Superman's themes were bungled in Batman V Superman, then rumors began to swirl that Henry Cavill would no longer be playing the lead role. Cavill's team refuted the claims that he was holding out on signing up for more Superman due to demands over producer credit and script approval. However, his future still remains unclear, especially now that Affleck has bowed out as Batman. Right now, he doesn’t seem to be linked to any officially announced DC projects beyond that much-talked about Shazam! cameo and the upcoming DC Super Pets movie.
- This Page: How The DCEU Is Replacing Superman
- Page 2: Why DCEU Still Needs Superman & What They Should Do
The DCEU's New Heroes Can Replace Superman
In one way, removing Superman and Batman from the center of the DCEU is exciting and creatively unique. If DC fans had been told five years ago that the most profitable film in the franchise would be Aquaman, it’s doubtful anyone would believe that. Superman and Batman have dominated the DC landscape of cinema for decades now and been a crucial part of comic book movie history. It’s hard to have a conversation about the best superhero films ever made without mentioning Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy or Christopher Reeves' Superman films.
However, this new long-term plan from WB and DC to shift some of the focus to heroes with a much smaller and often non-existent cinematic footprint is one that carries many creative possibilities. It’s dramatically changed the tone of DC’s output, bringing a more consciously silly and vibrant approach to the franchise in comparison to the darker Zack Snyder led aesthetic that previously defined it. It’s also created a whole new series of heroes for audiences to see grow from their origins onward, adding instant freshness to a franchise where fans seen the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne repeated every few years like clockwork.
In this respect, the DCEU is replicating Marvel’s Phase 1. Marvel didn't have the rights to arguably their most famous characters - Spider-Man and the X-Men - so they dialed back and focuse on less familiar figures to the general public, building them up to A-List status. For DC, the combination of Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman allows the DCEU to explore various facets of Superman without making nothing but Superman movies. It’s not hard to see why WB would want to pivot away from Clark Kent since Diana Prince and Arthur Curry’s solo movies made much more money than his, as well as having won over more critical favor. Right now, they need to commit to winning strategies, and Superman isn’t winning for them, especially not when compared to the so-called B-squad.
Page 2 of 2: Why DCEU Still Needs Superman & What They Should Do
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2021) release date: May 21, 2021
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021