We need to ask a few important questions about the future; more specifically, the DCEU's future. For comic book fans, the DC and Marvel Universes are titans in the industry, but film fans do not hold DC's films in such high regard.
There have been six films in the DCEU: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Aquaman. With each film's release, the DCEU's future has been shaken. The simultaneous success of Wonder Woman and failure of Justice League left the future of the franchise uncertain.
But that was a year ago. Now, we have a new film: Aquaman. With its release and the subsequent information that has been revealed over the past year, we have a better grasp of what's to come over the next few years for the DCEU.
10. We Know The Next Four Films
If there is one certainty about the future of the DCEU, it's that we know the next four films in the slate. We know the following films are coming out soon enough: Shazam! (April 5, 2019); Joker (October 4, 2019); Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) (February 7, 2020); And Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5, 2020).
From the inclusion of these four films, we have a real sense of what DC will be doing with its future films. They are either in production or post-production at the present (or in Birds of Prey's case, starts filming on January 15th, 2019). Regardless of the impact Aquaman will have on the future of the DCEU, these films are locked and loaded.
We also know that both Joker and Birds of Prey were announced following the release of Justice League. This is important, but not as important as one little thing we need to talk about...
9. Joker Is An Elseworlds Story
While I am counting Joker as a future DCEU film, it does not exist in the DC Cinematic Universe as we've come to understand it. It is a self-contained story featuring DC characters in its own separate branch of reality. It can break all the rules, and nothing it does will affect, say, Ben Affleck's Batman. That also means that, yes, Jared Leto is still the Joker in the DCEU.
We also know that, at one point, WB execs considered making a film adaptation of Superman: Red Son, which indicates that Joker may not be the only intro to the DCEU's Elseworld. If Joker is a success, that can only be good news.
But it's important to take all of the rumored projects with a grain of salt because....
8. A Lot Of Projects Have Been Announced, But Have Gone Nowhere
A lot of projects have been announced. Directors associated with the project have come and gone. Scripts have been written. Characters were cast. But let's be clear, we have no idea if or when any of these projects will ever happen.
I don't need to go through the list. Take your pick. The Flash? New Gods? Nightwing? There are so many films DC has announced as "in development" that the term loses all meaning. When Kevin Feige announces a new project is "in development," he has a proven track record of delivering on that promise. But DC has never fulfilled that promise. The Flash was supposed to come out in 2018... Where is it?
Both Suicide Squad 2 and a Joker/Harley spin-off were announced following the release and (financial) success of Suicide Squad. But instead, we're getting a Birds of Prey film (which, to be fair, is a far more appealing choice). Maybe DC just announces whatever films they are discussing before they finalize on a good idea? Regardless, until you hear they're gonna film, take everything with a grain of salt. Especially that Plastic Man movie coming out. Sorry.
7. The Batman Will Probably Be Coming...Eventually
Matt Reeves is a director who seems in it for the long haul. When you hear that he's making a film, you better believe he's making that film. However, I don't expect him to start production on The Batman until all the insanity about the role is settled. Ben Affleck's "will he/won't he" drama about being the Caped Crusader in the DCEU's future is way more dramatic than any of his nonsense in Pearl Harbor.
Recent rumors say that The Batman could start filming this November, but this is not confirmed.
But DC's tried-and-true formula is this: when in doubt, make a Batman movie. It prints money. There's a reason why half the slate of the DCEU's future features Batman characters. He's a beloved character.
6. More Diversity
Birds of Prey would not be coming out if not for Wonder Woman; and to a lesser extent, Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad and Mera in Aquaman. This is a sign of things to come, which is collaborated by rumors implying that the directors and executives have come to realize that—shocker!—people like to be represented in their cinema. Who knew, right?
You can expect more of this in the future, as this is a trend that the WB execs plan on milking. This is not to say that you will not see white men play heroes in DC anymore. Half of the projects slated say otherwise. But it does indicate that diversity will play a role in the future. But there will be casualties; one of which may be the Man of Tomorrow.
5. They're Moving Away From Snyder's Vision... And The Man Of Steel
If there is a bad takeaway from the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, it's this the heads of WB no longer think there's a place for Superman in the DCEU's future. It is important to avoid conflating facts with rumors, but it is a fact that the films slated ahead draw very little from Snyder's films. Steppenwolf is barely mentioned in Aquaman. Superman, while alluded to in Shazam's trailers, will not make a cameo appearance.
And, by all accounts, Henry Cavill looks to be stepping back from Superman.
Several actors such as Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne seem to believe DC won't be calling them back into the fold. But it's Henry Cavill's refusal to confirm or deny rumors that he is leaving that leaves people certain he may either be leaving the role or taking a break from it. There are also rumors that DC wants to make a Supergirl movie, but, again, those are rumors. Not facts. This also doesn't mean Superman will not appear, even if Henry Cavill does leave. Cavill is not the first person to play Superman. While he is the only one in the DCEU, we know he is not the last actor.
4. Justice League's Post-Credit Stinger Is Still Canon
Spoilers for Justice League!
Lex Luthor starts to form "a league of [their] own," which includes fan-favorite Deathstroke in the role. Regardless of Justice League's financial success (or lack thereof), the DCEU's future is permanently altered by this scene. They may put this on pause for the time being, but, when the Justice League does return—and they no doubt will if more individual films prove successful—it is highly likely that the Injustice League will appear.
Sure, maybe Jesse Eisenberg won't reprise his "critically beloved" performance as Lex Luthor, but in some form, you can expect this plot point to appear. There are a lot of fan-favorite villains ahead, from Black Manta to the Cheetah (who are known to be members of Lex's League), and what better way to unite the League than to unite them against villains that have already been developed, established, and aren't CGI aliens?
3. Aquaman Will Return
James Wan's Aquaman film is earning truckloads of money, which is why it's getting a sequel. While WB did announce a sequel to Aquaman was "in development" in the months before the film's release, they've since hit the gas with the sequel's production after the truckload full of Aquaman's box office returns parked itself outside their studio.
While it is hard to say the impact Aquaman will have beyond that, James Wan has yet to be signed up to direct. It seems likely he will return but isn't a guarantee. Because of that, no one even knows what the sequel will be like. But it is clear that Jason Momoa and the rest of his cast will return.
2. They Are Pushing For The Flash
Of all the projects "in development" in the DCEU's future, The Flash is the one that keeps running into walls. Directors have left. Scripts have been tossed out. Ideas have been spun around but go nowhere... But WB keeps funneling money into the project to get it made. While the release date keeps getting pushed back, one thing is clear: this project is getting a lot of attention from DC and WB. It's clear that there are people that want to push this project out of "in development" and into production.
Furthermore, given Ezra Miller's good working relationship with WB following the success of the Fantastic Beasts films, it's likely that he will reprise the role as Barry Allen; although little else is apparent, in part because nothing else about this project appears stable.
So whether it's a Flashpoint film or just a movie about The Flash, this movie will probably be made with a tentative release date being at this time 2021.
1. No One Knows What Ben Affleck Is Doing
Let's establish this list of facts with one more: no one has a clue what's going on with Ben Affleck. Not a single person inside or outside of production seems to have a handle on what the DCEU's Batman is doing or wants. For all we know, Affleck doesn't know what he wants.
Because of this, we can see a clear lack of Batman himself appearing in the future films, despite Batman's presence being all over the place. That being said, WB will need to push their "B-Tier Characters," like Aquaman and Shazam, into mainstream popularity. They don't really have another choice.
Ben Affleck's drama over the role of Bruce Wayne may be the best thing for the DCEU going forward; it will force producers to use underappreciated and underutilized characters instead of making four films about Batman and Superman in a row. The same thing happened when the MCU couldn't use its A-List characters for years because X-Men and Spider-Man were owned by different companies.
The DCEU's future looks bright, mainly in part because we now know they can succeed off their lesser known characters.