The future of the DCEU is once again in limbo, with David Zaslav - president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery - promising the studio is pivoting to a 10-year plan, but what that entails is unclear. Envisioned as a rival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DCEU has struggled since its inception. It's been subject to numerous course-corrections, and conflict between directors and the studio has damaged many films in the eyes of critics and viewers alike.
The DCEU appears to be undergoing another reboot, and it's already off to a controversial start after the abrupt and disappointing cancelation of Batgirl. According to Variety, the film was "neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make economic sense in an increasingly cutthroat streaming landscape." In the aftermath of this announcement, Warner Bros. Discovery president David Zaslav used an earnings call to explain the studio's new strategy. He promised DC would begin to take notes from Marvel Studios, with a 10-year plan coming into play.
Naturally, this news has left views intensely curious and concerned about the DCEU's future. This isn't the first time bosses at Warner Bros. have claimed to be playing the long-game, and none of the previous attempts have paid off. Still, here's what can be deduced about the 10-year plan as it stands.
Which Upcoming DC Movies Are Happening
Although Batgirl has officially been canceled, the rest of DC's slate appears to stand. That means the much-anticipated Black Adam will still introduce Dwayne Johnson as the ultimate DCEU antihero in October, and there's some speculation he'll then be positioned as the franchise's answer to Thanos going forward. This will be followed by Shazam 2, featuring the return of Zachary Levi/Asher Angel's mystical superhero in a film that feels unlikely to have been greenlit by Zaslav, but at least hasn't been canceled. Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom will come out next year, and no doubt it's seen as one of the most important releases on the slate given the first film grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide. The Flash is still expected to release next year, with many expecting it to serve as a literal reboot due to a "Flashpoint"-inspired storyline - possibly meaning reshoots could be necessary to bring it into line with the new approach. Finally, there's been no bad news about Blue Beetle, although Batgirl's cancelation has left audiences concerned. Hopefully those fears will prove to be unfounded.
Release dates may well change. As things stand, the confirmed DCEU films are:
- Black Adam - October 21, 2022
- Shazam: Fury of the Gods - December 21, 2022
- Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom - March 17, 2023
- The Flash - June 23, 2023
- Blue Beetle - August 18, 2023
- Joker: Folie A Deux - October 4, 2024
DC Movies' 10-Year Plan Mostly Seems Focused On The Biggest Names
The DCEU 10-year plan mostly seems to be focused on the four biggest DC brands; Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman - the Trinity plus the Trident. These were the ones specifically name-dropped by Zaslav during the earnings call, and their logos were in place of pride on some of the slides he presented. Ironically, this approach to the upcoming DC movie slate is the exact opposite of the Marvel strategy, because the MCU was built at a time when Marvel lacked all their biggest brands; Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were big names now, but they really weren't back in 2008.
Will DC's Future Continue To Have Multiple Versions Of Batman?
DC Films' last approach involved the multiverse model, with multiple versions of Batman: Ben Affleck's in the main DCEU, Michael Keaton returning in The Flash as the Batman of another universe, and Robert Pattinson as star of his own transmedia franchise set in a separate timeline. It remains to be seen whether Zaslav will continue with that approach; certainly the cancellation of Batgirl is bad for Keaton's return, because he had shot scenes for that film. It's even possible Keaton will be offended at the treatment of his Batgirl colleagues and refuse to come back in the first place.
Plans to build a transmedia universe off the back of The Batman are uncertain, because it's difficult to see how they'd fit with the new DCEU approach, though a Penguin spinoff show is still officially happening for now. The Batman performed well at the box office, grossing over $770 million worldwide (contrary to popular belief, a superhero film doesn't have to break $1 billion to be considered a success). This means The Batman 2 could potentially still happen, hopefully remaining separate from the rest of the DCEU so director Matt Reeves can continue his story.
Future DC Movies That Are Most Likely To Happen
Oddly enough, this change in approach likely means fans of the Snyderverse will get some of the films they've been calling for; Man of Steel 2 is sure to be a corporate priority, bringing Henry Cavill's Superman back to the DCEU. Patty Jenkins is already working on the script for Wonder Woman 3, which is unlikely to be canceled but may potentially be retooled a little if Warner Bros. Discovery has a different approach in mind. Assuming lightning strikes twice and Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom is a success, Aquaman 3 will probably happen as well. The interesting question is whether there'll be more DCEU Batman films running alongside the Pattinson movies; it's now possible to see a way for Ben Affleck to return, although it remains to be seen whether that happens. There could potentially be a Joker 3, or a spinoff starring Lady Gaga's Harley Quinn.
That means the most probable movies are:
- Man of Steel 2
- Wonder Woman 3
- Aquaman 3
- Joker 3 / Harley Quinn spinoff
Will DC Attempt Another Justice League Movie (& When)?
The new DCEU claims to be modeling itself on the MCU, which means it's surely only a matter of time before Warner Bros. Discovery commission Justice League 2. This won't be the Snyderverse, of course; the DCEU has changed direction far too many times since Zack Snyder left, and Warner Bros. execs still seem determined to pretend the Snyder Cut doesn't exist. It will presumably feature the Trinity plus the Trident; Ezra Miller's Flash probably won't return, given the actor has become far too controversial. The interesting question is whether there will be other heroes in the DCEU's Justice League. It's most likely the roster will grow through heroes introduced as supporting characters in the main franchises - the approach Marvel used with Black Widow (who made her debut in 2010's Iron Man 2) and Hawkeye (who first appeared in 2011's Thor).
Zaslav has insisted the studio will take its time with DC movies, so there will be no hurry to get to Justice League 2. That's a smart call, because there's a sense in which the DCEU - and the Justice League brand in particular - is still struggling to move on from the Snyderverse. The earliest it can realistically be expected is 2026, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Justice League 2 release even later.
Other DC Movies That Could Happen
While James Gunn is not making The Suicide Squad 3, Warner Bros. Discovery still seem keen to keep him involved. Gunn swiftly calmed fans' nerves about Peacemaker season 2, insisting it was safe even after the raft of cancelations announced by Warner Bros. Discovery over the last few days, and that probably indicates a concerted effort not to lose him - understandably so, given Gunn's reputation for success in both Marvel and DC.
Looking beyond Gunn, it's difficult to say where other franchises fit in. Green Lantern and the Flash feel as though they'll be relegated to second-tier heroes rather than franchise leads, and it's DC Films may not choose to bring back Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn (Birds of Prey doesn't exactly fit the current strategic direction, after all). Ironically, as noted this kind of approach would be the exact opposite of the MCU, where Ant-Man has become a household name and Guardians of the Galaxy made audiences care about a walking tree and a talking raccoon; Zaslav may claim his DCEU is taking inspiration from Marvel, but in reality it seems to be narrowing its focusing rather than broadening it out.
- Black Adam (2022)Release date: Oct 21, 2022
- Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2022)Release date: Dec 21, 2022
- Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)Release date: Mar 17, 2023
- The Flash (2023)Release date: Jun 23, 2023
- Blue Beetle (2023)Release date: Aug 18, 2023