Recently, we’ve been getting a ton of news from the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). About a week ago, HBO Max streaming services announced that they will be releasing the Snyder Cut version of the Justice League in 2021. A few days after that, Suicide Squad’s director David Ayer teased the possibility of his own “Ayer Cut ” of the film. Then, we hear that actor Henry Cavill might be reprising his role as Superman in the DCEU. Could all this be a possible setup for a future Justice League film? I mean it’s not impossible for it to happen but there a number of issues to address. For starters, the founder of the team, Ben Affleck’s Batman will not be returning to the DCEU. That’s going to be a problem seeing that Affleck’s character played a pivotal role in the film.
Furthermore, Warner Bros has been shifting their focus away from team-based superhero films into smaller, more intimate standalone ones. Films that don’t exactly line up into a clean, singular timeline because Warner Bros never officially acknowledged them in the wider DCEU. Oh and don’t even get me started with the ret-cons and character replacements with James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. A film that supposed to be seen as a “total reboot” and yet characters from Ayer’s Suicide Squad like Margot Robbie’s Harley, Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang are in it. In this writer’s humble opinion, the DCEU timeline is completely broken, which is fine by the way. If, however, Warner Bros wishes to return to its initial idea of creating a cohesive timeline of DCEU films culminating in Justice League sequels, there are a number of ways they could rectify this problem.
In 2011, DC Comics had a major event that rebooted their entire line of comics called Flashpoint. The plot revolved around Barry Allen, the Flash travelling back in time to save his mother from being murdered. Unfortunately, his actions result in major changes to the main DC Universe timeline. The Justice League was never formed. Superman became a government experiment. Wonder Woman and Aquaman waged a world war that devastated the planet. Bruce Wayne is killed by Joe Chill instead of his parents and Thomas Wayne became the Batman. Flashpoint ended with Barry running back in time to prevent himself from altering the timeline. While he was able to prevent these catastrophes from happening, he irrevocably changed the status quo of the main DC Universe. All the characters you know and love are back but their origin stories and appearances are tweaked.
There was some buzz in the past about Snyder possibly doing a Flashpoint film before stepping away from the DCEU. That being said perhaps HBO Max’ release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League will put the director back in the front seat of the DCEU. In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, we saw Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen travel back in time to warn Batman about Lois Lane being key to some important event. So it’s clear that the DCEU’s Flash is capable of time-travel. Warner Bros could make a Flashpoint film with Miller’s Flash creating an alternate doomed version of the DCEU before having him go back in time to restore a new status quo. This would provide Warner Bros with an opportunity to start fresh while still allowing them to pick and choose which elements of the DCEU they wish to keep in a post-Flashpoint timeline. All while delivering an Avenger: Endgame level summer blockbuster!
2. The New Gods
A lot of you have probably heard of the name Darkseid and how he’s sort of the DCEU’s equivalent of Thanos. What you might not have known is that Darkseid is just one of many beings known as New Gods. Beings who exist outside of the DC Multiverse in a higher plane of existence known as the Sphere of the Gods. They’re more living ideas in physical forms than they are superpowered immortals like Zeus, Hades or Wonder Woman. For aeons, the forces of New Genesis led by the benevolent, righteous Highfather warred against the tyranny of Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips. A battle to determine the fate of the Multiverse. In 2008, DC Comics’ crossover event, Final Crisis saw Darkseid nearly destroy the entire multiverse before Superman, the Monitors and Heaven teamed up to repair the multiverse.
It has been confirmed that A Wrinkle in Time‘s Ava DuVernay will be making a New Gods film within the DCEU. A film that will undoubtedly feature characters like Darkseid, Highfather and Orion. DuVernay’s New Gods could plant the seeds for a possible Final Crisis inspired film in the DCEU. The New Gods are multiversal beings, capable of traversing many worlds. Perhaps at some point, the New Gods of New Genesis could recruit certain members of the main DCEU to aid them in a final war against Darkseid. A cataclysmic conflict that would lead to the DCEU being made anew in its aftermath. A soft reboot in the guise of an epic war film involving gods and superheroes sounds pretty cool to me.
3. The DCEU On A Different Earth
Speaking of New Gods and the destruction of the DCEU, there have been instances in DC Comics in which Darkseid has played a direct part in a universe’s destruction. During DC’s New 52 comic book era from 2011 to 2016, there was a storyline introduced in the Earth-2 comics that saw Darkseid invading an alternate universe and destroying it. A universe in which Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman were killed off, with a new generation of heroes needing to take up the mantle. By the end of Earth-2, Darkseid had won the war and completely destroyed that universe’s Earth. Some heroes and a small fraction of the population managed to escape the death of their world by entering into the main DC Universe.
Let’s be honest here, the current state of the DCEU timeline looks nigh-unsalvageable. There are whole cast members missing, multiple ret-cons and plot holes. The DCEU’s Superman and Batman don’t act themselves. There are these strange, bizarre renditions of characters like the Joker, Aquaman and Lex Luthor that look nothing like their comic-book counterparts. Wouldn’t it be easier just to write all these weird, if not flawed, creative choices off as existing in a separate universe? Warner Bros could make an Earth-2 inspired film that sees the destruction of this janky-ass DCEU with all the characters they want to keep migrating into a new universe and timeline. I know it sounds awfully disrespectful to Zack Snyder’s vision for the DCEU but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
4. Restarting From Matt Reeves’ Batman
As cliche as it may sound, the key to reuniting the Justice League and for the DCEU to return on course is Batman. He is easily the most recognizable character in the DCEU and the founder of the League as shown in the 2017 film. Affleck’s absence has definitely thrown a wrench in Warner Bros plans for a wider connected cinematic universe. His character played a significant part in films like Batman v. Superman and Justice League with cameos in films like David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Needless to say, the Bat has been there since the beginning…but what if Warner Bros could give the DCEU a new starting point through Batman. Instead of trying to come up with some contrived way to explain two Batmans in Affleck and Robert Pattinson, they ret-con the character’s introduction in Batman v. Superman by definitively acknowledging Matt Reeves’ vision of the character as the one true Batman.
Think about it, Affleck’s Batman has only made an appearance in three films altogether. Since 2017’s Justice League, the DCEU has made no further effort in featuring Affleck as Batman. 2016’s Suicide Squad is already getting a reboot. So his cameo in that film is essentially non-existent as far as canon is concerned. All Warner Bros has to do now is to keep creating more standalone films that subtly displace Affleck’s Batman with Pattinson’s. Soon enough, people won’t even notice it. There has been news, though, that director Matt Reeves is fighting to keep The Batman outside of the DCEU. Honestly, I agree with Reeves. It’s way too early to incorporate Pattinson’ Batman in the DCEU. Perhaps after a few more years, and quality films, then they can consider having this new Batman unite the team.
5. Doctor Manhattan and Rebirth
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Snyder’s vision of the DCEU has always been a rather cynical and strange one. Right from the start in Man of Steel, you get the feeling that there’s something not quite right with this world. As if our heroes aren’t acting the way they should…as if someone has fundamentally altered their character. Funnily enough, comic book fans (myself included) found DC Comics’ New 52 line of comics to suffer the same problem as the DCEU. Characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were made “darker” in an attempt to appeal to the public, which in turn isolated old-school DC fans. So in an effort to explain away these creative decisions and return the DC Universe back to its brighter, more optimistic roots, they launched the DC Rebirth era of comics which culminated in a gigantic crossover event that blamed Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan for screwing with the characters. Nice save, writers.
At the end of Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic series, Doctor Manhattan decides to travel to DC Universe as shown in Doomsday Clock. There, he begins to use his god-like abilities to alter the origin stories and lives of our heroes so that their reality is as bleak as his. I know this all sounds nuts but when you think about it, this is absolutely perfect! The craziest part is that Zack Snyder actually made a film adaptation of Watchmen with Warner Bros. He even teased a Watchmen easter egg in Man of Steel. Moreover, Warner Bros still owns the rights to Watchmen‘s characters, which include Doctor Manhattan.
What if Warner Bros created a Doomsday Clock film that blamed all the failures of their previous film on Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan and his interference in the DCEU? The film could end, similarly in the comics, with Superman convincing Doctor Manhattan that there is hope for a better tomorrow. Which then inspires him to restore the DCEU to its true order. Again, I am aware of how insane this sounds but if Warner Bros manages to pull this off, it would be the cinematic comeback story of the century. They would have not only redeemed their past failures but also establish a bright new future for their franchise. It would save the DCEU!