Ah, the DCEU. It's a slow news day if the DCEU hasn't been sparking some kind of controversy or announcing new movies — and there haven't been many slow news days lately. Recently, it was revealed that Justice League 2 has been pushed back, ostensibly for two reasons: Director Zack Snyder wants to pursue a solo project, and Warner Bros. want to make room in their schedule for The Batman. Except, that doesn't make any kind of sense.
Or at least, the second reason doesn't. Snyder's desire to do something that isn't a superhero movie, after seven years making three superhero flicks back-to-back, is totally understandable. But there's something off about The Hollywood Reporter's claim about delaying Justice League 2 so that #TheBatman could take its May 2019 release date.
This is because #Aquaman was already pushed back, apparently for the same reason: Making room for The Batman. And judging by these glorious new photos of Aquaman in #JusticeLeague — featuring Jason Momoa's rippling muscles rising from the ocean in much the same way Honey Ryder did in Dr No — it's a goddamn shame we won't get two hours of just Arthur Curry for like, bunches of months.
The upshot of this is — The Batman will probably take Aquaman's July 2018 release date, a whole year before Justice League 2's old May 2019 slot. So why delay Justice League 2?
DC Dislikes Sequels
Or at least, this is the theory that many fans and publications have landed on. So far, Warner Bros. have been favoring spin-offs over straight up sequels — after all, Batman v Superman happened before Man of Steel 2, a movie which is still only tentatively part of the DCEU schedule, with no release date or director attached.
Similarly, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn movie, Gotham City Sirens, is very much in development — co-produced by Robbie's own studio, LuckyChap, the script for #GothamCitySirens is being written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, with David Ayer directing (ugh). Meanwhile, #SuicideSquad2 hasn't got so much as a writer, though apparently it's still going to be released. Maybe.
It seems that Warner Bros. are taking a much more reactionary approach to their schedule, green-lighting productions based on which characters audiences respond well to. That would explain both Gotham City Sirens and The Batman getting so much press lately, despite the fact that neither were in the DCEU's original schedule.
While this is quite clearly a strategy based solely on marketing — which isn't necessarily a bad thing, considering how badly sequels did this year — it also means we may finally see comic-book style storytelling on the big screen.
Chapters In A Wider Story
Comics don't tend to run in sequels, as DC's continuity is vast and often a tad incomprehensible. Instead, you get follow-up stories and tie-ins to wider arcs, that focus on different characters from the main story — like the Citizen Cold tie-in to Flashpoint, or Gotham City Sirens following on from Hush.
With Harley Quinn's movie continuing her story from Suicide Squad, this feels a lot more like a comic structure, as this is exactly what Harley did after appearing in the New 52 Suicide Squad comics: After proving to be the most popular character in the lineup, Harley got her insanely popular solo comic, which is still ongoing as one of DC Comics' biggest sellers.
The DC Comics universe (or multiverse, technically) might be a bit convoluted, but it's also fascinating because of its vast complexity. You can pick up a comic on most any character that takes your fancy, exploring weird and wonderful stories that break conventions (the Power Girl & Harley Quinn one-off is one of our favorites for this exact reason).
Instead of solo movies and endless sequels culminating in team up movies, like the MCU structure, it would be far more interesting in this stage of the superhero movie boom to see what the DCEU are apparently planning: A broader network of movies that are their own entities, spin-offs that are really chapters in a wider story.
Batman v Superman may have been a divisive movie, but it took the DCEU franchise in a bold new direction, building a wide universe for many more films to play in. Instead of a direct sequel, we get a Wonder Woman origin story, then a team up movie in Justice League — while on the flip side Harley Quinn is wrecking havoc in Gotham City Sirens, and a new, darker team is formed in Dark Universe.
Of course, it may just be that WB are still finalizing their slate of DC movies, and that Justice League 2's delay is because of Snyder's departure — and the fact that it isn't a Part 2 to the first Justice League movie. But we'd like to think that this is all just part of a grander plan to emulate comic book storytelling on the silver screen... even though we know that this is probably just because the DCEU is a bit of a mess.