Does the DCEU need saving? That's what the critics (most of whom slammed Batman v Superman, wrongly, and Suicide Squad, perhaps rightly) would have you believe. The fact that Squad will total out with around $700m further highlights the large gulf between fans and critics, but ultimately it would be nice if DC made a movie which was universally considered something special sooner or later — and if it's going to happen, there are a few of DC's finest heroes who'll probably be the ones in the middle of the action.
Without further ado, I present to you the 8 heroes (and villains) with the power and the sheer charisma to "save" — or rather, transform — the DCEU.
You might wonder if Arthur Curry, the man who talks to fish, could possibly be as important to the DCEU as his better-loved Justice League contemporaries, Batman and Superman. Having existed in the pages of DC Comics for almost as long as those guys (debuting in 1941), it's taken Curry 75 years to reach the big screen in live action form — but that gives Jason Momoa the perfect opportunity to put his own stamp on a character who has often been taken less than seriously by casual comic book fans.
In stark contrast with the handsome blond hero of the comics, Momoa's Aquaman appears to be an altogether different kind of beast — more of a battle-scarred warrior with little appetite for talk.
His banter with Batman is the highlight of the first Justice League trailer, but it's Momoa's immense physical prowess which will differentiate him from the Justice League, and justify his place in it. Most importantly to the wider DCEU, Aquaman's solo movie will take us down beneath the surface of the ocean to the mythical city of Atlantis, which has the potential on a visual level to leave the dull urban landscapes of Gotham and Metropolis in the dust.
If James Wan does the business here, Aquaman could become a huge audience favorite, and perhaps crucially, Marvel has no even remotely comparable character in the MCU, with Namor unlikely to appear any time soon.
Hardly the most left-field choice, considering the entire DCEU to date has literally been built around Ben Affleck's Caped Crusader, but the fact remains that Batman is the DC hero with the biggest mass audience appeal. Why is the Bat so enduringly popular? Maybe it's because his status as the heir to a huge fortune meant Bruce could have sat back and enjoyed a life of easy luxury, but instead chooses to invest his time looking out for those who need protection from the vast gallery of villains who prowl the Gotham's grimy alleys. Maybe it's because he counters his lack of actual powers with epic gadgetry and genius detective work. Or perhaps it's just because his costume is so badass (except that time he got a zebra makeover).
Whatever the reason, the reaction to Batman v Superman indicates that Batfleck could be the most popular screen incarnation of the character yet — just as long as he he gives his trigger finger a break, tones down the sadism and focuses on doing some good sleuth work. That side of his persona appears to be at the fore in Justice League, as Bruce squares up to the looming threat of Darkseid. With a well-characterized, well-acted Batman at the wheel of the Batmobile, and Ben Affleck in the director's chair for his solo movie, all the pieces of the puzzle should fall into place, allowing Batman to reign supreme in his playground.
For more DCEU madness:
- 'Dark Universe' To 'The Batman': Here's Every DCEU Movie On The Way
- 'Justice League': Superman Has His Curl, But Where's The Black Suit?
- The Awesome DC Easter Egg In The 'Suicide Squad' Mid-Credits Scene
John Constantine is less than half as old as the likes of Superman in DC Comics, having only been created in 1985 as a supporting character in Saga of the Swamp Thing #37, but as the saying goes, "age ain't nothin' but a number." The short-lived TV series Constantine, starring Matt Ryan as the trenchcoat-adorned, chainsmoking detective, did a lot to raise the Englishman's profile outside of comic book circles, and the announcement of Dark Universe feels like the perfect moment for Constantine to "do a Harley Quinn" and make his name known to a wider audience.
Why would he be the breakout character of Dark Universe? John Constantine is not just a detective and a master conman, but he dabbles in a realm that's totally alien to the likes of Batman: the occult. His vast knowledge of the world of magic (and ability to practice it during combat, when strictly necessary) renders him resistant to telepathy, hynposis and possession, and Constantine has frequently used his quick wit and the ability to create his own luck to fight off enemies and demons far more powerful than himself. What other character in the DCEU has that kind of skillset? As Marvel tap into the mystical with Doctor Strange, DC's own, cooler, edgier master of the supernatural could be great if done right. Don't screw this up, guys.
It's often said that a comic book movie is only as great as its villain, and it's easy to argue that Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman or even Marvel's Captain America: Civil War would have been better movies if they'd had a more memorable bad guy to tear our heroes apart. But DC has a phenomenal rogues gallery to choose from, and none is more terrifying than the frequent Superman and Justice League adversary Darkseid, the New God from the planet Apokolips. Darkseid is essentially Hitler, if Hitler was built like a rock, had the ability to teleport through space and time, resurrect the dead, move planets or assume mind control over entire civilizations.
The deleted scene 'Communion' from Batman v Superman suggested a vengeful Lex Luthor had summoned Darkseid when we saw the billionaire communicating with the big bad's deputy, Steppenwolf — likely to be the primary villain of Justice League —from the ruins of the Krypton ship. Darkseid often sends Steppenwolf to do his dirty work for him — but if Wonder Woman and friends are successful in killing him, the big man himself will have no choice but to visit Earth in the Justice League sequel. With Marvel lining up Thanos for Infinity War, it's essential that DC has a villain whose powers and ambitions are similarly epic in scale. Done right, and given powers as vast as those he possesses in the comics, Darkseid could be spectacular.
Slade Wilson is coming to terrorize Batman. Pitting the Dark Knight against one of the most ruthless mercenaries in DC Comics feels like an instant recipe for the Ben Affleck-directed The Batman to deliver some truly epic fight scenes. One thing Nolan's trilogy never got right was the Bat's skill for hand-to-hand combat, something Snyder dived a little deeper into in Batman v Superman with a couple of really great set pieces such as that unforgettable warehouse fight. You know the one:
But we need more. Deathstroke — whose similarities with Marvel's Deadpool both in real name, superhero alias and profession are no coincidence — has the kind of mind-bending skillset which could genuinely be the death of the Caped Crusader, raising the stakes of The Batman far beyond the silliness of Dawn of Justice.
The fact that Deathstroke isn't even technically a villain, but an anti-hero who doesn't blink at the prospect of bloodshed, serves to make him a fascinating choice as the antagonist of Batman's solo movie. This move would reaffirm once again that the DCEU really isn't especially interested in the idea of straight-up heroes v. traditional bad guys. If Affleck stays faithful to the comics and showcases Deathstroke's epic abilities — tactical genius, master martial artist, superhuman reflexes and endurance, and that vast, Batman-rivalling arsenal of high-tech weaponry — the assassin could become the new gold standard for hyper-brutal superhero movie villainy. Triangle, bitch.
Yeah, I know. It almost feels too obvious to include Harley in this list, especially when she was the clear scene-stealer of Suicide Squad. But Harley was, arguably, too restricted by that movie's confusion about what it wanted to be (its bad guys weren't really bad guys) to truly embrace her full potential. Ideally, Harley needs to exist independently of the Joker, as a wise-cracking, mentally-imbalanced troublemaker with the freedom to go full-on bad if that's where the story takes her.
Suicide Squad has turned Margot Robbie into a bonafide A-lister, and she deserves a DC movie as good as the character she inhabits. Even among all the chaos of David Ayer's movie, little moments like the scene in which Harley sits on top of an abandoned car, removes her puddin' necklace and cries, before slapping on a smile for Deadshot and the gang, hint at deeper layers still to be revealed.
Between Constantine and Darkseid, Harley and Deathstroke, Batman and Aquaman, the stage is set for the DCEU to be fully transformed into something truly special. It's in your hands now, DC.
Which heroes or villains are you most stoked to see come to life in the DCEU?