As a self-described Marvel stan, my loyalty (loyalty, LOYALTY!) is to what Marvel Studios has done with their Cinematic Universe. (Well, at least on film; their Netflix series is an entirely different animal). After I personally wasn't here for both of DC Comics' 2016 films (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad), I was comfortable with my stannery. That is, until I saw Wonder Woman. You can't deny an all-around gem, and Patty Jenkins turned Gal Gadot into the Wonder Woman the world needs today. I was already intrigued by what DC could cook up with Justice League, and their Comic-Con trailer had me open. But after seeing the past week of DC Comics movie news, on top of residual rumors about the state of the Ben Affleck Batman franchise? I'm confused... and I feel like DC might be confused, as well.
First: whatever's going on with Ben Affleck's Batman. Back in February, after dropping out as director, the rumor was that Affleck was over being Batman, with the thought that if Affleck couldn't get out of The Batman (which was said to be getting a 2018 release), that this would be the last we'd see of the Batfleck. After a break down in talks, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was announced as the director, and he eventually dropped Affleck's script. Now, none of this means Affleck is actually upset with whatever is going on with his Batman character, DC, or The Batman. During Comic-Con in San Diego, Affleck calmed down the rumors about him wanting to leave the franchise, saying, "Let me be very clear: I am the luckiest guy in the world. Batman is the coolest part in the universe. I’m so thrilled to do it. It’s fucking amazing." It's hard to tell if Casey Affleck was trolling when he said his brother was "not going to do [The Batman] I don't think," but as of right now, there's too much talk and speculation for it to just be that... right?
Slow down. Just this week, Matt Reeves explained that Warner Bros. informed him that The Batman was "a standalone," saying "it’s not part of the extended universe." A little confusing, right? Batman has been in everything, from the title of the big Dawn of Justice battle to making cameos in Suicide Squad to being referenced in Wonder Woman to bringing together the squad for Justice League. I don't want to call him DC's Iron Man, but as of right now, a lot of what makes DC's Extended Universe work is how Batman has maneuvered the situation(s). Marvel's films always tie into the larger interconnected universe, and even if Fox has gone into the future with movies like Logan, they still toe the line of being standalone films within the universe. The Batman being a standalone piece? That's normal—Wonder Woman was a standalone, too. The Batman not being in the extended universe? That's surprising. And given the back-and-forth on the script and Affleck's rumored reluctance to portray Batman, it could be indicative of a larger issue.
The DC Extended Universe appears to have a lot going on outside of The Batman, and a lot of it has to do with Batman's arch nemesis, the Joker. Deadline announced earlier this week that Todd Phillips (The Hangover) would be linking with Scott Silver (8 Mile) to write a script for an upcoming Joker origin story film. Not only would Phillips be directing the film, but motherfucking MARTIN SCORSESE would be signed on as a producer. Word is that this is a part of an initiative to, as Deadline explained, "Expand the canon of DC properties and create unique storylines with different actors playing the iconic characters."
That isn't all for the Joker, though. The Hollywood Reporter announced this week that Warner Bros. has plans for not only a second Suicide Squad movie, but an additional movie about Joker and Harley Quinn, with Jared Leto and Margot Robbie reprising their respective roles. On an interesting note, the Joker/Harley Quinn film is set to be helmed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who are not only the creatives behind NBC's surprise hit This Is Us, but also 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love. Their collaboration would low-key be fitting for a Joker/Harley movie. It's important to note that DC is reportedly fast-tracking Suicide Squad 2, so we'd imagine they'd be doing the same for this Joker/Harley Quinn film.
That's adding to a seriously stacked future for the DC Extended Universe: there are already plans for Jason Momoa's Aquaman film to drop in 2018; Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is signed on to play Black Adam in the upcoming Shazam! film that's set for 2019; and Wonder Woman 2 is already set to be released in December 2019. With talk of The Flash finally getting his solo film with Flashpoint, as well as movies like Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Joss Whedon's Batgirl, Gotham City Sirens and a number of other untitled projects being discussed, DC has a lot on their plate. And they seem to be struggling to get proper footing the way Marvel has while crafting their Cinematic Universe, so far.
I know DC's been building their universe for a much shorter amount of time, but you can't deny the stumbles along the way—whether it's the critical beatdown Suicide Squad received this time last year, or the dark and muddy plot of Batman v Superman. Wonder Woman showed that DC has the ability to churn out a box office beast that can get positive acclaim from critics, but it's feeling more and more like they need to do a few things in order for the Extended Universe to have a chance of surviving. Primarily, Justice League needs to ride the Wonder Woman wave while sticking the landing when it comes to storyline progression. Judging by the Batman-less slate of upcoming films from DC, it'd be fair to guess that Batman is less of a priority in the DC Extended Universe. That means Justice League has to leave lasting impressions of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, as well as the big bad villain they are building in Darkseid. Their performances, as well as the continued success of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, seem to be what will help DC sustain a lasting universe throughout the next few years, at least.
Or maybe DC is working on a different plan. Maybe the idea of hitching their wagon to the Joker is the antithetical stance they need to take to truly set themselves apart from Marvel. With Marvel's Cinematic Universe, it's easy to assume the good guy will go unscathed by the time the credits roll—especially when you know they're signed on for a multiple-movie deal. There's also a villain problem over at Marvel, and it's a glaring issue in most of their feature films. DC was at least unafraid to (spoiler alert?) have Superman eat it in Dawn of Justice, and they've already turned a mixed bag of villains into a black ops team with Suicide Squad. Why not go full throttle with explorations of bad guys that fans love? You have to do it right, but it could be a dope way to shake the superhero film formula up.
Either way, there's a lot riding on DC to get Justice League right. Hopefully, by that film's end, we'll have a clearer understanding of how all of these worlds will turn in DC's plotted course for the next few years. Or maybe we need to just stop listening to all of this talk and wait for DC to lay it out for us. Good luck with that, though.