Does Wonder Woman 3 Cancellation Spell Doom for the DCEU?

Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman 3 is canceled as James Gunn and Pete Safran begin planning DC Studios' future. Is the entire DCEU (or “SnyderVerse”) on the line?

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in No Man's Land Scene
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Discovery just did what Ares, the God of War, and the entire German army could not: it stopped Wonder Woman in her tracks. Or at least with Jenkins at the helm. The news, which was broken late Wednesday evening by The Hollywood Reporter, came as director James Gunn and producer Peter Safran settle into their roles as DC Studios co-chairs at WB.

According to the trade, the pair and Warner Bros. Pictures co-chairs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy decided to pull the plug on Wonder Woman 3 with writer-director Patty Jenkins, who had only recently turned in a story treatment she co-wrote with Geoff Johns, and which was to star Gal Gadot.

However, our own sources close to the project have suggested the events are not so cut and dry as initially reported. According to our contacts, Jenkins turned in a story treatment that Gunn and company were unsatisfied with, and for which they provided a series of notes. Jenkins apparently opted not to pursue their suggested change of direction, thereby ending this version of Wonder Woman 3. However, we’re told the prospect of continuing Gadot’s version of the character, possibly in even another solo movie, is still on the table for Gunn as DC Studios decides what it will do going forward.

Nevertheless, the immediate news of Wonder Woman 3’s death last night came with unverified reports that suggest DC Studios’ new approach to its stable of superheroes remains heavily in flux: The Flash director Andy Muschietti has apparently lobbied to direct a Man of Steel sequel starring Henry Cavill (that is also apparently on pause); and that the studio is weighing how to handle multiple cameos already filmed for The Flash, due out next year, including also Cavill.

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The THR‘s implication is that until Gunn and Safran reach their final decision about what to do with the DCEU characters, they don’t want to tease Snyderverse revivals that will never come. In other words, DC Studios’ choice to cancel Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 3 could be prelude to the cancellation of the entire DC Extended Universe as we know it… they just haven’t pulled the trigger. (Or maybe they have and are simply waiting until the last completed DCEU films play in cinemas next year, including Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.) However, our own source suggests that report is largely speculative and that nothing has currently been decided by Gunn and Safran about how to proceed.

Still, it’s the potential death of Gadot’s Wonder Woman threequel and possibly Momoa’s Aquaman franchise after next year that makes the possibility kind of startling.

While 2020’s Wonder Woman 1984 left critics and audiences divided over its quality, the Jenkins-helmed sequel was never really tested by the box office since it became the first studio tentpole released onto streaming during the COVID-19 pandemic (Christmas Day 2020 to be exact). However, its predecessor, Wonder Woman (2017) was one of the high points in the superhero genre for many during the 2010s. The film had a dazzling 4x multiplier (meaning it made four times its opening weekend gross in overall domestic box office), suggesting a wild word-of-mouth that few superhero movies have enjoyed. It also made Gadot a major star.

For that reason, she also is seen as one of the most valuable players of the DCEU stable, with most of the casting deriving from Zack Snyder-directed and produced films released between 2013 and 2017 (hence the term “the SnyderVerse”). Apparently, Gadot was lined up for a $20 million payday for Wonder Woman 3 (and Jenkins would’ve been paid $12 million) in addition to backend deals.

Gadot might have implicitly confirmed this as, before the story broke, she posted yesterday on Twitter, “A few years ago it was announced that I was going to play Wonder Woman. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to play such an incredible, iconic character and more than anything I’m grateful for YOU. The fans. Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you.”

Similarly, it seems an unlikely coincidence that shortly before THR suggests DC Studios is unhappy with the performance of last October’s Black Adam, which not-so-subtly set up Dwayne Johnson and Cavill to star in a Black Adam/Superman crossover down the road, Johnson tweeted today: “Waited to confirm with financiers before I shared this excellent #BlackAdam news – our film will PROFIT between $52M-$72M. Fact.” (THR claimed WB took a bath on Black Adam.)

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While both Johnson and Gadot seem hopeful about their futures with playing these characters, they each seem prepared to defend legacies that may be on the verge of getting cut short. A cynic might say that it feels like we’re at the end of a Scorsese movie where everyone’s getting whacked or going to jail.

Indeed, even Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is on the chopping block, according to THR, and that’s a character who is coming off an unqualified banger for Warner Bros. It was only four years ago when Aquaman surpassed all expectations and grossed more than $1 billion. Prior to Momoa stepping into the wetsuit, this was a character who was the butt of pop culture jokes, including at WB when they allowed HBO’s Entourage to use the idea of an Aquaman movie as a punchline in the early 2000s.

The prospect of shuttering a billion-dollar franchise in order to make room for a larger interconnected shared universe is unheard of. In fact, we’d personally suggest it shows another of the many creative limitations with building shared universes when if one or a handful of films fail—namely 2017’s Justice League and the overall backlash to early DCEU films in this case—then they all have to eventually be swept clean like the Ark of the Covenant’s wrath at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It also speaks well of Matt Reeves’ desire to keep the DCEU’s machinations the hell away from The Batman movies he’s making if all a shared universe does is muddy the creative waters and then potentially dam them up (and it appears that due to The Batman’s healthy and recent debut, Reeves is spared from DC Studios’ franchise eraser board).

Be that as it may, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has made no secret that he wants the DC characters to be exploited as thoroughly as how Disney has mined Marvel Comics for interconnected and interchangeable superhero movie content. And at the moment, the new shepherds tasked with that goal might want a clean slate. There’s even an unconfirmed rumor now going around that Momoa may be offered the role of Lobo in the new DC Universe, which would be one of the stranger consolation prizes in Hollywood memory.

This article was updated based on new information on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 10:31 a.m.