Jay Oliva, who directed the two-part animated feature film Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and who provided storyboard art on Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman (among many others), says that filmmaker Zack Snyder's original five-film plan for the DC Universe would have resolved the character arcs set up in Justice League in a final film, the title of which was never revealed.
When Justice League was announced, the plan was that Snyder would direct a follow-up -- at that time the working titles were just Justice League Part One and Part Two. That Snyder had specific plans for a fifth film was only recently revealed, but it sounds like that final chapter would have been key to shaping DC's heroes, who by the time Justice League came out had mostly not appeared in character-defining solo movies.
"It would resolve everyone’s arc," Oliva tweeted in response to a fan question. "Superman most of all because this series started with him in [Man of Steel]."
According to Oliva, Man of Steel was meant to be the first of a five-part story, and a direct sequel was never part of the immediate plans. He has gone into more detail on social media and even sparred with other filmmakers who disagreed with his take.
Man of Steel made $291 million at the domestic box office and $668 million globally, meaning that it underperformed the Iron Man films in North America but earned more than both of the two that were out at the time worldwide. There was disagreement at the time about whether this performance was underperforming (since, after all, Superman is a widely-known global brand and Iron Man was not, particularly, at the time) or not (it was the highest-grossing Superman film at that point and among solo superhero films was still a pretty big hit).
Fan reception to Man of Steel was much warmer than the critical reception -- something that would become a recurring motif for the DC films -- at the time of its release, but that has dropped somewhat in the intervening years. At the time it had an 82% positive rating from audiences and an A- CinemaScore. The film's reputation sank after controversy bogged it down, particularly with fans who objected to Superman killing General Zod in the film's final act and the Michael Bay-inspired battle that shattered big chunks of Metropolis. Fan reaction to the "destruction porn" was so strong that Joss Whedon seemingly responded to it in Avengers: Age of Ultron in dialogue.
That same destruction would become a major plot point in Batman v Superman, where Batman blamed Superman for it, and it led to him wanting to kill the Man of Steel.
At the time, and in interviews as late as those done on the set of Justice League, Snyder said that killing Zod was part of the learning curve that would transform a scared and confused kid into the Superman fans know and love by the end of the Justice League films.
It seems that a similar path would be taken by each hero, moving through their demons en route to a more complete understanding of the characters by the end of the fifth film.
That element remains divisive -- and fans bristled when Supergirl referenced the bright-and-sunny Tyler Hoechlin Superman having done the same -- but fans have by and large warmed to Hoechlin's Superman, with even most of the DCEU's critics saying that he deserves a shot at a more traditional Superman movie.
Justice League is now on home video. The