The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed the superhero game with its creation of connected, live-action worlds, and other franchises have started to catch on. However, as other companies have proven less successful at establishing cohesion compared to the MCU, they have instead opted to branch out and try new things. One of the chief examples of that idea is DC, and following Wonder Woman's widespread acclaim, it sounds like the DCEU (while still very much a cinematic universe) will soon place less emphasis on shared narrative threads between films. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson explained:
Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn't make sense, but there's no insistence upon an overall storyline or interconnectivity in that universe.
Wonder Woman's success made it abundantly clear: a well-made standalone story can still sell tickets. The decision doesn't necessarily mean that DC is opting to turn the DCEU into a series of full-blown independent franchises -- that responsibility falls to the other, currently unnamed DC film banner. However, what it does mean is that future DC movies will have more in common with Wonder Woman than The Avengers with regards to continuity. Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne could still show up in a future Superman movie, or Ezra Miller's Barry Allen could pop up in an Aquaman film, but DC won't become too focused on weaving plot threads between these franchises.
Perhaps the best example from Wonder Woman comes through its tenuous (but still very much present) connection to other members of the DCEU. Although Batman doesn't appear in-person, the film makes an explicit reference to Bruce Wayne and his company by having his men deliver a package to Diana in Paris. He's out there; he's just not vital to this story.
Such a creative decision actually mirrors ideas that have been working in the pages of DC Comics for the last year. Upon the launch of the DC Rebirth line of stories, the comic book giant reduced the continuity between its different titles to focus on telling unique stories that work for each hero -- with the occasional crossover thrown in for good measure.
One of the biggest hopes with this creative push is that it will embolden directors to go all in on the DCEU and apply their own artistic mark to their films. Elsewhere in her conversation with Vulture about the shift, Diane Nelson continued:
Moving forward, you'll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who's creating them.
That filmmaker-driven approach is already something that makes DC considerably different from other superhero franchises. Only recently, Nightwing movie director Chris McKay touted DC Entertainment's willingness to take a more auteur-focused method, highlighting the A-list names that have signed on to DC projects. It makes sense in the long run; reduced emphasis on continuity increases creative freedom, and increased creative freedom brings in some of Hollywood's biggest names.
The DCEU will press forward with its biggest film yet when Justice League debuts on November 17, but looking beyond that, it sounds like we can look forward to far more insulated projects for the foreseeable future. If you're in the market for more up-to-date information on all of the most highly-anticipated films of the next year, then take a look at our 2017 movie premiere guide and our 2018 movie premiere guide.