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Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Justice League Movie? (or, Hopefully This Won't Be a Missed Opportunity)

Since Man of Steel hit theaters, there's been a lot of talk about a potential Justice League movie.  We even mentioned this topic in the latest Shoot the WISB episode on the new Superman film.  Much of the discussion is based on rumors, no doubt supported by this oddly blank IMDB page, which suggests that some sort of Justice League film will hit a screen of some description in 2015.  Now, Henry Cavill, who plays Supes in Man of Steel, has suggested that a Justice League adaptation likely won't happen any time soon.

What does that mean?  I don't know.  In Hollywood time, that could mean 3 minutes or 3 decades, or it could mean a black hole has popped into existence and swallowed DC.  A lot of folks want to see Flash and Wonder Woman in film form before Justice League reaches the big screen.  I,
however, think that would be a bad idea.
I am awesome.  That is all.
First, I don't know how Hollywood will manage to avoid ruining both the Flash and Wonder Woman without completely revamping the characters, and, thus, retconning most of what has defined the character in the last 50 years.  The problem?  Both characters are prone to ridiculousness in the Hollywood world.  After all, the only serious portrayals of either characters in the last two decades have been in cartoons, which I don't think necessarily translate well into live action (in part because the things you can do in a cartoon are difficult to do well with real people -- see every CG hellhole Hollywood has tried to make, hence my concern).  There is also the very real problem embodied in the universe the current film DC adaptations have presented:  a dark, serious universe.  There isn't a lot of room for camp in in a world where Nolan's Batman and Superman exist, and that means any interpretation of the Flash or Wonder Woman has to reject its predecessors quite soundly to make any coherent sense.  That doesn't mean we need a Nolan-style treatment of either character (let alone of the various other members of the JL -- Green Arrow (on TV right now, in fact)*, Aquaman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, and so on and so forth), but it does mean DC and Hollywood have to seriously reconsider how to place these characters within a cinematic universe.

That said, it's important to realize that a lot of DC's characters have baggage from previous film histories.  Batman and Superman have mostly escaped their own baggage.  Not easily, of course.  Batman made a minor shift in the Tim Burton films, fell into the abyss with Forever and Robin, and then took a huge turn (for the best, I believe) with the Nolan trilogy.  Superman had a similar journey.  My hatred of Returns notwithstanding, the film did at least offer a lead-up to the Nolan-influenced Man of Steel.
The same cannot be said for Wonder Woman or the Flash -- at least, not within the live action franchises.  Wonder Woman, for example, has never seen a big screen adaptation, though many are still quite fond of the 1970s adaptation starring Lynda Carter (not to mention all the love for the various cartoon versions).  She's quite likely to return to the small screen soon, which I think would be a great idea; DC (or one of the studios -- not sure which) has actively been trying to bring her back to TV for several years (a 2011 pilot flopped at NBC, but the CW has expressed interest in pushing their own adaptation called Amazon).  The same is true for the Flash.  He had a TV movie in 1990 and plenty of appearances in cartoons.  But he has yet to make the jump to the big screen, and probably won't (though this IMDB page suggests otherwise).  All of these facts are good reasons for both characters to have their own films...eventually.  I, however, think DC would be better off going another route.
If DC is hell bent on bringing these characters to the big screen, I think the best direction would be to release Man of Steel 2 (whatever it might be called), followed by the first Justice League movie.  In the interim, Wonder Woman and the Flash should have origin narratives put up on the small screen; after Justice League (assuming success), new film narratives can take the limelight (or they can stick with TV).  Doing so will have a few important impacts:

  1. TV adaptations will allow the characters to develop in the sort of depth they deserve.
  2. We'll avoid the uncomfortable mess of 2.5 hour camp-fests (Wonder Woman especially; she's a cool character, but her origin story will not inspire audiences).  I don't think film origins of these characters will do them justice, in part because most of us haven't seen the characters outside of the comic "universes."  If you're not a Flash fan already, you don't know anything about him (and vice versa for Wonder Woman).  And, well, I don't think characters with super-speed work all that well on the big screen (that's my personal hangup, though).
  3. I think starting with the trifecta of TV series (Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, and the Flash) will also give DC's franchise a huge boost in the right direction.  If you create three TV shows that cross over one another, each leading towards a Justice League film, you cross-pollinate your audience quite brilliantly.  A good deal of people will watch all three, some will watch one or two, and some will come from entirely different avenues:  following on the heels of Batman and Superman.  Basically, hitting almost every direction at once seems like a perfect method for making a Justice League movie a success.

Granted, none of this is likely to happen.  If DC is hell bent on releasing a Justice League movie in 2015, then it doesn't really matter what I think.  Two years is hardly enough time to get two new TV series off the ground.  My hope is that a film version of Wonder Woman provides roughly the same tone as Marvel's Thor.  Two parts serious, one part camp.  If you allow the camp to override everything else, the film will be a disaster.

I can dream, of course, but dreaming isn't the same as reality.  Whatever happens, I sincerely hope they get it right.  Marvel's cinematic universe is killing in the box office right now.  Even with Nolan's exceptional Batman films, DC's cinematic universe is one step away from self-destruction.  Batman and Superman movies are wonderful, but we need more.  We need Marvel's level of cinematic pollination in DC's cinematic universe.  It'll be great for DC, great for comic book movies, and great for film overall.

I guess we'll see what happens.**
This is the bad idea I'm talking about...

*Including Green Arrow in a Justice League film might actually make for an interesting crossover.  Assuming the show remains on the air for the next few years, there's ample opportunity to suck in audiences from two different directions and lead up to a Justice League movie in a slow and deliberate manner.  Imagine having an entire season of a TV show leading us up to a film.  You could do so much with this!  The entire season could involve conflicts and events, the climax or conclusion to which could appear in the film version.

**If they cast Megan Fox as Wonder Woman, I will lose my friggin mind.  However, if they bring in Nathan Fillion as the Green Lantern, I will rejoice, for the Lord will have spoken...

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  1. For THE FLASH, I think some clever/innovative indie filmmaker is going to have to pioneer a new cinematic trick to showcase super speed, much the same way the "bullet time" camera trick finally allowed super powered protagonists to proliferate in general. Maybe it'll be some kind of trick where different cameras can record different speeds - many of them, differing frame rates - and then incorporate them all into single composite shots. Who knows? I suspect someone will have to do a stand alone sci-fi short or feature that displays this, THEN H-wood will be all over it.

    For Wonder Woman, there is the problem that you can basically make the movie IMMORTALS (which few audience members connected to) or the horror that was the Chinese film, LEGENDARY AMAZONS. Though if you ask me, the THOR movie really did pave the way for a potentially well handled WW feature. I never would have thought that was possible before seeing the film - it wasn't great, but it was very solid. THe difference being that Thor is still one-dimensional while everyone else (most notably Loki) were the complex characters of the piece. And with WW you'd need the main character to actually come across with more depth. Or maybe not: maybe the first film she'd simply be a demi-god, generally simple in character and approach, and only in future films could you explore her character more.

    1. Yeah, I'm not even sure a nifty camera trick could make super speed work, though. In small doses, super speed works OK (see some of the Marvel stuff), but I tend to think of super speed as rather hokey. Then again, Quicksilver is supposedly going to make an appearance in Avengers 2, so I could end up very very very wrong.

      As for Wonder Woman: I'm glade we agree that Thor essentially makes a WW film possible, provided they handle the material very carefully. Thor is probably my least favorite of the various Avengers movies (well, unless you count Ed Norton's Hulk film, which I can't stand -- I prefer Eric Bana's performance, to be honest, though Mark Ruffalo brings a lot to the character). I sort of liked Thor, but I imagine we feel similar about it: a good deal of fun, some decent performances, but it doesn't quite escape B-movie territory. And, of course, the origins for both Thor and Wonder Woman are very much in the same camp (in terms of B-movie material). But if you can find a way to create a compelling character story within an otherwise semi-ridiculous shell, then anything can work, really.

      I disagree that Thor is one-dimensional, though. The problem with Thor is that his narrative is predictable, not that he doesn't have dimensions. You are correct that Loki's narrative and character are more compelling, though. The things that happen to him are less predictable, as are his actions (kind of the point with a trickster, though). But I kind of think that's the point. We're not supposed to worry all that much about Thor learning his lesson; we are supposed to worry about who Loki will become (and we're supposed to feel deep disappointment when he takes the paths of evil).


  2. I have actually been thinking that Warner Brothers should make a superhero for the small screen, but I wasn't thinking of Wonder Woman or Flash. Flash is a tough character to adapt for either, as his super speed isn't as impressive as it once was in the comics, due to the saturation of superheroes in the movies right now. Wonder Woman would make an interesting show and she'd be better off with a TV show instead of a movie. I was actually thinking of a live action Batman TV show. It sounds crazy, but hear me out for a second. Warner Brothers wants to reboot the series in 2016, but there's no way they're ever going to beat the Nolan films, especially when the trilogy is only a few years old. If you make a TV show, you can dramatically change the style of Batman to fit a new universe, as well as use some great storylines from the comics. That dark, film noir look that you see in Year One and The Long Halloween could be used for the series and you have plenty of time to establish his Rouge's Gallery. You can use the first few seasons to show the rise and fall of Harvey Dent, so you actually have an emotional connection to the character, which was my biggest complaint with The Dark Knight. You don't have to compete with the Nolan movies this way and since there hasn't been a Batman live action TV show since Adam West, there won't be anything to compete with there. Just my thought on that.

    I know I'm getting long winded here, but I think Man of Steel might introduce Martian Manhunter in the next movie. When he reaches the Fortress of Solitude, there's an empty pod on the last row of the dead Kryptonians. David Goyer has said this is significant, and there is speculation that he'll introduce Supergirl. This doesn't make sense in Superman's new universe, though. The only thing that actually makes sense is Martian Manhunter, as it establishes the Justice League universe as well. I'm totally biased, though, as MM is my favorite Justice Leaguer besides Superman, of course.