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What Could Have Been / DC Extended Universe

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Top — The Wonder Woman origin story as originally envisioned by Zack Snyder's creative team, set in 1854 during The Crimean War.
Bottom — How the movie turned out with Patty Jenkins' input, set in 1918 during World War I.
There's a pretty large amount of What Could Have Been regarding Warner Bros' DC Comics-based film franchise, both due to cancelled projects before it was launched as the DC Extended Universe and the multiple cases of Creative Differences, Troubled Productions and Executive Meddling happening in it since. Add to that the usual high-profile casting choices that ultimately went nowhere, which to be fair is commonplace in such blockbusters.


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Miscellaneous

    Various Trivia 
  • The 2011 Green Lantern (2011) film was going to be the beginning of the 'verse, but its poor reception and box office flop caused the company to start over again with Man of Steel. Ryan Reynolds will not reprise the role given that he now has his hands full with Deadpool, and the promise of a Green Lantern reboot further limits his chances of returning.
  • Metallo was going to be the villain if a standalone Man of Steel sequel had been made instead of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • James Gunn was offered a directing job on one of the films (without specifying which film it was), but turned it down after being thoroughly unimpressed with the script. He was later offered to direct a new Superman movie (though, according to Gunn, it was not specifically Man of Steel 2) or a Suicide Squad sequel. Gunn chose the latter.
  • In 2018, Henry Cavill confirmed the long-standing fan speculation that if the Man of Steel sequel had been made, it would have focused strongly on Clark's guilt at killing Zod, and him vowing that it would never happen again as he would always strive to find a way to stop his enemies without killing them, no matter how impossible it seemed. Cavill says that the film would have likely featured a more optimistic tone, with Superman's characterization closer to the one most people associate with the character. Furthermore, Christopher McQuarrie confirmed that he and Cavill had pitched a Man of Steel sequel, as well as a connected Green Lantern movie, but that WB had passed on both proposals.
  • Jason Momoa revealed that he auditioned for Batman of all people.
  • Snyder pitched two comic book projects set in the "Snyderverse." One would have been a prequel mini-series detailing Robin's murder at the hands of the Joker, while the other was an adaptation of his original plans for Justice League 2 and 3 with Jim Lee on art duties.
  • Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League were affected by Executive Meddling, with each film addressing a criticism that plagued the last one note . It's easy to imagine that if Warner Bros hadn't taken this path, we would've gotten very different movies.
  • While Joker was made and explicitly confirmed to be an Alternate Continuity from the DCEU, Warner Bros had big plans for Leto's Joker - aside from Affleck's plans for his Batman film, there was a solo Jared Leto Joker movie in the works, as well as a movie focusing on the Joker's relationship with Harley Quinnnote . However, said plans were later scrapped, possibly due to the... divisive, shall we say, reception of his take on the character. While Margot Robbie's Quinn appears in Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad, the fate of Leto's take on the Joker is currently up in the air, due to Warner Bros seemingly being reluctant to continue with him in the role (at least until his appearance in Zack Snyder's Justice League).
  • The ultimate "What Could Have Been", previously mentioned above, has got to be George Miller's Justice League: Mortal. This idea would've launched the DCEU long before either Man of Steel or Green Lantern, for that matter. Hell, it would've launched the idea of a Super Hero Cinematic Universe before Iron Man would, being planned shortly after Superman Returns. It would've had a line-up closer to the original one in the comics (Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern are present instead of Cyborg), would've been set in a universe separate from both Returns and the Nolan Batman movies, and would've featured Talia Al Ghul (predating her appearance in The Dark Knight Rises) and Maxwell Lord (who would show up in Wonder Woman 1984) as the main villains, and ended with the true formation of the team in the present day. The plot is very different from the DCEU we got (it was an adaptation of the OMAC Project storyline that led into Infinite Crisis), although it does have one common element with Batman v Superman - a member of the League dies in the movie in a Heroic Sacrifice - however, in Mortal, it would've been Barry Allen, who sacrificed himself to defeat Maxwell Lord, and he would've been replaced by Wally West, who would've been established in this movie. What ultimately derailed the movie was the 2007-2008 Writer's Guild Strike, which had the film put on indefinite hiatus (since Warner Bros wanted to perfect the script, which was impossible during said strike), and by the time production on Green Lantern had begun, it's clear that they had abandoned the idea. The 2008-2009 Stock Market Crash also caused funds for the movie to dry up, leaving its production on standstill. According to Armie Hammer (who would've portrayed Bruce Wayne/Batman in that film), the film would've been rather dark, having a Batman closer to the Christian Bale one than the George Clooney, Val Kilmer, or Michael Keaton ones, and would've had a high body count. The script was leaked online, although it's been summarized here.
  • Originally, Gotham City Sirens was intended to be the first of the Harley Quinn-centered spinoffs instead of Birds of Prey, but BOP eventually took priority, putting Gotham City Sirens on hold. Margot Robbie explained that this was because of her wanting to introduce the Birds of Prey to a new audience upon discovering them while playing Harley Quinn.
  • The Batman was originally intended to be a part of the DCEU and feature Ben Affleck reprising his role, as well as directing the film and co-writing with Geoff Johns. This version of the film would have seen Jeremy Irons return as Alfred and Joe Manganiello return as Deathstroke. Affleck later stepped down from directing duties, at which point Matt Reeves joined the project, but was still believed to be starring in the film; however, Affleck stated he and Johns had not completed a script (the final script is credited to Reeves and Peter Craig). Ultimately, a combination of factors, including an unpleasant divorce, the chaotic retooling of Justice League and Warner Bros.' constantly shifting approach to superhero films, led Affleck to step away from the franchise, at least temporarily. Robert Pattinson was then cast and the film's connections to the DCEU were severed. The Riddler, who appears in The Batman as the Big Bad, would've joined Lex Luthor's Injustice League had the film remained in the DCEU, and as shown in Zack Snyder's outlines, notably would've solved the Anti-Life Equation.
  • Two separate projects were in development, one to be directed by Ava DuVernay and co-written by her and comic book writer Tom King focusing on The New Gods, and the other a spinoff of Aquaman focusing on Black Manta and the Trench (closer to a horro movie per the taste of producer Walter Hamada, who worked at New Line Cinema on The Conjuring Universe before). Both were cancelled in April of 2021, with the former being done supposedly due to the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League and its appearance of Darkseid (although the project had been suck in Development Hell for a while before that).
  • Justice League Sequels:
    • Zack Snyder's vision for the DCEU was largely different than what we have gotten so far - his story would've had a 5-movie arc (said arc would've consisted of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League and it's sequel, and an unnamed 5th movie, possibly a third Justice League movie). However, due to him leaving Warner Bros, it's likely that said arc will become an Aborted Arc. Among other plans he had for the DCEU:
      • The dead Robin would've been revealed to be Dick Grayson, not Jason Todd (as most fans would've expected, given that Todd is the Robin whose death is the most well-known), and Robin would've stayed dead until Carrie Kelly (the third Robin in the The Dark Knight Returns, where this Batman takes his influence from) was introduced. Whether or not the Nightwing movie would've still been made is unknown, nor is there any sign if any of the other 4 Robins (Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, or Damian Wayne) would've appeared, or if it would've skipped straight to Carrie Kellynote . With his departure, however, it's been firmly established by Warner Bros that Jason Todd is the dead Robin.
      • The "Knightmare" sequence in Batman v Superman would've been used to springboard into a partial adaptation of Injustice: Gods Among Us. The film seems to imply that Batman has some degree of responsibility for Lois's death (as opposed to what actually happened in the game, where the Joker caused Superman to kill Lois), and also it's hinted that Darkseid and the Anti-Life equation would've been involved, indicating that it would've been a Pragmatic Adaptation (since Injustice is largely Earth-based). It was later confirmed that Batman's involvement was mainly that Lois' death took place in the Batcave, and that Darkseid was the true killer, killing Lois there in order to break Superman and make him vulnerable to the Anti-Life Equation.
      • Batman was planned to die at one point. In fact, as evident by the 3 crosses present during Superman's death scene in Batman v Superman, there were 3 major deaths planned out, with the crosses actually acting as a sign of foreshadowing, with the second cross likely foreshadowing Batman's death, but no word has been released on whose death the third cross would've foreshadowednote . It's unlikely that either death would've happened in Justice League, given that he hasn't said anything about killing off a member of the league in that movie, and assuming that the third death would've been Luthor, Luthor was absent for nearly the entirety of the movie.
      • His vision for a Justice League 2 would've featured Darkseid, who would've been teased at in the first Justice League movie (it happened in Zack Snyder's Justice League), and as a whole, would've likely taken inspiration from Final Crisis, since the history lesson scene in Justice League is hinted to contain the Anti-Life Equation. Although Darkseid is confirmed to exist due to Steppenwolf, one of his underlings, mentioning him, he ended up scrapped from the film. He was later reinstated in Snyder's version.
    • An exhibition in Dallas contained official notes from Zack Snyder that detailed his plans:
      • Lex Luthor would set up a Legion of Doom, known as the Injustice League, as was shown in The Stinger of the theatrical cut, for the sequel to Justice League. Said group he was gathering would've assembled Doctor Poison (hidden in the South American jungle after her escape in Wonder Woman), Ocean Master, Black Manta, Captain Cold, and an old Riddler. Lex was wanting to solve the Anti-Life Equation, and Riddler was the key to solving it as the biggest riddle of all (albeit killing himself afterwards). The film would've also covered Wonder Woman seeking to find her way back to Themyscira, Aquaman succesfully finding the one kingdom that had not joined him in his film, the Unseen, and getting them to unite under him like the other kingdoms, and Flash (with Cyborg's help) successfully exonerating his father Henry. Lex would then move forward with his plan, having gathered the Motherboxes in order to use them to Take Over the World (by ruling over all life), the Motherboxes bringing Darkseid and DeSaad to Earth. Darkseid and the Injustice League would in turn defeat the Justice League, with Doctor Poison committing genocide on all of the Amazons (Wonder Woman included) with a chemical gas that is deployed on Themyscira (and kills her in the process), Black Manta killing Aquaman in revenge for his father's death, Captain Cold breaking Cyborg in half when he protects Flash, and Darkseid executes a pregnant Lois Lane (who while falling for Batman, had been seemingly impregnated by Superman presumably before his death) to break Superman and bring him under the control of the Anti-Life Equation (who would then kill Lex for no longer being needed, it was Darkseid who was going to rule Earth and not Lex). A Time Skip would take place as Batman, Flash, and Cyborg are the only remaining members of the Justice League in the Bad Future from the "Knightmare".
      • Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) would be introduced in the follow-up, being a new ally of Batman in this future. Batman would've also recruited Deadshot and Mera into his resistance. Darkseid is revealed to have decimated the Green Lantern Corps, with Green Lantern as one of the last survivors, and the tyrant's actions are presumably wiping out entire worlds, with a mention of two stars from the Big Dipper going out. The entire Earth is victimized by the Anti-Life Equation, including Deadshot's daughter Zoe, so the resistance has turned to a desperate means of time travel, which would enable Flash to warn Batman ahead of time, involving the theft of a Motherbox. The theft, done by Batman, Deadshot, and Mera gets Superman's attention while Cyborg helps Flash prepare the machine, and while Flash escapes into the past, Deadshot, Mera, Green Lantern, and Batman dienote . Flash would arrive back at the moment Lois reveals her pregnancy, claiming that she lied and that her child is Batman's, not Superman's, before he is then erased from existence. As Lois' original revelation made Batman more stubborn and prevented her from telling him about Lex's plans (and therefore making him unable to act when Darkseid comes to the Batcave), he listens to her now (and learns the plan this time around). When Darkseid comes into the Batcave, Batman jumps in front of Lois this time and is zapped by the Omega Beams in her place, the attack begins the process of his body breaking down, but because he survived, Superman is motivated rather than broken. Since his attempt to break Superman failed, Darkseid turns to a more desperate conquest by sending the entirety of Apokoliptian forces to Earth to overwhelm the Justice League, but Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman respectively motivate the armies, air forces, and navies of various human countries, the Amazons of Themyscira, and the forces of the seven kingdoms of Atlantis to unite once more (like the earlier human/Amazon/Atlantean coalition) to defend Earth. Green Lantern and the Green Lantern Corps also join the battle, while Hippolyta dies in battle. During the battle, Flash masters his powers to defeat an entire army of Apokoliptian forces, while Cyborg overpowers and destroys the Motherboxes to weaken Darkseid, but in the end, Batman performs a Heroic Sacrifice to kill Darkseid for good. Wonder Woman becomes the new Queen of Themyscira and inspires the Amazons to reopen into the outside world, the kingdoms of Atlantis lose all doubt of Aquaman being a true king and accept him as one, Cyborg, now a God of technology, is able to recreate his original appearance, and it is revealed that Lois really did lie to Batman before (and therefore she was pregnant with his child), and while Superman already knows he still loves her and they rekindle. A new Time Skip, this time 20 years in the future, shows a memorial commemmorating Batman, while Lois talks to Commissioner Barbara Gordon, the former having not told her child about her father's true identity. Crime is returning to Gotham, and it is time for a new Batman to rise. With various League members (including Martian Manhunter) present, Lois brings her son to the Batcave, revealing his father's true identity, as he becomes his father's successor as Batman.
      • In general, his 5-film plan seems to have been a 5-part arc for Superman. However, due to Executive Meddling, as well as the negative reactions to Batman v. Superman in particular, only 2 1/2 of said films (the "half" being what was kept from his shootings in Justice League) were made.
    • A few months after Zack Snyder's Justice League was released, LightCast announced that they would adapt Snyder's dismissed plans for the sequels into a motion comic, with the proceeds going to AFSP to avoid copyright infringement. The motion comic would have been narrated by Darkseid's actor Ray Porter, with Harry Lennix, Christina Wren and Richard Cetrone returning to provide character voices. The project was aborted when it was revealed that some of the released illustrations were plagiarised from various comic book artists.
  • A Cyborg film was in development during the early years of the DCEU before it was put on indefinite hold in 2021 due to Ray Fisher's dispute with DC Films president Walter Hamada due to the latter's handling of the investigation over the Justice League reshoots and said he would only return if Hamada changes his mind and ultimately put the Justice League sequel in production with Snyder back at the helm.

Future Projects

    Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom 
  • The film was originally titled Aquaman 2 during preproduction and filming before it was changed to its current title in June 2021.

    Batgirl 
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    Shazam! and the Fury of the Gods 
  • Michelle Borth was expected to reprise her role as the older Mary Bromfield before it was decided to have Mary's actress Grace Fulton to play her in Shazam form.

    Justice League Dark 
  • It was originally planned to be a film titled Dark Universe with Guillermo del Toro set to write and direct when it was first announced back in 2014 before del Toro left a year later with Doug Liman replacing him in 2016 until Liman left a year later before it was decided that it would be a TV series on HBO Max in 2020.

    Val-Zod 
  • Michael B. Jordan originally conceived the project as a film focusing on the Val-Zod incarnation of Superman but due to the busy schedule, it became a TV series on HBO Max.

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