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Let's begin this list on a positive note, the DCEU had great potential. DC Comics has some of the most iconic characters put to print and the MCU was finding its groove causing comic book fans everywhere to wait eagerly for what the DCEU had in store for them.
The hype quickly died down after the release of Man of Steel which was divisive among fans and general audiences alike. This would come to be the theme with each installment of the DCEU with some praising them while others denounced them. But why is the DCEU so divisive?
It features fan favorite supers, had amazing action scenes and had great effects (not counting Henry Cavill's mustache cover-up in Justice League), so what was the problem? I believe it is due to the lack of lead up given to the characters. The DCEU chose to forgo the approach the MCU took and opted to jump into complex storylines with the only character it truly gave an introductory installment to being Superman with Man of Steel.
This proved to be a mistake, one that could've been avoided had DC made a different decision early in the DCEU's development:
'The Dark Knight' trilogy should've been used as the opening act of the DCEU.
Recently, I have been hearing people stating that The Dark Knight trilogy ruined the DCEU. The creators of the theory state that either the trilogy oversaturated the market with DC characters just before the DCEU debuted or the trilogy set the bar high for the DCEU leading to the disappointment it received.
I disagree with the theories and argue the other way, that The Dark Knight trilogy would have saved the DCEU had it been incorporated into it. The DCEU was announced when The Dark Knight Rises was released but DC made it clear that the DCEU would not be set in the same universe and would instead be a reboot of Batman.
Why cast the franchise aside to build from the ground up rather than use it as the foundation to begin the DCEU on? The Dark Knight trilogy was still relevant having concluded as the DCEU was being developed and was a popular franchise. It could easily have been used as the DCEU's Phase One while setting itself apart from the MCU and setting the tone for the entire film universe.
It was completely unnecessary to jettison a successful trilogy instead of building on it or incorporating into the DCEU. I thought at length about how The Dark Knight trilogy could have been used in the DCEU and came up with a way it could've been used while not dominating the new phase of the DCEU:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's 'Nightwing' should've been the first entry into the DCEU and sould've introduced the "Metahuman Aspect"
The first installment in this new DCEU would be Nightwing starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he struggled to adjust to his new role as Gotham's new protector. As he helps rebuild a battered Gotham, Nightwing crosses paths with a disguised Poison Ivy who came to inspect the damage. It is revealed she sees Harley Quinn, a therapist and radical follower of The Joker.
Harley uses Ivy's anger over the detonation of the nuclear device from the end of The Dark Knight Rises to send Poison Ivy into a rampage while she tries to find where The Joker was sent. Nightwing manages to calm Ivy and together they stop Harley before she can find Joker's location. Harley and Ivy are arrested as Nightwing erases the Joker's location from every document to ensure he remains hidden from his remaining followers.
The post credit scene would set up the next entry by having either Michael Caine or Morgan Freeman reprise their role(s) and reveal they began researching other suspected metahumans and came up with several leads. This would lead Nightwing to seek out the other heroes and laying the groundwork for their solo movies.
Each solo movie would begin with Nightwing making contact with the hero before it delves into their origin, and ends with a post credit scene of Nightwing learning of the hero for the next film. This phase would end with a Justice League movie that would cover the events of Man of Steel but with the other heroes involved.
The following phase would introduce more complex plots and new characters while giving characters from The Dark Knight trilogy phase and the Nightwing phase additional screen time. This brings us to my next point:
Cameos/Spin-Offs From Other 'Dark Knight' Trilogy Characters Would've Been Possible
The Dark Knight trilogy gave us amazing on-screen adaptations of Batman characters, most of whom were alive at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. Why leave them behind? I know a few of the actors wanted to move on, but why not allow the DCEU to progress during their absence before approaching them to return?
Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow's fear serum could've been used by Harley to help instigate Poison Ivy's rampage in my theoretical Nightwing or could have been used on Superman to get him to fight Batman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman and Christian Bale's Batman could have been brought out of their exile to help form the Justice League when the world was under attack in my Justice League.
Heath Ledger's Joker would remain retired, to recast his adaptation would not sit right with me and would be daunting for the new actor. Instead I would opt to introduce a different Joker with this new Joker being another of Ledger's Joker's fanatical followers who adopted the persona after the events of The Dark Knight.
Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox, Michael Caine's Alfred, and Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon would appear during the earth-shattering battle between Superman and General Zod. The two crash into Gotham during their fight causing Lucius to alert Nightwing while Gordon follows Superman and Zod and trys to evacuate the affected section of the city.
The other heroes hear reports of the battle and head for Gotham to help while Alfred, fearing Nightwing would need help, calls Bale's Batman and Hathaway's Catwoman for help. This all would've culminated in all the characters coming together to help Superman cast Zod and his followers back into the Phantom Zone.
This would have been an amazing end to the second phase of the DCEU while setting up the next phase with the tease of another big baddy or the introduction of another super.
So there you have it, that is my case as to how the DCEU could've benefited from incorporating The Dark Knight trilogy. Would this have fixed all the problems the DCEU has? No, but it would have given it the lead in it opted to skip but ultimately needed while giving it a consistent story arc to follow.
Let me know what you think and be sure to check out my other articles! I discuss many different topics across various nerdoms so there is bound to be another you will enjoy!