Beyond Batman Beyond
A Thoroughly Exhausting Look at DCEU Canceled Projects
With the end of the DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. eminent (only Shazam: Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to go before the old guard is ushered out), we figured it was time to look at all the movies and shows that we could have gotten and didn't. There's a graveyard full of ideas that, due to DC's own negligence if doing the proper groundwork for their shared universe, we'll likely never get to see.
Naturally we can't start this without first looking at the film that was the closest to release, Batgirl. Written by Christina Hodson (who also wrote Birds of Prey) and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (who also directed Bad Boys for Life), this was supposed to be a made-for HBOThe oldest and longer-running cable subscription service, HBO provides entertainment in the force of licensed movies along with a huge slate of original programming, giving it the luster of the premiere cable service. and was in final post-production when it was yanked by incoming slaughterhouse manager David Zazlav. Deeming the film "unreleasable" due to the fact that it had made-for-TV production values (which, duh), the film was put in a can and shoved in a dark basement, never to see the light of day.
This actually wasn't the first attempt to get a Batgirl film off the ground, either. Before Hodson wrote her script, Joss Whedon was brought in to write and direct his own take on the character. From reports, his ideas were... not great. Whatever the case, this came after his bungled job on Justice League, and around the time all those stories about him were coming out, and he stepped away to go do other stuff. That's probably for the best, even if the next iteration also didn't come out. Man, Barbara Gordon doesn't have any luck.
The Batman starring Ben Affleck
After taking on the role of BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen., Mr. Affleck was also hired to write and direct his own The Batman film. His script was eventually rejected by DC and Warner Bros. and after a lot of back and forth and "creative differences", Affleck stepped away. This established the period where Affleck didn't want to be Batman, and then did, and then didn't again, which went on for a while. Eventually The Batman became a different thing (this movie) and Affleck's dreams of being his own Batman were truly dead.
This feels like a film that was doomed from the beginning. No one liked Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was Affleck's debut as the character. Batman then got retooled heavily for Justice League, and in between it's pretty clear that the vision Affleck had for his character wasn't what the WB wanted. But then no one really knows what the WB wanted except for the DCEU to magically print money the same way the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. could, and they botched that from its conception. Oops. Gotta feel bad for old Affleck, though. He tried.
We don't put a lot of stock in this one ever really happening. Reportedly it would follow Michael Keaton's Batman (returning in The Flash) training the next generation of Batman to fill the role. While a cool idea, this is a film (in one form or another) that has been bouncing around DC's production studios practically since Batman Beyond (the show) debuted in 1999. You will note we haven't gotten a theatrical Batman Beyond film in all that time, and that should tell you something.
The current DC Studios plan won't focus on Keaton's Batman, instead trying to get the current continuity in order, and I think that's a much better idea. While I like Keaton as Batman this felt like one narrative thread too far.
Black Adam 2
Does a canceled project count if only one person wanted it? Most lists of "canceled projects" say "yes" and put Black Adam 2 on their lists, but frankly the only person that said "this is happening" was Dwayne "I'm Black Adam" Johnson, and he was clearly high on his own supply. The studio never said this film was getting made, but you can't stop The Rock from saying whatever he wants about whatever project he's on. He tried to sell everything as if it's the best thing since sliced bread, and as an actor that's his job, so credit there. Still, saying a sequel was happening at any point up to, or after, the film was released was clearly premature.
Don't get me wrong, Black Adam was fine. It was an enjoyable but mediocre film but in fairness to DC, Marvel has had their fair share of those, too. It's just that the MCU can lift all its ships, even the mediocre ones, and DC just hasn't gotten there yet with their shared universe (and they maybe never will).
Crisis on Infinite Earths
A Crisis film was apparently bandied about, both because it would suck audiences in and could serve as a way to reboot the continuity. Instead we're getting a version of Flashpoint in the new Flash film, which will serve to reboot continuity a different way. Plus, the management that wanted to do a "Crisis" left, with Gunn and Safran taking over, and that means we don't have to have a real "Crisis" just yet.
Pity should be given to Ray Fisher who signed on to be featured in not just Justice League, which tanked, but also a Cyborg solo film, which clearly never happened. And he had to put up with Joss Whedon when the director took over on Justice League from Zack Snyder. Whedon was, reportedly, a real dick on set, especially to Fisher and Gal Gadot, so Fisher not only had to eat shit but also then didn't get his big movie after. That's just a whole truckload of manure.
Frankly, a good Cyborg film would be nice to see. A solid exploration of his character, from creation to ascension as a hero, would be a cool new twist for the superhero formula. Maybe one day we'll get one, but not starring Fisher, that's for sure.
Spinning out of a cameo the character made at the end of Justice League (talk about putting the cart before the horse), we were supposed to get a Deathstroke film. But, as with most films attached to Justice League, that film acted like an anchor on anything that wasn't already well into pre-production. Say goodbye to DC's famous merc on the big screen.
The film would have starred Joe Manganiello, who frankly seems perfect for the role, and had director Gareth Evans (of The Raid: Redemption) attached, so you know the action would have been great. Frankly, this seemed like a good mix of people for a film that just wasn't meant to be. That will be a recurring theme here, for sure.
Did you know that the 2011 Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds was supposed to be the start of a DC cinematic universe? It was... right up until that film bombed and then it was swept under a rug, along with Reynolds' pride about the film, and any potential sequels. Had the film been good it could have launched the whole universe two years before Man of Steel which, yes, does still feel a little late to the MCU party. DC's best laid plans seemed doomed to failure.
Harley Quinn, Harley Quinn vs. The Joker, and also The Joker
If there was any breakout star of the DCEU it was Margot Robbie's Harley QuinnCreated to serve as "Joker's Girlfriend" as well as his primary minion for Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn quickly grew to be one of the most popular characters of that show, eventually finding a solid life beyond the cartoon in comics, movies, and media.. Although critics hated Suicide Squad, it was a commercial success, making $748 Mil against a $175 Mil budget. That's a good return on investment, and many people thought it was the pairing of Will Smith's Deadshot and Robbie's Harley that did the trick. Since Robbie wanted to return as the character (and Smith was on the fence with Deadshot), a series of films were planned for her. A solo adventure was on the table at one point alongside this "versus" film that would have seen Harley taking on the Joker for... reasons. No explanation of the story was given although a script had been completed, apparently.
So what happened? Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Her name was right in the title, it was her film (basically) and when Birds of Prey tanked at the Box Office (making only $205 Mil against a upwards of $100 Mil production budget), that basically sank any other projects for Ms. Quinn. Which is sad because Robbie is fantastic as the character.
Well, and I guess we need to pu9t some blame on Jared Leto's Joker in Suicide Squad. Everyone absolutely hated his version of the character. Bringing him back in his own sequel opposite Robbie, no matter how great she is (and she is fantastic in the role) would have seemed like cinematic suicide. Ditching him was the right call even if it sank Harley's next film. it also tanked his own solo film, of course, but then that morphed into Joker and... well, actually, I hated that, too.
Robbie was great in the later >The Suicide Squad though, and maybe, if Gunn makes good on his promise to keep playing with his Suicide Squad toys, Robbie can return, in some capacity, again. Just not against the Joker. We can only hope.
Justice League 2
For obvious reasons this didn't happen. The first film tanked, WB and DC then decided to focus more on solo adventures and maybe wait a long, long time (i.e. never) to do another team up film. Talks about a potential Justice League Dark, at one point spearheaded by Guillermo Del Toro, also fell apart. As far as the DCEU was concerned, the Justice LeagueThe premiere team at DC Comics, their version of the Avengers (which actually came before the Avengers and, really, has existed in some fomr since the early 1940s), the Justice League is the team-up to end all team-ups, featuring some of the most popular, and longest running, characters in all of comics history (and also Booster Gold). were not going to happen again.
Of note, the continuity established in Zack Snyder's Justice League does show us where this series would have gone. Darkseid would have returned in one sequel, Superman would have gone bad, we would have had the Earth on the brink of destruction, and the last few surviving heroes and villains would have had to team up together to try and win. It's a very Earth 2 story that could have led to a reboot, as often happens in DC storylines. We were spared that, and a lot of other drama, with all of these hitting the waste bin.
Krypton and Man of Steel 2
Yes, a "Superman without Superman" prequel did happen, and it was called Krypton (season one and season two). Despite plans to the contrary, the series was unrelated to the DECU, even though the production team tried to cast an actor for Seg-El, grandfather of Superman, who could look like a "young Henry Cavill". It was truly supposed to be a prequel... right up until it wasn't.
Meanwhile, the lack of success for Justice League, right after the mediocre critical reception for Batman v Superman (coming after critical complaints about Man of Steel) essentially killed any desire within the studio to make a Man of Steel 2. Cavill at one point wanted to (especially after Black Adam) which, man, that's yet another strike against Cavill's Superman. DC wanted nothing to do with the character at that point, and the upcoming Superman: Legacy, will feature a new actor in the role with a story unrelated to the previous Man of Steel continuity.
At one point DC really was in deep on their expanded setting, wanting to do movies for any random thing that came to them. One of those was exploring the greater war between Darkseid (of Apokolips) and the New Gods of New Genesis. Of course, as we've said before, the failure of Justice League to reap the kinds of money DC wanted meant that any and all plans for projects related to that film (such as going out and exploring the coming war with Darkseid that would, presumably, have happened in those Justice League sequels we didn't get. Those films dying killed this as well, and... I don't know that anything of value was really lost.
The Trench and Black Manta
In fairness, Aquaman was a fun, dumb movie that did very well at the Box Office: $1.14 Bil against a probable $200 Mil budget. Those are the kinds of numbers that makes DC Studios seem like a real contender for Marvel's crown. It makes sense to green-light a sequel, sure. But a spin-off exploring the monsters we see for only a few minutes in the film, the deep dwellers of the Mariana Trench, that felt like a stretch. It would have a been a horror film, set in the DCEU, at a time when DC was trying to make their cinematic universe brighter and happier. That alone made it seem like a failed idea, beyond the fact that none of the monsters really had personalities. They were basically fish zombies. We didn't need a film about this.
Apparently some of those ideas then were dumped and reformatted (or maybe it was a working title all along), and out came Black Manta, a film about Aquaman's greatest rival (after Ocean Mater and the Great Pacific Trash Island). Only issue there was that Black Manta was the least interesting part of Aquaman. If they wanted him to have his own movie he would have needed a lot more fleshing out first before that happened. Whatever the case, a film that was supposed to come before Aquaman and the lost Kingdom didn't happen at all, and likely never will at this point. Although if the Aquaman sequel is successful enough to keep Jason Mamoa in the role, who knows.
The Wonder Twins
No. Just no. No one wanted this, this was a bad idea from the beginning, and as much as we like to shit on Zazlav for everything he's done, kicking The Wonder Twins to the curb was the one legitimately good things he's done in his life. We should all be glad this will never, ever happen.
Wonder Woman 3
And finally, we have the sequel to Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 that is no doomed to never happen. The first Wonder Woman film is great (except for a mediocre third act), but sequel '84 was not, and that sequel did enough damage to make WB reconsider any further films in the series from director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot.
It's impressive how much Wonder Woman 1984 tanked Jenkins's aspirations. Before the film came out she was signed on to do a third Wonder Woman film as well as a Rogue Squadron movie over at Disney. Now, though, both of those are scrapped and who knows what her next big move will be. She has a comedy with Chris Pine and Danny Devito in the works, The Poolman, so maybe that helps her reboot her career. With the right script she really is a solid director.
Meanwhile, 1984 also killed Gadot's turn as Wonder WomanLong considered the third pillar of the DC Comics "Trinity", Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes ever created. Running for as long as Batman or Superman (and without breaks despite a comic downturn in the 60s that killed superhero comics for about a decade), Wondie has the honor to be one of the longest serving, and most prolific, superheroes ever.. We already know that both Superman and Batman are being pushed in "new directions", as per Gunn and Safran, and one has to assume that Wondie will meet the same fate. There's already a Wonder Woman-adjacent project in production, Paradise Lost, and if I were a betting man I'd put money down that a new version of Wonder Woman will spin out of that as well. We shall see on that front soon enough.
Whatever the case, Wonder Woman 1984 was a big enough fiasco that forced Warners and DC to once again figure out what the hell they were doing. They've been flailing ever since.
The funny thing is that these are just the projects we can confirm were canceled. There are others that are still up in the air, announced as in some form of production but not confirmed yet to be canceled. Gotham City Sirens, starring Robbie's Harley Quinn alongside Jurnee Smollett-Bell's Black Canary from Birds of Prey and an as-yet uncast Poison Ivy, would seem to be on the skids due to, well, everything. But we can't confirm that. Nor can we say if the related Black Canary film is also completely dumped. Our bet is both of these will be ditched and new versions will, at some point, wander along.
There was supposedly a Deadshot film in the works, and with Gunn holding on to some Suicide Squad continuity, maybe that could happen. Smith was apparently still interested in the role, but then he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars and his career has been in a tailspin. Who knows if hell ever be invited back to the role, or if DC is even interested in making that film now. Our bet is no.
If The Flash is successful, will it get a sequel? Well, it would have to be really successful, we'd say, like billion-dollar range. And Ezra Miller would have to do the most fantastic apology tour and keep his nose clean for the next three years. All of that is super unlikely to happen, altogether, but maybe it could happen and we'd bet some boss higher up in DC Studios then tells Gunn and Safran, "make the sequel happen."
Somehow someone wanted to make an Hourman film. This was actually green-lit. We don't see it occurring. The same goes for The Metal Men, Plastic Man, and Zatanna. And while we like Static Shock, we doubt that his movie is going to happen either. Not all of these heroes are super obscure, at least not to comic readers, but we doubt the general public knows or cares about any of them. DC doesn't have the clout (yet) to put their logo on a project and expect people to show up (they might expect it but it won't just happen). Before you can launch any of these characters you gotta put the work in first, DC. So expect all of these to sit in development hell for years.
Apparently Gunn and Safran want to do a Lobo film with Jason Mamoa, contingent upon Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom not making all the money ever. They have stated the actor won't play two roles in the same universe. Likely that means Lobo happens if the fish man's sequel doesn't print money left and right. And with the new Superman: Legacy film they're working on, tying Lobo in makes sense. And, of course, Mamoa is the right man for that role. If any film on this list had a chance, it's this one.
And by that token, we'd give even money on Nightwing coming out after the Batman flick The Brave and the Bold happens. That movie will feature Bruce and his son, Damien, acting as Batman and Robin, and one would assume that Dick Greyson would be somewhere around in the (no pun intended) wings. If DC's plans pay out, Nightwing has to be just around the corner.