Long before Marvel started taking comic book movies seriously, Warner Brothers had been wrestling with the concept of a Justice League movie. Unfortunately they had dismissed every idea and opportunity because they believed it could not be done; until now.
The success of Marvel’s The Avengers was unprecedented. It made an insane amount of money and somehow managed to cross that difficult line where even middle aged women were taking their parents to see it. It’s no secret that one of the mass audiences that is hardest to crack with comic book properties is women. While obviously there are a fair amount of female fans (before you get up in arms) they’re still the side of the gender coin that is less likely to be receptive to such a genre. Warner Brothers guffawed at the idea of The Avengers, but after witnessing the enormous success are now choking on their words.
2015 is set to be the year of Disney; regardless of how Disney’s normal fare performs, they have both The Avengers 2 AND Star Wars Episode VII to ensure that they will dominate at the box office. Warner Brothers however have announced plans for a Justice League film that will be released that year as well. This means that Zack Snyder has suddenly reversed his position on the significance of his impending Superman reboot, which, despite categorical claims at the beginning of the press cycle that Man Of Steel was merely a Superman reboot and not a springboard for a Justice League movie, has suddenly started hinting at how it could become just that.
This has also signalled the start of the “rumour wheel of doom”; where so many predictions are thrown around that someone starts quoting it as a “source” and it all steamrolls from there. There are so many of these predictions made that inevitably one of them turns out to be right. The first in a long line of rumours that has surfaced is that Joseph Gordon Levitt will be playing the role of Batman in the Justice League movie, and he may even have a cameo in Man Of Steel.
While the reasons why this isn’t a good idea by any stretch of the imagination could be formed into a list of its own I’m going to choose to address it as one point in this extensive list: Ten hurdles the Justice League film will need to circumvent in order to be as successful as The Avengers was.
Note: I am by no means a “Marvel fanboy” as Batman is my favourite superhero property there is. I am however, a film fanatic and I believe that what Disney and Marvel have accomplished with The Avengers and their movie universe is truly revolutionary. Consider that these ten reasons are all hurdles that the Justice League production will have to overcome and I really hope they do, as DC fans deserve a strong and faithful adaptation of their favourite characters and their exploits.
1. Warner Brothers does not have the same faith in DC properties that Disney had in Marvel’s
When Disney purchased Marvel in 2008 for $8 billion they were well aware that some of Marvel’s most profitable franchises (Spiderman, Fantastic Four, X-Men) were not available for movie making. Instead they purchased a plan for a Marvel movie universe and until 4 years ago, a bunch of characters that few people gave a damn about. Through a ton of hard work and preparation they managed to blend together a universe of diverse characters with endless possibilities. The reason why this worked is because Disney had faith in Marvel and its characters and gave them everything they would need. By comparison, Warner Brothers have demonstrated time and time again that they are entirely disinterested and unconvinced by anything that is not Superman or Batman. The Green Lantern movie was an unmitigated disaster that Warner Brothers started talking about rebooting almost immediately, before simply dropping off the face of the earth.
Superman is an easy sell for the movie universe because he’s an all-powerful goody two shoes who embodies the “American spirit”. Batman in his solo incarnations is assisted by being the rich and intriguing man with an extremely colourful cast of rogues to complement him.
Put them together with the other five though and you suddenly have a huge dynamic shift. Batman is not insanely overpowered like his Justice League brethren so instead they increase his intelligence significantly, albeit with a side of paranoia and psychosis. He’s untrustworthy because he doesn’t work well in a team and doesn’t trust his fellow heroes. Superman and Batman often clash, and while in the comics you can make it seem believable; mainstream audiences are going to have trouble believing they would ever fight, or that Batman would stand a chance in hell.
Combine that with Green Lantern who, if you ventured out to see the Ryan Reynolds version, explained in the opening of the movie that “green is good, but yellow is evil because it represents fear”; at which point you may have heard half of the audience guffaw and immediately lose interest.
Martian Manhunter is a character they may as well just leave out (and they just might) essentially a shapeshifting alien looking version of Superman. What variety. However, after DC rebooted its comic universe with “The New 52″ (a reference to the number of ongoing characters that DC had cancelled and rebooted) Martian Manhunter hasn’t been present in the “Big Seven” of the Justice League, having been replaced by Cyborg, a rather self explanatory hero who is constructed from the Earth’s greatest materials and most advanced technology (displayed in the picture above).
The Flash is the fastest thing ever. He’s so fast that he can literally reverse time and change history with his speed. That’s all well and good, but it has already been established in the Superman movies that the man of steel can do that too. Not to mention he gets to dress up like a red and gold lightning bolt (Something that may not make it into the final version with all this obsession with gritty and realism and weird tight, dark suits that make all heroes look the same.). Oh and of course, a modicum of super strength (are you noticing a pattern yet?).
Aquaman is a character that has often been ridiculed for his absurdity even by the hardcore contingent of comic book fans. The most recent universe reboot has given Aquaman a much needed fresh coat of paint as well as gained him some new found respect amongst comic book fans; but he is a character that you can guarantee a lot of mainstream audience members are going to have trouble taking seriously. I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Brothers chose to sideline him for as long as possible. The King of Atlantis has a lot of water themed abilities including the power to talk to marine life telepathically, superhuman strength and speed, as well as the ability to see in the dark; not to mention his incredible durability that comes from living deep within the ocean in high pressure environments. It’s a cool idea in theory, but trying to crowbar in all of these characters is going to be information overload for audiences.
Last but not least is Wonder Woman. She’s essentially a feminist version of Superman sans a few powers; equipped with a trusty lasso and terribly outdated attire. Interestingly enough Joss Whedon has been chomping at the bit to make a Wonder Woman film for a long time and Warner Brothers have consistently turned him down. Whedon would have been one of the few people who could have given us a strong portrayal of the character on the screen, but alas that’ll never happen now.
The point is, Warner Brothers have consistently shown a complete lack of faith in DC’s properties and this will strongly affect their attitude and the way that they choose to portray them in the DC Movie Universe.
2. They’re rushing it
When typing “they’re rushing it” into Google Images I was provided with this. Definition of irony: the game with one of the longest delay periods ever being considered “rushed”. Someone has a sense of humour.
One of the main reasons why Marvel was so successful with The Avengers was that they took their time and they were meticulous in crafting the overarching story. By the time The Avengers rolled around most of the characters were already developed and audiences were already able to imagine how they would fit together, whether it would be in a harmonious relationship or an epic clash of egos; the audience could anticipate the results and, most importantly, it felt completely natural.
Marvel’s strength is that a lot of its characters are a little more “human” than the DC pantheon, which means that a fair few of the Justice League would definitely need their own introduction to ensure that people are able to relate to them. Otherwise Warner Brothers runs the risk of making all of their heroes come across as thin caricatures, as there is nowhere near enough room to develop all of them at the same time.
It cannot be stressed enough that the biggest secret to The Avengers’ success has been in the incredible execution of the build-up to the film. It’s not just because you threw a few iconic characters on the screen together. It’s not just a one film, one budget commitment, it’s a six film, six budget commitment, one that has paid off in dividends. The news that Man Of Steel will now have random allusions to the Justice League crammed into it is a worrying development as it is reminiscent of one of Marvel’s only missteps: Iron Man 2. That film unfortunately was weighed down by severe bipolar disorder; unsure whether it should be an Iron Man film or an introduction to SHIELD.
Superman hasn’t enjoyed commercial success on our screens in a long time (despite the critical strength of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns it was a box office flop), which means that Warner Brothers desperately need to ensure that the Superman reboot is successful at establishing the hero as a character for modern audiences. Diluting that focus could lead to some catastrophic results, because if you fail on Man Of Steel then mainstream audiences are going to be even less excited to see the eponymous hero lead a troupe of equally thinly drawn characters.
Unfortunately Warner Brothers aggressive release date for Justice League in 2015 reeks more of an act of desperation rather than a concise and clinical business move. This’ll be Marvel’s second time around and from all of the information constantly pouring out about “Phase Two” they’re incredibly on the ball, with everything planned out in infinitesimal detail. I’m fairly confident that if Marvel continue with the framework that they’ve laid out, they’re likely to surpass what they’ve already managed to achieve, which is saying something.
Audiences should expect a Batman cameo in the closing moments of Man Of Steel; the problem with this is that it comes at a very awkward time for Batman. Christopher Nolan has just finished telling his story, which is what audiences have become most accustomed with – Nolan’s Batman is NOT a Batman fit for the Justice League. Audiences now know Christian Bale as Batman, but Bale says he’s pretty much done with the character, which leaves the possibility of Joseph Gordon Levitt filling the black boots. This would be a terrible idea, not because Levitt is a bad actor by any means, but because the Batman present in the Justice League HAS to be Bruce Wayne (Levitt has already been established as John Blake). No exceptions. Warner Brothers, due to their rush to get this film out have painted themselves into a rather desperate corner. It’s too late now to try and do the Batman reboot during the Justice League movie (by the way Warner Brothers announced they were rebooting Batman in 2016, which makes Justice League’s 2015 release date all the more baffling and foolish), and seeing as there is no way they would be able to recast Batman for Man Of Steel and keep it under the radar I have a feeling this could turn rather awry.
3. DC needs a strong pair of creative hands like Kevin Feige/Joss Whedon
All of the Marvel made movies that have graced our screens of late have been guided by the steady hands of Kevin Feige; and now that Joss Whedon has signed an exclusivity deal with Marvel/Disney as one of their chief creative consultants on the Marvel Movie Universe – the cohesion between projects has become even more exciting. Again, due to Warner Brothers trying to rush this film they haven’t appointed anyone to do the same; they’re merely throwing Justice League references into Man of Steel and then launching with a League film in 2015.
For a project this ambitious to have any chance of working the company desperately needs a strong and safe pair of hands who has a compassionate love for the characters and a dedication to creating a cohesive, living, breathing world that audiences will want to not only see, but cherish. In my mind the only person who could pull off something this ambitious and make it work from a script perspective would be that of Paul Dini. Dini was the mastermind behind the 90′s animated series for Batman and Superman; (the Batman series being considered one of the greatest animated series of all-time and is easily the most authentic comic to screen Batman experience) both of them extremely well balanced in terms of bringing the comic books to life. He also wrote the stories behind the smash hit Arkham Asylum/City game series (another incredibly authentic Batman experience) and is a DC comics veteran, having written on several runs of Batman, Superman, Captain Marvel and Zatanna, as well as a litany of other works.
Paul Dini would play a pivotal role in creating a cohesive and tangible film universe that wouldn’t betray the essence of the comics, whilst still crafting well written experiences for the more casual film goer who isn’t as well versed in comic book lore. Or at least, he would have done if Marvel hadn’t snapped him up.
That’s right folks, one of DC’s best guys at translating complex comic universes to other mediums has been pinched by Marvel to help develop and write their new Ultimate Spider-man and Hulk animated series as part of their expanded screen universe for kids.
Marvel have benefited greatly by having someone who is extremely well versed in all the comics taking a strong overseer role on all of their productions, working on the productions with comic book fans and newcomers alike, to bring the comics to life for mainstream audiences. The fact that Marvel have managed to sell to viewers that they need to see multiple films that don’t share the same title in order to understand the overarching story may seem like nothing particularly revolutionary; but in a world of convenience and audience laziness, this is a tremendous feat. Essentially, Marvel with the guiding might of Kevin Feige and now Joss Whedon, have managed to instil a drive in mainstream audiences, much like comic book readers – they need to ensure they pick up every issue to find out what’s happening. Even if they may not be a fan of Thor, they’ll need to see Thor 2: The Dark World, otherwise they might miss something important that could affect their favourite hero; Iron Man, in a later instalment. It’s nothing short of genius and as the films increase in number and complexity, people will be turning up in their droves to make sure they capture the next chapter in the unfolding Marvel movie universe (MMU).
Marvel clearly recognized Dini’s talents, while Warner Brothers failed to act upon them. It’s clear that Warner Brothers are going to fall back on to Nolan and David Goyer. Goyer is incredibly hit and miss and doesn’t have the pedigree to be able to ensure everything is consistently of the highest quality. Nolan, on the other hand, will be unable to deliver on the more comic book-esque parts of Justice League, instead opting for his own semi-realistic version (more on that later).
The Justice League movie currently has Will Beall listed as the writer of its screenplay. Beall has a rather limited number of writing credits, only writing for the disappointingly average Nathan Fillion television vehicle, Castle. He also is credited as the writer for the upcoming film; Gangster Squad. The trailer looks good, but obviously due to the film still being unreleased we can’t judge the quality of his writing. While it may seem a little odd for someone who has such a small profile to hold the keys to a project as huge and crucial to Warner Brothers as the Justice League, it is worth realizing that a lot of these productions run through a litany of various writers and usually the script is comprised of pieces of many different versions. Also, with someone as fresh as Beall, Warner Brothers can have greater creative control over the direction of the screenplay, and you can be sure that that screenplay will be altered drastically once Man Of Steel has been released. Unfortunately, Beall is hardly the inspired guiding pair of hands that this project needs in order to be successful.
Darkseid and Superman having a disagreement
When crafting a great screenplay for what should be an incredible and memorable comic book movie, there are few roles (arguably) more important than that of the villain of the piece. The villain has to be the perfect foil for our hero; a reflection of their positivity warped and mutated in a negative light. Something that will make our hero feel vulnerable and threatened on a psychological, emotional and physical level.
It takes a special kind of villain to stand up to Superman, let alone the entire Justice League, and it will certainly be difficult to convince casual viewers that a threat is big enough for all of these heroes to have to work together.
Let’s also consider that if Nolan does indeed spearhead this project, that means that his version of Batman will likely remain intact in the overarching movie universe that DC is seeking to create, which is most certainly a bad thing. Consider that Nolan crafted a trilogy that was very much his own, which is fine, however it was never supposed to exist outside of that initial trilogy. This is evident in his dispatching of MAJOR Batman characters, pretty much the four most important Batman villains – R’as Al Ghul, The Joker, Two Face and Bane have all been “dealt with” in various ways (three dead, the other might as well be due to the iconic performance by the now dead young actor). Two of those villains have been genuine Justice League threats in the past, (Joker and R’as Al Ghul) however they’re now off the table.
For The Avengers film we were treated to a familiar villain in that of Loki. Loki had already featured in the film Thor, as the titular character’s mischievous and emotionally conflicted half-brother. Loki has devolved into madness since Thor, but delivers his villainy with a lot of pathos. He is able to make such an indelible impression because he has been allowed two films to grow and his character development has a strong and well-formed arc.Comparatively at the end of The Avengers we are briefly introduced to Thanos, an immensely powerful godlike alien being who is a monumental threat.
In November 2014 Marvel will be releasing The Guardians Of The Galaxy, the tenth film in their movie universe that will expand the franchise into the far reaches of space and deal with some of the smaller characters in Marvel’s pantheon, such as a talking racoon (no joke). This film will also serve as a massive introduction to Thanos and allow audiences to get to know his story, his character arc and his powers before The Avengers 2 where he will be the main event. This attention to detail and dedication to crafting long term stories is what makes Marvel’s venture successful and which is why trying to cram it all into one movie in the Justice League is not an advisable idea.
Reports have been circulating stating that the villain used in the Justice League movie will be none other than the tremendous Darkseid; a ridiculously powerful character that is more than a match for the entire Justice League. The only problem? He bears a striking resemblance in both looks and powers to Thanos, so much so that casual audiences are going to find it very difficult to differentiate between the two. Comic book fans would be correct in stating that Darkseid actually existed before Thanos, but to the populous it’s going to look like the reverse, which is rather ironic. By the time we’re introduced to Darkseid in the Justice League movie, we’re going to have spent 2 and a bit films with Thanos – knowing that character intimately compared to Darkseid who will be very similar in both looks and story, yet a stranger and will unfortunately come across as a pale imitation to the uninitiated.
Thanos, looking pretty angry!
That’s not even taking into account Darkseid himself. His character is rather complex and his story alone could warrant its own film, which means that he is yet another large origin that Warner Brothers somehow have to juggle because they chose to rush the film. So, by the time Justice League rolls around, not only will Darkseid look like a clone, he’s not even going to get the time he needs to differentiate himself. Also, is it particularly wise to pick one of DC’s strongest ever opponents to be the first foe that the Justice League faces? Again, this demonstrates Warner Brothers lack of investment and foresight in this project.
5. Space (High Concept)
This may seem like a weird one, but think about it. The Marvel universe is set within the real world, our heroes are extraordinary people that are fundamentally part of our world. DC on the other hand have a large amount of astonishingly overpowered characters that all come with their own concepts and locales. Metropolis, Gotham, Atlantis, space, time travel, alternate universes etc.
Yes, The Avengers had a little bit of space in it with the alien invader army. Space however had already been introduced and explained in Marvel’s previous movie: Thor. Space in The Avengers wasn’t much more than a staging ground for the villain of the movie; essentially, it got away with it because it wasn’t a full-fledged element. Marvel are about to make space a major player in 2014 with Guardians Of The Galaxy; their riskiest and most dangerous project yet, which by the way, if you weren’t counting will be Marvel’s TENTH creation in its movie universe. This is an extreme safety net because people are already firmly invested in the MMU.
Thor is a character that to many people on paper would seem absurd; especially when contrasted with the worlds of Iron Man and Hulk, whom for all intents and purposes belong in a very scientific world. Asgard was realized wonderfully in the Thor film and the story and characters were imbued with Shakespearean qualities; elevating the production considerably. However, there was a reason we didn’t see any of Asgard in The Avengers. The same can be said about the World War II setting that Captain America hails from. These characters had the opportunity to introduce themselves and allow audiences to become accustomed to their characters and concepts. When you consider that all of these characters warranted their own “origin” films, what does that say for Justice League? Currently the message they’re sending loud and clear is that Superman is the only one worthy of an introduction. Would The Avengers have been as good if it crushed Thor and Cap’s origin into a mere ten minute sideline?
High concept features are great, but when you try and crush too many “big ideas” into a short space of time you run the risk of your project becoming extremely cluttered and borderline incoherent. With a Justice League movie you have to introduce a number of large high concept ideas and the audience have to accept all of them. It’s even less promising when audiences have already shown a lack of interest and acceptance of Green Lantern in a solo format, let alone his high concept mixed together with Martian Manhunter’s shape shifting alien, Wonder Woman’s Amazon princess and Aquaman’s watery antics.
6. There’s no humour
Ask anyone what they thought of The Avengers and you’ll find one of the top three answers will be “It was hilarious!” and while you may not necessarily agree you cannot deny that part of its vast appeal was due to its very humorous approach to serious events. In a world plagued by “Nolanitis” (more on that later), it’s extremely refreshing to find a comic book film that not only seems aware of its roots, but happily and fondly embraces them in a warm cuddle, before skipping off to the playground to celebrate each other’s warmth. As ridiculous as a euphemism as that is, The Avengers vs The Dark Knight Rises in terms of mood was like being cuddled in a candlelit, incense scented bubble bath vs crawling through a pit of razor blades while you watched video footage of your parents being tortured. The Avengers was warm and fuzzy, but not in a patronizing way, in a wholesome, interesting and ultimately fulfilling way.
While I don’t think humour is an essential part of comic book movies at all, I think having a tonal balance is the key to success. Nolan’s Batman films are played so straight faced seriously that whenever they do decide to make a joke it often comes across as awkward and out of place. The beauty of the Marvel movie universe is the characters are far more relatable and drawing humour from them is a far more natural part of the process. Tony Stark for example, is a character who is all about humour; his sarcasm is just as reflective as his armour and this comes across as a facet of his character, rather than an impulsive need to try and break up the tone with a gruffly barked ineffective one liner.
The DC universe has always been known to take itself very seriously, so it’ll be interesting how Warner Brothers choose to fill this very present void. Audiences like humour as it helps them relax and engage with the characters on a more human level, but at the same time it has to be naturalistic; because when it’s forced upon characters who have no business trying to be funny, it becomes incredibly obvious and breaks the immersive properties of the film.
This is a tricky one and has been touched upon briefly in an earlier point. Marvel have benefitted by perfectly casting almost all of their roles, whether it be the titular comic book characters or a small walk on part. One thing that really helped The Avengers was the other Phase One films not only allowed audiences to warm to the characters that they may have been unfamiliar with, but also enabled them to warm to the actors playing those characters.
Christian Bale was a great Batman for Nolan’s universe and easily the best movie Batman delivered to us thus far. However, whether he’s a good enough Batman to go and throw down with gods in the Justice League is out for debate. Christian Bale’s grisly portrayal certainly suited Nolan’s Heat-esque narrative, but when thrown into the open world of science fiction, space and comic book high concept, one is left to wonder whether Bale would be left floundering like a fish out of water. Not to mention that the actor tends to take himself rather seriously and would probably regard the more comic book nature of Justice League material “beneath him”.
So, that leaves Joseph Gordon Levitt, who for the one person out there reading this who hasn’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet (sorry), has now taken up the mantle of Batman due to Nolan’s theory that it is merely a symbol and anyone can be Batman. Aside from the fact that this is utter rubbish and profoundly stupid – Batman is the greatest detective in the DC universe and one of the greatest minds. He has had decades of training to become a hardened and ruthlessly efficient fighter – you cannot make a Justice League movie and include a Batman that isn’t Bruce Wayne. Judging from Levitt’s John Blake, he has decades of training and character building before he could even hold a candle to the Bruce Wayne depicted in the comics.
Henry Cavill will have the chance to prove to the world that he is Superman in next year’s Man Of Steel, however the jury is still out as to whether he will succeed in convincing audiences that he is the genuine article. It is clear that Man Of Steel’s reception is going to strongly enforce the direction of the Justice League movie, with script rewrites being an absolute certainty after Warner Brothers gauge audience reactions. That’s another problem with this project; they aren’t forging ahead and creating their own vision, forcing other people to follow, they’re essentially trying to make an incomprehensibly huge movie based entirely upon what they think people want. While this may be a good business decision initially, it could potentially sacrifice genuine quality that the film should be striving for. It should be noted that the reason why The Avengers was so successful was not just because it was a super hero team up movie, but because the quality was so high that people wanted to see it again and again and again. Repeat viewings is where these huge spectacles make their money, and if Warner Brothers are too focused on trying to pull in those initial opening weekend figures they may lose sight of the long game and this will result in diminishing returns for the film.
Speaking of diminishing returns this brings us to Warner Brothers massive failure – their adaptation of Green Lantern, starring the miscast Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan fighting Parallax… the very monster that Hal Jordan would later become in the comics. (You didn’t expect a character they don’t care about to be true to the comics did you?) Are they going to give Ryan Reynolds another shot at the character in the Justice League? What about the fact that in the first movie they’ve killed two major Green Lantern antagonists and eliminated an important Hal Jordan story arc for the future with an incredibly short-sighted script? Green Lantern was a film that played out in a way that made it very clear that Warner Brothers did not care much for the character, or that they had any hopes for a quality film to come out of that concept. Now, Green Lantern is supposed to be one seventh of a superhero team up, (with four other characters they couldn’t give less of a shit about) which doesn’t exactly bode well for the quality of the Justice League movie.
As well as untangling all of the mess with Superman, Batman and Green Lantern casting; Warner Brothers also now have to find strong lead actors to play The Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. The stronger the actor, the more believable and relatable the characters are going to seem, and especially because you’re trying to fit all of their character introductions into the same movie, you need to work hard to pick the perfect actors. While Warner Brothers have seemingly made good casting decisions for Batman and Superman, allowing more “independent” and artistic actors to flex their acting muscles, it remains to be seen whether they can extend that courtesy to the other franchises that they don’t have the same faith in.
The Avengers was made for $250,000,000 which may sound like a lot, but that’s almost the standard price tag for big blockbusters nowadays. Transformers 3: Dark Of The Moon racked up the same cost, as well as The Dark Knight Rises and Avatar et al. Green Lantern itself racked up a similar budget, though there are rumoured reports that calculate the budget at closer to $300,000,000 making that one character’s botched movie more expensive than Marvel’s entire team up adventure!
How can that happen? Well, there’s something to be said about discipline. Disney originally wrote the book on how to make movies carefully and concisely. Being a studio with its roots firmly in animated film it becomes a certain skill to be incredibly deliberate in everything you choose to bring to the screen. When you consider that animated film is still a very big part of what Disney does and their identity, compared to Warner Brothers who have long abandoned many of their animated roots in favour of delivering big blockbuster entertainment. Perhaps some of Disney’s stringent budget discipline is rubbing off on Marvel’s productions?
Not to mention that the special effects in The Avengers far outshone the effects work present in the frankly, ugly Green Lantern effort, and you’re left wondering just how expensive is a Justice League film going to be? When you consider all of the points above and all the elements they are trying to bring and tie together all in one film – can you imagine it being the same amount of money as The Avengers? Will Warner Brothers make the most expensive film ever made? Is that too much of a risk to take considering they’re going up against The Avengers 2 AND Star Wars Episode VII in the same year. Warner Brothers entering the fight late, with a potentially rushed half-baked effort is bad enough, but if that effort is suddenly the most expensive film ever made by a large margin – it could be a catastrophic loss to the studio.
Consider all of the super powers that need to be rendered, the rumours that a large portion of the film will take place in space, and the fact that when you introduce characters like Aquaman who have a strong water component; well, many of you may already know that water is one of the hardest and most expensive special effects to get right. Water, fire, animals and children are the four things you should never try and do special effects with, and we all know that the former two will undoubtedly feature heavily in a Justice League adaptation.
(Warning: Whatever you do, do not Google Image search this term I just made up. I had a very nasty shock…)
I should preface this with saying that I genuinely like Christopher Nolan. I think that from his humble origins as an English literature university graduate cum great independent filmmaker turned director of high spectacle – his evolution has been vast and impressive. His biggest problem is that his writing has taken a hit as he has moved onto larger spectacle. His scriptwriting really hit its peak on The Prestige (his best film by a relatively large margin) and since then has unfortunately been in steady decline, with his last two films (Inception and The Dark Knight Rises) being his weakest writing efforts by far.
The truth is, Nolan the writer has given way to Nolan the spectacle or Nolan the tone. As his fame and power in the industry has reached epic heights his important artistic skills that got him there have started to falter. It remains to be seen what his next film project entails, but as of now he is veering on becoming a parody of himself.
When Hollywood finds success with something they don’t presume that it was just a perfect blending of styles, i.e. Nolan’s style complimented Batman for his version, but wouldn’t necessarily compliment Spiderman, or Superman, or Star Trek, or James Bond, or any of the other multitude of blockbusters that are appearing with that “gritty”, “Nolan-esque” tone. While Skyfall was indeed a great film (check out our review!), when you start looking at the similarities between it and that of Nolan’s Batman trilogy (as outlined in this great article from Screenrant) it starts to get a little ridiculous. Nolan is also one of the people who have ushered in the new era of the troubled hero who has to save the day whilst chewing on gravel, because they’re so troubled and badass. While, no one takes it to quite the extreme heights that Bale did in the Batman trilogy, it starts to get a little ridiculous when every promotional trailer is narrated by your favourite actor doing his best throat cancer impression.
Yes, DC is darker than Marvel as a general rule, so it would make sense to have someone like Nolan front run this project, but really, his version of Batman is not suitable for the Justice League. Contrary to popular belief, Batman is a superhero. While he may not have any overt, in your face super powers like the rest of his Justice League brethren; he makes up for all of that with his sheer Herculean determination and willpower. He will never give up, even when he has his back broken. That was where Nolan’s Batman started to fall apart, because we’re supposed to believe he is a mere troubled man, but then when he starts to don the mantle of a superhero in the third act of The Dark Knight Rises we are filled with derision. The Joker had no superpowers, but we didn’t question how he orchestrated all of the events in The Dark Knight because he was a force of nature; something that he shouldn’t have underplayed with Batman and Bruce Wayne. Would Nolan’s Batman be capable of his actions in The Tower Of Babel Justice League arc? Could that version of Bruce Wayne realistically machinate ways to defeat all of his fellow, far more powerful League-mates and then have the resources and willpower to execute them?
I fear that the DC movie universe is one step too far for Nolan, both as something that is completely out of his depth or interest (he has said on numerous occasions that he’s not a comic book fan) and would also risk him losing his identity as a strong artistic force in modern filmmaking, something that he should be extremely proud of.
The only way the spread of Nolanitis can be stopped is at the source. I hope Nolan distances himself from the project, or at least appoints someone who is more suited to the more comic book nature of the Justice League.
10. Isn’t it all just too much?
The simple answer is yes. Deciding at the last minute to make your own comic book movie universe based off a number of incredibly powerful and relatively complex beings, and to start that off with a team up film is incredibly foolhardy. Or at least it would be if Warner Brothers gave a damn. The problem with this venture is everything that has transpired thus far has screamed a company lacking in conviction of their intellectual property and are merely in a race to make a quick buck. It’s truly saddening to think that such great material will be squandered in favour of a rushed mess just to try and put bums on seats. Marvel and Disney have worked together to ensure that The Avengers delivered far beyond audience expectations and unfortunately Warner Brothers haven’t invested that level of commitment. Everything from the speedy production schedule to hiring an inexperienced screenwriter who they can easily bend to their will based on the success of Man Of Steel; to putting themselves in a bad position coming at the tail end of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, (a venture that was supposed to be isolated from any outside continuity) before their proposed Batman reboot in 2016.
All in all, while it is most certainly early days for the project, Warner Brothers have a long way to go if they can hope for any measure of success with the Justice League project. There are a lot of hurdles to circumvent and I truly hope that they manage it, otherwise this will be a colossal disappointment, perhaps even more catastrophic for fans since the release of The Phantom Menace. Yes, THAT bad. Come on Warners, push the film back to a later date and do it right.