DCEU Changing Shared Universe Philosophy

Whether you lean more towards DC or Marvel, comic book fans of all kinds can agree, it’s a great time to be alive. There was a time when we were lucky to get just one superhero film in a calendar year, with the quality of that film sometimes being questionable (I’m looking at you X-Men: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3). 

In 2017 we’ve already had 4 (if you include The LEGO Batman Movie and Power Rangers) with two more coming in November. As fans of superheroes, our wallets certainly aren’t happy, but man it’s great to see so many films in what used to be a “niche” genre.

Part of this superhero boom is the tremendous success that Marvel has had with their shared cinematic universe, starting with Iron Man in 2008. It was unthinkable at the time to have so many moving parts in these giant blockbuster films come together, and yet here we are, eagerly anticipating the third Avengers team-up film. Home run after home run, hit after hit, with only a few duds along the way (which would still rank as “good” movies) seeing a Marvel movie has become synonymous with a good time.

None of Marvel’s films are genre transcendent like The Dark Knight, but they are all full of fun, adventure, and Easter Eggs to the other films. When we see films like Ant-Man or Dr. Strange coming up, we think this will be the one where they drop the ball, and they don’t. They’ve created a formula for success that leaves us anticipating what’s next with their now famous post-credits scenes.

While DC on film has had its fair share of success with The Dark Knight Trilogy, they decided they would try the cinematic world game with their characters as well, starting with Man of Steel in 2013.  However, the reaction from fans isn’t what they were anticipating, so they fast tracked a sequel to co-star the cash cow that is Batman.

Though Man of Steel did have fun Easter Eggs like a Wayne Enterprises logo on a satellite, they weren’t in your face screaming “there’s more to this world!” That changed with Batman v Superman, which essentially became a 2.5 hour (3 with the Extended Edition) commercial for Justice League. They shoehorned in cameos of Barry Allen, Aquaman and Cyborg. Weirdly hinted at Mother Boxes and Darkseid. All while trying to set up that Batman will try to form the League because of an unnamed threat.

Suicide Squad more or less stood on its own, but it still assumed you saw Batman v Superman with the beginning scene setting up the world post-Superman. They even tried to pull a Marvel with a credits scene building what’s next.

According to DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson, we will see a lot less of the blatant world building in the future. “Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn’t make sense, but there’s no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe”

Wonder Woman is the first example of this change in philosophy. While the film was bookended with nods to BvS, it didn’t require you see that film and overall stood on its own as a Wonder Woman film.

“The movie’s not about another movie” says Geoff Johns. “Some of the movies do connect the characters together, like Justice League. But, like with Aquaman our goal is not to connect Aquaman to every movie.” Nelson continued with “Moving forward, you’ll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who’s creating them.”

This is great news for DC fans. WB is going back to a director driven approach, like they did with Nolan and The Dark Knight Trilogy, to give the creative freedom needed for the director to tell the story they want to tell. But, the DCEU will still be there. We just won’t have weird and random cameos to scream in our face that there’s a bigger world out there.

While watching Wonder Woman, we know that in 100 years or so Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman will come at odds. When you see Aquaman next year, you’ll know he fought with the Justice League, but they probably won’t bring it up. And when Matt Reeves’ The Batman comes out, we’ll know the adventures Batman has had, but probably won’t be seeing any cameos or hearing any mention of the other films. In other words, these films are going to exist on their own, while still existing in a larger world.

As for the “out of continuity” films DC plans on making? Those are still coming too, starting with the Joker origin film, and will be put under a yet to be labeled genre of DC films, separate from the DCEU.

What do you think of this news? Did you want more blatant nods and winks to the other films? Or are you happy with the new approach DC is going for? Let us know!


Chris Foti

Lifelong fan of Batman and Boston Sports