Film: DC Extended Universe

aka: DC Cinematic Universe
DC's trinity, together in live-action for the first time.

The DC Extended Universe is a combined setting produced by DC Comics and distributed by Warner Bros. (and its subsidary, New Line Cinema), the company that owns the rights to all DC franchises. It is DC and WB's answer to Marvel's own shared movie universe.

The franchise officially began in 2013 with Man of Steel, a Continuity Reboot of the Superman film series, starring Henry Cavill and directed by Zack Snyder. While the movie was originally conceived as the beginning of a standalone trilogy of movies re-imagining Superman for a more modern audience (much like Batman and The Dark Knight Trilogy before it), plans changed during the post-production period of Man of Steel. Warner Bros. took note of the success of The Avengers and began working toward creating a Shared Universe (which was already set in motion by alluding to other DC franchises in the form of Easter Eggs, with LexCorp and Wayne Industries serving as particularly prominent examples) over the course of several films, including a large number of projects that had been in Development Hell up until that point. With Man of Steel's status as one of the most successful films of 2013, the slate was set for Warner Bros. to follow in Marvel's footsteps and create a Shared Universe in film.

Thus, Snyder was signed on to direct both the quasi-sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (originally slated for a 2015 release) and later Justice League (originally slated for a 2018 release). Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, and later Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman. Batman v Superman's release date was then moved up to May 6, 2016, the same date as Captain America: Civil War, and then down to March 25 of the same year. Warner Bros. had also announced plans for ten films for release between 2016 and early 2020, including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League somewhere along the line. There are also rumors of several Justice League sequels after Part One and Part Two, as well as more standalone movies featuring members of the Justice League and new properties entirely.

So far, Snyder seems to be the leading creative force behind the universe, having been assigned to four movies in total. Suicide Squad is being helmed by David Ayer, fresh off of Fury. Wonder Woman will be directed by Monster director Patty Jenkins, which (like having a female-led superhero film) would be an exception to most of the superhero movies currently on the market; a hypothetical sequel to this film is rumored to be in discussion. Two scripts for the Aquaman movie are being written by Will Beall and Kurt Johnstad, with the better one being utilized and the lesser one having some degree of an impact on the other script. Standalone movies starring Batman and Superman are also on the way, with currently unknown placement at this time.

Before the multi-film announcement in August 2014 and the subsequent bits of news regarding Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman, a June 2014 leak revealed that Warner Bros. was planning films would not just feature Superman and Batman characters, but characters from the Shazamnote , The Sandmannote , Justice Leaguenote , Wonder Womannote , Green Lantern, and The Flash comic seriesnote . The rumor also stated that Superman would be getting another standalone movie in 2018, and that Batman would get his first standalone title in this series in 2019. Though the three-films-per-year format has been abandoned for what appears to be a more modest two-films-per-year schedule, and that some projects seem to have been shelved in favor of others (for the time being), the rumor did provide some insight on what's on the horizon for the setting.note 

The possibility of creating a movie based on The Sandman seems to be much more likely after years of Development Hell, and the project currently has Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached. A number of other Vertigo works are also in discussion to make potential films, including Metal Men and Fables. Guillermo del Toro has also said he's developing a film tentatively titled Dark Universe, featuring Justice League Dark characters such as John Constantine, The Spectre, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Etrigan the Demon, and Deadman. The news broke months before Man of Steel even premiered, and it's likely that it will be part of the same setting once officially announced by Warner Bros.note  As of 2014, Del Toro has said Dark Universe will not conflict with the Constantine TV series on NBC, and he's open to sharing continuity with it or at least using the same lead actor, Matt Ryan (who evidently agrees with that sentiment, stating that he'd love to play the character on the big screen).

Geoff Johns has confirmed that the influx of DC shows that are airing on television will take place in their own Alternate Continuity, but he also mentioned the possibility of eventual crossovers between the shows and films.

Neil Gaiman also confirmed that any movies based on works published by Vertigo Comics are being treated as their own thing, although the possibility of a Justice League Dark movie could lead to some sort of crossover. Regardless of whether or not they are included in the setting, it has been confirmed that preliminary work on film adaptations of The Sandman and Fables has occurred.

Despite all this work in progress, the franchise went without an official name for two years, prompting fans to think up various nicknames like "DC Cinematic Universe" until it was revealed in July 2015.

Released films in this setting:

Films officially in-development:note 
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25, 2016)
  • Suicide Squad (August 5, 2016)
  • Wonder Woman (June 23, 2017)
  • Justice League Part One (November 17, 2017)
  • The Flash (March 23, 2018)
  • Aquaman (July 27, 2018)
  • Shazam (April 5, 2019)note 
  • Justice League Part Two (June 14, 2019)
  • Cyborg (April 3, 2020)
  • Green Lantern Corps (June 19, 2020)
  • Superman (TBA)
  • The Batman (TBA)note 
  • Dark Universe note  (TBA)

Comic Book Tie-Ins:

  • Man of Steel Prequel: A story starring Kara Zor-El and delving into the past of Krypton. Kara and a few other Kryptonians are chosen to scout the galaxy for planets worthy of terraforming, and she is placed into stasis as she makes the long journey to another world. However, when she suddenly awakens from being a Kryptonian Popsicle, she finds that the rest of the crew are dead and that her ship picked up an uninvited guest...

Properties being discussed for potential adaptations:

Tropes present across the various movies:

  • Alternate Continuity:
    • The Dark Knight Trilogy, although critically-acclaimed and financially successful, is not a part of this franchise - in part due to the glaring continuity problems that introducing fantastic elements into a largely-grounded continuity would create. As such, Batman was recast. Christian Bale has indicated that he prefers to have a new actor playing Batman for the DCCU.
    • 2011's Green Lantern was supposed to be the start of this film series, but has since been thrown into Canon Discontinuity by its own financial and critical disappointment.
    • The TV shows Arrow and The Flash do take place in the same continuity as each other, but it has been confirmed to be in a separate continuity to the films by DC's Geoff Johns. However, since Johns used the term "multiverse" to describe the TV shows and the films, it has been speculated that they will eventually cross over.
  • Big Bad: Man of Steel had Zod. Dawn of Justice will have Lex Luthor. Justice League is rumored to have Brainiac take this role.
  • Continuity Overlap:
    • Initially, it was said that Warner Bros. executives hadn't decided if all of the movies they have planned will fit into the same continuity, though it's likely that they will to generate interest through Crossovers. Nonetheless, it is highly likely that films featuring key members of the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and others) will take place in the same universe that Man of Steel is set in.
    • It appears that, while all of the movies starring DC characters will share a continuity, it will not be connected to any of DC's television shows (unlike Marvel's recent actions to cross their cinematic universe over with their TV/Netflix shows).
    • It is currently ambiguous if any films based on the Vertigo imprint will also take place in the setting, although Dark Universe makes this more likely.
    • Another point of note is that this film series will defy the problem of legal trouble between franchises that Disney has had with Marvel Studios (with major franchises split between three major companiesnote ) - Warner Bros. owns all of the properties, giving them a potential edge over their competition.
      • That said, this comes at a cost to the Arrowverse since characters like HarleyQuinn and BlueBeetle which the shows had major plans for had to be scrapped and well-liked characters like Katana and Deadshot had to be written out of the shows. Curiously, this does not extend to The Flash, as both versions of the character are Barry Allen.
  • Continuity Reboot: For every DC property included that has been filmed previously. Notably, this includes Batman, whose last film was made four years before his debut, and Green Lantern, who will get another shot at a standalone film nearly a decade after the first movie he appeared in failed at the box office.
  • Crisis Crossover: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, both parts of Justice League, and Dark Universe are four confirmed titles to feature a major crossover, while Suicide Squad features a crossover between the villains of the franchises (and a couple not necessarily tied to specific characters).
  • Darker and Edgier: More along the lines of "more serious and more grounded" than previous movies featuring these characters. The films are not without humor or levity, but they are comparatively more serious than the works of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Follow the Leader:
    • As mentioned above, the DCEU is DC's answer to the MCU. Part of the reason the Justice League movie even got off the ground was due to the massive success of The Avengers.
    • Funnily enough this even applies to the trailers, with the Comic Con trailer for Suicide Squad featuring a Dark Reprise of a bright, peppy tune just like Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • In Medias Res: Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is a sense that this universe will largely avoid origin stories. While Man of Steel was an origin story for Superman, subsequent films will begin with a fully realized DC Universe, where characters like Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman have long been active (albeit secretly), and familiar villains like the Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and others are not only well-established, but have already been defeated and incarcerated.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • Shazam is slated to be comparatively more lighthearted and comedic in tone compared to other movies in the shared universe, most likely serving as a Breather Episode before Justice League Part Two.
    • The Flash is to be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. If their previous work is anything to go by, it seems Warner Bros. already knows what direction they want to take the film in.
  • Movie Multipack: Justice League is slated to have at least two parts that tell an overarching story with the characters.
  • Not Quite Flight: Gal Gadot has said that Wonder Woman can "jump really high and practically fly".
  • Race Lift: Done in part for Ability Over Appearance and to appeal to a wider audience.
    • In the comics, Perry White is, well, White. Starting with Man of Steel, he's played by Black actor Laurence Fishburne.
    • In the comics, Aquaman is White. In these movies, he's played by Jason Momoa, a person of Pacific Islander and Native American descent (with some White heritage on his mother's side).
      • And the Mixed Ancestry could even be justified in-universe: some versions of Aquaman have him as a Half-Human Hybrid (with Tom Curry as his biological, rather than adoptive, father). It's as-yet unclear which origin the films will use, unlike the confirmation about Wonder Woman's parentage.
    • Mercy Graves, a white blonde woman in the comics and Superman: The Animated Series, is played by Japanese actress Tao Okamoto. As of the New 52, this change is now canon with Mercy being Asian-American.
    • Deadshot, a white guy in the comics, is played by Will Smith.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Surprisingly averted with Batman, who has been known to appear prominently in most DC adaptations (often at the expense of other characters). He was only confirmed to appear in three movies so far (Dawn of Justice and both parts of the Justice League duology), where he serves as a Deuteragonist and a part of an ensemble of heroes respectively. This may be part of an effort to try and phase out the public's overfamilarity with the Nolan movies before truly establishing anything standalone with the character. A solo movie with the character is planned for an unspecified time, but it will most likely come out after the release of Justice League: Part One. He does have a Wolverine Publicity-type cameo in Suicide Squad, although it's justified by him giving greater context to Joker and Harley Quinn.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: On a meta level, these movies have been helpful to actors and characters.
    • Henry Cavill was infamous from getting snubbed on getting major roles from various studios in favor of other actors, most notably by Robert Pattinson for the role as Edward Cullen in the Twilight film series (which even surprised series creator Stephenie Meyer, who initially thought that Cavill fit the bill better). That all changed when Zack Snyder hired him to play Superman.
    • Wonder Woman finally getting to appear in a live-action film after years of the movie project going nowhere - especially considering that Warner Bros. executives were on the fence about letting her have a movie, leading to the now infamous Tweet from Brett White about how DC didn't want to do Wonder Woman because it was too confusing, while Marvel was working on Guardians of the Galaxy, which has a raccoon using machine guns. Taken even further once it was confirmed that she would be getting a standalone film before Marvel could release a female-led movie (Captain Marvel).
    • The story goes that Ben Affleck was vying to be Batman during the period between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins, but because of the Development Hell he took on Daredevil as the closest thing. His career tanking from Gigli didn't help, either. Even after rebuilding his career by being both actor and director, he admitted to being surprised when he was approached to be Batman because he was getting older and couldn't play a 20-something or 30-something Batman, and was delighted to learn they were going in The Dark Knight Returns direction.
  • The Unmasqued World: The events of Man of Steel completely and utterly obliterated the Masquerade with the Battle of Metropolis; and as such, more super-powered individuals and vigilantes are making their presence more known as a result.
  • Urban Legend: What Batman apparently was in this continuity, at least before the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This could potentially apply to other characters, particularly Wonder Woman and Aquaman, given that the Masquerade was apparently in effect.
  • World Building: While Man of Steel almost exclusively focused on developing Superman as a character with occasional nods to other characters through Easter Eggs, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad both seem to come with loads of new characters and Mythology Gags that they border on Continuity Porn for readers of the comics - all to set up the Justice League series and other standalone movies.

Alternative Title(s):

DC Cinematic Universe