With the DC Expanded Universe kicking into full gear this year, questions can now be raised regarding the details of this much-awaited franchise. One such detail is the timeline of this series. So far, Marvel's films have been set in the year of their release. For example, two years passed between the release of The Avengers and the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and so the latter picked up two years after the shawarma-munching finale of The Avengers.
At this point, we're still unsure as to what path #DC intend to take regarding their timeline. For all we know, there isn't a set plan, and they just intend to take each movie one step at a time. However, with Geoff Johns now heading up the structure of the DCEU, I think it's safe to say that there is at least the beginning of a plan kicking around in his brain. Before he tells us what that is though, the best we can do is run down the options.
The Marvel Method
As we've already discussed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe essentially functions as a parallel universe to our own, with time moving at the same pace. Going for this option is possibly the simplest route, as it means the films follow a set chronological order, and the franchise can be followed coherently by any cinema-goer. The obvious issue is that DC seems very keen to avoid comparisons to Marvel, and this would be yet another similarity. On top of that, a glaring problem is that Ben Affleck's Batman — probably the most universally popular aspect of this universe so far — is much older take on the character, and come 2020 onwards it might not work to have a Batman who needs a walking stick. I'm sure Affleck could feasibly continue, but with Dawn of Justice supposedly featuring an older, worn Bruce Wayne, if he keeps doing ninja flips all over the place then it might get questionable.
A Sliding Timeline
This one may be slightly tricky to explain if you aren't already aware of it. Basically, this option would mean that even if ten years pass in our boring Earth, only a couple of years need to have passed in the DCEU. The way it works is that even though events keep happening in linear fashion, things like Zod invading Earth would shift along the timeline so that it always happened just a couple of years ago. With this method, #JusticeLeague would pick up in the immediate aftermath of #BatmanvSuperman, despite the year-long gap between releases. Marvel have made use of this in their comics for a long time, allowing Captain America to have always been thawed out recently. It's a way of getting around things like the longevity of these characters. Whether or not the DCEU has that problem remains to be seen, but I think this one is too complex for casual audiences to keep track of, which is why I have a third and final option.
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In case you're unfamiliar with the famous Crisis events, they function as in-universe reboots. They originated with Crisis On Infinite Earths back in the '80s, wherein parallel universes converged and had to defeat a singular threat. In the aftermath of the event, certain aspects of the original universe were changed in an attempt to focus on the more popular elements of certain characters, as well as to get rid of things people didn't generally like. In terms of the actual story itself, Crisis On Infinite Earths was one for the ages, which has established itself as an icon of comic history, for good reason. Many similar crossover events have taken place since (Flashpoint, Final Crisis, etc) and considering DC's roots in this formula, it would only make sense if the films were inspired by one or more of these. They would also just be insane to behold on the big screen, with all kinds of crazy things going down. Not only that, but it would separate the DCEU from Marvel, and Geoff Johns is a big fan of these big events, so all the cards look good for this being a potential winner.
But Why Crisis Events?
Sure, all the points above make Crisis events seem great if you ask me, but why does the DCEU in particular need them? Well, in a competitive superhero world, having something as bold and eye-catching as time-bending, dimension-jumping crossover events would be a massive selling point that would make this franchise unique. There's also the small matter of DC's television side of things being a step ahead on this front, with all the different CW shows crossing over regularly. For the films to miss out on the opportunity of crossing over with those shows would be a tragedy worthy of Batman.
I'm definitely keeping my fingers crossed that we'll see some kind of big Crisis style event in the DCEU, because they make for some of the most fun stories, and the big scale of them only makes them more lucrative.
What do you reckon is the best option for DC's timeline going forward? Feel free to let us know in the comments!