I want to discuss both pieces of info, but let's get the easy part out of the way first. Along with Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Jason Momoa will play Aquaman. Momoa is best known for his role as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, but perhaps also for Stargate Atlantis and the rebooted Conan the Barbarian. His casting tells us a few things, but let's discuss the lineup first, because in combination with the casting announcement, it brings up ideas I want to talk about.
May 2016 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
July 2016 – Shazam
Christmas 2016 – Sandman
May 2017 – Justice League
July 2017 – Wonder Woman
Christmas 2017 – Flash/Green Lantern
May 2018 – Man of Steel 2
Wow. Okay. Let's break this down a bit.
First, the distinction between Batman v Superman and Man of Steel 2—while Batman v Superman has been touted as the sequel to 2013's Man of Steel, clearly that's no longer the case. The Dawn of Justice subtitle seems like the final nail in that coffin. Essentially, the Batman v Superman film will be the first in the core Justice League franchise. It'll probably serve as a spiritual successor to Man of Steel, but it's more and more of a Justice League film as Warners keeps adding heroes.
In addition to the titular heroes (Batman and Superman), Dawn of Justice will feature Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman, if not more. And this is worth noting also—see the lack of a new Batman franchise on the schedule? Superman himself barely makes the cut, bringing up the rear in 2018, but we'll only see the Dark Knight in Dawn of Justice and Justice League. This seems odd for DC's most popular character, who's as close to a sure thing as Warners has in terms of a hit. It's possible they're waiting to see the reception Ben Affleck gets as the Caped Crusader in Dawn of Justice. If he flops, audiences will only have to put up with him in the Justice League series. If he's great, watch them pull out plans for a new Batman trilogy to squeeze into June dates in between the others listed above.
Regardless, our next DC film will be a Justice League prologue, not a Superman sequel. That gets delayed until 2018, five years after the first installment, though with at least two films involving the Man of Steel in between. After Dawn of Justice, we get another Justice Leaguer in Shazam. This one is tricky. Not only have studios been unsuccessfully trying to get this movie off the ground for years, the character himself brings some baggage. The basic gist: young Billy Batson, orphan, is met by a mysterious man on the street and taken to a secret subway tunnel. There sits a futuristic train car which whisks the pair to a mysterious hidden chamber, wherein lies the ancient wizard Shazam. He gives Billy his power to "call the lightning." All he has to do is say the magic word "Shazam," and a lightning strike transforms into the hero Captain Marvel.
Incidentally, the magic word and the hero's name is an acronym. S-H-A-Z-A-M is imbued with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Billy Batson is now a fifteen-year-old foster kid who shares his power with his foster brothers and sisters, creating a "Shazam family" of heroes. That's July 2016 done. We'll see how that one goes. He's not the easiest adaptation, but he has a lot to do with magic in the DC Universe, and that's an important aspect of our fictional comic universes. Marvel is going to be doing the same thing in a few years with their Dr. Strange film, and they've touched upon it in the Thor franchise.
Christmas 2016: Sandman. This one is interesting, because I have little to no doubt it's going to be set outside the continuity of the traditional Justice League films and spinoffs. While there is a hero known as Sandman in the DCU, that's not who this film will be about. Neil Gaiman's landmark series, Sandman—published through DC's erstwhile mature-readers imprint Vertigo—will serve as the basis for this film. The Sandman is Morpheus, one of the seven Endless beings that preside over various aspects of life. In addition to Morpheus, known also as Dream, these include his brothers and sisters Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, and Death. Each one reigns over their namesake to varying degrees.
The Sandman saga is about as far from traditional superhero storytelling as you can get. It's more comparable to mythology: tales of bickering and jealous gods, beings who live, learn, and love like us, but on a grander scale. These are beings who step between realities on a whim and play games with each other that leave lives and worlds in the balance. The Endless aren't human, but they aren't gods, either; they're more than that, though they can live and die and change like people.
Unlike other items on this list, this one has some development news already. David Goyer is producing the film with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who may also direct and/or star. No one knows at this point. Jack Thorne, a BAFTA-winning screenwriter best known for his TV work, will write the script, likely with input from both other parties. Sandman is a property near and dear to many hearts, including Goyer's and Levitt's, so one hopes the movie will honor its source material. There are numerous potential storylines to adapt within Sandman's 75-issue run, but I think that the ones grand enough for film would require the audience to know more about the character than a single movie would provide. Goyer and Levitt both have cited the opening story arc, in which Morpheus escapes an almost century-long mystical imprisonment and must rebuild his realm while he reclaims some important artifacts, as a potential starting point.
Again, I think it is extremely unlikely this film will link to the mainstream DCU films. Maybe it'll reference them, as the Sandman comic occasionally did (as Gaiman put it: "to remind people that this universe is still that universe"), but there is no reason to have them cross over, and Morpheus' power is such that he could take care of literally any danger the Justice League faces in about sixty seconds. We'll see how it develops.
|He can wait.|
(And again I stress how much I want Benedict Cumberbatch in this role.)
In the DC Universe, the Green Lantern Corps is a cosmic police force. Two inhabitants of each space sector, of which there are 3600, are chosen to protect their home sector. They wield power rings that enable them to conjure anything they imagine through sheer willpower. The first published Green Lantern was Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, but he has nothing to do with the “new” GL mythology. His powers come from magic, and he's an unlikely candidate. Then there's Hal Jordan, who WB/DC may use based on recognizability alone, and who would be recast for this film. There's Guy Gardner, a Baltimore cop who was chosen to be Jordan's successor should he ever prove unable to fulfill his duties. He later became a Green Lantern in his own right. There's John Stewart, a former Marine and architect from Detroit who was selected as Jordan's backup after Gardner was severely injured. He too became a full-fledged GL. There's Kyle Rayner, who for a time was the only Green Lantern in the universe, chosen after Hal Jordan went mad with grief and destroyed most of the Green Lantern Corps. Finally and most recently, there's Simon Baz, also of Detroit, who was unjustly blamed and held for an explosion that destroyed an abandoned auto factory. He received a Green Lantern ring when Hal Jordan was trapped in another dimension. Aren't comics fun?
|Of course they are. It's in the title.|
This one is less tricky to call than the Green Lanterns—Barry Allen is almost certainly going to the be choice, despite the fact that a different Barry Allen will be featured on television. Warner Bros. will either be happy about the visibility and awareness boost for the character, or simply won't care that they'll have two versions of the same speedster. It's possible they'll choose Wally West, but depending on what storylines they plan to adapt, Barry Allen makes the most sense. If that's the case, it's likely they'll choose Hal Jordan again as Green Lantern, given his friendship with Barry and the fact his reckless, devil-may-care nature makes an effective foil for the more serious characters in the Justice League. (In the comics, he and Batman have come close to blows several times.)
That said, the choice of Green Lantern could further DC's interesting new advantage over Marvel. Two among the six potential GLs are minorities: John Stewart and Simon Baz. Either of them, powerful characters in their own right, would be worthy additions to the Justice League pantheon. Think about the Avengers for a second: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. Five white dudes and a white woman. (Yeah, yeah, Hulk is green, bear with me.) The individual films have done slightly better with this—although with Idris Elba's Heimdall, Terrence Howard/Don Cheadle's War Machine, and Anthony Mackie's Falcon, the African-American co-hero is becoming almost cliché in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and we'll see a Black Panther movie sometime soon, in addition to the Luke Cage miniseries on Netflix. But the fact remains that DC has the option to create a multicultural Justice League before Marvel's Avengers can summon an adequate response. They already have Israeli-born Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg, a hero DC has made great strides in promoting in recent years. And this is in addition to Jason Momoa, of Hawaiian descent, as Aquaman.
|Aquaman, seen here getting annoyed by machine-gun fire.|
Seriously, Google a picture of the guy. He's a big dude, a massive brawler-type. He's not gonna get pushed around by punks who think he talks to goldfish. At the start of Johns' Aquaman run, he reminded audiences of what the character brings to the table. For one thing, he's stronger than you think. In the deepest parts of the ocean, where Aquaman makes his home, the pressure is equivalent to one person trying to support fifty jumbo jets. It doesn't bother him. He's a telepath: there are some excellent panels in the comics where Aquaman calls massive sharks to tear into his enemies. Because light is practically nonexistent at great depths, and sound travels differently under water, he has enhanced senses. He's not weakened by staying out of the water, since he was raised on land before discovering his heritage. Oh, and that's the other thing: he rules over two-thirds of the Earth's surface. Arthur Curry—Aquaman—is a king. He's royalty in the same way that Wonder Woman is royalty, a princess of the Amazons of Themyscira. I don't know how much of Khal Drogo we'll see in this version of Aquaman, so to speak, but I'm all for a grizzled and regal leader of an undersea race. If WB/DC's intent was to find a tough Aquaman you'd think twice about making fun of, I think they've taken an admirable first step. I sincerely hope they won't make Momoa cut his hair and dye it blonde.
Think on this, too: If this is what WB/DC does with Aquaman, what other changes to our heroes are coming? What other heroes are even going to be in the League? Right now there's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. That's exactly the lineup of DC's rebooted "New 52" Justice League, all seen on the cover of the first issue. With the exception of Cyborg, that's a pretty traditional roster. I'm not sure they're done, though. Seven characters is a lot, but it's likely that when all is said and done, we'll have another name or two on that list. I'm pulling for Black Canary, an expert martial artist with a sonic scream, or longtime Justice Leaguer Martian Manhunter, an alien like Superman and the last living Martian. Or maybe Red Tornado, to match Marvel's upcoming Vision.
Phew. There's a lot of info here to digest, I realize. Chew on it awhile and let us know what you think! How does this lineup of films strike you? Do you like Jason Momoa as Aquaman? Should Aquaman not even be on the team in the first place? Is DC still screwing up, or are they starting to get it right? Leave all thoughts, opinions and snarky remarks about Aquaman in the comments below.