DC Officially Brings Back the Justice League After Scrapping ‘Aquaman 2’ Release Date

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Amber Heard as Mera (L) and Jason Momoa as Aquaman (R) in 'Aquaman'

Credit: DC Studios

It’s been a long time coming, but the DC Extended Universe will officially end this year, paving the way for an all-new franchise led by DC Studios co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran. In the lead-up to the final entry into the DCEU, news surfaced over the scrapping of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom‘s (2023) release, as well as the comeback of the Justice League.

Jason Momoa looking surprised as Aquaman in the water
Credit: DC Studios

Suffering from a less streamlined approach to Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros.’s DC Extended Universe, or DCEU, has had a rather muddled and messy decade. From the introduction of Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman in Man of Steel (2013) to the surprise billion-dollar hit Aquaman (2018), starring Jason Momoa as the titular marine hero to the box office bomb that was The Flash (2023), the DCEU has been through it.

In fact, the erratic performance of the DCEU as a whole triggered a major overhaul from Warner Bros. Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav, who installed screenwriter and director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad) and long-time DC producer Peter Safran as the co-CEOs of DC Studios.

Jason Momoa in 'Aquaman 2' from Warner Bros
Credit: DC Studios

In doing so, Zaslav’s appointed team then went on to announce a major shift in WB’s DC programming, revealing that everything in this universe was to be rebooted. The announcement came after the uncertain future of the franchise that left recently reinstated Henry Cavill — who appeared rather remarkably in the post-credits scene of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam (2022) — in the dust.

No, Cavill is not going to be coming back as Superman, and neither will Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, and seemingly Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, or Ben Affleck’s Batman. In fact, the first movie in Gunn and Safran’s new slate will be a Superman reboot, entitled Superman: Legacy (2025), starring David Corenswet (House of Cards) as Clark Kent/Superman and Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) as Lois Lane.

Henry Cavill as Superman
Credit: DC Studios

Other projects in the newly coined DC Universe, or DCU, include Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (TBD) and the new Batman flick, The Brave and the Bold (TBD), as well as TV shows such as Waller, based on Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller character, Paradise Lost, and Lanterns. The new DCU, says Gunn, will have an interconnected element linking movies, TV, animation, and even video games together.

At first, actors like Gal Gadot said they had met with the DC Studios team and that a project was in the works; however, that looks to have now been halted. Paradise Lost will focus on the land of Themyscira, but it is expected that Wonder Woman will not be part of the production.

But before the new Superman and Batman take over, audiences are well and truly still in the DCEU era. This year has seen box office bombs The Flash and Blue Beetle (2023) debut. While Blue Beetle wasn’t hindered by a controversial leading star, as The Flash was with Ezra Miller, it failed to find a wide audience, netting only $129 million at the global box office.

Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes in Blue Beetle without his helmet looking surprised
Credit: DC Studios

Next up is Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) from director James Wan, starring Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman in what will be the final move for the DCEU franchise ever. News recently surfaced that Warner Bros. had scrapped the December 20 release date for the Aquaman sequel (which had already been delayed a year, thanks to James Cameron’s own underwater epic, Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)), instead opting for a true Christmas period release.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will now open on December 22, 2023, exclusively in movie theaters. The second movie stars Momoa in the titular role, as well as Patrick Wilson as Orm Marius, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta, Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, and Amber Heard as Mera.

Amber Heard as Mera in Aquaman
Credit: DC Studios

Ever since the defamation trial in 2022, where Heard went to court in a $150 million lawsuit against ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp, her role in the Aquaman sequel has always been an intriguing topic for fans. During the trial, it was said she had been removed altogether, but the trailer released this year would confirm Heard is starring in the feature film, although in a much toned-down role. Wan recently said that the decision to pare down Mera in the sequel was due to story choices and not the controversy or the backlash over Warner Bros. firing Johnny Depp from their other franchise, Fantastic Beasts.

And ahead of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, DC Comics is releasing a prequel tie-in comic that brings back the Justice League.

Team fighting in 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' (2021)
Credit: DC Studios

Related: Dwayne Johnson May Be Banished From Movies After Latest Damning Allegations

“Discover the shocking events that connect the smash-hit Aquaman movie to the eagerly anticipated Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” reads the solicitation via Comic Book Movie. “Aquaman balances his duties as king and as a member of the Justice League, all while planning a wedding!”

It continues: “Black Manta is on the hunt for Atlantean tech to help rebuild his armor! Orm plots to escape his Atlantean prison! Three action-packed tales crammed into a single special!”

In the pages shared via the outlet, it can be seen that Aquaman is joined by fellow Justice League members, Wonder Woman and The Flash, bringing back certain members of the team for the first time since others appeared in The Flash.

Aquaman (Jason Momoa) laughing
Credit: DC Studios

Related: ‘Batman’ Project Dead, Canceled at DC Studios: Report

As for the future of Aquaman, it is not clear what is going to happen to the characters. But, what is being floated is that Jason Momoa might find a new face to try on in the upcoming DCU, as rumors are circling that he will be playing Lobo moving forward.

Will you be picking up this Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom prequel story? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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