As you've likely seen by now, Warner Bros. recently announced that it had staked out release dates for 11 new films through the year 2020, nine of which the studio pointed out were specifically based on the stories and characters of DC Comics. We don't yet know what the films are or what characters will be appearing in them, but this is still a big deal because it represents newfound (and sorely needed) confidence in finally exploring a diverse and popular library of characters that has been thrilling audiences since Superman first took flight over 75 years ago.
2016: DC Hits the Ground Running
Of course, the first stop in this new journey is in March of 2016, with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A direct follow-up to 2013's Man of Steel, BvS will of course feature DC Comics' two most enduring icons in conflict before joining forces. That's just the beginning of the building blocks of this new film series, though, as Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot), Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (perhaps to be played by Jason Momoa) will also be appearing somewhere during the film, showing that the "World's Finest" heroes live in a universe that is occupied by other big-time DC heroes.
That won't be all for that year, though, because a previously unannounced DC Comics film will also apparently be hitting theaters in August of 2016, barely five months after BvS bows worldwide. Could this be another superhero that will join the ranks of the Justice League? Or, will this be a film that sets up another corner of the DC universe not directly related to the "World's Greatest Heroes?" At this point it's impossible to tell, but the mere fact that we'll be getting two helpings of DC Comics on film within the same year is an exciting proposition in and of itself. Since they're doing that, though, they need to repair their reputation in doing so.
To try and give that a little perspective, there haven't been two consecutive DC Comics films released in the same year since 1997, and both of those were horrible stains on the entirety of comic book cinema: Batman & Robin was released on June 20 of that year, while the Shaq-starring Steel was released on August 15. The only other time that two DC Comics-based films were released in the same year was in 1989, when The Return of Swamp Thing was released on May 12, with Tim Burton's Batman following the next month on June 23. Hopefully, 2016 will put forward two solid efforts from the new DC film initiative at Warner Bros. that can erase the dark pall of 1997 from the minds of fans, and create a solid foundation on which to build the future of DC Comics on film.
What Are the Other Films?
While it's hard to guess exactly what properties will fit into the nine slots, we know at least two of the properties that will be released sometime in the overall schedule for sure. The first of these is, obviously, Justice League. At the tail end of April, Warner Bros. officially confirmed that Justice League would be coming, and that it would be directed by Zack Snyder. The original report from The Wall Street Journal stated that the new team-up film would be unlikely to come out before 2017, though later reports from other sources later indicated a May 5, 2017 release date for such a project.
On the list of nine release dates staked out this month, May 5, 2017 was not on the list, but perhaps JL will be aiming for the June 23, 2017 date instead? Impossible to know, but fun to think about.
The other film that we know for sure is coming, likely anytime between 2017 and 2020, is a solo adventure for the Sea King himself, Aquaman. The coolest DC Comics character that you know nothing about recently saw Warner Bros. hire two competing writers to create a screenplay for his first on-screen adventure, according to a report from the Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog.
It would be interesting if Warner Bros. used Justice League as a launchpad to then feed other potential satellite franchises based on DC characters, and if Justice League is one of the earlier films on the released date cycle, then it looks as though the studio will be doing just that. In fact, back in February of 2013, that was this writer's recommended approach in efforts to make the DC cinematic universe fundamentally different from Marvel's, both at Marvel Studios and at 20th Century Fox.
As far as what other films could fill the release date lineup, the possibilities are limitless. Perhaps a new solo Batman film directed by and starring Ben Affleck? A true sequel to Man of Steel that features an isolated Superman-vs.-Lex Luthor battle? Maybe a reboot of Green Lantern showing a new Hal Jordan or John Stewart defend the universe against a major intergalactic threat? Maybe that Dark Universe film we hear is coming from Guillermo del Toro?
Whatever ends up happening, Warner Bros. seems to finally be putting its money where its mouth is in showing an investment in DC Comics properties. While DC fans likely feel that it's about time, they should probably just sit back, hope for the best, and let the characters speak for themselves. There's plenty of material to draw from, there's a lot of potential, and whichever way things go we'll definitely be in for quite a ride for at least the next seven years.
Put your best foot forward on this, Warner Bros. Many of us have been waiting for this for a long time.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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