Joker Will Usher In Elseworlds
WB's other big DC movie for 2019 is Joker, starring not Jared Leto, but instead Joaquin Phoenix. While Leto's Joker still exists within the DCEU, Phoenix's Joker is going to stand outside of the shared universe, meaning that there will be multiple big screen versions of the same character under WB's banner - but with this one branded differently (possibly as DC Dark or DC Black).
While it's a move that may confuse audiences, it does take a page straight out of the comic playbook: DC is known for having an expansive multiverse (something The CW's Arrowverse is having a lot of fun with), and Joker is essentially serving as an Elseworlds story - in the comics, that means existing outside of the main DC Universe canon. Here, it can mean existing outside of the shared universe, which explains why there are two different versions of the Joker, played by two actors, both getting their own films (it's also worth noting here that Elseworlds is the title being used for this year's Arrowverse crossover, so it's a practice WB, as a whole, is becoming well-versed in).
As is the case with Shazam!, Joker, which is being directed by Todd Phillips, looks quite unlike anything else audiences have seen from DC to date, with Phoenix's Clown Prince of Crime being markedly different from Leto's controversial take, and the movie itself taking its tonal and story cues from The King of Comedy. Its success may mean the floodgates will open for many more Elseworlds-type movies down the line.
Although there have been rumors that Matt Reeves' The Batman movie may not exist in the DCEU (there have even been rumors that The Batman and Joker could eventually crossover, resulting in another connected universe, separate from the DCEU), Reeves himself confirmed in 2017 that his film will remain in continuity with the other Justice League movies. Aside from the Caped Crusader's next film, though, there are plenty of opportunities to develop standalone DC movies without worrying about maintaining an official timeline. This way, writers and directors can craft bold, new stories with almost complete creative freedom.
There’s No Justice League Character Presence
At one point, Henry Cavill's Superman was going to have a cameo in Shazam!, but conflicts with his DC contract ultimately shutdown that arrangement. At another point, The Flash movie was reportedly going to arrive in 2019 (and was originally slated for 2018 before that). Wonder Woman 1984 had this year marked out as well, with an original release date of November 1, 2019, only to be pushed back to June 2020. What all of that means, then, is that, for the first time since this universe properly got rolling in 2016 with Batman v Superman, there isn't going to be any Justice League character presence in the DC movies on WB's slate.
There has been talk that Shazam may eventually join the team, but as it stands that obviously hasn't happened, and any such possibility is a long, long way off given how unclear it is when the studio might even feel comfortable approaching the idea of another Justice League movie. There will be future appearances from the team, though: Wonder Woman is getting a sequel, Aquaman 2 might happen depending on how the first movie performs, and The Flash is still going to happen at some point, alongside the various Harley Quinn/Joker centric movies that they have in development, all which do exist within the DCEU.
But what 2019 is doing is notably moving away from the shared universe and from the Justice League itself, and the other movies - especially those with the League's members - are likewise shaping up to be even more standalone too, even if they exist loosely within that framework. Given that just a couple of years ago everything was being pinned on the back of Justice League to have zero presence in 2019, and such a marked shift in tone, character, and overall focus, is a clear sign of how much the DCEU is effectively being rebooted.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020