Warner Bros. Discovery is about to make big changes to their big screen DC Universe. At least, that’s what they are telling us. During their investor call on August 4, just one day after canceling the already completed Batgirl film, as well as Wonder Twins, CEO David Zaslav revealed the following:
“We have done a reset. We’ve restructured the business where we’re going to focus, where there will be a team with a ten-year plan focusing just on DC. It’s very similar to the structure that Alan Horn and Bob Iger put together very effectively with Kevin Feige at Disney.”
There’s a lot to unpack in that brief statement. First off, Marvel Studios’ big plan that led to the MCU worked because they had Kevin Feige. They had someone who understood the intricacies of making movies and that is also a fan of the source material. DC’s strategy in the past nine years has been incredibly scattershot, because there was no one in charge who was both of those things. If you find that person, make sure they have a real vision for what this new DC shared universe is, and how it fits together. Simply put, that’s not what we had before. Otherwise, it’s just cool logos together up on a screen with release dates.
Secondly, focus on getting it right immediately out the gate. The MCU worked because the first Iron Man was amazing, and knocked it out of the park. People wanted to see more, because the first one was almost universally beloved. If your starting point is divisive, it’s hard to build a universe on that. Yes, it’s good to have a plan, but make sure you focus on one movie at a time. Otherwise, you are constructing a house on a faulty foundation. But if DC Films are indeed committed to a “master plan” over ten years, then we believe it should look something like this. And in this release order. No exceptions!
The DC comics universe began with Superman as its first hero, and so did the DCEU. It always starts with the Last Son of Krypton. And for whatever this new shared DC cinematic universe is, it should also start with Supes. While we don’t need yet another origin story again, maybe they should take the Spider-Man: Homecoming route with Kal-El as a young but already established hero in Metropolis, having adventures alongside Lois Lane.
The most important thing is to make a Superman film bright, fun, and most of all, inspiring. We need a Superman that is a beacon of hope in a hopeless world again. Also, one with big sci-fi ideas and concepts. And while we all love Henry Cavill and felt he got done dirty, if you’re going to start fresh, it’s time for a new Man of Steel. And as for what you call this movie? Sometimes you just need to keep things simple. You just call it Superman.
Superman & Batman: World’s Finest
Batman already has his own film series with Matt Reeves, one that definitely does not exist in a world with superpowered heroes in it. And it should stay that way. The Dark Knight doesn’t need the DC heroes to work. But any shared DC universe does need a Batman. And sorry, Michael Keaton is too old to anchor a new continuing universe (Keep him as “Old Man Bruce for an eventual Batman Beyond film though).
Instead, introduce our new DC shared universe Bruce Wayne much as Superman: The Animated Series did. Yes, the two heroes will come into some conflict, but please, no plot about Batman trying to kill Superman. No “vs.” here. They need to find out each other’s secret identities in a fun tit-for-tat way as the animated shows did. And then they need to put aside their difference for the greater good and work together, as the World’s Finest team. And for the love of Krypton, don’t mention Martha. Oh, and Superman’s name comes first.
Wonder Woman: The Amazing Amazon
The 2017 Wonder Woman film is one of the best superhero origin story films ever, and Gal Gadot is the perfect Diana of Themyscira. But if we’re going to make a clean break, that probably means a new Wonder Woman too. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins probably deserve at least one more solo film before this reset sets in. But after that, let’s see a new version of the Amazing Amazon for a new era. Of course, seeing as Gal is popular, maybe DC films do what Marvel Studios is rumored to be doing for Daredevil; keeping the actor but rebooting the universe they are in.
We’ve seen Diana enter the outside world during World War I, but we’ve never seen her as a true contemporary of the other members of the Trinity, Superman and Batman. These three should be roughly the same age at the same time, and come up together. In fact, they should have the same dynamic as the original Star Wars trilogy heroes. The idealistic farmboy, the sarcastic scoundrel with the cool ride, and the powerful princess. Hopefully this time, we also get a tad more Greek mythology too. Not just badass Amazons (though we need those) but also Medusas and minotaurs. The fully Olympian treatment.
With Matt Reeves’ The Batman universe still going, you don’t need another solo Batman movie in any new DC shared universe. But one thing the Reeves movies (and the Nolan films before them) didn’t do was explore Batman’s partners. So let the DC shared universe Batman’s movie be a team movie, which showcases Batman and his family of heroes. We haven’t had a big screen Robin since the ‘90s, and certainly not a very faithful one.
In addition, Batgirl needs big screen representation, especially after what just happened. If there’s a shred of decency in the world, they’ll offer the part to Leslie Grace. Let the Gotham Knights fight the kind of sci-fi villains that Reeves would likely never touch, like Man-Bat and Clayface. And while we’re at it, let Batman wear his navy blue and gray. Something to really differentiate him from the grim and gritty world of Battinson. The Multiverse is big enough for both. And yes, we know there is a CW show with the name Gotham Knights coming soon. We don’t expect that to be an issue by the time this comes out.
Green Lantern Corps
No iconic DC hero has gotten a raw deal on screen as much as Green Lantern. His 2011 movie was so disliked, even its star Ryan Reynolds regularly mocks it. And we know an HBO Max series was announced, but we have a feeling that is going to fall by the wayside now. But it’s been a decade, and it’s time to start over with GL. Because GL is one of the cornerstones of the DC universe, and a key to any future Justice League.
But instead of a solo movie, it’s a more prudent move to make a total intergalactic adventure with several Lanterns. Instead of one GL, use all the most popular ones as a team. Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Jessica Cruz, and Simon Baz. (This would also make for a diverse cast). One or more of them could eventually be the Lantern stationed on Earth, once we get to Justice League. But for a return to the big screen, give us a grouping of the best and brightest together in a big space opera.
The Flash: Fastest Man Alive
Yes, the Flash is about to get his first solo movie, and the character is also ending a 9-year run on TV. But a new DC shared universe needs the Scarlet Speedster. And one thing the new Flash movie isn’t going to be is a proper origin story for Barry Allen, but a retelling of Flashpoint. Give us a proper Flash movie, one without Batman and tons of other DC characters, that just focuses on how lightning struck a young police scientist, and connected him to the Speed Force. The Flash TV show captured that lightning in a bottle (no pun intended) in the first season, but let’s see what a big-budget version of that would look like. And maybe it goes without saying at this point, but definitely recast the lead.
The Justice League
Now that all your major iconic heroes have been reintroduced on the big screen, then you bring them together as the Justice League. But not before. You could also add a few heroes who didn’t get their own solo films, much the same way Black Widow and Hawkeye were original Avengers. Who the villain is, or what exactly brings them together, is all secondary to making sure that we love each of these iconic heroes already, so once they get together, it’s an event. A Justice League movie deserves to be a true, earned event, not something rushed. Because we tried that once, and the results were what they were. Time to do it right. Let it take as long as it takes to get there.
The Teen Titans
Aside from the Justice League, DC’s other most iconic team is the Teen Titans. If you were a Gen X kid who grew up in the 80s, you knew them from being DC’s biggest comic series. If you were a Millennial, you probably loved the 2000’s Cartoon Network show. They are that big, and deserve the big screen treatment. The Titans series on HBO Max is too dark, and Teen Titans Go! is way too silly. But a Teen Titans movie could deliver something in the tone of the comics with the grand scale it deserves. They could also use this film to transition Robin into Nightwing. That’s something everyone has been hoping to see on screen for years.
The blueprint for a shared DC Universe on screen already exists, and it’s not just the MCU. In the ’90s, Warner Animation created the DC animated universe, ultimately resulting in Justice League Unlimited. The Arrowverse connected six shows over 35 seasons of TV in just a decade. It can be done. It has been done. You just need the right people who really care about this mythology beyond their “brand value” to put it together.