Updated October 7, 2020, following Warner Bros.’ release date reshuffle, which sees The Batman and others pushed to 2022 and beyond.
Despite offering a ton of news and excitement during August’s DC FanDome event, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play havoc with Warner Bros. Pictures’ release schedule. On the plus side: a bevy of DC Comics characters will fly onto the screen in the coming years. The bad: the calendar may shift again. The change is the latest shockwave in the often incredible story of Warner Bros.’ attempts to bring the DC Multiverse to the screen. So before we take a look at the latest changes, let’s go back to the beginning of WB’s ambitious plans for its extended universe…
In 2014, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment announced a series of movies based on DC Comics characters. The original schedule included a two-part Justice League project and at least two films a year through 2020. Things did not go according to plan, with Justice League compressing its story into one film and projects like Flash experiencing delays. Despite projects shifting around the slate – and the critical backlash against Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League – the original 2014 master plan has been executed for the most part, with only 2018 missing a second DC-derived film. And even as features like Aquaman and Shazam! went into production, the studio never stopped trying to get new projects off the ground utilizing the comic book characters and the universe initiated by 2013’s Man of Steel. The next several years will deliver a number of projects from that original slate and some surprise sequels in the forms of Aquaman 2 and Wonder Woman 1984. The Dark Knight will return – along with just about every Batman villain ever! – in The Batman in 2021, and, on the TV/streaming front, Zack Snyder’s cut Justice League will finally see the light of day courtesy of HBO Max. Plus, we finally have a date for Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam flick, and there’s the tantalizing news that Henry Cavill will likely return to play Superman… we just don’t know in what project he will do so.
Of course, best laid plans… The DC masterplan has always been in flux, and the departures of DC Entertainment co-presidents Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns had many expecting significant changes to the schedule. What fans didn’t see coming was the impact of COVID-19, which shut down production on The Batman, and forced WB to push Wonder Woman 1984 back to August 2020, and now to October. In April 2020, the studio announced a bunch of new release dates, which saw Shazam 2 delayed, but Flash brought forward by a month. A few months later, we learned that film would be a dimension-hopping affair that brings two famous Batmen back into the fold.
For now, the following represents everything we know about those projects and their place in the DC Films universe, as well as a few DC adaptations that will exist separate from the universe. (Want to see what the other camp has in store? Check out our breakdown of upcoming Marvel movies.)
There is a lot that is uncertain about which DC Comics characters are coming to the big screen, who’s bringing them there, and in what order — but nothing is uncertain about these first movies. They’re in production, or in pre- or post-production, and we know exactly when they will be hitting theaters. (At least, we know the latest dates, and will update as those change with COVID-19 leaving the landscape a little uncertain.)
Release Date: December 25, 2020
What We Know: Diana (Gal Gadot) returns in another tale of Wonder Woman’s past. This time, Diana’s adventures in the Cold War 1980s see her making a new friend, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). But the jealousy of Wonder Woman that Barbara shares with her Golden Age comics counterpart will lead her to become one of Diana’s greatest foes: the Cheetah, whom we get a first look at in the just-released trailer dropped at DC FanDome. Pedro Pascal will also bring his charms to the film as infamous DC Comics industrialist Maxwell Lord, whose status as a hero or villain depends on the story. Chris Pine also returns as Steve Trevor, who is the fish-out-of-water this time around. Following schedule shakeups after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Wonder Woman 1984 was moved from July to August, and then again to October. At FanDome, director Patty Jenkins emphasized that she was committed to opening Wonder Woman 1984 on the big screen, and while the studio seems committed to a Christmas Day release, the film could still slide into 2021.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Despite Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’s assertion that Diana went into seclusion after World War I, the sequel appears to be disregarding the plot point as director Patty Jenkins places Wonder Woman in another period adventure. Steve Trevor’s apparent return also signals a big change in continuity as his WWI death was mentioned in Justice League.
Release Date: August 6, 2021
What We Know: At one time, The Accountant’s Gavin O’Connor was set to direct the Suicide Squad sequel. But in October of 2018, Warner Bros. made the startling announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn – who had temporarily departed his post as director of that series’ Volume 3 – was working on a “fresh take” on Suicide Squad, a reboot of the concept with a partially new set of characters. When details of Gunn’s involvement first emerged, it was unclear if he would direct the film. But in January of 2019, word broke that he was in talks to helm the film, which was now called The Suicide Squad.
At DC FanDome in August 2020, Gunn declared the new film is “by far the biggest movie I’ve ever made” and features “as many explosions and crashes… as any film ever.” A behind-the-scenes video teased that the movie would be a “gritty 1970s war movie” inflected with Gunn’s skill with character and comedy, and hinted that not all of our favorite characters will make it to the end credits. “Don’t get attached,” Joel Kinnaman says in the featurette.
Gunn was joined by the huge cast and fans finally learned who was playing whom. Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn, as do Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. The new cast and characters include: Idris Elba as Bloodsport, John Cena as Peacemaker, David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, Steve Agee as King Shark, Nathan Fillion as T.D.K., Mayling Ng as Mongal, Flula Borg as Javelin, Sean Gunn as Weasel, Michael Rooker as Savant, Pete Davidson as Blackguard, Peter Capaldi as The Thinker, and Alice Braga as Sol Soria.
For the moment, the film is holding the line with the same August 2021 release date it has had for roughly a year. But as the past few months have proved, it is always possible for the film to move from its seemingly secure perch.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Somehow, The Suicide Squad, with its returning cast members, will be the anchor of DC’s shared film continuity – which, at this point, only really matters to Harley Quinn’s situation and some die-hard fans. Nonetheless, it is possible the film may set up some ideas for subsequent films that the Aquaman sequel and Flash film could follow-up on.
Read: Everything We Know About The Suicide Squad.
Release Date: March 4, 2022
What We Know: War for the Planet of the Apes’ Matt Reeves took over directing duties on The Batman following the departure of Ben Affleck, who intended to star, co-write, and direct. Creative differences saw his role reduced to star even as his personal problems overshadowed the ongoing question about his continued involvement. Late in January of 2019, Warner Bros. announced a release date while Affleck definitively stated he was leaving the cape and cowl behind. (Though not so definitively, if you skip down to our latest update on Flash). A new man behind the mask emerged that May when Robert Pattinson took over the role. That casting choice confirmed the story would revolve around a younger Batman, and Reeves has confirmed that, telling DC FanDome it will be set during Year Two when a serial killer is stalking Gotham. Across late summer and early Fall, the cast began to round out with Jeffrey Wright joining up as Commissioner Gordon, Paul Dano taking on The Riddler, and Zoe Kravitz signing on as Catwoman. In November, word broke indicating Colin Farrell would play The Penguin and Andy Serkis would be the new face of Alfred Pennyworth. Other cast members include Peter Sarsgaard as District Attorney Gil Colson, Alex Ferns as Commissioner Pete Savage, John Turturro as Falcone, and Jayme Lawson as Bella Reál. Rumors also suggest a new Two-Face will also emerge. Stacking the film with almost all of the notable Batman villains is something of a change for modern Batman movies, which generally only use two at a time – although Batman Begins featured a whopping five when you count lesser known characters like Carmine Falcone, Joe Chill, and Victor Zsasz alongside The Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul. Despite a member of the crew – allegedly star Robert Pattinson himself – coming down with the coronavirus, the film seemed poised to hold its October 2021 release date until Dune took its slot during the recent changes to the calendar. The film is now scheduled for March of 2022.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The project’s ties to the established film continuity are questionable. Late in 2018, rumors began to emerge that Reeves’ vision for the film set it outside the Man of Steel universe as a “standalone” story, like Joker. The studio moved quickly to quash the rumors, but it is possible the film will emerge with few ties to the shared universe. It will have its own universe though, with the announcement of Gotham P.D. for HBO Max, a series that will focus on corruption in the police force.
Release Date: November 4, 2022
What We Know: A Flash film starring Ezra Miller as the Barry Allen featured in Justice League is finally getting made. After losing multiple directors – among them, Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa – and undergoing a title change from The Flash to Flashpoint and back again, the nature of the film is finally coming into focus as we’ve learned that Allen will crash through multiple dimensions to change his mother’s fate in an adaptation of DC’s ambitious 2011 Flashpoint event comic book series, and meet various versions of some of DC’s biggest heroes along the way. It helmer Andy Muschietti signed on as the project’s fifth director in July, and at DC FanDome revealed a first look at concept art for Allen’s new suit, which features embedded light and was made by Bruce Wayne. And someone else has signed on, too. Ben Affleck will return in a small, cameo-style role as the version of Batman we’ve seen in Justice League, while Michael Keaton returns, too, as the Batman we met in 1989’s Batman. Muschietti told Vanity Fair that Keaton’s role is “substantial.”
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: With the story focusing on the Flashpoint storyline – in which Barry’s attempt to save his mother wrecks the universe – the film will feature Ben Affleck as the Batman, as well as Michael Keaton, and may include other familiar faces. A promo package at DC FanDome also suggested Allen may encounter DC heroes from TV and streaming, with multiple clips of Watchmen playing as the panel discussed the Flashpoint possibilities.
Release Date: December 16, 2022
What We Know: James Wan returns to direct the sequel. According to reports following the first film’s stunning box office debut in December of 2018, the studio wanted Wan to develop the project while he decided whether or not to direct. David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, a co-writer on the first film, soon emerged to write the follow-up, and Warner Bros. set it for a 2022 release at the end of February last year. Presumably, any sequel storyline will feature the return of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his thirst for revenge. We’re also going to presume a wedding between Arthur (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) will occur. Wan will direct the sequel after completing work on the horror film Malignant, due out later this year, and told DC FanDome that the movie will have a more serious tone compared with the original, and that new worlds will be explored. At the same panel, he was joined by Patrick Wilson, and the pair confirmed that Ocean Master will return for the sequel. For the moment, the film is still expected to be the DC holiday release of 2022 – a year now packed full of films based on comic book characters from Warner Bros. and other studios. And considering The Flash is expected in theaters a month earlier, Aquaman 2 may switch to a 2023 release.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: For the moment, Arthur has the sea to himself. But there is always the possibility Diana (Gal Gadot) will reach out to him when she inevitably reassembles the League.
Release Date: June 2, 2023
What We Know: Well, as of DC FanDome, we know that the title of the movie will be Fury of the Gods, and that Sinbad – who through the Mandela Effect will always be associated with the franchise – may be in it. Other than that, not much. What we do know is that director David F. Sandberg is back, along with star Zachary Levy and co-stars Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer. The credits stinger at the end of Shazam! revealed our hero could be about to face Mister Mind – one of the tiniest but most powerful villains in the DC canon. We also know the film will be the first of Warner Bros.’ DC offerings in 2023 – for the moment – thanks to the October 2020 scheduling shift.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Black Adam, anyone? The one-two–punch timing of the two movies – just a year apart – could mean we see Dwayne Johnson appearing in the Shazam! sequel, with one film connecting quickly to the other.
With its plans for a Justice League-centric film universe abandoned in favor of more standalone productions like Aquaman and Shazam!, Warner Bros.’ calendar during the first few years of the 2020s reveals a number of re-thought ideas and, to borrow a term from comics, new #1 issues. At one time, the studio planned to release as many as three films per year, a target it will hit in 2022. But it remains to be seen if the projects listed below will ramp up to maintain the pace.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: After listening to fans when he was initially interested in Shazam!, Johnson signed on to star in a film featuring that character’s greatest nemesis, Black Adam. Jaume Collet-Serra will direct from a script by Adam Sztykiel, with Noah Centineo on board as well to play Albert Rothstein/Atom Smasher, whose superpower is his super strength and ability to grow… huge. At DC FanDome, Johnson showed two clips. One, produced by Jim Lee and Boss Logic which gave fans a quick rundown of the character’s origins – formerly enslaved, he’s in the pursuit of Justice the Black Adam way. The other introduced the idea of the Justice Society of America, and revealed that Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Cyclone, and Atom Smasher would feature in the film. In late September 2020, Aldis Hodge emerged as Hawkman, but the news was soon tempered as the film lost its December 22, 2021 release date entirely during the shuffling of Warner Bros.’ release slate 10 days later. As for most of the project’s existence, it is once again unclear when it will be released. But with members of the cast already assembled, it is possible the film will arrive in 2023.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Black Adam is the archenemy of Shazam. But he is also a fairly complicated anti-hero when dealing with anyone else. Heroic one moment and brutal the next, Adam could emerge as the powerful leader of his own country – an idea straight from the comic books. At DC FanDome, Johnson hinted that the movie could feature and an appearance from Superman, and sent a warning to all those in the Justice League: “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.”
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: As part of an effort to keep Aquaman’s corner of the DC film universe alive, Warner Bros. hired screenwriters Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald to write a script centered on The Trench in February of last year. As referenced in the film’s early moments, The Trench are the descendants of an Atlantean tribe who devolved into fish monsters after breaking away from the rest of the kingdoms. They can be seen attacking Arthur and Mera’s boat shortly before they make their way to the secret sea. Wan publicly discussed his adoration for the creatures and it seems the project, should it happen, will develop quickly into an offshoot of Aquaman a la the Annabelle spin-offs from Wan’s The Conjuring series. The film will reportedly take place after the first Aquaman film and lean into some horror elements, but considering the pace of development, it may end up taking place after the Aquaman sequel.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The monsters are an established part of DC lore, but as they would be the antagonists in the proposed film, maybe some other DC characters can fill the protagonist roles. The Wonder Twins, maybe? Or perhaps the Challengers of the Unknown.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: Announced back with Cyborg in the 2014 masterplan, Green Lantern Corps continues to slowly move forward. In June of 2018, former DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns took over writing and producing the project through his production company, Mad Ghost Productions. According to the company website, the film will feature both the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds in the 2011 film), and John Stewart, the Green Lantern voiced by Phil LaMarr in various Justice League animated series. An earlier concept developed by Man of Steel’s David S. Goyer and Justin Rhodes was said to be a sort of “Lethal Weapon in space” – a description which may still hold true for Johns’ concept as he worked with Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner for a number of years. With Johns participating in a Green Lantern television series for HBO Max, the project would seem to be postponed again — though it is said to still be a priority for Warner Bros. Pictures.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Teased in a Justice League flashback, the lack of an Earthbound Green Lantern is part of the reason Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) chose the planet for conquest. But the film would presumably see the Corps correcting that mistake by revealing the brave humans involved in that organization. No doubt the fans of Jordan and Stewart – to say nothing of characters like Guy Gardner, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, and G’Nort, who could potentially appear in the film – will be excited to see them in an ensemble. Additionally, the film would provide a perfect platform with which to introduce DC’s space-faring characters to a larger audience. At one time, the film was slotted for a 2020 release, but with the announcement of a HBO Max Green Lantern series, it is unclear if the film will ever surface.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: The Cloverfield Paradox’s Oren Uziel is reportedly writing a script based on the Girl of Steel. Like The Flash feature film, it will presumably ignore the successful television series on The CW and tell its own version of Kara Zor-El’s first few days as a superhero on Earth. With Man of Steel star Henry Cavill’s DC future in doubt, it is unlikely that Superman will show up and help greet the cinematic Kara. The producers of the 1984 Supergirl film also tried to get then-Superman Christopher Reeve to appear in the film, but his presence was limited to a poster on a dorm room wall.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The film will presumably be set within the DC film continuity, though the studio appears less interested in creating strong ties between its superhero movies at the moment. Instead, they are looking make director showcases with lower-profile characters – if you can call a character with their own television show “low profile.” Nevertheless, Supergirl offers the opportunity to make a Superman-style movie without his baggage or distracting notoriety.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: Ray Fisher has been set to star as Vic Stone in a 2020 Cyborg film since 2014, but no director or screenwriter has ever been announced. Many have doubted the film will ever materialize despite still being on the calendar. In September of 2018, Fisher suggested fans of the character may need to become more vocal to make the film a reality.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As Justice League explained how Vic ended up partly metal and partly real, a further Cyborg adventure would see him adjusting to life as a robotic superhero. Or, perhaps, meeting others like him and forming a supergroup of his own. This was even rumored at one point, but the arrival of a Titans television show on the DC Universe streaming service definitely makes this less likely. Could the release of the Snyder Cut in 2021 resume talks for a Cyborg solo effort? Snyder revealed at DC FanDome that his version of Justice League will greatly expand Victor Stone’s story. Of course, Fisher’s ongoing battle with the studio over alleged abuses on the set of Joss Whedon’s Justice League reshoot may keep Cyborg off the calendar for another decade.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: While it is unclear if Blackhawk will be part of the DC film universe, it is a favorite comic book of director Steven Spielberg. He even tried to get a Blackhawk movie off the ground in the 1980s. The current version of the project will see him direct a film based on the golden-age Quality Comics concept later bought by DC in 1957 with The Lost World: Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp adapting the concept. The main character is the leader of the Blackhawks squadron, a famed air outfit of seven ace pilots during World War II. When DC incorporated them into a post-war context, they became mercenaries, battled James Bond-style supervillains, and even flirted with becoming superheroes themselves! Considering the director’s fascination with the Second World War and aviation of the period, the original Golden Age version seems like the best fit, provided the film ever gets off the ground.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: Originally intended as Joss Whedon’s writing and directing debut in the DC Extended Universe, the project is now being written by Birds of Prey scribe Christina Hodson while the studio looks for a director. Presumably, the film will establish Barbara Gordon as the Batgirl of Gotham. Her relationship to the Birds of Prey will likely be established in a subsequent sequel to either film, if at all. But considering Hodson’s involvement in both films, she probably has a plan for Babs.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Considering the project comes from developments outside of the original Justice League plan, it is difficult to guess how it will fit in. Perhaps Batgirl will be set sometime in the past or see Barbara taking up the cape and cowl after the Batman appears to quit.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: According to reports, Jared Leto will star and serve as executive producer in his own solo Joker film – a deal which happens to be quite similar to Robbie’s involvement in Birds of Prey. Details are scarce, other than it will be a separate project from both the “Joker and Harley” concept and the standalone Joker. It will also spearhead a batch of films based on the characters featured in Suicide Squad, which means rumors of that Deadshot movie might be more than idle talk. Then again, it has been a long time since the actor has made any mention of returning to the role. Also, the announcement of a Peacemaker HBO Max series – centered on The Suicide Squad character played John Cena – may indicate the original spin-off plan has gone by the wayside. It would seem Leto’s time in the DC Multiverse is already over.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: The Leto Joker was not only featured in Suicide Squad, but is also the murderer of Batman’s second Robin, as implied in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As of Birds of Prey, his relationship with Harley is kaput, setting the two characters off in separate films series. If the “Joker and Harley” project is still happening, then it may serve as a capstone to the characters’ storylines across The Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, and Leto’s Joker. But it may also serve as a replacement for that film as Robbie’s Harley projects may preclude “Joker and Harley.” Of course, Joker’s success – and Leto’s comments about being “alienated and upset” when it was announced – may mean the end of this version of the character.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: As of February 2018, The LEGO Batman Movie’s Chris McKay was still developing a project centered on the first Robin, Dick Grayson. A final draft from screenwriter Bill Dubuque was due at the time, but there has been no movement since. Reportedly, the film has been postponed in anticipation of The Batman, which may ultimately introduce its own version of Dick Grayson.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: As established in Justice League, the Robin costume in the Batcave is not Dick Grayson’s uniform, suggesting plans for Nightwing go all the way back to the 2014 masterplan. A solo film would presumably see the character living in Bludhaven (Grayson’s adopted city in the comics) and coming to grips with becoming his own hero. McKay also plans to direct a new Dungeons & Dragons film and a feature film version of Johnny Quest, so it is hard to tell if Nightwing will happen anytime soon. Last time McKay was asked about it, he said fans will have to wait, but they should also “keep hope alive.”
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: In September of 2017, X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn met with the studio in regards to a direct Man of Steel sequel. Three years on, the return of Superman to the big screen seems like a distant possibility.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Clark (Henry Cavill) has to reestablish himself at the Daily Planet at some point, right? Meanwhile, Superman could face any number of DCU villains from Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson).
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: The Main Man, a Czarnian with various superpowers and healing factors, has always been of interest to Warner Bros. Attempts to make a Lobo movie date back to 2009 with Guy Ritchie and Brad Peyton circling the director’s chair. As of February last year, screenwriter Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) was completing a new draft. Michael Bay was linked to the project, but it is unclear if he ever really signed on.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: Lobo, like Green Lantern Corps, could introduce the cosmic elements of the DC Universe. The character’s irreverence and stark design also set him apart from the rest the DC characters audiences are familiar with. And considering the times his comic book counterpart and Superman have butted heads, he could become a worthy opponent for the Man of Steel in a subsequent film.
Release Date: TBD
What We Know: A Wrinkle In Time’s Ava DuVernay will direct a film version Jack Kirby’s New Gods for Warner Bros., writing the script alongside Mr. Miracle writer Tom King. The film will allegedly center on escape artist Scott Free – aka Mr. Miracle – and his wife Barda. Both are refugees from the plant Apokolips; a miserable world under the grip of the tyrant god Darkseid. Scott was given to Darkseid as a baby by his own father to maintain a peace between Apokolips and the nearby world of New Genesis. Despite the detente, Darksied plots to control the universe and the battle of the New Gods rages on. While the project is still a ways off from casting, DuVernay thrilled fans in early January when she said she “may in fact be taking some notes” from the Twitter dream casting threads, which included names like Diego Luna for Mr. Miracle and Gina Carano for Big Barda.
How It Fits in the DC Extended Universe: While it is unclear if DuVernay will follow up on this plot point, New Gods villain Darkseid is the central baddie at the core of all things. Justice League villain Steppenwolf is his uncle and commander of his armies. The alpha predator may even be the person Lex was referring to at the end of Batman v Superman when he told Batman “he’s coming,” and “he’s hungry.” Based on that, it seems Darkseid was always meant to make his mark upon the DC Film universe, but it remains to be seen if the Justice League will reunite to oppose him.
Thumbnail image courtesy Warner Bros.