This blog post is really long. I apologize for that, but I have a lot to say, here. I have a lot of thoughts on this, and I don’t feel like splitting it up, so please, bear with me. It is a lot to get through, but I think it could generate a great discussion, too… at least, I hope so. So please… read it anyways. Take some time and consider what I have to say.
And again… I’m sorry that it’s so long…
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the recent release of Marvel’s Avengers, buzz that I, personally, think is well-deserved. Although I was not a fan of the movies Hulk, Thor, or Iron Man 2, and Captain America was okay, but not great, Avengers left me happy, excited, and seriously looking forward to the BluRay release and a second Avengers movie. It was a brilliant movie that deserves all the praise it gets and then some.
Yes, it had its flaws. If they were going to release it in 3D, then they should have shot it in 3D. I first saw it in 3D, and the 3D was… pointless. I watched more of the movie with the glasses off than on. Also, seeing as Batman is my favorite comic book hero, and I’m of the opinion that Nolan’s soon-to-end trilogy is the best live-action adaption of Batman that has existed to this point, I actually like a little dark, gritty realism in my CB movies, although that’s not a critique of Avengers so much as a personal preference. I really wish there had been a movie for Black Widow and Hawkeye, because I would have liked to see the history there. I hope we’ll get that movie now. Oh… and I’ll go ahead and join the chorus of people wondering if Jeremy Renner just had poor training with his bow or if he simply watched some bad bow-and-arrow films and tried to imitate them. His technique was horrendous… and I know that having only ever used a bow-and-arrow once in my life.
A lot of people argue over whether or not Avengers was a game-changer. I’d say that, at least in one sense, the answer is both yes and no. X-Men had already done the whole “teaming up of a bunch of superheroes” thing, so in that sense, the answer is no, Avengers is not a game-changer. However, despite X-Men 1, 2, and First Class (3 and Origins: Wolverine never happened as far as I’m concerned), which were all absolutely incredible movies, Avengers did do it better. X-Men suffered from putting the focus mainly on Wolverine. Now, I love Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman pulled him off well… but what about Cyclops? He was always my favorite of the X-Men, and the movies really short-changed him, IMO. Avengers focused mainly on Stark and Banner, but not so much that they became the reason for the movie. Unlike X-Men, where Wolverine was the main character and the rest were a very strong supporting cast, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America, and Loki were all the main cast. So Avengers pulled off the “teaming up of a bunch of superheroes” a lot better than X-Men did. It raised the bar higher, and that’s what makes it, in one way, at least, a game-changer.
And now I’ll tie that in to DC and the Justice League.
The truth is, I’m dying to see a Justice League movie. The only problem is, Avengers truly set a high bar, and the WB and DC would have to be careful to do it without completely ripping off Marvel and Disney, which will be hard. They can’t separate entirely; even if the Justice League came first in the comics, Marvel and Disney beat DC and the WB in the live-action films. So DC and the WB have their work cut out for them. As such, I’d like to go ahead and tell you what I’d like to see in a Justice League movie franchise.
First and foremost, no more reboots. I know people are talking about a Batman reboot, and I go back-and-forth on it, but I think I’ve decided that a Batman reboot after Nolan’s trilogy would be a mistake… at least as far as an origins story is concerned. If they do one movie simply to establish Batman in a Justice League setting, then fine. As long as it’s done well, I’m happy. Same for Superman, and Green Lantern; do movies to establish them in a JL universe, but do not recreate the characters again.
Second, they have to be done well. Don’t try to copy what Marvel and Disney did with their Avengers universe, but at the same time, don’t try to go uber-realistic, either. Strike a balance. Let me give some examples, starting with Batman (who I’ll spend the most time on, since he’s my favorite hero):
I have been spoiled by Nolan’s take on Batman. While I recognize that the gritty realism of the Nolan franchise is not suited to a Justice League universe, which is decidedly more science-fiction and less realistic than Nolan’s Batverse, that does not mean you can’t have a dark, gritty, psychological Batman in a Justice League universe. I’m sorry, but I no longer have any interest in ever seeing William Dozier’s Batman (played by Adam West in the 60’s), Tim Burton’s Batman, or Joel Schumacher’s Batman in the movies ever again. Batman is supposed to be dark, brooding, and brutal. He is supposed to have psychological issues. He’s not driven mainly by any need to do good for humanity and such… he’s mainly driven by vengeance. This is what makes Batman so great. It’s why he’s my favorite all-time hero… well, that and the lack of any actual superpowers. What makes him “super” is his technical, fighting, mechanical, and detective skills, and his seemingly unlimited supply of money.
As far as Bruce Wayne’s stance on not being an executioner… first off, he killed like mad when he was first introduced in the comics, and frankly, while it can be overdone (Burton’s Batman), I’m okay with that. Batman has certain villains that simply cannot just be locked up, because they will escape to wreak havoc again (the “revolving door at Arkham” was pretty much the driving factor behind the Animated series, and while I don’t think the Joker or Ivy should be killed, what about Bane, or Killer Croc?). I fully expect Bane to be killed in TDKR… whether it be by Batman, Catwoman, or somebody else, I don’t know, but he will be killed. I think Batman should constantly be fighting himself over the rule… I think he shouldn’t set out to kill, but should be torn up over the fact that, sometimes, it simply can’t be helped, so he does, in fact, kill. I think Nolan has actually dealt with this okay, but it can be dealt with a lot better.
I also do not want to see a latex suit in a live-action Batman… ever. I recognize that I fall in a minority on this point, but I think the Batsuit in Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and now in Rises, is perhaps the best live-action Batsuit I’ve ever seen. Now, I will grant that the rubber suits are hard to move in. And Nolan’s take in TDK/R has its flaws. But Batman should be at least somewhat bulletproof and imposing. What I’d like to see is an evolution of the TDK/R suit… less plate-of-armor-like, more bullet-proof, and still more movement. It’s the restriction that has made the live-action rubber Batsuits so annoying, but Nolan has shown, with the TDK/R Batsuit, that a rubber suit can be done and not be very restrictive. So I want to see an evolution of Nolan’s take on the suit, making it less busy, less restrictive, and more bulletproof. If they have to make a new Batsuit partly or completely CGI to pull it off, then as long as it’s done tastefully and not over-the-top (here’s looking at you, Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern), then I can accept that. But please… no grey-and-blue latex with underpants on the outside, thank you very much. I wouldn’t mind a black Kevlar suit as opposed to rubber, but I really don’t want the tight latex… if Adam West’s Batman was any indication, it would look like crap in a live-action setting. In the cartoons, it works… just not in live-action… in my opinion, of course.
Over-all, I believe that Batman should be as dark, gritty, brutal, and psychologically torn as Nolan’s Batman is and Burton’s Batman was. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be funny or have normal moments, but if I have to watch another Adam West or George Clooney Batman, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.
And please. Leave Robin out of it.
Next we have Superman. They are already rebooting the Superman franchise with Man of Steel, which was written by David Goyer and Christopher Nolan, is being produced by Nolan, Emma Thomas, Charles Roven, and Deborah Snyder, directed by Zack Snyder, and scheduled to be released on June 14, 2013. I have no idea if there are plans to tie it in to a possible Justice League franchise, but I think there should be. If DC and the WB are planning a Justice League, and I’m sure they are (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog), then they should not do a MoS franchise only to start over for the Justice League. MoS should tie in with the Justice League, but only in subtle ways. I’ll get to that in a little bit.
Next we need Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern. Wonder Woman needs a true reboot for a Justice League universe. Because we haven’t seen a live-action Wonder Woman in a very long time, I see no problem with doing a Wonder Woman franchise. But just because it’s Wonder Woman does not mean it has to be a light-hearted romp meant for the family. I see no reason why Wonder Woman can’t be a gritty action series geared towards both men and women. Plus, I see Wonder Woman as a feminist, so I’d expect that to be played up in any Wonder Woman franchise. Not overbearingly, of course; it can be overdone. But feminism is still a viable movement because gender equality has very simply not yet been achieved (contrary to popular opinion; women still make less than men, rape victims still get blamed, and women are still fighting for autonomy and control over what happens to their own bodies… so, no offense, but, if you really think that Feminism is “wrong” and “no longer viable” these days, then you are either pathetically ignorant or a misogynistic douchehat). Taking the feminism out of Wonder Woman would be killing the character, in my humble opinion. It’s part of what makes her who she is.
Also, quite honestly, I kind of want to see that Diane/Bruce-Wonder Woman/Batman dynamic in a Justice League movie… so I see no reason why a Wonder Woman franchise couldn’t bring in Bruce Wayne (NOT Batman) in a supporting or even cameo role, especially being tied in to a Justice League franchise.
It’s also time for a Flash franchise. Flash is the only franchise for this I could see being legitimately campy and doing it well. Flash was always the smart-ass of the group… so he should be a smart-ass in his movies. As for Aquaman and Manhunter, I see no reason they can’t be introduced in a Justice League movie or as supporting characters in one of the other films (kinda like Hawkeye and Black Widow were) with their franchises continuing after Justice League is established and released. They can also pretty much ignore Green Lantern until the Justice League film(s) come(s) out, because even though the movie was pretty bad, he’s already been done, and unlike many, I honestly don’t think Ryan Reynolds was the main problem (he did his best with what he was given, IMO; he just wasn’t given all that much). That doesn’t mean he has to be recast as Green Lantern, but until after a Justice League movie/franchise, we don’t need another Green Lantern movie.
As far as tying the films together… that is actually one criticism I have with the Marvel build-up. Why did they do the tying-together in blatantly obvious post-credits scenes? It should have been done within the movies, and in subtle ways. That’s what I think DC and the WB should do. For example… in Superman, why can’t Lucius Fox travel to the Daily Planet for an interview with Lois Lane? You don’t even have to show it; just have Lois mention to Clark that she’s busy because the CEO of Wayne Manor will be coming in for an interview. Have Clark give her a look and ask if she’s talking about Bruce Wayne (with some kind of visual clue that he knows that Bruce is Batman), and have her say “I said the CEO, not the owner! You know… Lucius Fox?” Maybe even have her mis-pronounce Fox’s first name, just for a laugh.
And there you have it; a perfectly viable connection between Superman and Batman, and you don’t even have to bring in any of the Batman characters. Have a similarly subtle connection to, say, Wonder Woman, and now suddenly the core of the JL (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) is tied together without much more than a few lines. You don’t even need any cameos; just a well-written script.
You could also tie in either one of those three or Aquaman or Martian Manhunter to the Flash franchise, and all will be good. But even if they somehow work subtle mentions to every single Justice League core hero into Superman, as long as it’s done well, that’s all I want. I don’t want in-your-face obvious post-credits scenes, like Marvel and Disney did. I want subtle references… acknowledgements in each movie/franchise that the other heroes exist. You can save the first direct mention of the Justice League for when any such movie is in post-production.
Finally, the bad guy. Honestly, I want Darkseid. The trouble is, Avengers already went there. Thanos may be a rip-off of Darkseid (as Jim Starlin, who created Thanos, basically admitted [although Darkseid wasn’t the original inspiration… Metron was]), but Avengers is already doing that angle. So to bring in Darkseid would simply be seen as ripping off Marvel and Disney. As much as that sucks, it is what it is. So either you introduce Darkseid in a very different way than Avengers introduced Thanos, or you simply find a different villain.
Here’s the thing, though: Darkseid is one of the only DC villains that the Justice League is familiar with that could pose a huge threat to them since, with the exception of Batman, they are basically gods. But Darkseid isn’t the only one who can pose a threat.
Now, what I’m about to suggest will probably be unpopular, but think about it for a minute. It would have to be done very well, because it could be extremely risky if not handled with care, but I think, if done right, Ace could be an incredible villain. And yes, I’m talking about the young girl who lead the first Royal Flush Gang and appeared in the Justice League and JL: Unlimited animated series. See, I want a sympathetic bad guy; a bad guy who isn’t really bad at all. With Ace, she was an experiment… a girl who was tortured and experimented on by the government and, eventually, turned psychotic, escaped, and wreaked havoc on the world. She could be formidable because she has the ability to create illusions and drive people insane, but she also has little control over her abilities… eventually, her illusions start to become real… and to top it off, she’s dying from an aneurysm.
If you watched Justice League: Unlimited, do you remember the scene in Epilogue when Batman sits next to her, convinces her to drop the illusions, and holds her hand until she dies from her aneurysm?
I think, if executed correctly, that could be an incredible ending for her. It honestly is, in my opinion, the best scene in any animated superhero show ever, and no, I don’t think it is something restricted to animated shows. Risky? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? In the right hands, absolutely not.
By making the villain a sympathetic character who was essentially forced into those circumstances, DC and the WB could do something completely different from Marvel and Disney. I mean… yeah… you could argue that Loki was a sympathetic villain… but Loki wasn’t exactly forced into his circumstances by others… he was an incredibly selfish, power-hungry character; he forced himself into those circumstances. Ace didn’t want to be evil… she wasn’t power-hungry or selfish… she was forced into it by others. And no, I have no problem with the main villain being a little girl. The main villain doesn’t always have to get into fisticuffs with the heroes. I like the idea of the big fight being mostly a mental/psychological battle (with the huge effects and the physical fighting coming from the illusions Ace is creating and a fight with a well-done Royal Flush Gang).
And I don’t think Batman sitting there, reasoning with Ace, and holding her hand until she dies would be anti-climatic unless the screen-writers are really bad at writing screen-plays. Yes, it’s a risky scene to pull off, and the chances of it being anti-climatic would be very high… but that doesn’t make it impossible. I wouldn’t try to write it myself as I can’t write to save my life (sadly, because I have so many ideas for movies and TV shows and franchises and such), but I don’t see why, in the hands of the right screenplay-writers, such a thing would necessarily have to be anti-climactic.
So I think where the WB and DC could differentiate themselves from Disney and Marvel is by going a more psychological route with the Justice League. Use Ace and, if done correctly, the Royal Flush Gang (but this would be tough, because they are always portrayed as juvenile… to do it right, the gang would have to be revamped as much more mature, much darker versions of their comic/animated counterparts; and no big, hulking idiots, please). Take a cue from Inception for the effects, and even shoot it in 3D to use the 3D correctly. Imagine that scene with Batman and Ace from JL:U Epilogue in a live-action, full Imax 3D setting… the tree being thrown into the air, the illusory world slowly getting bigger before Batman gets her to end the illusion; Batman walking out of the field, carrying Ace’s dead body as the illusion disappears and the real world returns… if written correctly, I don’t see why something like this couldn’t work.
Also, the costumes of Ace and the Royal Flush Gang don’t have to match the comics. Their costumes could just be normal clothes. Who they are would be referenced by their names and maybe a tattoo each of them has or something like that. And no, you don’t need Joker for it, unless they really want him. Ace herself could create the gang, just like she does in the JL animated series.
And instead of bringing in Darkseid for a second JL film, you could go the route that Unlimited did, with world governments slowly becoming afraid of the Justice League and the possibility that, since they’re so powerful, they would take over and become tyrants in an effort to end violence, war, and suffering. I think that would make an incredible second JL film, in my opinion. Who the villain is in the second one could almost be left ambiguous; is it the world governments, operating under an unfounded fear, or is it the Justice League themselves, perhaps going almost too far in the fight against evil? Show each of the heroes fighting that very battle in themselves, and it would be even better.
This is where I think DC and the WB could separate themselves from Marvel’s and Disney’s Avengers. As much as we’d all want to see Darkseid (I do, too… don’t get me wrong), Avengers has already gone there with Thanos, and if DC and the WB tried to use Darkseid, they would be accused of ripping off Marvel and Disney. Bring Darkseid in to face Superman in the parallel Superman franchise, but not against the whole Justice League. It’d just be too obvious, at this point. If DC and the WB do try and do a Justice League franchise, then they have to do something different from Marvel and Disney, and I think they should go the psychological route.
But what do you think? Please, comment below. Tell me your opinions. This is a discussion I’d love to have. Who do you think should write, produce, and direct a Justice League franchise? Who do you think the cast should be? Who do you think the villain should be? How would you want it written?
Oh and no… I don’t operate under some delusion that DC and the WB even know I exist, let alone give a crap about my personal opinions… these are just me throwing my thoughts in to the aether, for any random person who might be interested.