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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

It’s been an interesting 24 hours for fans of the DC Extended Universe, as well for fans of DC characters who aren’t so fond of the DCEU itself. Yesterday, we got the news that Todd Phillips and Martin Scorsese were in talks to develop a Joker origin film. Not only is the film set to be a hard-edged ‘80s crime flick completely separate from the DC Extended Universe.

Furthermore, it would get launched under a yet-to-be-named banner at DC Comics that explored “elseworld”-type stories, where familiar characters would be played by different actors from that of the DCEU. Case in point, this Joker film would not feature Jared Leto as the Clown Prince of Crime. This is great news for those who want to see more creatively fulfilling standalone stories that aren’t bound to a pre-existing world.

But then we got another piece of news. While on the radio show KCRW (last month, admittedly), The Batman director Matt Reeves stated that his film was “not part of the extended universe.” This is a huge bombshell to fans, if we are to take it at face value. Of course, it’s very possible that Reeves simply meant that it would be standalone, kind of like how Wonder Woman was standalone, but it’s different to say a film is a standalone than it is to say that it’s not part of a universe, and Reeves legitimately said it was not a part of the universe.

Doubts aside, let’s assume that somehow Reeves means what he actually said — that his film will be completely separate from the DCEU, kind of like the Joker movie. What does this mean for the DCEU moving forward? Is Warner Bros. planning a slow retreat from this universe that they put so much time into?

Batman v Superman & Suicide Squad

There’s no doubt here. Despite how much I enjoyed both movies, the general consensus among fans and critics was that these two were duds. Yes, they made money, but the narrative surrounding this world is that it was not off to a good start. And this isn’t just us DC-hating. It’s an opinion to say that those movies were bad, but it’s a fact to say that it was not generally well received by most fans and critics.

Following the release of Batman v Superman, fans were hopeful that Suicide Squad would help put things back on track (and based on the strong trailer, we thought it would), but surprisingly enough, it managed to be received even worse than Batman v Superman. This put a lot of pressure on Wonder Woman, which managed to rise to the occasion and be a kickass film.

But one film does not a steady universe make.

Justice League

There have been a lot of doubts going into Justice League. It was originally helmed by the poorly-received Batman v Superman‘s Zack Snyder before he stepped down to spend more time with his family following his daughter’s death. There’s been a lot of drama surrounding this flick. From extensive reshoots and rewrites to hated edits of the film, we’re never lacking in stories surrounding it.

A couple months back, we reported that Warner Bros. is apparently in a holding pattern. Rather than trudge forth with their slate of films, they’re waiting to see how Justice League does, so that they could shape the future of the films accordingly. It was the first real indication of them actually being proactive instead of reactive. While we applaud this, it showed some potential doubt in things going forward.

Given that Zack Snyder had already shot the film, and they only had a few months to send Joss Whedon away and bring back a better movie, they may be planning for the worst. But that’s not the only side to this coin.

Ben Affleck

Coupled with the Justice League drama, you have Ben Affleck. He signed on to play the Caped Crusader some time ago, and given his rise back to the top of Hollywood following his mid-2000s decline, it seemed like a solid move. However, between the critical panning of Batman v Superman (despite his performance getting high praise), the flop of his directorial effort later that year Live by Night, and problems in his personal life, he understandably distanced himself more from The Batman as he seemed to see its potential to fail.

He stepped down as director after months of waffling, and fans are waiting to see if he’ll be stepping down from the project altogether. This news of The Batman not being in the DCEU doesn’t help.

The Culmination

So if we look at the negative reception of most DCEU films, the potential critical bashing of Justice League, and the potential loss of one of their main stars in Ben Affleck, it becomes understandable that Warner Bros. may be looking for an escape hatch.

Now, let me clear here. Yes, it’s very possible for a DCEU and “elseworld” universe to exist at the same time. I prefer that over them nixing the DCEU altogether. That being said, with the doubt looming on multiple fronts, they could be giving themselves a way to salvage things down the line, should things not pan out. Should Justice League flop, they can always turn a lot of the movies on their slate into “elseworld” tales. Of course, with characters like Wonder Woman and Aquaman, they could still keep things going, but in betting against Justice League succeeding, they open up their options for future success. As a sidenote, all of a sudden, a Shazam and Black Adam film don’t seem so crazy, as they could exist in its own world.

Similarly, this could be a smokescreen for Affleck stepping down as Batman. Justice League could end, DC could focus on other characters, and all of a sudden, this news of Affleck not returning becomes part of the plan because director Matt Reeves had his own vision. It’s the perfect way to transition him out of things, and seriously paves the way for Nightwing, Batgirl, and the rest.

But this is just a tin foil hat theory. What do you think? Are all these moves from Warner Bros. a way for them to rebound from a failed Justice League and Affleck stepping down as Batman? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.