Okay, so this is just a (not-so) brief summary of how I would have dealt with the DC cinematic universe. They've already taken a course different from this, so it obviously won't happen, but I just wanted to get it written down and see what people thought about the concept. I mean, elements of this could always still work out, but...y'know, not all of it. So, here goes:
1. Man of Steel
Well, this already happened. You see, I went into the theater to see the midnight premier of Man of Steel, and walked out speculating on where I, if I was a director or screen writer, would go from there. I thought the movie was perfect with all of its allusions to the rest of the DC Universe, and I thought it set everything up perfectly for the movies to come. Leaving this movie, I had a idea of what I would do next...if I were Warner Bros/DC, that is.
2. Man of Tomorrow
I think Man of Steel would have best been followed by another Superman movie, just to further establish him as the leader of the inevitable Justice League, to be introduced later on.
This movie would have picked up a few weeks or months after the last one left off, with Metropolis and Smallville still trying to reconstruct themselves while the entire world was still struggling to grasp the concept of aliens being real and being an actual threat to society, as was proven by Zod and company. Superman would be a constant helping hand in the reconstruction effort, trying to build up trust from the people and establish himself as a symbol of hope rather than just another alien who could potentially turn into another Zod-like tyrannical villain who had a iron grip over the human race. He wants to let everyone know that he is on their side-- he "comes in peace."
This is where we introduce Lex Luthor--a Lex Luthor much closer to the comics than the one presented by Gene Hackman in the Christopher Reeves era. This Lex Luthor is much more diabolical on a larger scale--a Smallville-like Lex Luthor (as portrayed by Michael Rosenbaum), but larger and more physically imposing. This Lex is tall and well-built, sophisticated and extremely intelligent. I'd say he is maybe mid-to-late thirties, just a bit older than Superman. This is a character that makes you question whether the title of the film, Man of Tomorrow, refers to Superman or Lex. Well, he is introduced as a well-loved public figure who has been contributing largely into rebuilding Metropolis and the surrounding areas after the alien attack. But another thing he is known for is his public speaking, where he takes no shame in publicly denouncing Superman and stating that he is not to be trusted, for he could easily turn on them and turn into a Zod-like figure. This is what makes it so hard for Superman to fit in and set his status as a symbol of hope--people don't know what to think about him.
As all this goes down on earth, we learn that there is another alien in our midst--Brainiac, who has been watching all the chaos ensuing as people try to rebuild their cities. He has been sitting back and learning everything he can about Superman and Lex and all the people of earth. Finally, one night, he shows up at Lex's mansion/condo/office (wherever, as long as Lex is alone) and offers him aid and taking out the alien menace known as Superman. He keeps his motives to himself, and Lex doesn't seem to really care. Despite being very anti-alien, Lex's hatred for Superman proves stronger, and he agrees to the offer, forming a partnership with the green alien.
At this point, Brainiac could introduce to Lex a radioactive substance from Superman's home planet that he, being the smartest being in the galaxy, is quite sure will weaken Superman physically and give Lex the upper hand. Lex dubs this substance "kryptonite." Working through henchman and small-time villains, Lex and Brainiac--from behind-the-scenes--prove Brainiac's theory to be correct when Superman proves to be weakened when within a certain distance from the material.
Okay, so remember those big, bulky space suits that Zod & Co. were wearing in Man of Steel while they were searching those old, abandoned, Kryptonian outposts on other planets? Well, Lex gets his hands on one of those, and over time, he turns the space suit into a battle-ready war suit capable of going hand-to-hand with a Kryptonian thanks to kryptonite built into it at various spots and temporarily weakening the opponent...giving you the suit from the comics!
Well, Superman and Lex go head-to-head in one final battle, though not near as grand-scale as the Superman/Zod fight. They spend the majority of time going back and forth with words, turning it into a battle of wits rather than solely hand-to-hand combat. They do clash, but Superman puts an end to it without totally defeating Lex. It ends with them kind of staring each other down and understanding that their battle is far from over. Towards the end of the movie, Lex is seen setting to work on another experiment, which he will use against Superman. The entire time, he has still somehow maintained his good graces with the people, while Superman has also established himself as a superhero rather than a potential threat. Their clash has taken place largely behind-the-scenes, and both hero and villain remain good in the eyes of those of Metropolis and around the world. Brainiac will remain at large, still unknown to the people of earth.
At the very end of the movie, the still fairly-new reporter Clark Kent joins his mentor, Lois Lane, on a trip to Gotham City, just across the Bay, chasing a lead on a story of a mysterious figure who has been rumored to have been performing various acts of heroism in the dead of night for quite some time. His acts of heroics have been becoming more frequent ever since the appearance of Superman, so the Daily Planet finally found it a big enough scoop to assign some journalists to go check it out. They are accompanied by their young photographer/intern, Jimmy Olsen. The trio head into Gotham fairly unsure of where to go first, and find themselves surrounded by a group of thugs who don't seem too nice. The thugs have formed a circle around them, weapons in hand, and Clark Kent, due to being accompanied by Lois and Jimmy, is unable to do anything without risk of revealing his identity to Jimmy. So he struggles to figure out how to handle the situation. But all of a sudden, a dark figure swoops in and takes out all of the thugs in a matter of seconds, all while the trio watch in shock. Finally, as the thugs all lie on the ground writhing in pain, the figure is about to leave, and Lois says something along the lines of, "I guess you're our lead. Who are you?"
The figure stays with his back turned to them, but turns his face slightly, and you can see a smile cross his face. "I'm Batman." Then he's gone, and the credits roll.
That's how I would have followed up Man of Steel. I'll try not to go into near as much detail with the next few movies, because that would be quite the long article to read. I'll try to be much more vague, but still catch all my major points.
3. Justice League
Based on The Death of Superman (1992)
A year or two would have passed after Man of Tomorrow, and Superman and Lex are still well-loved public figures, constantly at odds with each other. Lex is even running for President, and stands a very good shot. Since the end of the last movie, Superman has tracked down Batman and they have formed an alliance, and together have tracked down other super-powered beings (Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Cyborg) who might be interested in joining their "team." Superman and Batman both serve as leaders to the team, but Superman is without a doubt the stone that holds everything in place. Not only does he serve as a symbol of hope to the people of earth, but a symbol of structure to the team.
Well, all of a sudden, a super-strong, alien being named Doomsday breaks out of a cell owned by LexCorp. The being begins to wreak havoc across the country, and, inevitably, people die. The Justice League goes into many conflicts with the beast, yet they can't seem to do much to take him out. The movie, despite being a Justice League film, is still largely Superman based, and he ultimately tells the team to back off, because it doesn't do the world any good to have all of their heroes injured or dead. Superman tells them that he is the one hero who can take the beast on. The team objects and says that Superman needs their help, but he shakes his head. The world needs them to maintain the peace. If they were all gone, the world would be left unprotected by future threats. He must take the beast on alone. It is Batman who finally gets the team to agree to Superman's logic.
Superman and the Beast go head-to-head, clashing through the streets of Metropolis on a scale that is fairly equal, if not greater, to his clash with Zod in the first movie. They exchange blows, and both are evidently fatigued, yet they don't back down. Finally, they crash into the ground, creating a large crater, and exchange final blows. In one final strike, the punch the lives out of each other. As happens in the Death of Superman storyline, Superman dies in Lois' arms, while everyone watches. Both Doomsday and Superman are dead. Roll credits.
This would be the first movie in what would be a sort of reversal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whereas the Marvel movies introduced us to the characters separately and then all together in The Avengers, I would have it so that we introduced Superman, then Justice League, and then doubled back and told the stories of individual heroes. I'd start out with the Flash, and the movie would begin almost immediately where Justice League left off. The movie would deal with how the shock of Superman's death and what is going on throughout Barry Allen's head as the League tries to figure out what to do next. At some point in the movie, they would all attend Superman's funeral, giving the chance for the League to make some cameo appearances.
The Barry Allen character could be presented as a character who prefers to keep to himself, and finds himself dealing with Superman's death in his own way, out on his own. Next thing you know, at some point in the movie the Black Flash or Gorilla Grodd or some villain like that could pop up, and the Flash has to step up and take the villain out, making Barry realize that all because Superman is dead doesn't mean that all hope is lost. Throughout the movie, presented in a Man of Steel-like manner, Barry Allen's origin would be told in a series of flashbacks. Also, at some point in the story, it would be announced that Lex Luthor was elected President.
5. Batman/Wonder Woman movie
This movie would follow the Flash movie, but take place a few weeks after the Superman/Doomsday battle, possibly around the same time as the climax of Flash. Similar to Flash, it would present the heroes coping with the death of their leader, but this movie would focus on leadership itself. Superman's absence leaves Batman and Wonder Woman in charge, and friction among the League as a result of the Man of Steel's absence threatens to result in the disbanding of the fairly newborn team of superheroes. This movie could be considered a follow-up Justice League movie since many of the other characters would play minor roles, but it would be a fairly Batman and Wonder Woman-centric movie focusing on how they deal with taking over the helm of leadership and keeping the team together. Throughout the movies, flashbacks would help establish both heroes' backgrounds and origins.
This would be the Thor of the DC Cinematic Universe. This movie would take place on both land and water, where Thor's story was told in both Asgard and Earth. It would be told with the basic origin story followed by the introduction of a villain and final battle. Aquaman would be introduced as new to the superhero business, inspired by Superman's death to go and save people's lives, just as Superman had. He won't have been part of the Justice League yet, but at the end of the movie (or in a Marvel-like after credits scene), Batman, serving as DC's Nick Fury, would be able to arrive and announce that they wanted him for their team. This would also display that Batman has succeeded in trying to band the team back together.
7. The Last Son of Mars
The movie starts with a world war on Mars, where J'onn J'onzz, a peacekeeping officer, is trying to extinguish the fighting. As the story progresses, we see that his family is burned alive in front of his own eyes, which causes him to go raging in pure hatred for those who commited the act. Suddenly, he is transported to Earth, where a scientist, Saul Erdel, had accidentally transported him through the use of Martian technology, which he had found and been working on in secret. In shock of seeing the alien in front of him, Erdel has a heart attack and dies, leaving J'onzz to travel the world on his own and find a way back home. He discovers that he has powers on Earth, and uses them to save people. He eventually hears of the Justice League, and meets up with Batman, who ultimately helps him find a way to get back to Mars, where he discovers that his entire race is gone, having killed each other during the world war. He is the last of his people. There would obviously be further conflict at some point throughout the movie, but ultimately the plot leads to J'onzz accepting his role as another of earth's protectors, taking the name the Martian Manhunter, and joining the Justice League.
8. Justice League: Reign of the Supermen
Based on Reign of the Supermen (1993)
The film opens up with a voice-over by John Henry Irons. He talks about how the world has lost its sense of hope since Superman was killed, and how the world hasn't been the same since. He talks about the Justice League, and how even common people have noticed that they can't seem to work together without Superman as their leader (it shows the League battling various foes, alluding to many other villains who haven't been featured in other movies). It then talks about his personal experience with Superman and how he saved his life one day when he was working on the reconstruction of a building which had been destroyed by Superman's initial clash with Zod so many years ago. He describes how Superman had inspired him to become a better person, and how he had cleaned up his life after that. It then cuts to him in the basement of his home, forging a metal suit with the 'S' crest in the middle of the chest. He says that if Superman can't be around to inspire people, maybe he can change that. He may be a regular man, but he can try his best to change the world. It shows him suiting up, and he marches out to perform his first acts of heroics.
We are quickly introduced to the remainder of the supermen: Cyborg, the Eradicator, and Superboy. The storyline would roughly follow the comics, and it would show how the Justice League was dealing with the entire issue of these four men who were claiming to be Superman. Some of the League members argue that one of the men might be the real deal, while others argue for another, while even others argue that none of the men are the real Superman. The League will have evidently grown, emphasizing the fact that a few years have passed since Superman's death, which is slightly different from the comics. Throughout the movie, the League is forced to battle some of these supermen, who don't seem to be as cooperative as the original Superman was.
We cut to the grave of Superman, which is placed under a giant golden statue of him (just as in the comics). The camera zooms in and pans through the coffin, revealing that it is mysteriously empty, despite it having contained Superman's body in the Flash movie. We then cut to the Arctic, where the Fortress of Solitude (which Superman will have built in Man of Tomorrow) is buzzing with activity. Kryptonian robots, seemingly salvaged from the crashed Kryptonian ship from Man of Steel, are zooming around, anxiously working on something, which, as time tells, proves to be a body, cloaked in a black spandex suit with the House of El crest in the center, similar to the suit seen in the "dream sequence" of Man of Steel. The audience can clearly tell that it is Superman, and the camera zooms in on his face. The buzzing a robots continues, and all we see it Superman's face covering the entire screen. And then his eyes open as he gasps for air. Credits roll.
9. Justice League: Apocalypse
The League is in the midst of a fight with the Cyborg Superman when a fifth Superman-like figure arrives. He is cloaked in black, without a cape, and bears long, shaggy hair, which instantly causes the League to doubt him in being an actual contender as Superman. Nevertheless, he aids the League in taking the Cyborg Superman down, but proves to be very weak, often stopping to catch his breath in the midst of the fight. When the fight ends, he escapes out of sight before the League members can ask him any questions. Soon, news is buzzing of this fifth Superman contender.
All of a sudden, radars detect a large, flaming meteor hurtling towards earth. Scientists note that the the size of the meteor is on planetary-scale, and if it were to collide with the earth, there would be no survivors. The Justice League meet to discuss what they can do to stop this meteor, and for a while all of the Supermen are vaguely quiet, seemingly dropping off the map. The Justice League set up defense mechanisms to stop the meteor from colliding, leading to a climactic stand off as the League is poised and ready while the meteor approaches. The people of earth are seen in utter chaos, not sure whether or not the League can stop such a major threat.
Then the meteor stops in place and a transmission, very similar to Zod's in Man of Steel, takes over all feeds. Again, similar to Zod's feed, a static figure covers the screen. A deep but crystal-clear voice comes out of the speakers, speaking in long breaths: "Ahhhhh planet Earth. Welcome to Apokolips."
10. Justice League: The Return of Superman
This movie picks up right where the last left off. People are shocked to see the coverage, and even more-so scared of the planet hovering just outside of earth's atmosphere, casting large shadows and emitting tremendous heat blasts down onto earth's crust. The League is unsure of what to do, but they send of few of the members to Apokolips to scout the planet. There, these members meet Darkseid, sitting a large throne, accompanied by Granny Goodness and many of his other servants (in this movie, Darkseid will serve as Mongul did in the comics). Darkseid reveals that he helped Zod send the transmission to earth in the first place, and has, in alliance with Brainiac, been watching the earth in silence ever since. He reveals his plans step by step, but then captures the League members and has them locked up in a cell, with no intent of letting them go. He launches an attack on Earth, sending many of his minions down to wreak havoc.
Meanwhile, heroes like Batman and Flash and many more remain on earth, awaiting the return of the other superheroes. The Martian Manhunter turns to Batman, suddenly dawning upon who Darkseid is. He explains that back on Mars, there was a old legend of a man who conquered planets, killing off entire civilizations. He explains that this Darkseid must be this man. He whispers something to Batman, who nods and jumps in his Batmobile, driving off. Next thing you know, Darkseid's minions arrive, and a large-scale fight breaks out. Four of the five supermen arrive and aid the League in taking these minions out, but the man in black is missing from the group.
Suddenly, the man in black arrives in the dungeon of Apokolips, where he breaks the other League members out. He convinces him that he is the actual Superman and helps them steal one of Darkseid's spaceships to escape back home. Meanwhile, he departs from them, flying towards the sun, where he strikes a crucifix pose, closes his eyes, and begins to soak in the rays.
The fight down on earth has become even greater. Darkseid's minions are being easily overtaken, but more and more are constantly arriving. Suddenly, Cyborg Superman makes a radical turn and starts fighting on the minions' side, against the League once again. The once locked up League members arrive and help in the fighting. Cyborg (Victor Stone) is seen fighting Cyborg Superman, who suddenly blasts him with heat visions, leaving him near death. Batman--who has just returned to the battlefield--sees this, and together, he and Wonder Woman take on Cyborg, while the other League members deal with everyone else.
Finally, we cut back to the sun, where the man in black is still charging. He opens his eyes and, reminiscent of Man of Steel, he hears Jor-El's voice in his head... "You can save them all..." he turns and flies back to earth, breaking the sound barrier.
When the man in black arrives, he takes out the minions like there's no tomorrow. Along with the Eradicator--who had proven to go back and forth from good to evil over the course of the movies--they take over the fight with Cyborg Superman. They finally pin him, and while Superman plans on merely sparing Cyborg's life and keeping him locked up, the Eradicator kills him, explaining that there is no choice but to do so. The man in black, though initially angry, realizes that the fight is not over and turns back to fighting.
And then Darkseid arrives on earth. The man in black charges him, and they engage in hand-to-hand combat for a while, quite evenly matched. Darkseid tries to get him with his Omega Beams, but the man is too fast. But finally, Darkseid catches him with a blow that knocks him backwards, momentarily unconscious. Batman, for the first time evidently nervous, approaches the giant, a gun in his hand. Darkseid makes a remark along the lines of "you are a mere earthling...you think you can stop me?" His Omega Beams power up, but Batman raises the gun and shoots, just as the Omega Beams hit him. The man in black, now conscious once again, screams in despair. The bullet pierces Darkseid's heart, and he collapses to the ground. Batman, his body a mere corpse, lies on the ground (a la Final Crisis). The man in black stands up, and all fighting ceases. The remaining minions stare on in silence--their master is dead.
The League members also stand in silence as the man in black picks up the mangled corpse of the Batman. He dips his head down and cries. Wonder Woman approaches and places her hand on his shoulder. The League is sure that this man is their leader, returned from the dead. But now, ironically, their acting leader, Batman, is dead. A life traded for a life.
The final scene cuts to a news coverage. It states that upon Darkseid's death, the minions escaped back to Apokolips, which went back from where it came. It then shows an interview with the Martian Manhunter, where he tells them how he was the one who had told Batman to make a bullet made of radion, an element deadly to people like Darkseid (that's where Batman had disappeared to). Then, finally, it cuts to Batman's funeral, where Superman stands center stage, having traded his black garments for his normal red and blue. The Justice League stands behind him, along with Superboy, Steel, and the Eradicator. They all stand in silence as Superman delivers a speech of both sadness and hope, telling the people that though a hero is dead, he can live on through not just the heroes on stage, but through everyone. The scene cuts back to the reporter, who signs off for the news station. The screen fades to black.
In an after-credits scene, Bruce Wayne awakes in the distant past, just as in the final pages of Final Crisis.
From here, I really don't know where to go with the franchise, because it could go in all sorts of directions and still leave me totally satisfied. Bruce Wayne would come back obviously, and in the end the Justice League could be reunited again. Brainiac would make another appearance, this time as a primary villain, and Joker and other famous villains would make appearances. Eventually the actors will get old, though, and they could always move on to things like Batman Beyond or whatnot.
I realize that in saying this is my ideal DC Cinematic Universe, it is asking for alot, because these would all have to be really big-budget movies. I just thought it'd be an alright concept to share with y'all. In all honesty, even with the current Superman/Batman movie in the works, it could really still pick up with my #3 and keep going from there. I know it was a long read, but if you took the time to read through it, let me know what you thought! This is just my idea of a fairly satisfying storyline; hope y'all like it!