The DCEU‘s best future is to kill the Justice League mentality and focus on team-up movies that lead to bigger event titles. Thus far, the DCEU has focused primarily on solo efforts and sequels, as well as one-offs that aren’t connected to the broader universe at all. Director Zack Snyder initially began his run on the DCEU with Man of Steel, then continued with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. The latter two movies started the team-up model, but the idea was quickly abandoned after the box office failure of Justice League, sending the DCEU back to basics.
With films like Todd Phillips’s Joker and Matt Reeves’s The Batman, the DCEU is splintering into factions, leaving a confusing through-line to follow when it comes to making sense of where all the characters fit in this massive universe. Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Shazam!, and the upcoming Black Adam all appear to fit in with the main DCEU, but it’s a puzzling line-up when the films continue to be solo efforts with little teases of a broader universe, rather than a full immersion into the bigger picture. This is something the MCU has done exceptionally well, not playing coy when it comes to how connected it all is, thereby making it all feel much more connected and compelling.
While it can be artistically freeing for the filmmakers behind the solo efforts in the DCEU series, it comes at a cost when these movies all but ignore the broader universe. If the DCEU wants to be a true cinematic universe, then it needs to embrace team-ups, similar to the way DC’s comics do. Having other heroes and villains appear, even in cameo roles, can help immensely in opening up the DCEU, which frequently feels tied to just the main character and their world, rather than the vast one they actually exist in. This would not take away from the lead character’s journey or focus, but rather enhance it by having them interact with another hero, or villain, within the bigger DCEU. Taking this route would also serve to lay the foundation for building up to an event-size film, be it another Justice League or something else, which would pull these team-up threads together and make the DCEU feel more like a truly connected universe of superheroes and supervillains.
Team-Ups Are A Staple In The Comic Books (And Should Be For The Movies)
Visit any comic book shop and look at a copy of a solo title, such as Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, etc., and a team-up with another hero is almost always on the page, be it a small appearance or full-on collaboration. It’s a common thread in all comics — not just DC — to have other heroes and villains appear in solo books, thereby enhancing the appeal and challenging both characters as they work together, or butt heads, over a common goal. It fleshes out each individual character immensely, as readers are able to see how they behave, think, fight, etc., with fellow superheroes, or villains, making the universe feel that much larger and connected. This is exactly the model that should’ve been used for the DCEU. It’s a more natural process to bring these characters together, rather than keep them at arm’s length with a hint of a future team-up and forcing the event film in question to play catch up, rather than building upon an already established connection.
Heroes (And Villains) Appearing Together Make Things More Interesting
While origin films serve a distinct purpose in setting up a particular character, such as Aquaman, Shazam, or Wonder Woman, once they’re established, the characters should be free to explore their new world by interacting with other superheroes within their universe. Having superheroes meet, team up, or even fight, helps to show their place in that world and the overall effect they have in it. These interactions give depth, meaning, and coherency to the DCEU at large, making everything more interesting while building up relationships that can pay off in future films, spinoffs, or larger event films, giving weight and excitement to what comes next. The upcoming The Flash solo movie appears to be taking this angle, as it has multiple Batmans, plus Supergirl, as the DCEU’s version of the multiverse is established. This will no doubt help make everything feel bigger, more intriguing, and more united.
Team-Ups Will Make DC Event Films Feel Much More Exciting
While Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a monumental achievement, it lacked the hype momentum of relationships built prior to its debut. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice served as a good appetizer to that journey, but the DCEU needed a few more team-up style solo films like it before going fully into Justice League, as too many characters were introduced there that should’ve been established much earlier. Having characters team up after forging a history together, as well as giving audiences a chance to get to know who they are and what their specific journey is, makes the proceedings that much more compelling.
The MCU movie Captain America: Civil War, which is by definition a solo film, ultimately served as a massive team-up film that built upon events, interactions, and relationships previously established in that universe, making the stakes higher, the characters more interesting, and the events more exciting. While this may seem like an argument to make the DCEU more like the MCU, it’s actually a case for making the DCEU more like its own comic book model, utilizing the vast array of characters that exist in the DC universe to help tell the story, rather than partitioning it off. Building up steam with team-up films creates consistency, coherency, and strong relationships, making the eventual event films a more exciting investment than they would be with a series of barely connected solo films and sequels that suddenly thrust a major collaboration together — as with Justice League — to audiences with little-to-no congruence, background, or hype.
- Black Adam (2022)Release date: Oct 21, 2022
- Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2022)Release date: Dec 21, 2022
- Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)Release date: Mar 17, 2023
- The Flash (2023)Release date: Jun 23, 2023
- Blue Beetle (2023)Release date: Aug 18, 2023