Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has begun to establish its own version of the sprawling DC universe — dubbed the DC Extended Universe or DCEU — and fans are understandably excited to see how this experiment will come to fruition. We saw glimpses of a bigger world and more characters in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but there was always one aspect of the films that some fans took umbrage with: the decision to not include Grant Gustin’s version of The Flash in the DCEU. The Flash has garnered tons of praise from fans and casual viewers, and denying such a popular incarnation of the character a place in the cinematic pantheon felt like a serious slight.
But is it? Warner Bros has gone on record saying that they are committed to the idea of the Multiverse — a reality where countless alternate Earths and alternate versions of characters exist. At first, this sounds like an easy way out of any potential criticisms, but if WB/DC actually is committed to the idea of a Multiverse, what could that possibly mean?
Part of the joy of alternate realities is seeing characters we love meet up with bizarre doppelgangers of themselves. To once again mention The Flash — possibly the property that has best exemplified why the DC canon is so great — seeing Barry Allen meet and even impersonate his Earth-2 counterpart was a highlight of the show’s run. What’s stopping Warner Bros from eventually pulling a similar gag, but on a much grander scale?
Marvel has made a point to keep their cinematic universe tightly knit, connecting all of their television projects to their main movie series when it comes to continuity. DC has taken a much more scattered route. Currently, there are five live-action shows on television that are based on DC characters: The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Gotham. Three of those (Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow) are on The CW while the other two are on CBS (Supergirl) and Fox (Gotham). Though there are certainly some legal hoops that would have to be jumped through, it’s not impossible to see these disparate entities make their way to the big screen in some fashion.
Just think of seeing two Flashes onscreen teaming up to stop some gargantuan threat, or having Supergirl swoop in to save her cousin from another reality. Fans love to see different versions and takes on these characters, and not drawing upon the vast playfield DC has at their hands would seem to be a huge opportunity to let slide.
I’ve long maintained that Marvel has been building up to Thanos in order to present this kind of scenario: a continuity that acknowledges the existence of infinite possible Earths and infinite iterations of these beloved characters. This way, the filmmakers can posit new takes on characters outside of a rigid continuity, allowing for more freedom of interpretation and riskier kinds of stories. It would also allow a better in-universe reason for recasting. For example, when Robert Downey Jr. finally ends his run as Iron Man, a new Iron Man from Earth-237 can appear to take on the role. This could apply to DC as well. In fact, it may even be a way for them to course correct on some big issues that fans have found with the Zack Snyder versions of certain characters.
At the end of the day, the potential of the DCEU truly embracing the Multiverse means the chance to legitimize every incarnation of every character that their universe has ever produced. Imagine a scene where Batman is traveling through the Multiversal Nexus and catching glimpses of all the different cinematic versions of Batman that have existed over time. Again, The Flash did exactly that when Barry traveled to Earth-2 and caught a glimpse of the ’90s television version of himself. Heck, he even visited Supergirl over on another network/realm of existence and that was an enormous success when it came to the appreciation fans felt. We love seeing these characters together and relishing in the wackiness the concept of the Multiverse allows for.
It’s clear that the tone set by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has stirred up a strong skepticism when it comes to how the DCEU will grow moving forward. If WB/DC is smart, they’ll listen to fans and figure out what it is they want from these kinds of stories. For this fan, I want DC to fully accept the over-the-top aspects of these characters (the outright goofy parts of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are the best things in the film) and dive into the zanier concepts such characters provide. The most obvious direction to pursue is figuring out how to take advantage of the Multiverse and the massive opportunities it provides. If they can achieve that, then we’ll all be in for something special.
And I just really want to see lots and lots of Flashes on the big screen.