What is the stupidest possible question you could ask about a movie with a date in the title? How about: when does it take place? That seems pretty stupid. Except when it comes to the DC Extended Universe (a.k.a. DCEU), the fluid timeline of the movies makes the question a little more complicated than you might think. So with that in mind, where does Wonder Woman 1984 fit into the DCEU timeline?
Well, first of all, it takes place in 1984. You idiot. Just kidding! I spent a full paragraph explaining why this wasn’t a stupid question, so it was rude of me to insult your intelligence in the second paragraph. I am very sorry. The reason this is a question at all, though, is probably because Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is spending a lot of time and energy keeping her identity a secret in WW1984, something that seems antithetical to the fact that she’s dressed in a metallic red and blue super suit, and running around Washington, D.C. whipping a glowing, golden lasso over her head. So what’s the deal, yo?
The deal is that in our real world timeline, Diana Prince was first introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In that movie, which came out in 2016, Wonder Woman had been hiding her identity for years, and was unknown as a superhero. It was only through seeing the joint heroism of Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck) that WW decided to come forward publicly and fight evil. That detail makes it a little tricky to have multiple Wonder Woman movies exist before it, and the reason WW1984 in particular bends over backwards like Diana executing a mid-air flip to keep her secret, secret.
That all said, here’s the rough timeline of the movies, ignoring the stuff from Justice League and Aquaman (as well as Wonder Woman) that happened thousands of years ago.
1918: Wonder Woman happens! Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands on Themyscira, and Diana follows him to man’s land, fighting in World War I. After Steve dies, and Wonder Woman saves the world, she goes into isolation until Batman v Superman, while working at the Smithsonian… Or does she?
1980: Krypton explodes, as seen in Man of Steel, and little baby Kal-El is sent to Earth, eventually getting adopted by Martha and Partha — sorry, Jonathan — Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner).
1981: Martha and Thomas Wayne (hey, weird, two Marthas) are killed in Crime Alley in Gotham, spilling many pearls on the ground. They are played by Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, which is also weird because they play Maggie and Negan on The Walking Dead and hate each other on that show. If you’re curious to see what happens when the Waynes die, I recommend watching literally any movie ever made. But I guess for our purposes this happens in Batman v Superman.
1984: This is, as previously established, when Wonder Woman 1984 takes place. Diana is still in hiding, yet runs around malls and saves kids as well as the entire world (and at one point someone says I’m pretty sure someone says “Wonder Woman, please save us,” so, uh, she’s not doing a great job of staying under the radar?). You’ll notice that she destroys cameras wherever she goes, so like Batman later on she technically remains an urban legend. And as we all know, if you wink at a child they are contractually obligated to not reveal your secret.
1995-ish: Batman starts operating in Gotham City. We don’t get to see him do this on screen, though it is noted that Batfleck has been a vigilante for about twenty years by the time BvS:DoJ rolls around. That also tracks with what we know about Batman from the comics, where he came back to Gotham at about age 20, and started building to eventually wearing the Batsuit. The reason this is most important for the timeline is that in the DCEU, Batman is considered the first superhero… Despite Wonder Woman pre-dating him by over 70 years. Men, am I right?
2013: This is when Man of Steel takes place, probably (given it was released in 2013). Despite being the first film in the DCEU, as you can plainly see it comes later in the timeline. Superman, too, has been hiding out and helping people on the sly from about 1988 when he first discovered his powers, until now. Here he finally comes out publicly and then kills General Zod (Michael Shannon). Cool?
2015: Batman v Superman happens! Batman hunts down Superman, they realize their moms have the same name and decide to team up instead, Wonder Woman shows up publicly as a hero for the “first time” despite her mother being named Hippolyta, and not Martha, which is very brave of her, and then Superman dies.
2016: It’s a busy year for the superheroes of the DCEU, as Suicide Squad, Justice League and Aquaman happen, in that order (except for flashbacks, of course). Also just for clarification purposes, the upcoming Justice League: The Snyder Cut will also presumably take place in 2016. Though maybe The Flash (Ezra Miller) will be like “boy, these midterm elections are rough” and shift the timeline to 2018. Zack, call me, I have some ideas.
2019: Shazam! happens. Though it’s possible this isn’t exactly canon with the other movies, it does have the characters talking about Batman and Superman, and they definitely seem to be consistent with the Ben Affleck/Henry Cavill versions. So why not list it here! Why! Not!
2020: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) I guess takes place in 2020, because that’s when it came out. But it’s not like the movie spends a lot of time talking about dates or anything, so much as scrumptious looking egg sandwiches. The important thing to know is that it’s a few years after the events of Suicide Squad, and Harley (Margot Robbie) is trying to split from The Joker (Jared Leto) for good. It’s also, like Shazam!, part of the reason the “universe” is called the DCEU. Unlike the tightly knit MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), the DCEU is purposefully structured to allow for different takes that may or may not connect to the greater whole. Annoying for continuity-heads, freeing for people like James Gunn, who is directing next year’s The Suicide Squad, which probably doesn’t really have a ton to do with either Suicide Squad or Birds of Prey, other than some of the same actors. Also there’s Joker, which has nothing to do with any of this.
That all said, if you’re looking for a semi-chronological viewing order of the movies, versus a slightly more detailed timeline, here’s my recommendation:
Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Justice League, Aquaman, Shazam!, Birds of Prey
There you go! Have fun watching, and may all your mothers be Martha.
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