C'mon Hollywood: Don't f*ck up the Justice League movie!
This past week Warner Bros. won their case for the Superman property, which has finally allowed them to progress forward on their long-awaited JUSTICE LEAGUE film. The project is now being proposed for a 2015 release date, putting it head-to-head with Marvel’s THE AVENGERS sequel. While this news has many people excited, it has left many with trepidation. And, with good reason.
In an attempt to firmly establish their properties in the Hollywood world the same way that Marvel has, the folks at Warner Bros./DC seem to have difficulty grasping just how to do it. Sure, they’ve had tremendous success with the Batman franchise, which is due largely to the director(s) of those films. But, when it comes to branching out, even Superman has hit stumbling blocks. 2006’s SUPERMAN RETURNS was a snooze-filled handy to Richard Donner and 2011’s GREEN LANTERN was a clumsy half-hearted mess.
The truth is, I want these guys to succeed. I really do. I’m a comic and movie fan. I have nothing to gain by their failure and everything to gain by their success. However, the track record of DC’s modern adaptations (Batman aside) is anything but stellar. So, what can they do to not drop the ball and follow it into the street?
Keep it simple: Don’t try to get too convoluted, especially for a massive superhero team being introduced for the first time to audiences. Focus on the dynamics of the characters working together, each with their own differing personalities and powers. Don’t dive into the highly complex event storylines, just pick a solid villain (Darkseid, Brainiac, etc.) and build the story around the characters, not the event.
Don’t get lost in origins: At this point, most people know all there is to know about Batman and Superman and Green Lantern is close enough in our psyches (unfortunately) that we don’t need a rehash. The challenge will be Wonder Woman, Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Cyborg. How you’re going to make audiences both understand and embrace these guys in one sitting is going to be tough. Focus on their actions, not their origins.
Bring back Henry Cavill as Superman: MAN OF STEEL is looking to be a hit. We all need to see some more footage to really judge, but the creative team looks great and Cavill owns as Supes. Let HIM be your Tony Stark. Cavill should be the rock that everyone else is built around, which will help tie the characters together, especially since there aren’t any other DC movies coming in 2014 (a mistake) to lead into the JUSTICE LEAGUE film.
Have faith in your brand: Marvel showed incredible integrity by embracing the red, white, blue, purple, gold, green, and every other color of their characters from costume to personality. They didn’t muddle it down to make it more commercial. Let the DC brand flag fly and be proud of it. After decades of seeing these characters in comics, there’s no reason they can’t be seen onscreen as they are on the page. That bullshit about colored costumes not working on screen has been shot the f*ck down by Marvel’s slate (and Sony’s SPIDER-MAN, to give credit).
Good artist’s create, great artist’s steal: While the desire is to create something wholesomely original, the simple truth is that what WB should be doing is trying to emulate the best of the bunch, while inserting their brand and sensibilities. You could reshoot THE AVENGERS script with each character replaced by a DC one and I guarantee people would love it. I’m not saying copy, I’m saying to pay attention to what worked and make it your own. Just don’t pull a GREEN LANTERN.
Hire inspired people: From the cast to the crew, WB needs to hire people that are fresh and original choices for their characters. The rumor of Armie Hammer as Batman (again) is a solid choice. We all have our favorites for the rest of the players, but as long as they’re inspired, we’re good. Lastly, DC needs to court not only a director that can feel the passion for the project, but they need a Joss Whedon, and fast. Someone to steer the DC ship into greatness; who knows the characters and the brands inside out.
Make another stand-alone film first: Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, whatever, I think the best course of action would be to have MAN OF STEEL lead into another character’s film that could debut in 2014, which would lead directly into JUSTICE LEAGUE. It’s not too late!
We all want to see a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie that lives up to the decades of awesome stories and art we’ve grown up with and to see the many teammates in all their costumed glory. What we don’t want is another bumbled, half-ass attempt to kickstart a franchise. I think the main ingredient to making a JUSTICE LEAGUE film a serious contender is, more than anything, a creative team that truly loves and understands the characters, rather than a crew hired to make a movie on the quick in order to compete with its rivals. We’ve all seen how that turns out and it’s not pretty. So, keep your eyes on the prize, DC. Your audience awaits (and expects) greatness.
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