What’s Going On with DC’s Animated Films: A Look into the Future

Superheroes have dominated popular culture for the past two decades, and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a major presence on the silver screen, there is another superhero franchise that has produced an impressive number of films – DC’s line of animated movies. Over the course of 16 years, DC has released more than 50 animated films, many of which were directly released on DVD or digitally. This vast collection of movies may seem overwhelming, especially considering they are interconnected within various cinematic universes. In this article, we aim to unravel the complexities of DC’s animated films, provide a clear understanding of their interconnections, and guide you on where to start. Let’s dive in!

The DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU)

DC’s main cinematic universe in their animated films is known as the DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU). It all began with “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” in 2013 and spanned seven years, offering a total of 16 feature films. Most of these films were adaptations from DC’s The New 52 continuity, which was a revamp of their comic book stories starting in 2011. The central narrative of the DCAMU revolves around Batman and his biological son Damian Wayne, who transforms from an annoying, disobedient brat to the iconic character Robin, Batman’s sidekick. The DCAMU concluded in 2020 with “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War,” providing a satisfying and definitive ending to this animated universe.

While the DCAMU offers a compelling and complete storytelling experience, it does require some prior knowledge of the characters. The films assume a world already filled with superheroes and supervillains, and while some origin stories are explored, familiarity with the characters is helpful. With a manageable total of 16 films, each averaging around 90 minutes, the DCAMU provides a finished cinematic universe that is worth exploring.

The Tomorrowverse

Following the conclusion of the DCAMU, DC introduced the “Tomorrowverse” as their newest line of animated films with “Superman: Man of Tomorrow” in 2020. The Tomorrowverse features a departure from the art style of previous films, opting for more visually expressive characters with bolder outlines and brighter colors. Unlike the DCAMU, the Tomorrowverse focuses on original stories rather than adaptations, offering a unique experience. Although this franchise is still in its early stages, consisting of five films so far, the reception has been mixed. While some appreciate the fresh approach, others find the stories less interesting compared to the DCAMU.

For newcomers, the Tomorrowverse is relatively easier to understand than the DCAMU. The films often provide origin stories for less mainstream characters, ensuring viewers feel up to speed. However, for those familiar with these properties, the original stories may not offer the same excitement and depth. The Tomorrowverse films toe the line between uniqueness and staying true to the source material, often resulting in a lack of groundbreaking events. Despite the fresh art style, the films may feel somewhat bland and forgettable.

Standalone and Other Films

The standalone films in the DC animated catalogue offer some of the most interesting and creative storytelling. These films are not connected to any existing narrative, enabling DC to explore unique concepts. From Batman as a ninja in feudal Japan to Catwoman in an anime style, these films cater to various desires of DC fans. Additionally, DC adapts famous comic book storylines, allowing fans to see their beloved narratives come to life on the screen.

Some standalone films form duologies or trilogies, providing a more manageable narrative arc. For example, “Justice League: Doom” is a sequel to “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths,” and “Batman: Year One” is set in the same universe as “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1”. While this may initially seem overwhelming, each set of films is limited to two or three movies, making them more accessible.

There are also films that exist outside of the animated movie realm but are still connected to other media. “Batman: Assault on Arkham” is set in the same universe as the popular video game “Batman Arkham Asylum,” while “Justice League vs. the Fatal Five” is a sequel to the TV series “Justice League Unlimited.” These connections expand the DC animated universe further, creating a complex web of interconnected stories.

The Future: The DC Universe (DCU)

James Gunn, the new co-CEO of DC Studios, recently announced his plans for the DC Universe (DCU). This multimedia franchise aims to reboot and unify DC’s recent cinematic ventures, including films, TV shows, video games, and animation. While no animated feature films have been announced for the DCU, Gunn has shown a keen interest in exploring animation with his upcoming TV show, “Creature Commandos.” However, concerns have arisen regarding famous Hollywood actors reprising their roles in all mediums, potentially overshadowing talented voice actors.

The DCU’s interconnected approach brings potential challenges for audiences, as keeping up with the extensive storyline may require significant investment of time and effort. Additionally, if drastic changes occur in one medium, viewers may feel compelled to follow the entire universe to fully understand the narrative. With the DCU’s future uncertain, it remains to be seen whether it will offer an enticing animated cinematic universe.

Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion, the choice of which DC animated films to watch depends on your preferences. For those seeking self-contained stories, the standalone films provide inventive narratives within a compact timeframe. If you desire a more substantial experience, exploring duologies or trilogies can offer a manageable overarching narrative. For fans seeking an immersive cinematic universe, the DCAMU is highly recommended. It offers a complete and compelling story arc while showcasing lesser-known characters and beloved comic book adaptations. However, background knowledge of the characters is advantageous.

The Tomorrowverse, while still in its early stages, may appeal to newcomers looking for a smoother entry point into DC’s animated films. However, it currently lacks the depth and excitement of its predecessor. The standalone and other films offer additional options, providing creative storytelling and diverse visual styles that set them apart. These films are more accessible and require less prior knowledge, making them ideal for casual viewing.

DC’s animated films may not always receive the same attention as their live-action counterparts, but they contain hidden gems for superhero enthusiasts. With new adventures on the horizon, such as the Lovecraft-inspired “Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham,” the future promises exciting possibilities. Whether you choose to explore the extensive DCAMU, explore the emerging Tomorrowverse, or indulge in standalone offerings, DC’s animated films are a worthwhile exploration of the superhero genre.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I watch the DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU) without prior knowledge of the characters?

While some familiarity with the DC characters is beneficial, the DCAMU assumes a world already populated with superheroes and supervillains. While certain characters receive origin story treatments, new viewers may find it helpful to gain a basic understanding of the characters beforehand to fully grasp the interconnected narrative.

2. Which DC animated film should I start with if I prefer self-contained stories?

If you prefer self-contained stories, the standalone films in DC’s animated catalogue are the perfect starting point. These films offer unique narratives and creative adaptations of famous comic book storylines. You can choose from a variety of options based on your favorite characters or storylines.

3. Are the DC animated films connected to the live-action DC films and TV shows?

The DC animated films exist in their own separate universe from the live-action DC films and TV shows. However, some animated films may be part of shared universes within the animated realm or be inspired by other DC media. For example, “Batman: Assault on Arkham” is connected to the video game “Batman Arkham Asylum,” and “Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham” draws inspiration from various sources.

4. Will the DC Universe (DCU) include animated feature films?

While the DC Universe (DCU) aims to unify DC’s media ventures, including films, TV shows, video games, and animation, the announcement of animated feature films within the DCU is yet to be made. However, with James Gunn’s interest in animation, there is a possibility of animated films being released as part of the DCU in the future.

5. Which DC animated film offers the most visually distinct style?

Among the DC animated films, “Batman Ninja” stands out with its unique visual style. The film transports Batman and his allies to feudal Japan, combining traditional Japanese art with modern animation techniques. This fusion of styles creates a visually stunning and unforgettable viewing experience.