So the Avengers film has happened, and inevitably that has led to speculation on where this leaves its “big name team” counterpart on the other side of the fence in the comics world: DC’s Justice League.
Technically speaking it would be the Justice League of America, which originally debuted in 1960 and featured a line-up of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman. I’m betting they’ll leave Aquaman off the roster of any movie to be made, but that’s fair, since a similar fate befell Ant-Man. I’m also betting that “America” won’t be in the title, what with that whole world market. However, that’s pure speculation on my part. On anyone’s part, really. The Variety article that’s been passing ’round the film and geek (and film geek) sites this week has precious little in the way of details, which isn’t surprising since there’s not even a first draft of a script delivered to Warner Bros yet.
We do have a writer, in the person of Gangster Squad scribe Will Beall, but that seems to be the extent of the project so far. When I first ran across it I kept hearing a release date of 2013, but that’s not coming from any of the new press, the searches instead keep referring back to a March 2011 interview with Warner movies chieftain Jeff Robinov. Now given that the Variety claims the wheels started turning again on a Justice League movie a year ago, it’s not a great stretch to piece things together and figure 2013 is still the ambition, but then again at this point it also seems a bit insane.
I mean, sure, Mark Millar has seen the script and says it’s very cool. Oh, wait, he didn’t actually see it, he heard from a friend of a friend.
“A pal of mine is good friends with the new Justice League screenwriter and said his take on the team is incredible. Very real-world and not at all what you might expect… …The tidbits I heard sound quite dark and mature, which isn’t what I expected. But word on Gangster Squad is great too so I feel this is in really good hands.”
You know, my wife and I have been kicking around the project of a fantasy-themed comic book for a few years now. There’s concept sketches, a script outline, even a few pages drawn. If pressed I would happily tell you that it will be quite the rollicking good time, and I suppose if you really felt like it you could pass that news on to your buddies. I’m even a step beyond because we already have Zombie Ranch in circulation for the general public to judge if they like the general cut of our jib, whereas Gangster Squad won’t be out until October. But I do believe we have in common that there is no finished draft in existence. This is strange to me because Variety apparently had to sit on the news about Beall for nearly a year, and were just given the go-ahead now, at a moment that’s not particularly newsworthy. No script, no director, no actors, not even a logo or (aside from Millar’s hearsay) a sense of where they want to take this. I have no pictures for you. All the news sites are using pictures grabbed from Alex Ross illustrations or the animated series, which further confuses the issue since there have been several Justice League movies… just none in live-action.
I don’t know, I don’t claim to understand how the movie publicity business works. I can only presume that Warner is working with what they’ve got (not much) at a time where they hope to catch the tail-end of the Avengers-mania. Even if the new Justice League attempt has been on the docket since last year, I imagine there was some drink-spitting and lots of phone calls after the Avengers box office numbers started rolling in. Beall’s life just went from “This is a very complicated script. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s. And, uh, lotta strands to keep in my head, man…” (I can’t get the image of The Dude from The Big Lebowski out of my head, here) to the WB kindly informing him to get this f’ing thing done yesterday. Preferably sooner.
Beall is an ex-cop who writes grittily about the mean streets of Los Angeles, whether 1990s or 1940s. This is not to say he shouldn’t be given the opportunity to stretch his wings and break away from Ellroy-land, but it’s still a little surprising to see WB attaching him to projects like Justice League or the Logan’s Run remake. I guess they’re both about law enforcement… sorta…
I was one of the many people surprised as hell that The Avengers not only came to fruition but actually succeeded, both as its own film and a build off of all the careful knitting of its various films Marvel Studios put together stretching back to Nick Fury’s appearance in the last moments of Iron Man. That’s not to say The Avengers was four years in development, and yet, in a certain sense, it was. DC and Warner, meanwhile, have a Batman and Superman franchise both in line for reboots and a roster of other Justice League members that probably won’t have time for introduction to the mainstream if they want to hit that 2013 target.
Now, Erik believes this isn’t necessarily a problem. Batman and Superman can get people to the theater (regardless of if they’re a different Batman and Superman), and then, since Bats and Supes need no introduction, the movie can be about the rest of the League. Oddly enough, this apparently parallels the early comics, where “Superman and Batman barely featured in most of the stories, not even appearing on the cover most of the time”. Source there is Wikipedia, but in this case I’ll believe ’em. Wonder Woman needs to be reintroduced to a generation that doesn’t know who Lynda Carter is. Green Lantern… will they stick with Ryan Reynolds and that whole storyline, or start from scratch? For that matter, after how the GL movie failed to impress, why is the WB so keen to let the writers from that project move on to penning the Wonder Woman and Flash films? To try to develop that sense of continuity that’s been lacking? Why bother if they’re going to shove a Justice League movie down our gullets first?
I think the closest the DC-based movies have ever come to acknowledging the thought of a shared universe is, ironically, enough, courtesy of Batman & Robin — “This is why Superman works alone.” So there’s that hurdle to jump along with all the others. It’s not insurmountable, since the comics certainly didn’t start out with Batman and Superman being aware of each other, but throwing everyone together now will take a certain amount of ingenuity. Erik’s interesting vision is that of a Dirty Dozen set up where Bats and Supes have to recruit a team to take on a mission they can’t handle even as a duo. Now of course, you have to come up with a threat Superman can’t handle on his own (much less Superman & Batman together). Maybe all you’d really have to do is bring back Zod and his cronies, but I’m not sure I want to see Zod as a gritty reboot.
In fact the whole implication of hiring Will Beall, and WB needing to avoid being dismissed by audiences as an Avengers knock-off, is that we’re going dark and gritty and street level with all this. And to me that doesn’t fit the League at all, even in its most recent incarnations. People who know comics know it’s the reverse, that if anything the Avengers is a knock-off of the Justice League, but the average movie-goer doesn’t know or care about that. Marvel has planted their flag and cast anything similar as an also-ran; for instance, I can’t shake the idea that Loki’s rants about free will being a lie and domination being the natural order were a bit of a “fuck you” to DC if they ever try to bring in Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation. But if Warner gets too far from the formula that makes the League work, the formula that’s produced some quite good animated movies, they risk failing on the other end of the spectrum.
One thing I know for sure: it won’t be a solo movie for Ice. She probably won’t even be part of the cast.