Since Justice League and the departure of Zack Snyder, the impression has been Warner Bros. is moving on from the idea of a shared universe. There are continued rumblings about this development but it finally comes down as an edict from the top.
Warner Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara talked to the LA Times about the studio’s post-Aquaman slate. He mentions its purpose is righting the ship and stresses films going forward will be standalone, focusing on individual characters in their own context.
“The upcoming slate, with Shazam, Joker, Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey, feels like we’re on the right track. We have the right people in the right jobs working on it. The universe isn’t as connected as we thought it was going to be five years ago. You’re seeing much more focus on individual experiences around individual characters. That’s not to say we won’t at some point come back to that notion of a more connected universe. But it feels like that’s the right strategy for us right now.”
Tsujihara’s words echo sentiments of other WB brass, Toby Emmerich, who also stated a connected universe is not in the cards presently. Emmerich is also of the mindset the right people need to be on the right projects specifically with their directors — Shazam! with David Sandberg, Aquaman in the hands of James Wan, Patty Jenkins handling Wonder Woman, etc.
Jenkins and Wonder Woman, in particular, was what first proved they didn’t need to rely on Batman or Superman so much. Tsujihara expanded on that too.
“What Patty Jenkins did on Wonder Woman illustrated to us what you could do with these characters who are not Batman and Superman. Obviously, we want to get those two in the right place, and we want strong movies around Batman and Superman. But Aquaman is a perfect example of what we can do. They’re each unique and the tone’s different in each movie.”
With such a deep pool of characters, it’s almost an outrage Warner has taken so long to realize what they can do with DC, and that characters don’t have to be dark tonally. Each character has discrete needs and appeal; a Green Lantern movie doesn’t have to look like a Superman movie (which shouldn’t be like a Batman movie).
Though they’ve turned a corner, not interlinking the universe really means no Justice League. Extended Universe continuity will still affect Shazam! and Wonder Woman 1984. Furthermore, we are still getting The Batman and possibly Man of Steel 2. So they will take the time even in this new era to, in their words, get those right — whether that’s needed or not.
And the new mandate isn’t extending to the animated realm just yet. Warner Animation still prefers to tell Batman stories and is continuing that trend with its adaptations of HUSH and Long Halloween.