CT Soapbox: A JLA Movie?

| May 9, 2012 | 8 Comments

Once again, I’m back on my soapbox, ready to take a stance and defend it!

This time around, I want to talk about the mammoth opening Marvel’s The Avengers movie had, and its relation to whatever DC now plans to do.

First, I have yet to see the movie. I don’t need to see it, though, in order to watch the numbers. Its twelve-day total is staggering. Over $600 million worldwide in 12 days. It should very easily join the billion dollar club. Hollywood estimates say that a movie should make three times its production cost in order to break even. This movie cost $220 million to make, so it’s safe to say that, yes, this movie broke even. It will now be on its way to printing money for the next few weeks. Records have been smashed (not just broken, but smashed), and there is no going back.

This means that Warner Brothers executives are crying. They don’t have anything on tap that will come anywhere near what Marvel just did.

Yes, I hear you and your cries of Batman. The Christopher Nolan movies did something that hasn’t been done to Batman outside of the comics: it took the concept seriously. That cannot be said of the other live-action iterations of the character. Even the Tim Burton directed movie didn’t take it as seriously as it could have.

The final movie in that universe is going to drop this summer, and while it will do well, it will have to be exceptional in order match what The Avengers has done. Exceptional. But no matter what way you look at it, this Batman movie is not counter-programming to this Avengers movie.

No, DC is going to have to do something different in order to truly counter-program against The Avengers.

They’re going to have to launch a JLA movie.

There are problems with that thought. The first, biggest problem is that they don’t have anyone or anything on deck in order to begin a JLA movie. Marvel launched four different characters in solo movies, and tied them all together with scenes at the end of each movie, building an integrated universe the likes of which has never before been seen on the big screen. They then took those characters and put them all into one movie. A movie that doesn’t need to do any character introductions (except for the villains), and can just get into story while doing the barest of a recap of each of the solo movies.

DC is already late to the party. They cannot seem to get any character off the ground except for Batman. Superman Returns was decent, but it was a guy doing a Christopher Reeve impression throughout the entire show, tacked onto fighting Lex Luthor again, with a child thrown into the mix for the hell of it. Not a blockbuster by any means, even though it took 20+ years to bring Superman back to the big screen. That movie should have printed money.

But here’s the thing. If DC does what Marvel did, then they’ll be seen as followers. Un-original. And DC doesn’t want to be seen as unoriginal. Not if they can help it.

That’s only the beginning of their problems.

Let’s look at the slate of characters that would make up their JLA movie. In no particular order: Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman.

If they were to follow the Marvel Method (heh!) of movie-making, then at least two of these characters cannot support themselves in their own movies. Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter. That was simple. There are two that are not-so-simple. The Flash and Wonder Woman.

These movies are in some sort of development. The problem with The Flash is story (which is also tied up in character—either Barry or Wally), and villain (it should be the Reverse Flash, which makes the most sense). The problems with Wonder Woman are many: story (origin, yes, but can it also be gripping?), villain (the only one that stands out is the Cheetah, but she doesn’t really stand up to Diana, now does she?), audience (which is tied to story—how are you going to get women to see this movie, which will be the primary demographic right after us comic folk), and most of all, actress (tallish, statuesque, athletic, pretty, and can act). Standing up these two movies will be a challenge.

The Green Lantern will need to be rebooted. It needs an actor that has dramatic chops. Ryan Reynolds is not it. I saw the movie on DVD, and kept waiting for Van Wilder to show up. They can do a sequel, leaving Hal Jordan alone for John Stewart, whom everyone will recognize from the Justice League cartoon. It would probably be a better attended movie, with a more formidable script attached to it than what we were given with Hal. We can eventually get to Sinestro, but leave him for another day.

That leaves Superman and Batman, both of which represent their own problems. Superman first, because Batman presents the biggest problem.

Superman needs a reboot. Yes, I know he’s getting one right now, but unless they open up that universe to allow for the possibility of other heroes, the film will be a failure, because it will still be closed, unable to compete with Marvel and their offerings. DC has a few choices, as I see it. They can put this movie on the shelf and do another, opening up their universe for the inclusion of other heroes; they can do a sequel that opens up the possibility of other heroes (which could also mess up the timeline for a JLA movie); or they could do a third option, which I’ll come to soon.

Batman. This is a whole other kettle of fish. Forget the Nolan Batman. There’s no room in that universe for the inclusion of other heroes. It’s going toward a reboot, because that’s what needs to happen. If there was an opening of the universe now to allow other heroes, it screws up the timeline for a JLA movie, because Batman would be first, and others would seem to spring from him. It would also lessen the impact, the realness of the movies, unless there was a way to take each concept as seriously as Nolan took Batman. That, my friends, is highly unlikely.

There are two ways that this can go, really, and there are repercussions for both. The first way, the less obvious way, is to keep Batman insulated from the rest of the JLA continuity. His movie cycle is really just ending. Another reboot so soon? At least there is a break in time between the last Spider-Man movie and this one. Five years. Not too long that it falls from people’s minds, and not so soon that people are saying, Already? AGAIN?! That’s a decent enough time.

To continue on the path set by Nolan would be a good thing. There’d be no Schumachering of the franchise. (Yes, I made his name into a verb.) That’s what would happen by opening up the franchise to other heroes. It’s inevitable. Night follows day. Superpowers in Nolan’s Bat-verse, no matter how well done, would be akin to letting Schumacher onboard.

But this is impossible. We all know they’re not going to take this option. Batman is a cash cow, and his reboot is necessary in order to open up the universe. Why a reboot? Because the current Batman is not close enough to the comic book version to be in the JLA movie. I will explain why this will be important in a little bit. But the comic version of the Batman is fearsome, he is intelligent, he is a detective. He is also a leader. All of these things are needed for him to be in the JLA movie.

The live-action movie version needs for Batman to be all of these things, because as the only one without powers, he will need everything in his power to prove he belongs on the team.

In fact, the live-action JLA movie will actually be all about Batman. Unless they bring about Doomsday in the next Superman movie and they use the JLA movie as a sort of sequel to that, killing Superman in the process (so that he can be resurrected in another solo movie), any JLA movie has to have the cash cow that is Batman, and that movie will be about him, just as X-Men was in reality a Wolverine movie.

That’s my stance. If Warners makes a JLA movie, that movie will star and be about Batman, who will have to be rebooted in order to fit (along with Superman). Of course, if they use the Marvel Movie Method, the JLA movie is at least 10 years off. Lots of principle characters to lay the foundation for first, as well as the universe, not to mention sequels.

Think I’m wrong? I invite discussion in the comments. Just a few things: no spoilers for the Avengers movie. I haven’t seen it yet, and I have not seen any previews, trailers, or pictures. I am pure on purpose, and wish to remain that way until I see the movie. Also, no spoilers for the upcoming Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman movies. I have also purposely not seen any trailers, pictures, or read any discussions about plot. Speculation is fine, but it has to be pure speculation. Do not assume that I know anything about these movies. More than likely, I do not.

Thank you. Now, discuss!

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Category: Columns, CT Soapbox

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (8)

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  1. Evan Windsor says:

    The reason the Marvel Shared Universe works is because it was planned as a shared universe.

    If DC wants a shared universe, they need to plan one – which means starting over on every franchise. Abandon the Christian Bale Batman, abandon the Henry Cavill Superman, and abandon the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern. Reboot them all with the same studio overseeing them.

    This of course leads to its own problems – because the shared universe is leading up to a JLA story. You can’t just tell the story of Superman’s origin; you have to show how he is the FIRST superhero, and the other superheroes are inspired by him. This weakens the Batman story, as we would then have to explain why a billionaire needs to dress up to fight crime when there is literally an alien GOD already doing it.

    And, as Steve mentioned, reboots take time. At LEAST five years to do it right, and I would still argue it’s too soon for another Spider-Man origin story. And to make a shared universe, DC needs to reboot EVERY major franchise they have. They could make a sequel to Jonah Hex or Constantine, but the heavy hitters would all need to sit on the bench for five years. You think Warner Brothers wants to sit five years without a DC Blockbuster?

    There’s another solution – one that works better, I think. DC ignores the shared universe completely and makes a standalone Justice League movie.

    You take Batman (not Christian Bale), Superman (not Henry Cavill, Brandon Routh or Tom Welling), Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (not Ryan Reynolds), Flash, and Aquaman and you show them in the Justice League kicking ass.

    People know who Batman is. People know who Superman and Wonder Woman are. While it wasn’t true two years ago, I’d say at this point most people know who Green Lantern is. And a guy who runs fast and a guy who splashes in water and is useless are pretty easy to introduce.

    No origin stories – you just start. The first five minutes of the movie is an action scene showing who everyone is, what their powers are, and how they relate to one another. Explanatory enough to get everyone up to speed, but brief enough and action packed enough to not be pandery to us who already know who superman is.

    Ditch the origin stories. Ditch the shared universe. If you want to tell a good Justice League story, then just do it.

    Let Christopher Nolan’s Batman exist in his universe; and let the JLA Batman exist in his. The two films can co-exist.

    That’s my opinion, at least.

  2. Tyler James says:

    I’ll play the contrarian…

    DC can always just go and make a damn fine Justice League movie. Forget about establishing all of the characters first. Completely ignore continuity. Just make a GREAT FILM.

    Plenty of people (and lots of women) are going to see the Avengers without seeing any of the other Marvel films. Hot, A-List cast + great reviews + spectacle + incredible marketing will get people into the theaters.

  3. DonU says:

    DC/Warner Bros. would be wise to avoid emulating Marvel/Disney’s movie making endeavors. Creating stand alone movies to cover heroes origin stories and then rolling them up into a larger franchise would definitely look like bandwagon jumping, and frankly, there’s just no need for it.

    If DC/Warner Bros. were smart, they’d capitalize on what makes The Justice League different from The Avengers. Joe-movie-watcher may not know the difference, but we geeks are clued in. Marvel tells stories about characters who live in a world painted with shades of grey. Their internal struggle is what defines them. DC’s characters are more black and white. The heroes tend to already know who they are and what they stand for.

    Indulge me while I break it down:

    The Avengers (the group as opposed to the movie) is about the best of the best being forced to come together to overcome some threat, while each individuals personality threatens to break the team. Killing isn’t really a concern with this group. Widow and Hawkeye are assassins. Stark is/was a weapons monger. Steve Rogers is/was a soldier. Hulks killed a lot of people. Sure, Banner has remorse about this, but ultimately he’s done in a lot of folks. I’m less sure of Thor’s body count. I know he’s put down quite a few frost giants in his time, but I’m not sure he’s ever harmed a person (I’m least familiar with his character). Needless to say, the Avengers are lethal.

    In contrast, the Justice League has an incredibly strong moral compass. Superman and Batman work so well together because they’ve both drawn the same line in the sand: they won’t kill. Green Lantern is basically an intergalactic cop. Aquaman is a king responsible for a kingdom. Superman, Batman, and the Flash have each taken a city to protect. Martian Manhunter has come to earth to help humanity avoid the pitfalls of genocidal behavior. Wonder Woman is supposed to be a goddess of wisdom and war (yeah, that’s right. The most lethal member of the League is the girl). Large scale threats certainly brought the League together, but they’ve stayed together because of their shared ideals. Each member of the Justice League is a natural born protector.

    The smart bet for DC would be to emphasis the morality of the Justice League as a group. Honestly, I feel the characters in the Justice League would be wasted in their own individual movies (with the exception of Batman). Each member of the League is a super-powered loner. The joy is in watching them come together as a sort of family. Bonded by their strong sense of morality, and, the least acknowledged aspect of the League, their desire to not be alone.

  4. I agree with the idea that a JLA movie should just be made. Don’t worry about giving the characters origins, we know them for the most part. Just get into the group action.
    THEN DC can gauge the popularity of the characters based on general audience response. Because everyone’s generic idea of what Aquaman is like, could be put to shame by JLA movie… and Aquaman could be the next Iron Man.
    Now that ‘Avengers’ is out, Marvel has won the Team movie race. Now its the race for the seas! That’s right, who will get to Atlantis first. Will we see Namor first, or Aquaman?

    • Evan Windsor says:

      Rumor is that Namor will be in Iron Man 3.

      Though there have been a few shakeups so who knows if that still stands.

  5. James Hansard says:

    Why bother with living, breathing actors?

    If DC wants to do a Justice League movie, then why not move in the CGI direction given the possibilities that technology has opened up in recent years. You dispense with the need to match the physical characteristics of actors to the superhero ideal. Wonder Woman being a prime example – tallish, statuesque, athletic, pretty, and can act. The CGI characters that resemble the comic book versions can be done exceedingly well – Batman in the video games Arkham Aslyum and Arkham City stands out. Ray Winstone was remade as Beowulf, a big difference in physical appearance.

    There are also quality voice actors who are associated with animated series based on the characters – like Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Tim Daly (Superman). You could use some of these talented voice actors or standard actors for their star power (sic).

    The special effects required to pull off some of the more spectacular action and combat scenes in superhero comics would also suit a complete CGI production rather than scenes constructed from green screen acting.

    • This is true. I’ve never really understood why they were so afraid to make, non direct to video, movies. I suppose its because general audience associates cartoons with ‘kids’. But if you make it good enough, people will notice, and you’ll get the proper response. After one serious hit, the next will be that much easier to sell.

      • James Hansard says:

        The movie doesn’t have to be animated. Look at Avatar and the upcoming Prometheus. Bring in Weta Digital and Andy Serkis. 🙂

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