Warner Bros’ Original Plan: The Dark Knight Trilogy as the Launchpad for the Shared DC Universe

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The trend of studios endeavoring to create their own shared cinematic universes, propelled by the immense success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is palpable in Hollywood. From the failed Dark Universe to the attempts within the Transformers universe, many studios aimed to replicate the box-office triumphs enjoyed by Marvel Studios.

However, Warner Bros., equipped with its extensive roster of superheroes and supervillains from the DC Comics universe, presented a unique and significant competitor to Disney’s MCU dominance. The launch of their shared universe, officially known as the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), commenced with Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” in 2013. While the DCEU has received mixed critical reception, it has proven to be a consistent moneymaker for Warner Bros.

Interestingly, it was revealed in an interview with David S. Goyer, a key figure in crafting Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” that Warner Bros. initially intended to integrate Nolan’s Batman universe into their shared superhero universe much earlier. Goyer, when asked about Zack Snyder’s recent comments on plans to establish “Man of Steel” within the Snyder-Verse, clarified that there was no deliberate crossover discussion between the teams behind Nolan’s Batman and the creation of the DCEU.

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Goyer highlighted Christopher Nolan’s desire to maintain “The Dark Knight Trilogy” as a distinct entity, separate from the broader DC expanded universe that the studio envisioned. Despite Nolan’s producer role in “Man of Steel,” there was no intentional effort to interconnect the two narratives. Goyer hinted that it might be conceivable to retroactively link them but stressed that during the making of “Man of Steel,” there was no such collaboration.

It’s unsurprising that Warner Bros. contemplated utilizing Nolan’s successful iteration of Batman to launch their shared superhero universe. “The Dark Knight Trilogy” was an enormous financial triumph, grossing $2.5 billion worldwide across all three films. Nolan’s darker portrayal of Batman resonated profoundly with audiences, critics, and even awards ceremonies, solidifying its cultural impact and widespread acclaim.

At the time, Warner Bros. likely monitored Disney’s growing success. Marvel Studios was ascending, with “The Avengers” hitting theaters around the same period as Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” While Nolan’s trilogy concluded with “The Dark Knight Rises,” Marvel Studios was positioned for a continuing, seemingly endless journey, leading to a potentially envy-inducing situation for Warner Bros. witnessing the burgeoning success of Disney’s rapidly expanding and lucrative franchise.