So, Warner Brothers is proceeding with it’s plan to make a Justice League movie. I don’t have a lot of faith that it will work out even if made. They are apparently talking to Ben Affleck about directing. Which is a perfectly good choice. Ben has proven he has the skills as a director. But the main problem I see here?
Warner Brothers blew it. They have been trying to get their super-hero franchises up and running…but other than Nolan’s Dark Knight Saga, they have fallen flat. Superman Returns was a “love letter” to twenty year old films, rather than a film in it’s own right. Green Lantern was lackluster. And so far? They cannot get Wonder Woman into movie theaters. Even a few years ago, when director George Miller (the Road Warrior) was attached, there was no plan to tie the characters from their own movies. Christian Bale and Brandon Routh were not signed on for the Justice League film…and they planned to have different actors in the role. Even now, Henry Cavill is only signed for Superman films. Why? Because of the same “problem” all of Warner Brother’s comic book films have. Nolan’s Batman was a solo act. He did not exist in a world of super-heroes. While there was a tv shot of Gotham in Superman Returns, Superman is the only hero people are aware of. In his five years missing, no heroes popped up in his place. Green Lantern was the only super-hero on earth in Green Lantern.
Once Marvel Studios was up and running, they did not have Spider-Man and the X-Men…but they had a few power characters. And they set up a plan. They dropped the hint at the end of Iron Man…Stark was not alone. And each film after that built on that idea. The Incredible Hulk introduced the idea that the Hulk was a failed attempt to replicate a super-soldier serum. Iron Man 2 introduced Black Widow and ended with the Discovery of Thor’s hammer. Thor introduced Hawkeye and the Cosmic Cube. Captain America had Iron Man’s dad. The films were laced with references to Marvel history and had S.H.I.E.L.D. connecting them together. And they all had Stan Lee appear. Marvel made sure to sign the actors to multiple movies-their own, the Avengers and some likely crossovers. And Samuel L. Jackson raked in the dough.
Marvel hired top tier directors and writers to provide fun, witty dialog and plenty of adventure. The films could connect with their comic fan audience-but worked just as well for non-comic readers. My parents enjoyed the Iron Man films, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. They do not read comics. Joss Whedon, his writers, cast and Marvel (among many others) created a blast of a film that blew prior competition out of the water. Marvel set out with a plan. And it paid off big time. It seemed like a crazy idea at the start…but because they focused? They got it to come together better than most expected.
DC and Warner Brothers? I am sure they look at the Avengers and think “WE CAN DO THAT!!!” But really? They can’t. They do not have the time to make five or six films leading up to the Justice League film eight years from now. If DC and Warner Brothers care…here is my pitch on how to do it.
Listen guys. We do not have eight years. We need to get three films, one every year leading up to the Justice League movie. We need them filming along side each other so they are all coming out each year, no two or three year waits. We sign our cast to several films within the franchise. We should have Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Black Canary and Martian Manhunter. Maybe Plastic Man. For weirdos like me.
Batman: Gotham Knight
We ignore Christopher Nolan’s films. Nolan made great Batman films that should be left alone. We introduce a new actor to play Batman. This Batman is not quite the loner…we should look to Scott Snyder’s run as a main source of inspiration. NO ORIGIN STORY. Everybody knows Batman’s Story. Our Batman has been doing this a few years. Batman is the world’s greatest detective…so we go for a mystery. This gives us the opportunity to at least drop hints if not feature some characters like Batgirl, Oracle, Nightwing, the Huntress (all have the potential to be spun off). Definitely should have a cameo by Black Canary. Maybe our center is a new Robin…there should be a Batman Family. We want to avoid the Joker…the obvious comparisons to Nolan’s Dark Knight would just take the attention from where it should be. We use an obscure character as the villain…say Cluemaster. Maybe have him employ Clayface. Clayface is ideal both as a chameleon trickster and muscle. We also drop hints of a larger universe. Batman’s computers should be running computations in the background of upcoming Justice Leaguers.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow
Our Superman is newer to the scene, maybe active as Superman for less than a year. In the background of the film is Lex Luthor. He gets screen time…but as a rich business man who started as a scientist. He has been watching the skies and believes Superman is the beginning of an invasion force. Clark Kent is still trying to find a way to fit in with his new world of Metropolis. He has a crush on Lois and hangs out with Jimmy Olson. When the pressure gets to be to much, he flies home to visit his parents. The threat of the film is Metallo, the man with the Kryptonite heart. Metallo is really a pawn for Luthor and through their fights, Luthor is collecting data on Superman. The temptation to make Luthor the front and center villain needs to be resisted. We can introduce Flash, or at least his Alter Ego Barry Allen.
Wonder Woman:Rise of the Amazon*
This one needs to make people stunned it took so long. Wonder Woman needs to be noble, heroic. She is newer to our world and a warrior. She does not defer to men, while not being disdainful. She just does not recognize Patriarchal Authority. We keep pilot Steve Trevor, whose plane crashes on Themyscira. To keep man’s world from finding the Island, she brings Trevor to America…we are going far back for the villain… ruler of the Atlantean city Venturia Queen Clea. Clea is a powerful foe, and Wonder Woman’s opposite. She is cruel and seeks to expand her rule. And she especially despises men. While she may pay ip service to a warped and twisted take on femenist thought, when it comes down to it, she just likes to conquer and subjugate. This connection allows for an appearance of Atlantean Arthur Currie (Aquaman).
It is very important that all three films open the door to a wider universe. Characters who might appear across the three films could be Amanda Waller, Maxwell Lord and Mister Terrific. References to places like STAR Labs, organizations like Checkmate should cross the films. This can set up for spin-off films after Justice League.
The Justice League
We go classic…Despero…using the version from Justice league international, he is a massive brute with the ability to manipulate minds…He is too powerful for military and solo heroes just cannot beat him. The greatest heroes on earth need to band together to defeat him. The Justice League needs giant, cosmic threats…grand scale. Adventure, humor and heroism should drive the film.
From there you can spin off characters like the Flash, Black Canary (Birds of Prey maybe?), Green Lantern and so on.
And also, on a smaller scale?
Not Quite the Justice League (Title to come later). A team comprised Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Fire, Ice, the Elongated Man and his wife Sue (a non-super human who finds herself falling into the role of director for the heroes). This would be a buddy superhero comedy adventure.
*Seriously…doesn’t Wonder Woman have a nickname along the lines of the Dark Knight or Man of Steel?!