In the first of a new column 'State of the Genre' Martin Deer on why Warner Bros. should forget all about the Justice League movie...
You may have heard this week that Warner Bros. is pushing ahead with its second attempt at a Justice League movie (for those unaware the Justice League is DC Comics team up consisting of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and - depending on the interpretation at the time - Martian Manhunter, Aquaman or Cyborg) and has contacted Ben Affleck about directing Will Beall’s script. You may also have heard as quickly as you heard he'd been contacted that apparently he's already turned it down. In the space of a day I went from absolutely hating the idea of a JL movie to feeling better about the project as a whole if Affleck were to take it on, right back to hating the idea, and here’s why - I DO NOT WANT TO SEE A JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE. EVER!
The Avengers was an absolutely brilliant film. I loved it and I can’t wait to see the sequel in a little under 3 years, but Justice League is not The Avengers. I’m sorry to any Marvel fans out there, but as much as I enjoy Iron Man, Thor and Cap they are just not on the same level as Batman and Superman; they just do not work the same way and the idea of them on screen together with the rest of the JL makes me wake up in a cold sweat in the dead of night.
Marvel struck gold with The Avengers, billion dollar gold. They caught lightening in a bottle and their Phase One was undoubtedly a success and so Warner Bros. are desperately trying to play catch up. But that’s exactly what it is - playing catch up. What Warner Bros. need to realise is that their star characters work a little differently, and to play to each characters strengths and uniqueness they need to give us solo franchises based on those properties.
Next June sees the return to the silver screen of my second-favourite hero (although he’s probably a joint number one) Superman in Man of Steel, a film which I need to see yesterday. I’m aching to see this film. With Chris Nolan and David Goyer penning the script and Zack Snyder directing something tells me we are in for a very special film. The Superman we have waited a very long time for and the one we deserve is hopefully flying on to our screens in 307 days. Every time we’ve heard Justice League this week I’ve thought of the synopsis for Man of Steel: “When the world is in dire need of stability, an even greater threat emerges. Clark must become a Man of Steel, to protect the people he loves and shine as the world's beacon of hope”. How wonderful is that synopsis? That’s what Superman is - a beacon of hope, a shining light for the world to follow out of darkness. What happens then if a Justice League movie is pushed through with Henry Cavill's Superman in it? He’s not exactly a beacon of hope for the world as he is one of several beacons of hope for the world, and nor is his existence all that incredible in a film where Green Lanterns and Martian Manhunters exist. From what we have seen of MoS it looks to be grounded in realism – as much as a flying alien being can be – and placing other super powered beings in to his world would take something away from it.
Then there’s Batman. What place does Batman have in a world filled with super powered beings? Batman is so appealing and has his place as Alpha Hero in the general movie audiences’ eye because he is human, he has no super powers, he’s just a man who had something awful happen to him when he was a child and he vowed to do something about it. We can relate because there’s a realism aspect to it and it’s no surprise that Chris Nolan’s trilogy was so successful given how grounded in realism it was. What relevance and importance does Batman have if you stick him next to Superman and the Green Lantern? If we get a Justice League movie then the threat needs to be a villain of unprecedented scale and power, why else would you need the most powerful beings in the universe to come together against one common enemy, and in that scenario what does Batman do? He can hardly get stuck in and fight side by side with them. Some of you might be thinking of Hawkeye in The Avengers and how he had his place - no disrespect to Jeremy Renner, I like him as an actor but he hardly had a big role and can you really see the character that is Batman being relegated to such a bit part?
Warner Bros. just haven’t been able to get their comics properties off the ground and it would help if they had someone like Kevin Feige – President of Marvel Films – to oversee their DC Comics properties. We know that there are scripts out there for both Wonder Woman and The Flash but WB won’t green light them. Why? They are a bit timid when it comes to these movies. The only hits they have had is Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy; the last comic book based film we got off DC which wasn’t Batman was Green Lantern, and we all know how much of a mess that film was. But that was because there were too many cooks in the kitchen, too many script re-writes and a complete lack of people with a vision and passion for that character.
What Warner Bros. needs to do is hire talented film makers with reverence and passion for each character. Chris Nolan wanted to tell a Batman story but he didn’t have a deep knowledge of the comics and so what did he do? He hired David Goyer to make sure he got things right. These is the kind of people we need and these are the kind of people we currently have on Man of Steel. Let’s see a trilogy from them - a trilogy where Superman is the only hero in his universe, let him be the beacon of light for his world, let The Flash and Green Lantern have their own series of films where they are the only super being. Let’s see a great series of films for each character that exists on its own terms.
What Warner Bros. needs to do is simple - forget Justice League and hire talented filmmakers with a vision and a passion and let them tell the stories they want to tell. Let’s see a series of films for Superman, The Flash and Wonder Woman. Get people involved on Green Lantern who want to be involved on Green Lantern and let’s get him back out there. Just make good movies and people will fill seats. It’s that simple. Make good movies.
Unfortunately though it looks like Justice League will be coming no matter what, and I dread the day, because I would hate to see all the wonderful work we are hopefully going to see next June in Man of Steel undone by some half-arsed team up movie. Because it if did fail, that would be bad for everyone.