Where the DCEU Should Go After ‘Justice League’

I saw Justice League in theaters last weekend and I enjoyed it. It’s not the best film Warner Bros. and DC have released, but it’s certainly not the worst. However, with the mixed critical and box office success of Justice League there have been talks about DC Films restructuring their upcoming film slate. This is basically hearsay right now, as nothing concrete has been announced. With that said, I thought I’d offer my take, or vision, on the films the DC Extended Universe should make their top priority.

What’s Already Coming

Three films are in various stages of production (with confirmed release dates) at the time of writing: Aquaman (December 21, 2018), Shazam! (April 5, 2019), and Wonder Woman 2 (November 1, 2019). I’m not here to talk about these films as I actually have high hopes in them. Wonder Woman 2 is a no-brainer given how successful Wonder Woman was this summer. DC hadn’t experienced a bonafide hit like that since 2008 when The Dark Knight came out. Likewise, Aquaman proved to be one of the more interesting “new” characters in Justice League, and with a solo film directed by James Wan I have high hopes for it. Finally, Shazam! is the Guardians of the Galaxy of the DCEU right now. As far as we know, the film has zero ties to any previous DCEU film, and will be a standalone origin story for Billy Batson/Shazam. This really allows director David F. Sandberg to craft a unique tone/vision that will stand on its own, but still be part of the DCEU.

Alright, now on to the five films I think Warner Bros. and DC Films should make following the three previously mentioned.

#1. Flashpoint ( Q1/Q2 2020)

A lot of people want Flashpoint for one reason: to fix the timeline and correct any continuity/story problems in the DCEU. That’s not the reason I want this film. Justice League had four bright spots, and that was the four superheroes whose names weren’t Superman or Batman. The third act of the film really saw Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Cyborg interact and bounce off each other. It was fun to watch. The Flash and Cyborg had this great sort of college freshmen rapport going on, while Aquaman and Wonder Woman had some lovable tension.

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the DC Comics’ 2011 crossover event Flashpoint knows that these four characters factor pretty heavily into the storyline. However, to adapt the storyline and integrate seamlessly into the DCEU requires some of the fluff to be cut out. I’d focus the first act of Flashpoint on Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and his hunt for his mother’s true killer. We’d see him run fast enough to travel back to that moment and impulsively save his mother. When he returns to the present day we enter Flashpoint. Both of his parents are still alive, but the rest of the world has drastically changed. The Atlanteans and Amazons are at war (with Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman and Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman leading each side), and a small group of heroes led by Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Thomas Wayne/Batman (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and Citizen Cold.

In keeping the cast small and condensed, the film can focus more on the interactions between the characters. The Atlantean/Amazon war can be the backdrop for a personal story that sees Barry Allen fully become The Flash, as he realizes that he can’t just change the past to make his life better. I’m not sure what role Reverse-Flash would play in the film beyond a cameo, as I think the film should focus on The Flash gaining confidence and stepping into that role of crime-fighting superhero we got a glimpse of in Justice League.

Now if need be, when Barry corrects the timeline, this could theoretically allow DC Films to introduce the new actor playing Bruce Wayne/Batman (if Ben Affleck does decide to not return) at the end of the film. However, Flashpoint should definitely focus on developing the relationships between Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Cyborg. Giving fans Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Batman is just a nice treat.

#2. Man of Steel 2 (Q3/Q4 2020)

Whether you believe Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a Superman sequel or not, the fact is we haven’t got a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel yet, and that’s a problem. Henry Cavill is a good Superman, and Justice League proves that he can portray the true beacon of hope quite well when the story actually allows it. Also, Cavill has good chemistry with Amy Adams, the DCEU’s Lois Lane. Justice League ends with the two still engaged, so why not pick up on that plot thread in Man of Steel 2.

Let’s keep the plot simple. It’s the week Clark Kent (have fun bringing him back from the dead though) and Lois Lane are getting married. Instead of using Lex Luthor (more on him later though), DC Films should introduce Brainiac in a classic fight between brawn vs. brain.

The film would continue Superman and Lois Lane’s arc from their previous three appearances, but keep it contained. There’s no world building in this film. It’s a standalone film that wouldn’t even require you to watch the previous films. The story can make mention of past events or, since Flashpoint would come out prior to this, the new timeline could easily rewrite his history and give Superman a clean slate. Let the film spend time with Brainiac and really develop him into a worthy antagonist. But most of all, this film should be fun. I hope Matthew Vaughn does end up directing because he’s able to blend high stakes with a sense of fun, and that is everything a Superman film should be.

#3. Batgirl or Nightwing or The Batman (Q1/Q2 2021)

All three of these films are contenders because they all have directors attached. Joss Whedon is directing Batgirl; Chris McKay is on Nightwing; and Matt Reeves has the crown jewel with The Batman. That being said, these films go through such minor updates that either one would fit the “We really need to release a new Batman film” spot. If Ben Affleck does stay on as Batman, I’d say let’s make The Batman a priority. I mean the cast for such a film is just insane, with J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Jeremy Irons as Alfred alone.

I don’t even want to begin talking about a storyline, because there are too many possible comic storylines that are ripe for adaptation. However, if I had to pick, it would have to be Batman: Under the Hood, I mean that’s a no-brainer. Batman pitted against his former protégé would be epic to see unfold. You could keep the action grounded, and really focus on the emotional core of the story. If you’re starting to see a theme building between these film picks, it is intentional. The DCEU has had some widely uncontrolled plots with so much random setups and elaborate word building that my idea is to go smaller and focus on the one aspect this universe has managed to get right: the casting. They’ve nailed almost every casting choice, and these are high caliber actors that will be able to deliver these emotional and intense performances.

Now, if Batgirl or Nightwing are made instead, the same follows. Keep it small, self-contained, and grounded. These are street-based heroes after all, I don’t want to see them fighting superpowered people. To keep the connective tissue between the films, I’d definitely have J.K. Simmons as Gordon no matter the film. Obviously, you’d hope he’d appear in Batgirl, but why can’t Dick Grayson call Gordon to ask for a favor in Nightwing?

Anyway, the future of the DCEU should be focusing on developing characters that aren’t just connected to the Bat Family, which is why I’ve only picked one Bat-centric film to be on my upcoming slate.

#4. Suicide Squad 2 (Q3 2021)

The DCEU has no problem being box office successes (hell, even Justice League has crossed $600M), and Suicide Squad is no exception. The film did gangbusters at the box office back in 2016, despite pulling in a slew of negative reviews. The film succeeded because of the cast. Will Smith makes a good Deadshot, Margot Robbie is a perfectly crazy Harley Quinn, and there’s an argument somewhere on how Jared Leto brings a new and unique aspect to the Joker. However, nobody wanted to see the Suicide Squad go up against the Enchantress. Once again, bad storytelling on DC Films’ part. A lot of the complaints were directed at wanting to see a grounded villain like the Joker be the antagonist. So I’m about to give fans a little bit of what they hated, and a little bit of what they wanted.

Suicide Squad ends with the Joker breaking Harley Quinn out of her jail cell. Therefore, Suicide Squad 2 opens on the Joker and Harley Quinn pulling off a heist in Venice, Italy (because why not). However, they are foiled by a small group of the Squad composed of Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney). The Joker is locked up, but Harley Quinn is brought into immediate duty as Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has a new assignment for them. They are to take down Black Adam (Dwayne  Johnson), who will serve as the main antagonist for the sequel.

I want to mix the team up a bit. Gone is Rick Flag (sorry Kinnaman but you were pointless), and instead, Katana serves as the group’s defacto good guy leader. Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, and Captain Boomerang return alongside new members Killer Frost and Lobo. I feel adding the superpowered Killer Frost and Lobo to the team will even the playing field against Black Adam (who I’m sure will have various semi-powered henchmen to serve as disposable baddies). Also, a slightly smaller team, and only a few new characters, will allow for better character development and more time for characters to shine (specifically Katana, who was severely underused in Suicide Squad).

As with most movies, Black Adam will be defeated and imprisoned. Which then allows Suicide Squad 2‘s credit scenes to setup the next film in a big way. The mid-credits scene will have Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello), Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and Captain Cold (same actor that they cast in Flashpoint) breaking out Black Adam. Deathstroke tells Black Adam that a league is forming. Before Black Adam will answer, a whistle will be heard and the four villains turn. The Joker taps on his cell door window and smiles. Post-credits scene has Amanda Waller informing Bruce Wayne about the breakouts and that him and his team should prepare for “injustice.”

#5. Justice League: Tower of Injustice (Q4 2021)

Justice League ends with a post-credits scene showing that Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has escaped Arkham Asylum and recruited Deathstroke to help him form their own “league.” This is clearly a setup for a Justice League vs. Legion of Doom/Injustice League film, and that is exactly what I have been building towards through this vision. I expect Aquaman to have a post-credits scene where Black Manta is recruited into this “league” and Suicide Squad 2 shows Captain Cold and Black Adam also being members (with Joker’s involvement being teased).

Tower of Injustice (my horrible subtitle) takes inspiration from 2000’s Tower of Babel storyline which involved Ra’s al Ghul gaining Batman’s files on the Justice League members’ weaknesses. This film would very loosely adapt that premise. We’d see the Justice League now functioning as a fully formed team out of Wayne Manor. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has assembled a league of his own consisting of Deathstroke, Captain Cold, Black Manta, Black Adam, Cheetah (whether she is introduced in Wonder Woman 2 or not), and perhaps the Joker. The inclusion of Black Adam means that Justice League 2 sees Billy Batson/Shazam (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) join the team’s roster.

Basically, it’s hero vs. their exact opposite. I’d imagine Lex Luthor would have his super suit (whether this suit is bonded with Brainiac or not is a whole different discussion), and Shazam would still be just learning his powers which would mean it would take the combined powers of Superman and Shazam to stop Black Adam, leaving Cyborg to potentially fight Luthor. This film should be a mixture of Captain America: Civil War (mostly the fighting parts) and Tower of Babel, with an original storyline connecting it all together. No ending with the heroes fighting another huge CGI monster; fans are tired of that.

Final Thoughts & What I Missed

To be honest, my vision is a half-baked idea I wrote down on a piece of paper in the span of an hour. I based it mostly off the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) model using the post-credits scenes to tease and setup the Injustice League premise for Justice League 2. I doubt this is the course of action Warner Bros. and DC Films will actually take, but I hope they at least focus on some of the things I touched on like developing the characters and their interactions, and placing emphasis on story over spectacle.

I do think, that of the five films I touched on, only Flashpoint and Suicide Squad 2 will be next out of the gate. Maybe Batgirl will follow after. Man of Steel 2 seems to be on the back burner, which is a shame, and it seems unlikely we’ll see a Justice League sequel in only three years.

I know I’m missing some major films that are currently slated to be in development for the DCEU. However, I don’t think Justice League Dark, Gotham City Sirens, or Green Lantern Corps. should be a major priority for DC Films right now. In my outline, I waited until 2021 before implementing a release schedule of three films a year. If we look at the MCU, Kevin Feige managed to produce sequels to their previous hits alongside introducing one or two new potential franchises. The DCEU should focus on developing trilogies for Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, and Shazam! before introducing new characters. I understand that Green Lantern plays a huge role in Justice League mythology, but the state the DCEU is in right now, it seems important to focus on those who have already been introduced and giving them the proper amount of development. However, they shouldn’t go overboard and have four different films in development for Harley Quinn because then that becomes an issue of oversaturation.

2018 and 2019 will be the years where Warner Bros. and DC Films show what they are made of. If Aquaman and Shazam! underperform, either financially or critically, it could bring the rest of the DCEU slate to a grinding halt. I want the DCEU to succeed; competition is good, and I want to see the DCEU go toe-to-toe with the best that they can bring. They got the characters. They got the cast. They just need to work on the story and vision.

I’ve touched on what I want to see happen in the DCEU. What do you want to see?