Big Screen DC: Challenge of the Super Friends

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(featured image: Alex Ross)

With so much attention focused on the Marvel Cinematic Universe of late, it’s easy to forget that DC Comics has made a few announcements of their own. You might have missed it, because the news came out of the corporate investors conference call instead of a showy, flashy showy show like Marvel did.

But the news is no less important because of its method of delivery, and if Warner Brothers can pull it off, they’ll have a strong movie universe for several years. A bit of skepticism may tend to creep into our coverage of all things DC from time to time, but DC and Warner Brothers have made several (we feel) missteps that have done more PR harm than good. So what follows is everything we know and/or suspect about the upcoming slate of DC Comics movies produced by Warner Brothers.

The Studio

First, the films are being produced by Warner Brother Pictures. Why does this matter? Because Warner Brothers Television is producing Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, and Constantine. Fans are frequently pointing to the TV shows and asking why the movies can’t get it right as often. And yes, that’s a matter of opinion, but it factors into some of the decisions and announcements that have rolled out.

In any case, DC Entertainment is not the studio, and that has an impact on the entire process. These won’t be made the same way Marvel makes their films, which has set off all sorts of comparisons between the two online. Whatever you may think of one or the other, the business and production models for the DC movies are different.

The Team

Zach Snyder is the guy. Warner Brothers picked him to direct Man of Steel, and they’ve kept him on board as the overall shepherd of the DC Movie Universe, at least for now. Christopher Nolan is still involved (nominally), but this is all Snyder’s baby. We haven’t heard too much about David S. Goyer’s involvement in the overall cinematic universe for a while, not since his rather unflattering comments about She-Hulk and Martian Manhunter earlier this year. He is credited with the screenplay for Batman v. Superman, and he’s a producer on Constantine, so he’s still involved at some level. But it could be that WB and Goyer reached an understanding about who’s now actually in charge of this universe.

Do you think they traded up with Snyder?

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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25, 2016)

Announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, with a heavy emphasis on Frank Miller’s seminal comic The Dark Knight Returns for the tone, this will be the second film in the official DC Cinematic Universe, despite early word that Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern was kicking things off.

Batman_v_Superman_Cavill_KalElShooting in and around Detroit, Chicago, and Deming, New Mexico (with some footage in IMAX), the film features Henry Cavill reprising his role as Kal-El, with Ben Affleck taking a turn at the Caped Crusader. Only it’s an older, more seasoned (and perhaps more disgruntled?) version of the Batman. This Bruce Wayne has been fighting the good fight for a while, keeping to the shadows as more of a myth than fact. Gal Gadot rounds out the top three cast as Wonder Woman, making this film the first big-screen outing for the Amazon Princess.

Of late, we still only have speculations of what the story will be, although some persistent rumors have Brainiac showing up, with a young hotshot tech guru Lex Luthor involved somehow. Word is there will be some kind of confrontation between Kal-El and Batman, but no word yet as to how Wonder Woman fits into the scheme.

According to the site Batman-news, Jesse Eisenberg has shaved his head for the Luthor role. Fans have been wondering about every little detail of this film, including whether or not this iteration of Luthor will have hair or not. Eisenberg was recently in Australia with girlfriend Mia Wasikowska, but he was wearing a beanie and no one got a good look at his head. So you’ll just have to wait until Warner Brothers makes it official one way or the other, it seems.

It also looks like we’ll get yet another re-telling of Batman’s origin, likely as a flashback to the Wayne murders. Photos recently surfaced, showing a movie theater with The Mark of Zorro on the marquee. And now a couple with a young boy in tow have been spotted as well. Some have noted the actor playing Thomas Wayne appears to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who has not been confirmed as having a role in the film.

We had word that the production was prepping for a move from Chicago to New Mexico, with construction on a site that looks like it could be Themyscira. The other possibility is Atlantis, but since Aquaman’s appearance is rumored to be nothing more than a cameo, it’s likely the New Mexico location will be home to the Amazons.

There is also the possibility that we could see a trailer attached to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Maybe.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Cavill talked about the challenge of playing the Man of Steel: “It was very difficult work. It was very physically demanding,” he said. “You can’t just sit in the harness and expect it to do all the work. You’re not going to look like you’re flying. You have to pay attention to what your feet and legs are doing. It’s like dancing.”

Amy Adams was spotted on the Kent Farm location with her engagement ring on her hand, leading some to think there might be a Clark/Lois engagement, but that was her actual ring. Word is she wears it when she’s not filming. So don’t be looking for a Super-wedding anytime soon, especially with the editorial staff at DC Comics putting the kibosh on married heroes in the New 52.

According to the web site Superman Homepage, an extra from the film spilled the beans about what could be a key scene: [highlight to reveal — the death of the President of the United States — end spoiler]. This could be connected to the rumor that Kal-El gets the cold shoulder early in the film.

Other rumors have both Cyborg (in his post-trauma form) and Robin making appearances. Jena Malone has been rumored to be playing Batman’s sidekick for quite some time now, and there’s still no confirmation on any of this one way or another, although multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that she’s in the film.

Ray Fisher has been listed as being in the movie as Victor Stone, so perhaps we’ll get his origin here, setting up his solo film to follow in 2020. He filmed his scenes in July, and he told Entertainment Weekly, “We’re killing the comic book movie; we’re ending it… Let me tell you, man, people are in for a hell of a treat.” He also confirmed that he has scenes with Affleck, Gadot, and Jason Momoa as Aquaman.

Holly Hunter, rumored to be playing a US Senator, says Zach Snyder is completely in his element. She tells The Wall Street Journal, “It was really fun to be part of a giant, massive piece of machinery, headed up by Zach Snyder, who is thoroughly at home in that uber mega environment. Most people would have a nervous breakdown with that kind of pressure, and he’s enthralled.”

Another Bat-note: Ben Affleck’s trainer, Rehan Jalali, has let slip some details about a second Batsuit, this one armored with Kryptonite and missiles. Obviously taking a cue from The Dark Knight Returns, in which an aging Bruce Wayne used a powered suit of armor to go toe-to-toe with Superman. Many have speculated (or feared, depending on how you look at it) that Batman v. Superman will draw heavily on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which is set many years into the friendship between Bruce and Clark, a friendship that doesn’t yet exist in this story universe.

Suicide Squad (August 5, 2016)

There have been many iterations of the Suicide Squad over the years, the most recent filmed media version showing up on Arrow as a secret unit working for Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S.

This will not be that squad.

Will Smith, Jared Leto, Tom Hardy, Jai Courtney, and Margot Robbie are all names circling the project. Robbie is the front runner to play Harley Quinn, with Courtney in the bull’s eye for Deadshot. And while there’s no word on Smith or Hardy, there’s a strong rumor that Leto could be in consideration to play the Joker.

According to Global News (via Latino Review), director David Ayer will shoot the film in Toronto starting in mid-April 2015. Ayer has strong action film background, directing films like Street Kings, End of Watch, and Fury. So expect Suicide Squad to have a high-octane adrenaline-infused version of The Dirty Dozen with this one. It’s certain to be the grittiest of the new lineup.

Robbie had been up for Ghost in the Shell, but since DreamWorks offered the part to Scarlett Johansson instead, the Wolf of Wall Street star is available to put on her crazy for her Puddin’.

Also known as “Task Force X” in the comics, the Suicide Squad is almost always made up of villains, conscripted by government agent Amanda Waller for some deeply secret operation, usually with a great deal of risk. Although first led by Rick Flag, the team has been under the direction of Waller since the team’s revival in 1987, and there have been several variations of the lineup.

There have also been several versions of Waller, from Pam Grier’s appearance on Smallville, to Angela Bassett in Green Lantern, and a New 52-ish iteration in charge of A.R.G.U.S. on Arrow. No word on who will be playing Waller, but we all know the only choice is CCH Pounder.

Could Amanda Waller become the DC analogue of Nick Fury?

First appearing in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley almost immediately became a fan favorite and eventually found her way to the pages of the comic books. She’s been the breakout character in the current team lineup, taking center stage not only in the Suicide Squad book but also her own title. Voiced by Tara Strong for her quick Arrow cameo, she’s never before been seen in any live action production. The former Dr. Harleen Quinzel was Joker’s analyst during his many visits to Arkham Asylum, and she admired him so much she snapped and became his gun moll in the form of a red and black suited harlequin.

“Mr. J”, as he’s called by Harley, was a surprise rumor to some. The Joker has never been part of the official lineup of the team, but some say this could be a good move on the part of WB to put the Joker in a completely new environment to avoid too many comparisons to Heath Ledger’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Also note, however, that Leto is actually a year older than Ben Affleck, so if they ever do go toe-to-toe in Batman v. Joker: Yawn of Just Us or something, they’re contemporaries in age, which will definitely help sell the idea that they’ve been adversaries for a long time.

There is also a rumor that Suicide Squad could be one of the films in the contract for Jesse Eisenberg to play Lex Luthor. And that actually adds up if the rumors about particular story elements are true regarding Batman v. Superman. In certain animated adventures, Waller worked for Luthor, so could he be the one pulling the strings in this version of the team?According to one story, Hardy could be in consideration for Flag, so the movie could be delivering an amalgam of the various teams over the years. Courtney, who’s the new Kyle Reese in Terminator: Genisys, is being eyed to play Floyd Lawton, also known as Deadshot. The marksman has appeared in Smallville and Arrow, where he is a member of the CW’s version of the team.The Suicide Squad has also been featured in the very recent animated feature, Assault on Arkham, which included the Joker, but not as part of the team. Rather, he was incarcerated in Arkham Asylum and managed to escape after Harley attacked and tried to kill him.Other potential members: Vixen, Blockbuster, Captain Boomerang, and Multiplex –who recently had his live-action debut on The Flash.In an interview with Empire, Ayer said, “I think there’s something incredible about the comic genre and technology has finally caught up with pen and ink to render these fantastic worlds in a way that feels believable and visceral to audiences. It’s a secular religion in that regards. The mythology that these characters represent — the idea of them as fallen gods on Earth — is intriguing to me. I can’t wait to start exploring those corridors.”

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Wonder Woman (June 23, 2017)

We already know Gal Gadot has been signed to at least a three-picture deal to include Batman v. Superman, Justice League, and her first solo film. Now it seems she may be getting more work, as Bleeding Cool has reported that the saga of Princess Diana will play out over three solo films, the first one beginning in the 1920s with the second during World War II and the third taking place in the modern era.

The latest news is that Game of Thrones director Michelle MacLaren will develop the trilogy and direct at least the first installment. Many are taking this news as a good sign, and it’s a similar setup as Thor: The Dark World, which had GOT alum Alan Taylor at the helm. The mythological aspects of both stories should work to give MacLaren the right perspective for a movie about a demigod.

And yes, her status as a demigod remains intact (pre-New52, she was formed from clay by her mother), so it raises the question as to whether or not the DC Cinematic Universe will introduce the pantheon of Greek gods — Ares has been a frequent villain — or if perhaps we may see the New Gods at some point, since they were re-introduced in the New 52 through the Wonder Woman title.

Let’s just hope we don’t get a movie about the daughter of Zeus having Daddy issues…

Justice League (November 17, 2017)

Not much is on the “officially known” list on this one. Zach Snyder will direct, and the script is in progress.

Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck will appear as Superman and Batman, respectively, along with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. No word on whether Green Lantern would be in the first part of the two-part story, nor whether it would be Hal Jordan (likely not played by Ryan Reynolds again) or John Stewart. This may also inform which Green Lantern would lead the solo film in 2020. Although since it seems WB is giving solo films to each member of the New 52 lineup, it’s likely GL will be Hal. Likewise for the Flash, as the New 52 founding member is Barry Allen.

Jason Momoa has been confirmed as playing Aquaman, so he’s likely to play a significant role in Justice League, especially if rumors about his involvement in Batman v. Superman have any credibility. Ray Fisher will return as Cyborg, as well.

Amy Adams is also listed on IMDb as being in the film as Lois Lane, but IMDb has been known to get it wrong a time or two…

Batman v. Superman scribe Chris Terrio is said to be working on the script, which will launch directly out of Batman v. Superman. According to Latino Review, the villain of the picture will be Brainiac, who is drawn to Earth by the same Kryptonian signal that brought Zod and his minions in Man of Steel.

The Flash (March 23, 2018)

Pretty much all we know at this point is that Ezra Miller will be playing the titular character, but we don’t have word if he’s going to be Barry Allen or Wally West.

At 22 years old, Miller doesn’t have a long history, and most of it is in comedy. He’s also been in Californication and Royal Pains, but that doesn’t mean widespread exposure to audiences. His most notable role to date has been in We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver. Miller played Kevin, a young man in prison for a high school massacre.

Many fans were disappointed to get one more piece of information that solidifies the notion that the television and movie universes are separate. And Arrow star Stephen Amell had some comments of his own about the Miller casting, telling AMC’s Movie Talk, “I thought that the way Warner Brothers announced the slate of DC movies could have been handled better.” He refers to the fact that DC and Warner made the slate public during a telephone conference call with investors, rather than engineering a public announcement the way Marvel did with their slate of upcoming films. “I think someone like Grant Gustin, who has just launched an iconic character like the Flash, to record breaking numbers… should have been given a wider berth than two episodes before another actor was announced to play his character,” he continued. “I thought it was sh***y that all of this stuff got announced the morning the ratings — the spectacular ratings — of the second episode of The Flash came in.”

It also dispels the early speculation that Scoot McNairy was playing the Flash in Batman v. Superman. Which means McNairy has some other reason to be wearing green-screen socks for digital replacement.

Aquaman (July 27, 2018)

When WB president Kevin Tsujihara announced the slate of films to the investors, he also confirmed Jason Momoa would be playing Aquaman, and that there would be a solo film for the character.

Aquaman has been a “priority” for DC Comics ever since the New 52 launched in 2011. DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns has been at the forefront of making the superhero cool again, after so many years as the butt of numerous jokes. Johns told Variety, “There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most well-known characters among superheroes, and in popular culture.” Aquaman is even getting his own animated feature with Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.

Zach Snyder has also come to the defense of Aquaman, calling in to a Detroit radio station while BvS was in town for principal photography.

“You guys were disparaging, a little bit, Aquaman… I don’t want to give anything away about the movie or anything like that but… Aquaman has some cool abilities. People are like, ‘Oh what? Does he talk to animals? Because that seems like what he does. Or fish, or whatever?’

“The cool thing with Aquaman is his trident – people don’t realize that can actually cut the flesh of Superman if they came in contact. That’s a thing that’s in the canon. And he’s super strong, because of course he can exist at these super deep depths so when he comes up here he’s like… he’s crazy strong. Anyway, not to say he’s in my movie or anything like that but… he has the potential to be bad ass, that’s all I’m saying.”

Some have even speculated that Aquaman’s presence has already been felt in the DC Cinematic Universe, with the speculation that he was responsible for saving Kal-El after the Kryptonian into the ocean during the oil rig explosion. Some rumors have Aquaman reacting badly to the Man of Steel’s impact on the world after Zod’s world engine made a mess of the ocean in Man of Steel.

With the casting finally official, Momoa has been able to talk about the role. He says he’s very excited about the part, as his Polynesian heritage gives him a strong connection to water gods. His family “are some of the greatest water men on Earth” and he plans to train with them to prepare for the role. As far as the details of the story itself:

I don’t know the director. I know about as much as you guys know. I know the Justice League will come first. That’s really what we’re going to focus on. I’m not sure if it will be prior to Justice League, or post. I don’t know too much about it. It will probably be where he came from. It will probably be his whole origin story, I would think.

So, there’s a possibility, at least for Momoa, that Aquaman could take place prior to events in Justice League. If it’s an origin story, it may even be earlier than Man of Steel. If that’s the case, does that also open up the possibility that the other solo films will be origins? After we already see them mostly- to fully-formed in Justice League?

Shazam (April 5, 2019)

As we reported back in October, this particular entry into the DC Cinematic Universe will be produced by New Line Cinema, a division of WB. Dwayne Johnson is set to play villain Black Adam, which fans have been anticipating for years now.

Darren Lemke (Turbo, Jack the Giant Slayer) will write, with Hiram Garcia (Hercules) producing. New Line has been responsible for the Lord of the Rings films, so they have quite a bit of experience with effects-heavy projects.  There’s a possibility that Shazam will live outside the main DCCU. In response to a question as to whether or not Shazam would be a part of the DCCU, since it’s being produced by New Line and not Warner Brothers, Johnson shared this on Twitter:

The “Independence” hashtag would seem to indicate that it may be a stand-alone film, which might also be the case with Dark Universe, the Justice League film Guillermo Del Toro has written. Could New Line be the home for all of DC’s magic characters?

It should be noted that this is likely not going to be the Shazam that was in development prior to the release of Man of Steel. Back in 2013, director Peter Segal told ComingSoon, “Shazam has always lived this tortured life going against Superman. This dates back to the 1930s.” He notes the similarities between the characters, which caused some legal strife between DC’s predecessor, Detective Comics, Inc. and Captain Marvel’s home, Fawcett Comics. Eventually, DC would buy the Fawcett characters, planting the Shazam family on Earth-S.

Could New Line bring back Earth-S as a parallel universe? Given recent comments by Geoff Johns, it seems at least a possibility. Johns recently commented that the movies and television worlds exist in a multiverse, allowing for the possibility of crossovers, parallel versions of the same characters, even maybe … a crisis?

Justice League 2 (June 14, 2019)

Rumors are swirling around the possibility that the villain of this part of the two-part Justice League will be Darkseid, and the events involving Brainiac in part one would flow into Darkseid’s arrival on Earth. One of the biggest questions this raises is whether or not we’ll see a Green Lantern before this film hits theaters. Would having a cosmic villain help to revive a cosmic hero? Or perhaps even help usher in the Green Lantern Corps?

According to a Badass Digest report that seems to have gone missing, Green Lantern enters the story in Justice League 2 to warn Earth of the threat from Darkseid. Perhaps to enlist the aid of the Justice League? Just how could the Justice League — five or six super-powered humanoids — make up for the entire Green Lantern Corps? Or would they make the Green Lantern of sector 2814 the last survivor after Darkseid attacks Oa?

Still way too early to know how this one’s going to go.

Cyborg (April 3, 2020)

Still too early on this one, too. Besides knowing that Ray Fisher will play Victor Stone, who becomes Cyborg through a catastrophic event at his father’s lab, all we know is that the movie has a release date. Since rumors are that Victor’s origin will be part of Batman v. Superman, just what story could be told here? Could this be a setup to spin the Teen Titans out of Victor’s membership in the Justice League?

Fisher himself didn’t even know he was getting a solo film until he got a call a few hours before the WB conference call.

“I didn’t know the extent to which DC and WB had planned on taking my character,” says Fisher. “When I signed on, I just wanted to be part of this world. But that specific information, I found out then and there. I didn’t think I’d be getting my own stand-alone film.”

Green Lantern (June 19, 2020)

We know virtually nothing about this one, save for the release date. There are several Green Lanterns of Earth, responsible for sector 2814. Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and Simon Baz are all possible contenders. Alan Scott wouldn’t even be considered at this point, since he’s technically on Earth-2, which isn’t part of the DCCU continuity (yet).

Nor do we know if this will be an origin or not, just as with the others.

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Bottom Line

DC seems to be finally pulling together a plan for a shared universe in the theaters. And if Geoff Johns knows more than he’s telling (probably the case), then there’s the possibility that the movie and television universes could all be of a piece. Doubtful, but the door’s been cracked open just slightly.

The conspicuous missing pieces in this — a solo film for Batman and Man of Steel 2, which would be a direct sequel. Of course, with the latter, it’s likely that Batman v. Superman serves that purpose, and Superman might not rate his own solo outing after Man of Steel established the universe. But that would seem to be a short-sighted decision on the part of DC and Warner Brothers. There are still a handful of dates on the WB release list that are listed as “event” movies. The new Harry Potter spinoff is undoubtedly one of these (at least). Could Batman and Superman solo films fill the other slots?

And we’re still waiting for Bruce Willis in Sgt. Rock. Remember that?

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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