With the inevitable reboot of the DCU on the horizon, but the biggest losers of this uncertainty around franchise changes aren’t the most obvious choices. Henry Cavill’s Superman has been recast, Batgirl was completely canceled, and The Rock’s Black Adam has been removed from the future of the DCU, all of which seem like definitive ends to these characters. However, all of these shakeups at DC Studios have caused some even bigger DCU victims.
Since the beginning, the DCEU struggled to find its footing. The beginning was a rocky start, with Zack Snyder’s Snyderverse leading to a series of box office and critical disappointments, with the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice landing the franchise with a bad name. After Snyder left, the DCU remained directionless for several years, with DC Studios’ output being a mixed bag. However, the franchise is undergoing some big changes, with James Gunn and Peter Safran becoming the heads of DC Studios. Since taking the position, the two have made a lot of big changes – including some reboots – in an attempt to give the franchise some structure.
The DCU’s Uncertainty Is A Problem For Upcoming Releases
While most of the outrage surrounding these DCU changes has to do with Henry Cavill’s exit, there’s an even bigger problem: the upcoming releases. The furthest out DCU film currently scheduled is Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is set for a December 2023 release. After that, though, it’s all up to Gunn and Safran. While their plans aren’t known, the recasting of Superman hints that a lot of the DCU may be retconned or rebooted in order to better fit in with the DCU’s new plan. Because of this, the DCU films that are releasing in the nearer future may ultimately not matter at all.
Currently, there are four upcoming DCU movies with confirmed release dates: Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Shazam! Fury of the Gods could be safe, considering the franchise’s popularity, but it’s possible that Gunn could want no traces of the DCU’s past. The Flash and Aquaman 2 are heavily tied into Justice League, and with rumors that Flash and Aquaman will both be recast, so these two films are likely to not be canon in the future. Finally, Blue Beetle is a smaller film focusing on a new DCU character, meaning that it could be changed to be a standalone project.
Can DC’s Next Movies Be Truly Standalone?
With all four of the DCU’s next movies probably not mattering in Gunn’s DCU plan, they have to be able to hold up as standalone projects. The first Shazam! was already fairly independent, with relatively few ties to the broader DCU, meaning that Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ DCU status shouldn’t have that much of a bearing on how enjoyable it is. Blue Beetle also seems to be a self-contained movie, with it focusing on a younger hero that hasn’t been introduced in the DCU before. Out of the four, these two projects are the safest, as they aren’t bogged down by heavy ties to the former DCU and can work even if they’re not canon.
The bigger issues come when discussing Aquaman 2 and The Flash. Although the first Aquaman was relatively self-contained, Aquaman took part in Justice League and had previously appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It would be odd to only keep one former Justice League member, and with rumors that Jason Momoa will play Lobo instead of Aquaman, the series is probably over. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the furthest out, and its reshoots could mean that the film had time to readjust its story to integrate itself into the future DCU. However, the project could easily be another victim of these big changes.
The Flash, on the other hand, is pretty much dead on arrival. Ezra Miller’s countless controversies mean that they are most likely not moving forward in the DCU. The film heavily ties into the broader DCU, with the film rumored to make some big changes that will no longer be happening after the DC Studios leadership changes. It was initially supposed to have cameos from Cavill’s Superman, Affleck’s Batman, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, all of whom may not continue their DCU tenures. While it’s sad for characters like Sasha Calle’s Supergirl, there’s no way The Flash can be reworked into a standalone film.
The DCU Has The Same Problem As The DCEU
All of these DCU troubles are proving that the new series has one of the key problems of the DCEU: poor planning. The DCU currently has no sense of direction, an issue that has plagued the franchise since Snyder’s exit. Nobody is sure which films are canon or what anything is building up to, leading to disappointed fans and apathetic viewers. While James Gunn is clearly trying, the DCU really needs some clear messaging, as sending these four films out to die shows that the franchise is still in a state of chaos.