Warner Bros. has a lot riding on the success of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but even if it fails, there's still plenty to be excited about from DC's cinematic universe.
Batman v Superman will not only be the first live-action film to feature both Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill), but it's also opening up a big cinematic universe. The movie is kicking off a new cinematic universe of superheroes (all from the DC comics canon) featuring crossovers and, and standalone movies for some classic comic book heroes.
Not counting Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, the big name in Hollywood for comic book movies has been Marvel (home of Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men, etc), which began self-financing its movies in the mid-2000s (as opposed to licensing deals with studios) and was eventually bought by Disney in 2009.
Meanwhile DC Comics (home of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc) has had a long-standing relationship with Warner Bros., which has been producing DC movies since 2005's Batman Begins. The new DC cinematic universe began in 2013 with the Superman-centric Man of Steel.
Marvel adaptations (which have pretty much dominated theaters since 2008's Iron Man) tend to embrace the humor and escapism of their superheroes and are often wholly satisfying as contained stories—tending to not offer too much to ponder. Conversely, DC characters are known for gritty realism and the psychological nature behind superheroes (although Marvel has gotten deep and dirty with its Netflix shows, like Jessica Jones and Daredevil).
That means that along with ending Marvel's seeming monopoly on comic book adaptations, the budding DC cinematic universe should give film fans a little more realism and gray area among all the razzle dazzle.
So even if Batman v Superman fails to live up to expectations at the box office or on a critical level, it's opening the floodgates for a possible new era of superhero movies. Here's what you can expect next:
Suicide Squad (2016)
If Batman v Superman is a bit too serious for your taste, there's another DC movie coming out this year that should be much more fun. Suicide Squad centers on a team of supervillains who are recruited by the government to perform dangerous missions in exchange for leniency. Fans are already psyched about Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn, as well as Jared Leto's Joker. If the very popular trailer is any indication, Suicide Squad will easily be the cinematic universe's most fun film yet. The film hits theaters on August 5.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Lost in all the hype of seeing Batman face off against Superman is the fact that we're finally getting a live action Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) on the big screen! It's hard to believe that it's taken this long for a Wonder Woman solo movie, but it's slated for a June 23, 2017 opening—beating Marvel to releasing a solo female superhero movie (Captain Marvel won't be out until in 2019). There's a lot of pressure for Gadot and director Patty Jenkins to prove there's room for female superheroes in the film world. But no matter the approach, it should be interesting to see the iconic superhero on the big screen for the first time.
Justice League, Pt. 1 & 2 (2017 & 2019)
The success of Marvel's The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron proved that audiences are ready for huge ensemble superhero movies. As such, the prospect of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) joining forces on the big screen is exciting stuff, especially if it reaches the high entertainment and great action set pieces of what Marvel has been able to pull off. This will also be a huge landmark to test if there is true lasting power for the DC Cinematic Universe. Justice League, Pt. 1 is set to be released on Nov. 17, 2017 while Justice League, Pt. 2 is scheduled for June 14, 2019.
Ben Affleck's Batman (TBD)
There are rumors that Affleck will return to star in, direct and co-write a solo Batman movie in the not-so-distant future. Affleck recently wrapped up starring in, directing and co-writing Live by Night, which will come out in 2017, so he is free to direct a solo Batman film if he so chooses. It remains to be seen how fans will feel about Affleck's version of Batman, but he does at least have the directorial chops, having directed critically acclaimed drama Gone Baby Gone, The Town and 2012 Oscar Best Picture winner Argo.
Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash (2018-2020)
Looking further into the future, Warner Bros. is producing solo films for Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash. The films should expand the universe even further, along with Shazam (2019) and Green Lantern Corps (2020), extending DC's dominion into a new decade.