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The DCEU Is Dead, Long Live The DCEU

The original plans for the unofficially named DC Extended Universe are dead - but that leaves the DCEU in a position to have a bright future. Warner Bros. and DC originally announced their plans for a shared universe that could rival what Marvel Studios had created in 2014, the year after Zack Snyder's reboot of Superman, Man of Steel, performed well at the box office but divided audiences. The original plan was to make two films a year from 2016 to 2020, and create a true cinematic universe out of DC characters.

This incredibly ambitious plan came on the heels of Christopher Nolan finishing up his Dark Knight trilogy, but also as Marvel Studios released The Avengers and completely rewrote the possibilities of a cinematic franchise. The film received critical acclaim for pulling off a crossover of three different Marvel franchises and many other side characters and audiences responded positively, to the tune of $1.5 billion at the box office. As if this didn't raise expectations for Man of Steel enough, Marvel released Iron Man 3 just a month before Snyder's first DCEU movie, and the Robert Downey Jr. solo movie earn another billion dollars. Warner Bros. saw this success and wanted it for themselves with their DC properties... which didn't immediately happen.

Related: Wonder Woman 1984 May Break DCEU Sequel Tradition (& Change Its Future)

The first two years of DC's five year slate brought Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeSuicide SquadWonder Woman, and Justice League (originally planned as the first half of a two-parter) to theaters, but not to the result the studio wanted. Other than Wonder Woman, the early entries of the DCEU were critically panned and received mixed responses from audiences. Some of them still managed to perform very well at the box office, but dwindling interest and excitement from general audiences meant that changes were coming. Through announcements of the future, it is officially clear: the original DCEU is dead.

Zack Snyder Imagined A Different DCEU

When Zack Snyder was hired to direct Man of Steel, he was brought on to do for Superman and the larger DC mythos what Nolan did with his Dark Knight trilogy. Through the casting of Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and small Easter eggs hinting at a bigger universe, Man of Steel established the tone for Snyder's vision of his own DC universe. But there was a divisive reaction to the new portrayal of Superman - one who was willing to let his father die instead of revealing his abilities, level an entire city fighting Zod, and snap Zod's neck to end it. This take on Superman and superheroes as a whole, as divisive as it was, was all part of Snyder's larger plans for an epic DC story told on the biggest medium possible.

Related: The DCEU Ruined Batman & Superman (But It's Not Snyder's Fault)

Concept artist Jay Oliva has confirmed that Snyder's original plan for the DCEU was for a five film arc. This story would be told in Man of SteelBatman v SupermanJustice LeagueJustice League 2, and likely Justice League 3 - with Superman, the rise of the Justice League, and Darkseid at the core. We've laid out his entire plan in the past, but Snyder only truly got to see his vision through on Man of Steel. Although the story and tonal decisions of Batman v Superman remained true to Snyder's original take, Warner Bros. still stepped in to cut down the 3 hour runtime that would eventually be released as the Ultimate Cut. Snyder's grander plans for the DCEU went off the rails after Batman v Superman received an even harsher reaction than his previous DC film and saw the studio get cold feet. They heavily reshot Suicide Squad to change the tone, and that was just the beginning of the studio meddling.

The DCEU As We Know It Died With Justice League

Justice League without DCEU Superman

As a result of Batman v Superman's reception, Geoff Johns - then the freshly appointed head of DC Films - became more involved with Justice League. Reports surfaced that changes were being made to Snyder's original plan during production. After completing filming, Joss Whedon was hired to write scenes for the film's upcoming reshoots. His role became much larger after Snyder stepped away from the project in early 2017 due to the death of his daughter. With Snyder out of the picture, Warner Bros. and Whedon continued to change Justice League to better fit the vision of the studio, going as far as changing the ending as plans for Justice League 2 were distanced. Justice League still saw a tepid response upon its release and disappointed at the box office. It is the lowest grossing DCEU film to date worldwide, despite housing all of its stars.

The failures of Justice League didn't just mean the end of Snyder's involvement. Warner Bros. saw major changes at the executive level, with Sue Kroll leaving the position as president of marketing and chairman Kevin Tsujihara taking a step back. Toby Emmerich was named the new chairman of Warner Bros. and it wasn't too long before Geoff Johns left his role at DC Films to take on a more creative position instead. Ben Affleck was disinterested in continuing to play Batman beyond the capacity originally pitched to him, and Henry Cavill's position as Superman has since become unclear. After spending several years overseeing the direction of the entire universe - one that would expand to include solo films for other Justice League characters due to Warner Bros.' shared universe desires - Snyder left behind an unfinished story. In doing so, his exit and the ensuing fallout signaled the end of the DCEU as we know it.

Page 2: A New DCEU Is Coming

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Key Release Dates
  • 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 Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
  • DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
  • The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
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