Let’s Keep Batman Out of the New DCU

Last Updated on December 13, 2022 by Lil Ginge

There’s been more drama lately at Warner Bros. Discovery’s film offices than there has been on their movie screens. Currently, DC Films co-chairs James Gunn and Peter Safran are hard at work on a new 10-year plan for the future of DC. And it seems to mean that much of the previous DCEU will be getting the ax.

An impressionistic image of Batman closeup from his chest insignia up.
Let’s keep Batman his own thing, okay?

Meanwhile, there are questions about how exactly Matt Reeves’ Batman franchise and other previously existing DC properties will fit into this new DCU. Or if DC will keep them completely separate. 

In my opinion, DC Films should keep all Batman-related stories completely separate from the new DCU.

By doing so, Matt Reeves, Todd Phillips, and perhaps others can continue to tell stories about DC’s most popular film character completely separate from everything else going on with DC. Meanwhile, Justice League, Superman, and other DC properties can maintain their own stories without Batman. And they can grow into their own quite independently of anything happening with Batman. Here’s why.

The DCEU Batman Was Mostly A Failure

The problems with DC mostly started with Zack Snyder’s epic film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After Snyder rebooted the Superman character in Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice was supposed to launch the start of a DC shared universe. This “DCEU” was meant to rival what Disney had created with their historically successful MCU and its Avengers films.

It, alas did not.

For starters, Batman v Superman was a stunning critical failure. The film has a mere 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metascore of just 44% on Metacritic. Though the movie has its partisans across the more general fanbase, critics on the whole mostly hated the film.

The film also had tremendously high stakes for Warner Bros. And box office expectations were equally high from the studio. While it is unknown how much money the studio expected the film to make, many think that the film’s failure to earn a billion dollars worldwide was a significant disappointment.

Justice League, a movie from which Warner Bros. ultimately fired Zack Snyder and hired Joss Whedon to finish, performed even worse. Though Justice League has a higher 37% RT score and a basically equal 45% Metascore, the film grossed merely $229 million domestically and a sad $657 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, the next year, Avengers: Infinity War grossed $678 domestically and a whopping $2 billion worldwide. Critically the Avengers film has an 85% tomato score and a 68 on Metacritic. The success of the MCU compared with the relative failure of the DCEU is rather blatant here.

Batman and the New DCU

Meanwhile, sources have also told the trades, including Variety, that independent Batman properties like Matt Reeves’s Batman franchise and Todd Phillips’s Joker sequel will continue on as planned. That means that the development of The Batman 2 and the production of Joker 2 will continue. But, they will be completely separate and independent of the rest of the future of the DCU.

By now, mainstream audiences are getting used to the concept of multiple Batmen running around DC Films at the same time. After all, the MCU introduced its conception of a multiverse and had all three major Spider-Man actors appear together in one film. Why couldn’t the new DCU have Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson all playing Batman simultaneously in separate but potentially overlapping films?

But this is precisely the scenario I am arguing against. In fact, I think DC Films should keep Batman out of the new DCU altogether. For a few reasons.

Batman and Joker Already Have Separate, Independent & Successful Worlds

Currently, Reeves’s The Batman and Phillips Joker have nothing to do with the rest of the DCU. They are their own separate Batman-centric worlds. They do not even cross over with each other. And that’s how it should be.

Audiences got used to the notion of a multiverse with the MCU. So, there’s no reason simultaneous – but separate – Reeves and Phillips incarnations of the Bat-verse would confuse a general audience.

While there is a possible world where the two franchises could have overlapped, it’s not the vision that Phillips or Reeves have. Let these talented and successful filmmakers tell the stories they want to tell without interference from Gunn or other WB brass.

Batman Almost Always Works Better Alone

So far, we’ve seen two highly successful versions of Batman in film starting with Batman in 1989: the Burton-Schumacher world and the Christopher Nolanverse. In both versions, nary a non-bat-related superhero is seen (though Clooney tells a Superman joke).

I think, and I’m not alone, that part of the success is due to the fact that Batman stories work better without Greek-God-like superheroes showing up in Gotham. It keeps the stories far more realistic and relatively grounded. And it showcases why Batman has always been such a special and unique superhero.

Let’s keep it that way. A new DCU Justice League doesn’t need Batman any more than the Avengers franchise truly needed Spider-Man. Spider-Man didn’t even appear in the first few Avengers films. The MCU did all the heavy lifting with Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America. Let the DCU do the same with Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc.

Ben Affleck’s Batman and the Justice League

Part of the failure of Dawn of Justice and Justice League was the icy reception by audiences of Ben Affleck’s ultra-violent and rage-driven Batman. While I don’t think such an interpretation of Batman is at all out of bounds, the fact that general audiences received it poorly contributed greatly to the failure of those films.

A great solution to the problem of how to make Batman work well with the DCU is simply to keep him out of the DCU. Let him have his own films. And his own universe. Or multiple universes. I’m not really suggesting any other limits.

While I always reserve the right to change my mind, I presently think DC’s best course of action is to:

  1. Allow Matt Reeves Batman to continue independently
  2. Allow Todd Phillips Joker to continue independently,
  3. Hard reboot the DCU and recast every single character
  4. Keep Batman out of the new DCU completely

This might not solve all of DC Films’ storytelling and box office issues. But I believe it will go a long way to solving a large part of them.

If you enjoyed this article on Batman and the DCU, check out my article on 5 Characters We’d Like To See in The Batman 2

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