What Have Warner Bros. and DC Been Calling It?
One of the weirdest parts about the twist that the DCEU isn't official is that the clues were there from the start. Never, in any statement from Warner Bros. or any wing of DC Entertainment has "DC Extended Universe" been used. That it stuck besides is obviously a banner example of the franchise's continuing PR problem. And, delving deeper to find out what their actual naming alternatives are makes things even weirder.
The Only Official Name Is "Justice League Universe"
The closest we've got to an official shared universe title from DC came in The CW's preview special from early 2016, Dawn of the Justice League. Presented by Kevin Smith and centering on a series of interrogations with Geoff Johns on future projects, it mainly reiterated known information for a mainstream audience - that Batman v Superman was starting the road to a host of Justice League-related movies. The only real point of interest was that, throughout the show, the banner franchise was repeatedly called the "Justice League Universe". Suicide Squad was even described as an anti-Justice League, tying them to the ethos despite a narrative disconnect.
So, should we start calling it the JLU? Perhaps, although a year-and-a-half later that show remains the only prominent use of the name and so it's now easy to chalk that up to an attempt to transfer Batman v Superman excitement into the world the Dawn of Justice subtitle was opening up. And, like with the Snyderverse title, it locks the franchise in the past. While the League is obviously a lynchpin of the universe (indeed, it's now the key connective point between characters) it doesn't quite fit prominent movies like Joker & Harley and Batgirl. So we must look at what's been used since.
The Truth Is They Call It Nothing
Since Dawn of the Justice League, The Shared Universe Formerly Known as the DCEU has been officially called... nothing. In fact, tracing it right back to the origins, DC purposely avoid even linking the movies together into a shared universe. The 2014 slate announcement called them "DC Entertainment films" and this year's SDCC panel went even further by removing any shared link, with the description only saying "the greatest superheroes of the DC universe, united for the first time on the big screen." There's a concerted attempt to avoid providing a name.
That you can get four years into a franchise without giving it a title is unexpected, especially in contrast to Universal trying to coin "Dark Universe" before The Mummy even hit, but may be emblematic of the wider plan. The Vulture article that led to the DCEU reveal made clear that the goal of the DC shared universe was to create a world that could hold standalone stories, in stark contrast to the MCU which is building consistently towards Avengers: Infinity War (although may be stepping away from the overarching narrative in Phase 4). It is a universe, but the central pitch of the franchise isn't the potential for crossovers. A grand title risks losing that distinction.
The Best Fit Is DC Films - But That Can't Last For Long
Instead, how WB and DC refer to the series is, at best, the product DC Films. Yes, we're back where we started, albeit with no talk of universe and simply the production studio; essentially, a step above no name. And this does work temporarily, although begins to get messy when you consider the future.
DCF will be producing both the Justice League canon movies and the out-of-continuity stories (already known colloquially as Elseworlds, inspired by the comic imprint) that begin with the in-serious-development Joker origin film. That these are separate canons will need to be clearly communicated to some degree; even if movies don't have conventional shared universe overlap, there's still an expectation of world-building.
So, officially, we have no indication of what we're meant to call the Warner/DC franchise. With all this in mind, maybe it's best to keep with DCEU for now.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020