How ‘The Batman Part II,’ ‘Joker: Folie Á Deux’ and Other Upcoming DC Movies Fit Into the New DCU

DC Co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran explain how they’re going to create a unified universe

The Batman 2022
The Batman (Warner Bros.)

We now know what DC Studios co-CEO and chairmen James Gunn and Peter Safran are cooking up for your favorite DC Comics characters, including such stalwarts as Superman, Swamp Thing and Batman and Robin. But as many answers as the announcements provided, there were just as many questions. Chief among them: what will happen to the movies that were already in various states of development at Warner Bros. when Gunn and Safran were hired? And how will they fit into the highly serialized, unified new DC Universe?

Well, TheWrap was invited to a presentation with Gunn and Safran along with a small group of reporters, where they detailed not only where their projects will be headed but also what will become of what has already been shot.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Fairly early on Gunn addressed the four movies that are currently in various states of post-production – “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (out March 17); “The Flash” (out June 16); “Blue Beetle” (August 18); and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (Christmas Day) – movies that will all debut before Gunn and Safran’s new slate.

“We will say that we’ve gotten very lucky with the next four projects. ‘Shazam 2’ is coming out. ‘Shazam’ is kind of off to itself. But then ‘Shazam’ leads into ‘Flash’ and ‘The Flash’ resets everything. I will say here that ‘The Flash’ is probably one of the greatest superhero movies ever made,” Gunn explained. “It’s an amazing film and then it goes into ‘Blue Beetle,’ which is awesome. That has its own world and that fits directly into our DCU which goes into ‘Aquaman’ which will then lead into ‘Superman’ and the other projects that we’ll talk about in a moment.”

“These four movies are terrific. There’s no reason why any of the characters and the actors playing those characters are not part of the DCU. There’s nothing that prohibits that from happening,” Safran added.

“Once we get to those first projects that we have, then everything will be consistent going forward,” Gunn said.

That’s right – there could still be sequels to already-made DC movies and further appearances by actors as characters who are already established within the continuity. Hence why Jason Momoa was so thrilled after his chat with Gunn.

“There is no reason why all the people you mentioned couldn’t be part of the DC,” Safran said. “We just haven’t decided what the story that we want to tell that incorporates Shazam or Aquaman.” Safran casually mentioned that Jason Momoa, who stars as Aquaman, “always saw Aquaman as a trilogy in his mind.” (As to the rumors of Momoa playing Lobo in the new DC Universe, Gunn shot that down: “We’re not going to have an actor playing two different roles. That’s not going to happen.”)

And, yes, a continuation of “The Flash” is very much a possibility, even though star Ezra Miller’s erratic, abusive behavior has been so severe that most fear that it could have jeopardized the movie’s release.

“Ezra is completely committed to their recovery. And we are fully supportive of that journey that they’re on right now,” Safran said. “When the time is right, when they feel like they’re ready to have the discussion, we’ll all figure out what the best path forward is. But right now, they are completely focused on their recovery and in making enormous progress.”

There was no “Flash” component to the initial DCU story arc Safran and Gunn laid out.

Welcome to Elseworlds

But even if “The Flash” or “Aquaman” were to continue, they would likely be relegated to a different universe, or something that Safran and Gunn referred to as DC Elseworlds.

“The DCU, as we can see it, is a multiverse. But we’re going to be focusing on one universe within that multiverse. We’ll incorporate, as I said, some of the actors and characters from the past but mostly we’re going to cast new,” Safran explained. “Now if something is not DCU – if it’s blatantly adult like Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’ or Matt Reeves’ ‘Batman’ or ‘Teen Titans Go,’ those properties we’re going to label clearly as DC Elseworlds just like the comics do. We’re going to be very clear. The bar is going to be very high for projects that are going to be outside the DCU, the Elseworlds projects, but every now and again, there’ll be something that lives up to that. And we’ll make that film or television series.”

That’s interesting for a couple of reasons – one, that they actually have a plan and a branding strategy for these movies that exist without the mainline continuity. There was no real presentation for what Matt Reeves’ brilliant “The Batman” was, just that Robert Pattinson was playing the character and it took place during his second year of what he referred to as “The Gotham Project.” Ben Affleck, to most moviegoers, is still the Batman (and he will be again, too, appearing in several more projects before his tenure is through). But so is Pattinson. It’s a lot.

Now we know that “The Batman” (and 2025’s “The Batman: Part II”) as well as Todd Phillips’ upcoming “Joker” sequel “Joker: Folie à Deux” (out October 2024) will be a part of this DC Elseworlds project. When the first “Joker” was released, it was meant to be part of a new line of movies labeled DC Black. That branding never caught on.

It’s also interesting that “Teen Titans GO!” were mentioned; could there be a theatrical sequel to 2018’s “Teen Titans GO! To the Movies?” It’s also very funny to think that a potential sequel would be a part of the same universe as “Joker” and the Reeves’ pitch-black “The Batman.”

Odds and Ends

As with most things related to DC, the introduction of both the mainline DC Universe titles and the DC Elseworlds spinoffs does invite some speculation, along with a fair amount of confusion.

When asked if Sasha Calle, who was cast as Supergirl in “The Flash,” would reprise the role in the upcoming film that was just announced, “Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow,” Gunn and Safran admitted that they hadn’t gotten that far.

“We’re figuring it all out. We don’t know yet,” Gunn said. “We’re pretty far away from ‘Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, other than knowing that Tim King’s books are the basis of the story.” King is part of the writers room that Gunn and Safran have assembled.

Another big question mark for Gunn and Safran surrounded, like one of the Riddler’s devious clues, the so-called Black Superman project that was being developed by producer J.J. Abrams and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Gunn and Safran said that the project was still in development, which was honestly a shock given how little we’d heard about the project and how touch-and-go Abrams’ relationship seemed to be with both Warner Bros. and DC leadership.

At one point Abrams was meant to oversee the entire “magical” side of the DC Universe, with projects in development that were centered around “Constantine,” “Justice League Dark” and “Madame Xanadu,” among others. Most of those projects have gone away, but apparently the Black Superman project is still being tinkered with, as Gunn and Safran said Coates is still working on the script.

But speaking of “Constantine,” it was revealed in September that Keanu Reeves would be back to play the supernatural investigator for original director Francis Lawrence, with Akiva Goldsman writing the screenplay. The idea was to push the horror and violence further and to secure an R rating.

The “Constantine” sequel project was not mentioned by Safran or Gunn during the presentation and neither were the satellite of projects based on Reeves’ Gotham City from “The Batman,” like the Colin Farrell-led HBO Max series about the Penguin or a host of projects built around other villains including, potentially, a “Clayface” project from “The Haunting of Hill House” mastermind Mike Flanagan.

Crossover Ahoy?

If Safran and Gunn see the DC Universe as a multiverse and Elseworlds a part of that multiverse, does that mean that the characters from the Elseweorlds movies and the mainline movies ever interact or crossover? They didn’t say anything specific and only detailed the first few years of movies under their tenure but it stands to reason that, when it comes to this new DC Universe, anything is possible.