With Jason Momoa constantly praising Zack Snyder's influence on Aquaman, could the movie's success influence Snyder's future with the DCEU? After a year of uncertainty, change, and rumor mill churning regarding the DCEU, Aquaman is finally out to (mostly) positive reviews and huge box office success, pointing a clear way forward for the embattled franchise.
Zack Snyder cast Jason Moma as Aquaman, Amber Heard as Mera, and Willem Dafoe as Vulko, introduced Aquaman (twice, if you count his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice cameo), and while he let James Wan be the first to properly reveal Atlantis, the H.R. Giger meets H.P. Lovecraft designs that permeated much of Snyder's universe were clearly embraced by James Wan.
While Aquaman's success is hardly going to make anyone do an about-face on the controversial director, it also serves as validation that maybe there was something to Snyder's vision worth maintaining as the universe moves forward.
- This Page: Zack Snyder's Future With the DCEU is Minimal
- Page 2: How Zack Snyder's Plans Could Live On
Zack Snyder's Future With the DCEU is Minimal
Zack Snyder's time with the DCEU was always going to be finite. He had a 5-part story he wanted to tell himself, and he worked with Geoff Johns and others to sketch out a larger universal roadmap, but he wasn't going to serve as a sort of Kevin Feige for the DCEU. He was only going to be directing his 5 movies, and consulting with other writers/directors to help them tell the stories they wanted to tell.
Due to the divisive nature of his first installments in the franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, Warner Bros. has moved away from Zack Snyder as the central creative in the DCEU. He was an executive producer on Aquaman and he's a producer on Wonder Woman 1984, and may even appear as an executive producer for the films of other characters that he's introduced, but the credit is mostly an honorary title. He will have minimal involvement in crafting the stories or making creative decisions.
However, that doesn't mean his fingerprints won't still be visible on upcoming movies. He set the style and tone for the entire universe and cast every major character so far, with Shazam being the first superhero he didn't introduce himself. While the movies themselves didn't receive high critical praise, Henry Cavill Ben Affleck Gal Gadot Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller are well-liked by audiences. While Affleck and Cavill's futures are in question, most fans would love to see them return to the roles.
Shazam and Wonder Woman Are Still Full of Snyder
Shazam! and Wonder Woman 1984 certainly won't be "Snyder Movies," but his fingerprints are already clear on both. With Wonder Woman 1984 it's pretty obvious, as he's the one that originally cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and developed her backstory, earning himself a writing credit on Wonder Woman. He's also serving as a producer on Wonder Woman, and while he may not have as much of a role as he did in the first, it does appear to be at least slightly more substancial than his executive producer credit on Aquaman.
Shazam!, on the other hand, seems to exist wholly outside of Snyder's influence, as he's not likely to have any credit on it at all, but the movie sill still be full of things he brought to the DCEU, as we've seen a number of Easter eggs referencing Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Easter eggs alone are certainly not evidence that the movie is embracing everything about what Snyder established, but Snyder's DCEU seems to come up a lot with director David F. Sandberg, who even inserted Shazam into Batman v Superman's Knightmare sequence, so the memory of Snyder certainly lives on in the film's production.
The DCEU Doesn't Need a Reboot
Due to the controversy surrounding the universe so far, especially the movies directed by Zack Snyder, there have been many calls for the DCEU to be rebooted. Some of these demands want everything restarted from scratch, while others suggest simply tweaking things through some in-universe continuity changes through a Flashpoint style film like X-Men did with X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, thanks to Aquaman's massive box-office haul, that route no longer makes any sense.
Aquaman is headed to become franchise box office high point for the DCEU, but it's certainly not its only success. In fact, every DCEU movie has grossed more than every Marvel Phase 1 movie aside from The Avengers, and the average box office gross falls between Marvel Phase 1 and Phase 2. If Aquaman breaks a billion dollar haul (as it's currently headed), it'll be a lot closer to that Phase 2 average. Box office certainly isn't the best or only indicator of popularity, but for being 6 movies into a franchise that's consistently seen brutal critical reviews, it's shown impressive staying power, suggesting fans are coming back for a reason. If audiences were truly turned off, then the box office take should be going down. For example, Bumblebee is the best-reviewed Transformers movie so yet (by far), but it's not enough to win back audiences after a stretch of poor movies. The Zack Snyder effect is clearly not as severe as the Michael Bay effect.
So, not only has the franchise been financially successful but it's also well enough liked to merit going forward. Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman are both critically and financially cemented fixtures in this franchise, and Ezra Miller's Flash has a highly anticipated movie in development. At the same time, despite their questionable future, many hope to see a Ben Affleck solo Batman movie and Henry Cavill Superman sequel. While those will be up in the air for some time, the demand for them shows that this iteration of the universe is far from being outright rejected and definitely not in need of a reboot.
Will Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill Return?
On the topic of Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, Aquaman succeeding is the best thing that could have happened for their potential return as Batman and Superman. It may still be a long shot, as there are no existing plans to utilize either of those characters in upcoming movies, but the fact that they're inherently connected to Jason Momoa's Aquaman, who is well on his way to becoming the first billion-dollar character in this franchise, means the studio now has the incentive to make their return more of a priority.
Ben Affleck's situation is a little more questionable. While he's still contracted to play the character, his Batman solo movie directorial gig was given to Matt Reeves, and Reeves is said to be taking that film in a different direction with a younger version of the Batman. That hardly rules out Affleck as the modern timeline version of the character, but with no currants plans for a movie that involves Affleck's Batman, it's hard to see Ben Affleck sitting around until they find ways to make use of him, and even harder to see multiple mainline Batman continuities existing simultaneously. Unless Matt Reeves is ready and willing to turn around a sequel to his Batman movie almost immediately featuring an older Bruce Wayne played by Ben Affleck, it's unlikely he can be reincorporated into this universe. However, anything is possible and he shouldn't be 100% discounted just yet.
Henry Cavill, on the other hand, benefits much more from Aquaman's success. His turn as Superman has been in doubt because of contract negotiations falling apart. Because of his rising star, he believes he is worth more than they are willing to pay, but Warner Bros. wasn't willing to sign a new contract at a higher rate, even with his breakout success in Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Thanks to Aquaman finally surpassing the billion-dollar threshold, the financial viability of the DCEU is no longer such a major question mark. While Aquaman's success is hardly proof Superman will hit a billion dollars, it does prove that audiences are still willing to turn out to these movies at a greater number and the box office is not fading as Justice League's failure would suggest to many.
Justice League 2
Despite the franchise's rocky start, fans are eager to see this cast of characters reprise their roles in additional movies, and Aquaman's success only makes that more true. While Zack Snyder's Justice League 2 may not be in the cards, the stage is set for another director to take the reigns with the same cast and provide a continuation of the stories Zack Synder started - even if it's not the exact story Snyder originally had in mind.
Justice League's post-credits scene teased the Legion of Doom, and while that's certainly one direction the franchise could take, especially with Black Manta being introduced in Aquaman, it seems those plans may have been pushed back. However, the foundation to bring in Darkseid have already been established in Justice League, even if most of Snyder's intended Darkseid storyline was cut from the finished product.
With Steppenwolf, parademons, Mother Boxes, and more already introduced, there's no way Earth completely falls off Darkseid's radar, and with a universe that's capable of producing billion dollar solo movies, it only makes sense that the team-up movies should aim to bring in a big bad like Darkseid.
It may not be what it was intended when Snyder first set out to tell his 5-part story, but Zack Snyder is still at the core of Aquaman, and its success means that influence isn't going anywhere. We've even seen Shazam is full of Easter eggs from Snyder movies. There may see some tonal variation, but the underlying aesthetic, the casting, and the backstory of these characters is still thanks to Zack Synder, as Jason Momoa loves to point out.