Bringing Justice to the Justice League

While Zack is away, here’s his pal Andy Feldman filling in with his thoughts on the theoretical Justice League movie.

News broke last week that Ben Affleck was in line to direct Warner Bros.’s attempt at making big, Avengers-like bucks with a movie about the Justice League.  This news was promptly followed by a statement from Affleck’s reps saying that he’ll likely take a meeting, but that’s as far as it can go.  Nevertheless, even the hypothetical involvement of Affleck brings to light how serious the honchos at Warner are about making sure a Justice League movie doesn’t become the mega-budgeted equivalent of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four (or Tim Story’s Fantastic Four, for that matter).  They are clearly looking at directors who may have the skill to pull off such a feat, but that doesn’t leave the project without some concerns.

First of all, a Justice League movie is by no means a bad idea. The Avengers proved you can take a collection of superheroes from their own respective realities, throw them into a pot, cook for two and a half hours and come up with a delicious cinematic experience.  Though with The Avengers, most of the heroes had already been established on screen, had the time to grow separate fan bases, even with the knowledge of a big, bombastic crossover movie coming soon.  With a potential Justice League flick, well, it should prove more difficult.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman series just ended (in case you didn’t know).  No one’s clamoring for a new take on the Caped Crusader just yet, but I’m sure if one were to come out tomorrow, besides the usual “too soon” complaints, we’d all be lining up to see it.  Because Batman has a universal appeal.  He’s a real man without any powers.  It puts the possibility that we could do this, a point that’s actually made in The Dark Knight Rises.  Anyone could put on a suit and fight crime.  It’s an insane notion that no regular person would do (save for maybe Phoenix Jones), but the fantasy makes the character more relatable.

The other heroes that would be standing by Batman’s side in the face of danger?  Not so much.  No one can deny that Superman is an American treasure (let’s not even start with how popular he is on Krypton…oh, wait, never mind), but that may be an old fashioned concept at this point.  Before my midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, they showed the teaser for Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel.  Some schmuck in the audience shouted, “Superman sucks!”  There were groans for the dummy to shut up, but nobody refuted him.  And the fact of the matter is that this younger generation does think that Superman sucks.  It doesn’t help that the last movie blew chunks, but the whole idea of a guy who just flies, lifts up heavy things and flies some more while no intelligent person can put two and two together regarding his secret identity because glasses are apparently better than a mask…it’s hard to swallow at this point.  Plus, flying, super strength and x-ray vision?  It’s all kind of Super Powers 101, isn’t it?

Then there are the other heroes.  What can Green Lantern do?  Create metaphysical objects with his mind?  Cool…sort of.  But when you tack on the fact that he gets his powers from a magical alien piece of jewelry, it’s a tad laughable.  And it really doesn’t help that they’ve already tried and failed to bring Green Lantern to cinemas; even Peter Sarsgaard’s giant, varicose-veined head and Geoffrey Rush’s calm fish-dude couldn’t save that stinker.  But beyond that, all the other DC heroes come off as a little bland.  What’s Wonder Woman remembered for?  She’s got bracelets, a whip and an invisible jet.  But who is she?  What are some of her more famous storylines?  The Flash?  He’s fast and wears a red tracksuit.  But who are his foes?  What’s his origin story?  Seriously, off the top of your head, anything?  Now think of the Marvel heroes.  Spider-Man: he’s a teenager whose parents left him in the care of his kindly aunt an uncle, then said uncle is killed because the kid made a tragic mistake, and now he has to make amends for that error for the rest of his life.  Wolverine: he’s an amnesiac healer with anger issues, a soft heart and a mysterious past who was experimented on and now has remarkable metal all over his bones.  Jean Grey: a telekinetic and telepathic doctor who underwent a dramatic transformation into the Phoenix only to let her powers get the best of her and make a dramatic switch from hero to villain.  There’s complexity there, there’s back-story, and if someone wants to label me as biased or say I’m lacking in knowledge, I won’t stop you, and by all means, please enlighten me.  But I guarantee if I asked anyone my age who does not happen to be a comics fanatic, they could tell me all about Gambit and nothing about Green Arrow.

My point is that with the Marvel crew, there’s youth, there are real world parallels.  The characters from DC, save for Batman, just don’t have that same kind of real world connection, at least to audiences made up of my generation.  The heroes come from a world of optimism, of color, of flashy costumes and simplistic powers.  While that initially sounds like the greatest example of escapism ever, something going to the movies is supposed to be about, my generation and those younger than me are filled with a snarky anger that’s hard to pacify.  We’ve been raised on battles, whether it’s between reality show combatants or red states and blue states or our soldiers versus terrorists that mean to and have done us harm.  So even though the DC-verse is the pinnacle of comic book lore and represents good vs. evil through and through, we’ve been raised to digest nothing but grit, realism and darkness now.  We don’t want cartoons.

This is just one side of the matter, though.  Those at the helm have a lot to do with the success of the story as much as the mythology does.  Tim Burton’s Batman movies were successful because they introduced people to a Gothic world that looked cool and had intriguing villains.  Then Joel Schumacher came along, and that ended in neon lights and bat nipples (although I’ll admit a certain love for Batman Forever, but it is pretty terrible, if you think about it).  Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series was successful for the most part, content-wise, but there was a certain level of camp to it all, as that’s just Raimi’s style, and that all came to a head with the dreadful third entry.  Bryan Singer’s two X-Men movies paved the way for how a comic book movie could be done well, and then Brett Ratner defecated all over that with The Last Stand.  And we won’t even go into Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil or Ghost Rider; the less said about those, the better.  My point is that with the right director and writers, people who have a vision that not only stays true to the source material but also manages to turn our expectations upside-down and deliver us something unexpected, then it doesn’t matter how popular the hero was or is.  Do you see anyone really asking for a movie about Ant Man?  No.  Who the hell’s Ant Man?  But with Edgar Wright behind the lens, excitement is building, because he’s an interesting and popular cult filmmaker.

Which brings me to Affleck the director.  Now Affleck the actor, while not great, gets a bad rap, in my opinion.  Look at Good Will Hunting.  Look at Chasing Amy.  Look at…well, that might be it (he cries in Armageddon, doesn’t he?  That’s good acting, right?).  But Affleck the director is certainly two for two, and his performance in The Town can actually be ranked among his best, and Argo looks to be a winner as well.  Though he gets much flack as an actor, he is an actor first, and that makes him well suited as a director to get A+ performances from his cast.  He led Amy Ryan and Jeremy Renner to get Oscar nominations for their roles, after all.  And even if his actors never get awards attention ever again, he still lines up a fantastic bevy for his movies.  I doubt this will change.

So until there’s an official confirmation that Affleck doesn’t want the job or someone else is taking the reins, for the purposes of this essay, I’m going to stick with the potential of Affleck directing and say it doesn’t bother me at all.  Is he the greatest choice for the job?  Who knows?  There are plenty of other directors out there who could do wonders with a superhero franchise (Duncan Jones?  Rian Johnson?), but Affleck appears to have the writing chops, the directing ability, and just the right amount of grit, realism and darkness a superhero movie needs in this post-Dark Knight world.

Of course, a superhero movie doesn’t need to be nothing but grit, realism and darkness; Watchmen wasn’t perfect, and the aforementioned Daredevil was a bit of a mess (didn’t I say the less said about it, the better? Oh well).  There’s certainly room for light, flashy and hopeful, and that’s probably what my fellow millennials and I need right now.  The only thing that matters is whether or not the story is good.  So what needs to happen is Warner Bros. needs to concentrate on this movie and this movie alone.  They are probably planning to branch off from a Justice League movie and start a whole mess of franchises, and who’s to say that hasn’t already started if Henry Cavill’s new Superman will be the Superman who fights alongside Aquaman?  I, for one, think this world is big enough for two Supermans, but I digress.  I know Warner Bros. is in the business of making money and making as much of it as possible, but instead of setting up sequels and spin-offs from the get-go, those should be rendered afterthoughts, allowing all focus to be centered on a narrative and theme that will make Justice League as amazing as it can be.  Only then will the appeal of Superman come back, as well as any love Green Lantern may have forfeited with his CGI onesie, as well as some new love for relative strangers like the Martian Manhunter.  The big ol’ Avengers plan worked once, but there’s no guarantee lightning will strike twice, and yes, that’s a good place for a Thor pun, but I will not make one, so sorry.

If anything should be emulated by The Avengers, it should be putting all faith into a storyteller who cares for his characters and treats them all with respect.  A storyteller who has a keen eye for how a movie should look, sound and feel.  A storyteller with the ability to handle a large, rabid fan base who will scrutinize everything you do, call you names and deem you unworthy of such a task, even if they love everything you have done up to that point.  Ben Affleck is a blossoming director who has experience as a tabloid fixture with many run-ins with the paparazzi.  Those are his superpowers: talent, and thick skin.  I think he’d do just fine.


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  1. Marvel is childhood, plain and simple – DC is for the adults, personally its more realistic in terms of their graphic novels. I don’t think they should do a Justice League because there all too powerful, and up there realistically speaking superman could end any fight if he really wanted to, so could the Martian etc this is why batman alone is successful. the difference is Marvel and DC have two different types of appeal, with Marvel their fans are in the know, even if they don’t know it doesn’t matter. With DC their fans are specific, and that’s DC’s fault – to know anything in this realm requires research. Also with regards to the new revamped superman, i hope they incorporate the superman from the Earth one novel – a must read, as well as Batman Earth One

  2. It’s pretty obvious you’re not much of a DC fan. A lot of their superheroes do actually have pretty interesting origin stories, the best of all (imho) Superman, being just brushed off. Characters like Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Swamp Thing, and Shazam have some pretty interesting stories that, if done right, would be far more, or equally interesting compared to the Marvel ones, to moviegoers if done right.

    It’s easy to troll origin stories if you’re not interested in them…

    -Spiderman’s just some kid who gets bit by a spider and jumps around New York.
    -The Hulk’s just some radioactive angry scientist
    -Iron Man’s just a flashier Batman.

    Just because DC/Warner Bros. screwed up their recent movies (Superman, Green Lantern) doesn’t mean they’re bad stories. Though they do have to learn to stick to the stories and characters and stop changing them up for the movies.
    ie. Superman’s a deadbeat dad that takes off from earth and has a kid.
    …and Ryan Reynolds would have made a great comic character, but not Green Lantern. Woulda been a good Flash.

  3. I think what Zack is getting at is that, for whatever reason, Marvel’s superheroes are more well-known. More people can tell you the basics of Spider-Man or the Avengers then can tell you about Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, or Green Arrow. Superman and Batman are obviously also very well known, but that’s about it on the DC side.

    Personally I wish them all the best with a Justice League movie. They have to at least try. The problem is that I do think Avengers benefited from most of the characters having been established somewhat in previous films. The only new character really was Hawkeye. The fact that they could dispense with origin stories and just get straight to things was a big help.

    The biggest problem I see with a Justice League movie is unfortunately, Superman. What good can Batman do when Superman is there? Really, what is the point of the rest of the team at all? Unless there’s some Kryptonite involved, Superman really should be able to handle everything. I know some people made that complaint about Avengers, that everyone just seemed to be beating on each other with no consequence. Well, with Superman that problem will be magnified. I don’t know if they’re willing to “de-power” him somewhat for the movie.

    Well, these are challenges for others to tackle. I’m a Marvel fan but I would gladly watch a Justice League movie so long as it was good so best wishes to them.

  4. They could use one of the dozens of story lines from the established comics….They all seem to address your concerns. It’s been a while since I read them but I believe Superman was typically the fighter, Batman was the brains, and like Flash was comic relief/fighter.

  5. I don’t completely agree. I knew more about the DC heros than I did the Marvel. I only knew about the X-Men, Hulk, and maybe Iron man before the Movies started coming out. Although I did grow up watching the origional superman and batman cartoons as well as the Justice Leauge cartoon.

    With that said, I believe Marvel is setup better for the big screen. Batman was FANTASTIC, but all the previous DC movies before Batman Begins were very cheesey. Not very action packed with a weak story line. ( lacking realism) Sure Batman seemed to be made for the screen, but I don’t see Superman doing any better than it has before. All the problems with this character were already pointed out. Anyone who is not blind could tell Clark Kent is superman. And with the added abilities of flight, stregnth, etc. it takes away the realism. Sure, Thor has those abilities, but he is also from another world. And as for the X-men or the Hulk those are all explained to “Fit” into society so its more acceptable.
    I would, however, like to see a Martian Manhunter movie, I can see great potiential for that movie, comparable to Batman. Although the martian is not well known ( especially his back story) there are no questionable characteristics about him. He can shape shift, and is telapathic ( with other abilities) that are all acceptable to viewers.

  6. When I mentioned Thor being from another world, I ment that, he dosen’t live on earth as a normal human, thus no need for a secrete Identity. And they did a great job explaining his abilities in the movie.

  7. @Jesus With regard to your comment about needing to de-power Superman in order to bring him on equal footing, what actually usually happens is that they “empower” Batman instead. One of the things that Batman fans like to tout in Batman’s favour is that he doesn’t actually have powers. We’ll if you read a fair number of DCU team books (or hell anytime Batman actually fights Superman. Looking at you Dark Knight Returns 2) you quickly realize that Batman does in fact have a super power. What is Batman’s power you ask? I like to call it “The power of…I’M THE FREAKING BATMAN!” They make him relevant by granting him a far higher level of intelligence and pre-planning (almost bordering on pre-cognition) then he typically has in a stand alone Batman book.

    I think the OP raises some interesting questions about the viability of a JLA movie. I was having a conversation with a friend this past weekend about this very subject. My friend is widely read when it comes to Batman, but not so much when it comes to the other DCU characters. I found I had a hard time thinking of suggestions for him as far as story lines to read to expand his knowledge of the other DCU characters outside of the no brainer suggestions of the Morrison JLA years and my default OMG you need to read this book Kingdom Come. I think DC will have a hard time following the Marvel model set in the Avengers. The strength of the Avengers is that it was able to draw upon an established continuity that was set up in the individual hero films. Marevl’s strength over DC is that their characters do exists within the same universe, even if it is a solo focused title. I don’t feel that is the same for DC. Where the individual worlds are more segregated from one another. Especially in the case of Batman, and when these individuals are brought together the characters are molded slightly to fit the larger universe.

  8. I think the big DC success that is being forgotten is Smallville. That was nine or so seasons of a Superman people cared about.

    DC’s real draw is that everyone has at least heard of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and very probably the Flash. You can draw a crowd with those characters, and then establish those people are unfamiliar with like Martian Manhunter.

    The story that should be told is New Frontier. This would allow for an X-Men first class period piece feel, and tell the origin story of a few heroes, like Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern, while Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman work as established characters.

  9. Marvel > DC anytime. And I’m not even a comic fanatic. Superman is boring. He can do everything; he can’t get hurt blah blah. I have the Death of Superman comic. One day maybe it’ll be worth something (I hope). I consider the Marvel characters to have wonderful back stories, while DC characters just seem to… exist.

  10. Amy, clearly you know very little about Superman. And clearly you know very little about the world of DC characters. Take it from me: you’ve no idea what you’re missing.

    Marvel only beats DC with the kid quotient, nada else. It’s brain candy, at best, while DC tends to amp up a much more serious tone, hence the difficulty in adapting DC to the level of an AVENGERS movie. This isn’t to say it can’t be done; it’s only to say that it’ll take an awful lot of work AND inspiration.

    And this comes from a guy who’s been reading DC since the early 70’s.

  11. Dude you need to do your homework before you start bashing on the justice league. Lets start with superman and you “super powers 101” comment, superman set the standered he wrote the book on powers so of course its “101” as you say. the green lantern movie was true to the original green lantern comics as far as im aware. Batman was always ment to be dark and gothic, although the thing with him throat speaking was about stupid. shall i go on?? DC has always been more down to earth and realistic as ware Marvel has always been more aimed for the kidish side.the fact is you cant have justice league without Superman,flash,wonder women,batman, and green lantern. other wise its not justice league. Flash has a story, he was a scientist whos lab was struck by lightning spilling chemicals on him(short version, and only one of many) wonder women was an amazon princess either exiled or on a journey of some kind i cant remember.The new generation needs to be reminded who the original heroes were and whare they came from. As far as ghost rider goes the first movie was on target the seconed one was a failure. Daredevil im not sure on. eihter way its time the heroes who wrote the book on being a hero were recognized once again and in there true and original form. BTW in case your wondering, Im 15 years old

  12. Here’s something to blow everyones mind Marvel = DC. They’re both equally good comic companies enjoyed by millions. And whoever pointed out Shazam = Captain Marvel, my bad, I mix up the universes constantly.

  13. I hope Ben Affleck is still good friends with Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith wrote some pretty good comics back in the day, and while his ‘type’ of movies are more wordy I reckon he could add some real soul to this type of project.

  14. Since the author’s from a ‘younger generation’, he was probably exposed to Marvel properties a lot more growing up. Besides Batman movies and cartoons, Superman and Justice League cartoons and a crappy Superman and Green Lantern movie each, there weren’t any DC properties that reached X-Men (3 movies), Iron Man (2 movies), Spider Man (another 3 movies!) Hulk (2 movies), Captain America or Thor levels of pop-culture presence.

    We always relate better with what we grew up with. The first superhero movie I saw in the theater was Tim Burton’s Batman and I was a convert for life.

  15. I agree that a Justice League movie will be harder than the Avengers, but not because Marvel characters are more interesting. They aren’t. Some other poster said it earlier: Marvel=DC. Theyre both good, they both have a deep cast of heroes, it’s just a matter of personal preference (I’m slightly more of a DC fan but lately have been on a Marvel tear)

    The trick is that Marvel’s world has always been more interconnected. They exist on our Earth, in cities like New York, which means both that famous Marvel stories are inclined to include or address hero crossovers and that it’s easier for the readers/audience to accept them together. DC, in contrast, has an older pedigree with most of the big names being created to tell independent stories. This has two effects: they tend to be more powerful than their Marvel counterparts (a phrase I always liked is ‘Marvel’s heroes are heroes. DC heroes are gods’), and it requires better reasons and excuses for why they come together without solving each other’s problem.

    I certainly think A Justice League film can be done extremely well, but the difference between the universes will make it trickier to pull off. But it is NOT because DC is more childish. In fact, the Justice League (Unlimited) cartoon should be used as a blueprint as to how one can tell excellent stories that take full advantage of DC’s varied roster.

    P.S. Also The Flash will be the key. With his combo of personality and godly-power, if they can make a good Flash movie they can do Justice League.

  16. It blows my mind that people are saying the DCU is more geared toward adults than Marvel. When did that happen? Are you only talking about Sandman? I’m 35, and DC heroes not named Batman were always super corny.
    Suicide Squad was the only one I would pick up from time to time because it didn’t seem cheesy at hell, and that book even had a f*cking guy named “Captain Boomerang”!

  17. #bigpartymarker – you need to read more graphic novels increase your knowledge of DC there has been alot of change. #Asogan i agree Kevin Smith would be a good choice

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