It’s been a crazy few weeks, what with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad hitting cinemas. But while the world was distracted by the big-budget spectacle, other films were waiting in the wings.

One of these was Wonder Woman, which was released last week. We’ve been eagerly anticipating the Wonder Woman sequel ever since the first movie debuted in 2017, and it didn’t disappoint. This cinematic universe continues to grow with each passing week.

But beyond The Batman, The Superman and Wonder Woman franchises, there are plenty of other cinematic stories waiting in the wings. And while many are waiting for their big-budget Hollywood moment, independent filmmakers are working hard to shine a light on these stories and share them with as many people as possible.

Here, we’ll run down the current status of the films in the DCEU (Divergent Cinematic Universe). After the events of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, what lies ahead for the franchise? Let’s take a quick trip back in time.

The DCEU: What Is It?

If you haven’t heard of the DCEU, then you’re in for a treat. The DCEU is an unofficial, fan-created colloquium that brings together all of the iconic DC Comics superheroes in cinematic continuity. To put it simply, the DCEU is the cinematic universe that shares the same continuity as the comics.]

The DCEU was inspired by the unprecedented success of 2005’s The Dark Knight. That movie brought together several of DC’s most popular characters for a standalone story that utilized existing storylines and battles from the comics. The result was what many consider to be the greatest superhero film of all time. And since that time, several more standalone films have been released, expanding the cinematic universe even further. These films are directed by men and women who are passionate about the source material and willing to treat the comics with the respect they deserve. So while mainstream Hollywood continues to struggle with remaking and rebooting film series that have already been covered in great detail in recent decades, the DCEU continues to grow.

The Batman Vs. Superman Conflict

To truly understand what happened in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and what is happening in The Batman now, you have to go back to 2013. At the time, Zack Snyder was in the middle of a heated battle for the director’s chair at Warner Bros., with Rupert Wyatt and David S. Goyer competing for the job. When it was announced that Goyer had won the fight, Snyder was tasked with creating a fully realized universe that would serve as the bridge between the comic book and movie fans. To do this, Snyder needed a fresh start and decided to scrap past projects and begin again. While Goyer’s previous films had grossed significantly less than Snyder’s ambitions, he saw this as a valuable learning experience and the chance to put his own spin on one of comics’ greatest stories. So when Goyer took on Batman v Superman, he knew that he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a film that would expand the DC cinematic universe.

One of the first tasks of Batman v Superman was to establish a clear hierarchy, specifically who is the greater villain and who is the greater superhero. While Lex Luthor is clearly the main antagonist of the story, he’s also the one who creates many of Batman’s greatest gadgets and weapons, which the Dark Knight uses to bring down numerous criminals. But what if we’re wrong? What if Lex is really the good guy and Batman is the true villain?

To answer this, Snyder wanted to explore the idea of good and evil in a much broader context. So in Batman v Superman, we’re introduced to several supporting characters who question whether or not Batman is an enemy. For example, the film opens with Bruce Wayne in a car accident that leaves him with amnesia. While in the hospital, a mysterious man named Cain appears and reveals himself to be the father of the Man of Steel, Clark Kent. And when they meet, Cain tells Bruce that the world needs a savior, but Batman is the wrong man for the job.

With Bruce remembering only his secret identity and possessing no memory of his parents or childhood, it is up to Clark to mentor Bruce in his quest to become the Dark Knight. This is where the film begins to draw heavily from Alan Moore’s groundbreaking comic book series, The Killing Joke. In the comic, a scarred and psychologically damaged version of Batman named James Gordon attempts to mentor a young superhero named Jason Todd. But Todd isn’t interested in helping and instead challenges Batman to a fight, which Batman manages to win.

The connection to The Killing Joke is clear, but it’s far from the only influence from the comic. Snyder even went so far as to call James Gordon the “real-life” model for the character. While Gordon doesn’t question Batman’s morality or seek to reform him, he does see him as a threat and tries to stop him a number of times. But the real turning point of the film comes when Clark convinces his father, Thomas Wayne, to give Batman a chance and let him become the Dark Knight.

Batman v Superman is important because it is the first time that the cinematic universe has expanded beyond the original trilogy. With the success of The Dark Knight, everyone wanted a piece of the action, and Warner Bros. was willing to make several more films. But more importantly, Batman v Superman is the first time that audiences could truly understand what happened in the comic book events that inspired the film. While most of the DC cinematic universe is set thousands of years in the future, Batman v Superman shows us the beginning of the Dark Knight’s journey, how he came to be, and the events that shaped him into the villain that we know and love.

Since the first film’s premiere, we’ve learned a lot more about the Dark Knight. For example, it was recently revealed that the character of Rachel Dawes, who we thought was James Gordon’s girlfriend at the time, was actually the long-missing Carrie Kelly, Gordon’s actual daughter. Since then, Gordon has been involved in a very public battle with Batman over the latter’s methods, which has put an even bigger target on Gordon’s back. This, in turn, has made him the prime suspect in several of Batman’s recent crimes. Now, it seems, we’ll learn more about just how powerful and influential Lex Luthor is…

Suicide Squad

While we’re on the subject of Batman’s rogues gallery, we can’t leave out the Squad. The Squad is a group of highly skilled mercenaries led by the enigmatic Amanda Waller, who are tasked with taking care of high-priority targets for the government and military. When it was revealed that Jared Leto’s Joker would be the big bad in 2021’s She-Hulk, members of the Squad were, for the first time, introduced to a broad audience as something other than just thugs hired for gruesome tasks. And as Joker is the only one of the Squad to appear in his entirety in the films, it was also the only time viewers got to see the characters in action.

In a way, Suicide Squad is the antithesis of Batman v Superman. Where Batman v Superman is an origin story, Suicide Squad is an action movie. Where Batman v Superman is weighed down by too much moral ambiguity, Suicide Squad revels in its characters’ misdeeds. And while the Dark Knight tries to do good, the Squad is out to do as much damage as possible.

But just because a film is fun and action-packed, doesn’t mean that it has to be mindless entertainment. Indeed, director A.C. Carvalho has said that he drew inspiration for the Squad’s outfits and procedures from The Big Short, a 2016 award-winning financial thriller about the 2008 financial crisis. Not only does Carvalho want to use the Squad as a metaphor for the 2008 financial crisis, but the two films are connected through a shared producer, Randall Emmett, who also produced The Big Short. For Carvalho, it’s about looking at the bigger picture; he wants to use the Squad as a metaphor for how far removed we’ve become from the real-life, apocalyptic events that they represent. “When it comes to the world outside our windows, we rarely think about how isolated we actually are; how fragile our ecosystem is,” he said in a statement. “But if we want to save ourselves, we’ll have to start looking at the world beyond our own screens as if it’s on the brink of collapse.”

More To Come

While Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad are, admittedly, two of the biggest films of the year so far, it’s not the end of the line for the DC cinematic universe. In fact, the opposite is true. With production already underway on Justice League and the future of the DCEU uncertain, fans can definitely expect more cinematic storylines to unfold in the coming months.