Understanding What’s Left of The Shared DCU, And How It’ll Work Now
Welcome To The WORLDS OF DC
In July of 2018, at San Diego Comic Con, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment unveiled the new branding for their cinematic franchise, dubbing it the Worlds of DC. This new branding wasn’t accidental, as it really is indicative of how they’re planning on handling things from now on.
It works on a couple of levels:
- It communicates to audiences that there isn’t one, singular world for their favorite characters, but rather several of them
- It plants the seed in pop culture’s collective brain that there will be standalone stories coming out that have nothing to do with anything else- like the Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie, for example
And it also drives a stake through the heart of plans for other major, crossover events on the level of BvS or Justice League. This emphasis on moving away from how interconnected things once were further drives the point home that we won’t be seeing crossovers any time soon. That’s why they scrapped Flashpoint– which was briefly considered as a way to help soft reboot the entire series, using a popular storyline from The Flash– and why they’ve pumped the brakes on the Legion of Doom concept they were toying with at the end of last year.
That means we won’t be seeing a Justice League 2, a World’s Finest, or a Flash/Cyborg team-up anytime soon- if ever. The emphasis now is on telling standalone stories with minimal connections to a greater world, but that don’t negate the possibility of eventual crossovers down the line.
In that way, the new approach is a return to the mindset behind the film that started it all: Man of Steel.
Expect future DC films to adopt the mindset behind Henry Cavill’s first outing as Superman. They’ll exist on their own, but they’ll leave a back door open that allows for other DC characters to exist elsewhere.
This approach achieves two key things:
- It allows a more filmmaker-driven approach to return to the proceedings, since each film will now stand on its own and not be expected to help feed into other movies, giving directors freedom to explore their characters however they want
- It also gives directors the option to work with other DC directors if they desire to create synergy with other projects
In that way, the shared universe concept can still be excitingly explored, but at the discretion of each filmmaker.
And we can already see some evidence of the different ways this approach is being applied to the DC films currently in development. In the case of The Batman, for example, Matt Reeves is setting his film long before the events depicted in Dawn of Justice as he wants the freedom to tell his Batman story in a way that doesn’t impact other DC films and gives him the ability to tell a self-contained story. As such, you can expect little to no references to the world outside of Gotham.
And yet, there’s reason to think that there’s some synergy between projects like Birds of Prey, Batgirl, and Gotham City Sirens. After all, Warner Bros. hired one of the writers from Birds of Prey to work on Batgirl, while David Ayer is still seemingly working on developing Gotham City Sirens. All of these films tread on similar territory, all taking place in Batman’s corner of the DC Universe, and two of them would feature Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.
Beyond that, director Chris McKay has let it be known in hushed tones that his planned Nightwing movie wouldn’t happen for another five years or so. This gives the impression that the film, which was once being worked on quite diligently, has been put on the back burner because the studio wants to further establish the world of Gotham before bringing Dick Grayson’s adult alter-ego into the fray. If these films were all meant to stand alone, there’d be no reason for this delay.
In fact, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nightwing got put on pause shortly after Reeves met with new DC Entertainment head Walter Hamada in the spring about what his plans for Batman are. It gives the impression that these films will all work together in some way, with- perhaps- a young Dick Grayson being introduced in one of Reeves’ Bat films, thus setting the stage for McKay to eventually make his Nightwing.
Regardless, this is the new DCU or- should I say?- the Worlds of DC.
Some films will feed into others; Some won’t; And some will take place completely in their own Elseworld– which will presumably get its own branding.
Others still, like Wonder Woman 1984, will take established characters and push them in new directions, with Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns having the freedom to move beyond the series’ polarizing building blocks. We can probably expect the same to be true of Aquaman and The Flash, as the directors of each film seem to have been given the ability to reshape these characters in their own unique ways.
And there’s also the new characters that are on the way, like Shazam!, which will clearly be set in the post-Justice League continuity, while also telling its own standalone story. As directors Reeves, Jenkins, and Shazam!‘s David F. Sandberg clearly illustrate, it’ll be entirely up to the filmmaker in question how tied to the shared world their films are.
Yet it’s still pretty clear that Hamada and DC Entertainment want to keep the door open for things remaining loosely connected, which should come as a relief to anyone worried they were completely abandoning the concept.
Still, this means you’re going to have to either let go of- or be extremely patient with- your desires for a Justice League 2, or other crossover event. We won’t be getting anything like that for a long time. Hamada and the rest of DC Entertainment want the Worlds of DC to have more in common with Man of Steel and Wonder Woman than Dawn of Justice.
Are you all in?