A Convenient Guide Through DC's Wild and Uncertain Film Universe

By James Whitbrook on at

It should tell you something that we have run multiple versions of these reminder guides for the state of Warner Bros.’s DC Entertainment movie universe. But it’s not every week that your whole understanding of the fragile state of a movie universe gets turned upside down by talk of one of its biggest stars exiting, is it?

Above: The gathered heroes, villains, and potentially exiting stars of the DC movieverse.
Photo: Warner Bros.

It has been a bit of a wild ride lately if you’re a DC fan trying to keep up with what in blazes is actually happening with the movies. So in light of the latest in Superman-based hysteria, here’s a quick—[Ed’s note: *looks at word count, stares blankly at camera*]—recap of what’s up with the DC “Extended Universe” as we know it right now, in an order that could be vaguely described as ranging from the realms of “absolutely happening” to “god, who even knows anymore?”

Jason Momoa as Aquaman in, well, Aquaman.
Image: Warner Bros.

Aquaman

We’ve got a trailer and everything! Yes, while it might still seem strange that we’re getting an actual Aquaman movie in 2018—and that it looks like an awesome, underwater epic to boot—we really are, courtesy of director James Wan. We’re finally going to get to see Jason Momoa’s Aquaman do more (presumably) than just kick butt and shout “YEAH,” as Arthur Curry returns to his mother’s home and faces off against the sinister Black Manta and Ocean Master. And we’ll be seeing it pretty soon: Aquaman is due out December 14.

Shazam pops a nice cold cola with Billy Batson’s good friend Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan).
Photo: Warner Bros.

Shazam!

Next up for the DC Universe is something very different. It took us a while to get a good look at it, but the adorably silly-looking Shazam! from David F. Sandberg channels the earnest charms of its young protagonist Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel, and then Zachary Levi in his heroic form) by giving us a lighter look at superheroics. Shazam! is currently set to release April 5, 2019.

Diana dazzles in an early picture from Wonder Woman 1984.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Wonder Woman 1984

The world is ready for more Wonder Woman after her excellent solo movie in 2017, and as the title suggests, Diana’s next adventure finds her in the ‘80s. She’ll have new friends to meet, like Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva (better known to comics fans as Cheetah), and new foes, like Pedro Pascal’s mysterious, slimy-looking villain. But at least one familiar face is back that really shouldn’t be: Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, who heroically perished during Wonder Woman’s climax. How? Why? We’ll find out November 1, 2019. At least the footage shown at Comic-Con sounds like it was good!

Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, the Fastest Man Alive, in Justice League.
Image: Warner Bros.

The Flash

Ezra Miller’s The Flash has come a long way since it was first announced, in that it has seemingly undergone some pretty major changes (remember when the film was first meant to be out this year!?) as directors have come and gone from the project. Even before current directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were given the movie earlier this year, the project had undergone repeated rewrites.

We also have absolutely no idea what the movie will be about, either. Comic-Con 2017 saw the movie re-announced and re-titled Flashpoint, and said to be based on the event comic of the same name that radically rebooted DC’s comics continuity. Except, just a few months ago, it reportedly lost that title and was described as now only loosely based on the Flashpoint event. Updated rumours since then have suggested the film is now going to strike a lighter, Back to the Future-inspired tone rather than the grim material of the original Flashpoint event, but beyond that, we still don’t know when to expect this movie. Maybe 2020?

No one knows if Ben Affleck is still going to be Batman in this movie. Not even Ben Affleck.
Image: Warner Bros.

The Batman

Oh boy. You can write multiple individual histories on what a saga this movie has been—and we have! The standalone Batman movie was first going to be directed and written by Batman himself, Ben Affleck. He backed out of directing in 2017, to be replaced by Matt Reeves, and then his script was thrown out altogether months later. All that’s even before you get into the on-again-off-again-what-is-even-happening nightmare of endless reports that Affleck himself is either DEFINITELY playing Batman in the movie or is DEFINITELY NOT playing Batman in the movie. He is Schrödinger’s Bat.

At least Reeves had the decency to offer an update fairly recently, brushing aside rumours that this would be a “Year One” origin-style movie, instead saying that it is going to be an original, “very point-of-view noir-driven definitive Batman story.” When’s it coming out? God knows. Who’s playing Batman in it? You try asking God about that.

A suitably deranged Joker in Batman #48.
Image: Mikel Janin, June Chung, and Clayton Cowles (DC Comics)

Joker

When people are rightly incredibly confused about just what the hell is going on with your comic book movie universe, what do you do? Explain things? Ha ha, joke’s on you, buddy. You obviously start an entirely separate, not really connected branch of movies related to Batman’s most infamous foe!

That is exactly what’s going on with Joker, a DC movie from The Hangover’s Todd Philips, produced by Martin Scorcese, and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. It’s an all-new take on the character completely separate from Jared Leto’s portrayal in Suicide Squad (more on that in a bit). This origin-story movie for the character actually just recently entered production—it’s already got an October 4, 2019 release date!—and is rumoured to see the man who becomes the clown prince of crime cast as a failing comedian who snaps after a lifetime of hardships, in the vein of The Killing Joke.

Zazie Beetz and even Robert De Niro are rumoured to co-star with Phoenix, and for approximately two days, Alec Baldwin was going to play the film’s allegedly-Trumpian spin on Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne. He quit, so alas, we’ll never get to know what his take on a character who literally exists to be murdered after minutes of screentime will ever be like.

Oh, you can damn well believe I’m using this art again.
Image: Collage by James Whitbrook
Photo: Warner Bros.

The Joker-Adjacent Spinoff Malaise

This is where things really start getting ridiculous, because Warner Bros. has decided that it wants to go as all in on the Joker as possible. Aside from Joker, Jared Leto’s version of the character is reportedly getting his own film. Then there’s Harley Quinn vs The Joker, a vehicle for Leto and Margot Robbie’s takes on the titular clownish rogues. And then there’s Suicide Squad 2, the sequel to the poorly-received villain team-up that will purportedly have a stronger focus on the Joker than the first did. The film has already gone through the seemingly mandatory director drama, ditching the first film’s David Ayer before eventually settling on current choice, Gavin O’Connor (after a weird side-step into Mel Gibson territory).

If you want an even more detailed breakdown of this dark corner of the DC movie slate, you can check out our full guide here, because of course we have one. It is somehow, as of writing, two months old and Warner Bros. has yet to announce another Joker-adjacent spinoff movie since! Such restraint.

Supergirl #20 cover art.
Image: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, and Michael Atiyeh (DC Comics)

Supergirl

A more recent addition to the DC slate, Kara Zor-El is making the leap from the CW to the big screen, courtesy of Cloverfield Paradox writer Oren Uziel. Details are still incredibly slight beyond that; initial reports about the film suggested that no producers are even currently attached, so Supergirl is likely far off into the future of Warner Bros.’ plans.

Thanks to this week’s news about Henry Cavill, however, the film has taken on a new level of prominence. Reports surrounding the actor’s exit from Superman have suggested that—to compensate for a lack of the Man of Steel—the DC universe will pivot to Supergirl as an anchor character for a while, allowing for someone who is potentially not Cavill to become Superman. As we said before though, the Supergirl movie is so far off it’s hard to treat any of this, as wild as it is, as anything other than speculation.

Batgirl Rebirth #4 cover art.
Image: Francis Manapul (DC Comics)

Batgirl

Speaking of female-character-driven, far-off DC movie plans: Batgirl! Like Supergirl, this one’s also just a glimmer in the studio’s eye, but it’s already been through the Warner Bros. crucible of behind-the-scenes drama. Joss Whedon was initially attached to write and direct the film, but he quit earlier this year, citing that he was unable to come up with a good story for one of DC’s most iconic Bat-family members.

Whedon was quickly replaced by Birds of Prey screenwriter Christina Hodson as a writer for the film, but a director has yet to be attached. Maybe Warner Bros. should listen to the female directors who would like to take a crack at it?

Hal on the cover of his upcoming solo comic.
Image: Liam Sharpe (DC Comics)

Green Lantern Corps

It feels like it’s been a lifetime since we were getting all those rumours about how Hal Jordan would show up in either Batman v Superman or Justice League. But whenever Hal does arrive in the movie universe, he won’t be alone; as the title implies, Green Lantern Corps will focus on the group, rather than one individual member. Hal will be joined by fellow lantern John Stewart in the starring roles, and a script is currently being worked on by David S. Goyer and Justin Rhodes.

Oh, and then there was that weird moment where people thought Warner Bros. was seriously going to have Ryan Reynolds, star of the infamously bad Green Lantern movie, be Hal Jordan again. Let’s not talk about that. Green Lantern Corps was initially scheduled for a 2020 release, but that is unlikely to happen considering, well, all you’ve read above.

Ray Fisher as Cyborg in Justice League.
Image: Warner Bros.

Cyborg

Like the Flash, Cyborg was meant to get his own solo film after being introduced in Justice League, but unlike Flash, things have become eerily quiet about a solo adventure for Ray Fisher’s take on the character. Initially, there were lots of rumours about Cyborg stepping on over to The Flash, making it more of a team-up film, but that was quickly denied, and given the repeated re-workings we’ve seen that film go through, it’s probably an idea that no longer exists.

And really, that’s pretty much the last thing we actually heard about a Cyborg film. Given that DC is bringing the character to its DC Universe streaming service as a supporting character in Doom Patrol—where he’ll be played by Jovian Wade—either plans for a Cyborg movie are frozen or DC and the studio have no idea what to do with the character. Probably a little from column A, a little from column B, in that regard.

Blackhawks, New Gods, Birds of Prey, and Nightwing: four more DC movies on the way, at some point.
Image: Left to Right: Dave Cockrum and Murphy Anderson, Jim Starlin, Matt Banning, and Jeromy Cox, Yanick Paquette, Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (DC Comics)

The Endless Void of Purportedly Greenlit DC Films

Yep, we’re not even done yet. Everything you’ve read above is a sampling of the DC movies we actually know some things about. But there are still multiple other movies adapting DC Comics characters that are swirling in the ether—they’re being talked about, but are not quite being worked on yet. A rundown:

Of these, the one we likely know the most about is Birds of Prey, which will team up Harley Quinn with the Huntress, Black Canary, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya. It will star Margot Robbie, be written by Christina Hodson, and directed by Cathy Yan—who allegedly pitched an approach so intriguing that Warner Bros. fast-tracked production, bumping other movies further down the line, including Gotham City Sirens, another Harley team up (this time villain-based, with Poison Ivy and Catwoman) set to be tackled by Suicide Squad’s David Ayer.

Keeping it in the Bat-family, there is also a Nightwing movie in the works, directed by The Lego Movie’s Chris McKay and written by The Accountant’s Bill Dubuque, but that is still in very early stages. There’s also the long-simmering potential idea for a supernatural Justice League Dark movie, which was first going to be adapted by Guillermo del Toro as one of the earliest projects in Warner Bros.’ then-nascent plans to launch a connected movie universe (oh, we were so innocent back then). Del Toro left the project, as he is wont to do, and was replaced by Doug Liman, who was very excited for the film and then promptly also left. There’s been no real movement on the film since then and no replacement for Liman, but last we heard, Gerard Johnstone had been tapped to write a new draft of the script.

And then, at last, we get to two absolutely bonkers ideas that we know nothing about in the slightest, other than that they exist in incredibly early stages. First up, A Wrinkle in Time’s Ava DuVernay has started work on an adaptation of Jack Kirby’s iconic heroes, New Gods, setting the stage for an all-new branch of DC Universes inspired by DC’s cosmic characters. Then, somehow even weirder than that: Steven Spielberg is producing (and potentially directing) a Blackhawks film, based on the World War II fighter pilot squadron that were initially stars of ‘40s-era military comics before being acquired by DC in 1956 and integrated into their superhero universe.

Update:

[Ed’s note: We forgot Dwayne Johnson’s long-standing Black Adam project and that outside-the-DCEU Booster Gold film. Just going to go stare into the Source Wall until I die...]


Suffice to say, there is a lot going on with Warner Bros.’ DC slate right now, way, way beyond the latest confusing drama around Henry Cavill. These slates are always in motion, always chopping and changing, growing and shrinking, to the point that maybe in another few months we’ll need to remind ourselves what’s going on all over again. At least now you’re caught up?