How to Make a Justice League Movie Work‏

Anthony Stokes has a few suggestions on how Warner Bros. could make a Justice League movie work….

The box office returns for Man of Steel are in and wow is it making a lot of money. Warner Bros. is no doubt happy, being in desperate need of another franchise with The Hobbit concluding next year, Harry Potter finished, and The Hangover completely fizzling out this summer. A sequel has already been announced to no surprise, and there’s even talks of the long-rumoured Justice League movie arriving 2015. While these may or may not come into fruition, there’s been a lot of talk about who should direct the Justice League movie, and more importantly how to tell this massive story with all these characters in a way that will appeal to audiences and critics. I just so happen to have several ideas on how to do so.

The very first thing Warner Bros. needs to worry about is how to introduce the roster. The original plan was to use Justice League as a way to create audience interest in these characters and then have them spin-off into individual movies. This is a horrible idea and clearly just a way to fast-track a franchise. The right way to do it is to release individual movies featuring the more popular characters in the lead up to Justice League. Aquaman, Cyborg and Martian Manhunter do not need solo films – treat them like Hawkeye and Black Widow in The Avengers and use them sparingly, or even just focus on the other members before bringing them in later and fully fleshing them out.

Then there’s the question of what to do with The Dark Knight. My biggest concern is not only why would Batman join a group of superheroes, but also nothing in the entire Batman film universe to suggest he would stand a chance against any members of the Justice League. The Flash or Superman could kill him instantly – what purpose would Batman serve next to a man who can fly at the speed of sound? Batman needs to be rebooted before Justice League, or at least given another movie with a brand new tone. He’s an essential piece of the team, but currently he wouldn’t fit in thematically. The new Batman should be stronger and more competent to be able to keep up with the rest of the League. The Batman from the comics is not only a genius, but he always has a trick up his sleeve, and is extremely cunning and cold in battle. A rebooted Batman needs to play up the more fantastic elements and even make him a little psychologically compromised to give him an edge over the rest of the the team. If they go this route, it’s probably better to do a World’s Finest movie and use that to build up to Justice League.

What do Iron Man, The Avengers and Batman Begins all have in common? In all three cases, there was a lot of dispute over the filmmakers behind the projects when their respective directors were announced. And after the movies came out, there was little to no arguing that each did a great job. When moving on to something as massive as Justice League, it’s important to have a good creative team behind it. In the run up to Man of Steel, there’s been talk that Zack Snyder isn’t right for Superman (and Justice League) and regardless of my own personal feelings, there’s no denying that there’s been a backlash from some fans. And the heat’s not just on Snyder either; screenwriter David S. Goyer has had varying success with comic book movies (for every Batman Begins there’s a Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). Warner Bros. needs to ensure the find a creative team for Justice League who can deliver a big budget special effects-driven movie with a distinct feel and a consistent tone. Are Snyder and Goyer the right choice? What about Guillermo del Toro or Matthew Vaughn?

My final piece of advice to Warner Bros. would be to slow down and really take a look at what they’ve done right and what they’ve done wrong. Not only look to themselves, but look to Marvel. Everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels thought-out and natural, while every move on Warner Bros.’ part feels rushed and reeks of desperation. Stop trying to build Rome in a day and focus on making good quality films and the money will come in.

Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.

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  • RokZRooM

    Agreed, in most of WB movies it seemed like they are rushing too much to cherish the Marvel Comics’ success. Brilliant article. Looking forward to seeing what now comes out from the Marvel world..

  • DCUfanatic

    I agree with you on the batman part and somewhat on not rushing it. What works for Marvel may not work for DC. In order for Avengers to work they had to set it up with individual movies because lets face it, Avengers and its team are no where near the popularity and recognition as Justice League, at least not until now. Justice League has more of an iconic status so reguards of when it comes out, its going to make a ton of money, but it needs to be sonner rather than later. If anything they just need to set up the main 3: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Like you said, do a World’s Finest movie, using it to introduce Batman. Then doing a Wonder Woman movie or do a Trinity movie (Supes, Bats, WW). And then a justice League. The others can be introduce in JL

    My advice would to just focus on 5 for JL movie (Supes, Bats, WW, Green Lantern, and Flash), it’ll make things a lot easier.

    • I agree that the Justice League is more popular but I think by that same token, thematically they’re hard to get done right. Justice League has more fantastic elements yet DC’s shot themselves in the foot by trying to make things grittier and more down to earth.

      • Patrick Bayard

        Thus far the fantastic elements have been handled pretty well for DC. grounding it in reality (science) as much as possible has made it a more mature way to approach super hero films than Marvel.

        • People always say that DC films are more mature then Marvel’s I don’t really get it. It seems like the consensus is Serious Equals Better

  • Patrick Bayard

    They should definitely NOT jump into a Justice League film without solo films for Wonder Woman and Green Lantern using the tone established by the Dark Knight movies and Man of Steel. And they also should NOT reboot Batman. To answer your concers regarding Batman not being able to stand toe to toe with other super humans, let e give you 3 reasons why that is wrong:

    1) It did not make a difference that Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury were not super powered yet they had memorable role to play in the Avengers.

    2) Batman’s role is not to fight super powered villains, it is to provide them with resources so they can function as a team and to go up against Lex Luthor.

    3) The Dark Knight Rises DID offer a bit of a hint that Batman could have enhanced powers so-to speak. In the scene in which he utilizes a leg brace, he round house kicks a brick wall shattering a part of it. Who is to say that he does not use a similar devise for both legs and both arms. While not Superman level strength it could be seen as a significant upgrade. The best part of that is that the brace was ALREADY introduced on film so it would not be seen as a response just for him to fit into the team.

    • All those reasons you listed aren’t enough for me to go there with you. Black Widow lasted about 2 minutes against the Hulk. It would take all of a split second for Superman to kill Batman. Being able to punch a brick wall wouldn’t be enough for him to hold his own against the other members, and while that’s just setup it’d still need more to convince me otherwise.

      • Rian Hunter

        Dude I don’t think he’s talking about Supermnad and Batamn going mano e mano. He is referring to How would Christopher Nolan’s Batman work in a Justice League Team. I agree with him. On teh JLU animated show. Batman is very much the intel person. He is an infaltrator and planner. Those elements where shown in each movie. He would easily work in a JL film if they play hims to those strengths. Let Superman, Wonder Woman, and GL be your muscles. Batman and Flash are your reconiscnece and extractoin team an tough situations.

        • I know what both of you are saying, but even still the question you need to ask is in the christopher nolan batman is there anything that suggest Batman would join a team of superheroes? And are audiences really going to want Batman to just be in the background? I’m not saying it can’t be done I’m saying it’ll take some real good filmmaking balance, much more so then the Avengers.

          • Patrick Bayard

            Well let me state this…In the Dark Knight Rises, Batman NEEDED the police and later Catwoman and actively sought their help to take down Bane’s army so him joining with a group it is not inconsistent with Nolan’s version of Batman. I don’t see Batman as being in the background I see it playing out …sort of like in Man of Steel (spoiler alert)…where Superman was in one part of the world taking down the world engine, while Lois and the army (who don’t have any superpowers) were trying to send Zod’s ship back to the phantom zone. In a theoretical movie, it would be similar whereas earth based heroes (non-superpowered) attempting to stop, disable or prevent whatever from happening (against lets say Lex Luthor) somewhere on earth and the superpowered beings taking on another menace or an army of menaces at sea or space (led by lets say Braniac). I TOTALLY agree it is very tricky because OBVIOUSLY the Dark Knight was not intentionally planned as part of a bigger universe. But I think trying to reboot a very popular character this soon is risky…and why do that if you don’t absolutely have to.

          • good point. very good point that could even play into the ensemble aspect

          • Patrick Bayard

            Very good discussion! Thanks for writing the article!

          • thanks look out for my article why I delve into why the ending didn’t work for me. How did you feel about the last 20 minutes?

          • Patrick Bayard

            I will presume you are talking about Man of Steel…The last 20 minutes or so went on WAY too long and the destruction was just overboard. Even people who think this is the greatest superhero movie ever don’t seem to argue that.

            As far as the controversy about the end goes, I have mixed feelings about it. The “action” (to preserve the spoiler) is certainly presented as something that is justifiable, but the precedence it establishes is dangerous. But! This is one of those situations where I feel like I almost have to see where they go with it. It could be something that they build on in a creative way that helps shape a future Superman and how he uses or doesn’t use his powers. Kind of like when we are younger our morality changes as we grow over time. For example this could be the basis of why he just doesn’t deal with Lex Luthor in a similar fashion since he is a perennial threat. But if they do not address it in the sequel then they would have changed the nature of Superman in a way that I think is disappointing. Zach Snyder did the same sort of thing in Watchmen. The ambiguity of right and wrong is something that is usually uncomfortable for an audience. I think that people generally want the movie to decide for them…to put boundaries on a character. So I will hold back judgement…I guess until the expected “trilogy” is complete.

            I also make a bit of a stink about Lois Lane. even though Amy Adams does a fine job acting, I am not a fan of that casting. I think they (Lois and Clark) do not look or feel like a great couple. Since she is featured a lot at the end from the kiss, to him embracing her after the “action” to her welcoming him at the Planet, it took away from the end for me. I know they will explore the relationship a bit more in the future, but I think it is just a visceral reaction that I have that has me turned off by her. Sorry for the essay!

          • They do that thing that I hate in movie romances where the way they build chemistry is by having the two leads smile at each other the whole time while giving corny exchanges of dialogue

            Did you know said contreversial scene wasn’t in the original ending. It certainly feels like it because that was something that should’ve been built up throughout the entire movie that was only set up by one line of dialogue. Like if you watch the movie you can tell that scene comes out of nowhere because the scene before and after have nothing to do with it. Even the final fight with Zod, I thought was were the movie was going to end, but they kept going.

          • Patrick Bayard

            Agreed! To be honest though even in the Donner versions, I thought Margot Kidder was convincing as a tough, spunky ambitious reporter trying to make a name for herself. Whereas the love story between her and Reeve’s Clark Kent seemed artificial (more one her part than Reeve). More like she was “star struck” than “in love” Like when she let him walk back to fortress of solitude by himself in Superman 2. I know it was for dramatic effect for when he had to arrive and save her …but it looked bad!

            I had not heard that the scene was not in the film originally, but I did hear it was pushed back to June 2013 and was originally supposed to be released during this past holiday season.

          • Yeah Snyder came out and said that wasn’t the original ending. If they wanted to switch it up they should’ve changed teh mechanics of the story to fit it in.

    • Rian Hunter

      I agree with you!

      • Patrick Bayard

        Appreciate the vote!

  • David

    All that is needed to make a Justice League movie work is this.

    1. Man of Steel 2 – Introduce Aquaman and Flash… you could do this by showing how Clark set each of them on their individual missions after crossing paths with them doing something troubling. Also the villains for this movie in my mind should be Lex Luthor and Braniac.

    2. Wonder Woman movie- She is hard to incorporate within a Superman movie or anyone else’s besides JL, so she should have a stand alone film

    3. Justice League- Superman, Wonderwoman, Flash, Aquaman, and Robin (this only works if Nolan opens up his universe… if not JL is a lot further away because you can’t have it without Batman). The villain could be a lot of people, but I am going to go with Darkseid. I dont know what happens in the entire movie, but at the end Superman is in big trouble, and is about to kill Darkseid… when Bruce Wayne steps in (Batman) and says “there is always another option. You are better than me and need to be for Mankinds sake.” Showing that Batman is the only one that can play a father figure to Superman. Batman dies saving Superman and Earth from darkseid. Robin takes up the suit after him.

    4. The Last Son- Superman vs. Doomsday. The trilogy ends here with a play on the death of Superman I would imagine. Unlike the Dark KnIght Trilogy, they save the best for last, and this is easily the best film of the three, and is right up there with the Dark Knight.

    • Tony

      Not trying to be harsh, but this plan has major flaws. First why would you introduce flash and aquaman in the next man of steel? We all know whenever the Justice League movie is made, its going to be carried by Supes and Bats. So there will be more benefit in introduceing the new Batman instead. And would you waste braniac in a superman sequel? Save him for a JL sequel, his sucha huge threat. Also they Lex Luther/Brainiac storyline was always with Justice League
      Secondly, I don’t agree that WW is hard to incorporate with supes (Trinity comic series with supes, bats, and ww), but I would rather see a stand alone film.
      Thirdly, why on earth would Robin be in JL, he’s definitely one of those characters youdo a cameo and thats it. And they have already said that Nonan’s batman will not be in JL. And how do you forget Green Lantern. He’s one of the main 5 along with bats, supes, ww, and flash.
      Lastly, why would you kill supes off and end the triology right after JL movie? Sorry but thats beyond dumb, considering by this time he will be their most bankable character at WB. Thats like Marvel killing Tony Stark off. You don’t kill you leading man. Besides Doomsday never truly killed Superman. (Which is not saying they should do some twist, and bring he back)

      But I agree that the villian should be Darkseid, go big or go home, right?

      • David

        I said a play on the death of superman, not the death of superman.. there is a difference. As for Green Lantern, as long as they don’t use the Ryan Reynolds debacle and reboot it then fine. Also, Robin is part of the JL, albeit not as big a part as batman, but definitely involved.

  • Fan of steel

    Snyder and goyer are perfect for superman!!! WB needs to make individual movies to set up for a JL movie!!

  • Jo Joojoj

    For those who aren’t familiar, the author included, Batman joins the Justice League out of paranoia. He thinks they’re the World’s Greatest Threat, and wants to be there to take them down when the time comes. He’s a loner and he hates relying on others, but he makes the sacrifice to join the JLA to learn about these new “Super Weapons” and how to stop them.

    As for him being “too weak” I don’t think so. Most of the Soldiers in Man of Steel were able to survive Faora’s vicious onslaught. Sure they never stood a chance, but they weren’t Batman either. :p Add more robotics to his suit (Like his mechanical leg-brace) to justify him being ‘stronger than a normal human’ and it will be fine.

    • HolyFranchiseBatman!

      Actually, that’s only been the case since Tower of Babel. You don’t know they’ll go with that storyline in the movie. They tried it once already with Justice League Mortal.

      • its funny with 75 years of stories, there are people who still believe in a singular narrative for these characters. There’s a great video where Grant Morrison talks about how he tackled Batman. It’s a great perspective on the character and the challenge of storytelling something that has existed for so long and in so many incarnations.

  • Nas690

    Batman has taken on almost every villian in the dc universe. Not only that he has ways to stop his fellow leaguers just read Tower of Babel and you’ll see

  • Jupigorg

    I completely agree with the point of having to re-do Batman. I loved the Nolan series, but was disappointed by Bale’s version of the character. In the comics and animated films he is smart and strong, and he could easily go alongside big names like Superman and Wonder Woman. My only fear is that WB will try and rush everything and will try to vomit another Batman film on to us with an even worse character that will end up being in a JL movie just so they can say “Go watch it, Batman is in it!”

    • Patrick Bayard

      What is the difference between the Bale Batman and the comic one? BOTH ARE HUMAN! To say Bale is not strong. In Batman Begins, he defeats the entire League of Shadow assassins at their base; in the Dark Knight, he defeats two SWAT teams; and in the Dark Knight Rises defeats Bane a character that was able to break out of hand cuffs, crushed a man’s neck with one hand, was able to hold Batman up in a one handed choke hold and punched through marble pillars.


      That he is not smart despite the fact that at various points during the trilogy he: pieced together where the Joker would try to kill the Mayor (using a rather fantastic notion of reconstructing a bullet) to identify the shooter; helped the police by giving them lightly irradiated money the Joker was trying to steal to help track down where it ended up; figured out that the guy riding in the car with Jim Gordon (who had a relative in the hospital that was under threat) was going to kill the man who wanted to out his identity; he figured out that Selena Kyle was attempting to get his prints off of his safe and also got past her fake fingerprint ruse to determine who she really was; and figured out how to repair the autopilot on the Bat.

      So that is just not good enough for you?

      • Jupigorg

        I’m not trying to say this Batman wasn’t smart or strong at all (I probably could have made that more clear in my previous comment). My main point is that I feel this version of Batman is not at a point where he could go up along side a Justice League. Not that he could if he wanted to considering he is technically “retired.”
        I was also trying to say that I’m worried that WB is just gonna try and push a new Batman film for the money and not get us a Bat that will earn his right as a JL member.

    • Exactly two completely different Batmans

  • Jeff Habib

    Worlds Finest should come first. C Bale as Batman. Make him smarter and tougher by training with Lady Shiva like he did in Knightfall. WW cameo

  • Gentleman Vox

    I don’t agree with the idea of focusing so heavily on Superman and Batman because there have already been so many adaptations of these characters. Rather I think it would be prudent to have a few introductory movies to give movie audiences a feel for who the other members of the team are as characters.

    A Flash movie would be a great way to start IMO because the character is fun and his film can be less of a massive undertaking than would be required of a Superman/Batman venture.

    Following this we can finally have that damned Wonder Woman movie, taking a cue from Thor, and address her mythical roots and how she comes to be involved with affairs in the modern world.

    Aquaman movie is optional at this stage. May be extraneous as its scope would be similar to that of Wonder Woman. Could work better as a film following the JL one. In any event use the characterisation established in Batman: The Brave and the Bold (animated series).

    The Green Lantern movie could round out the solos and foreshadows the threat that causes the formation of the Justice League. Treat this one like The Incredible Hulk (acknowledge the origin having already been laid out in the previous film but make it feel brand new). Sinestro should be the villain in this no question.

    • Notice how Avengers focused primarily on Ironman, Cap, and Incredible Hulk? That’s because they’re most relatable to the audience. If Aquaman is a major piece of the puzzle in any way I will not be watching Justice League lol.

      • Gentleman Vox

        Of course Superman and Batman would be the central players in the actual Justice League movie. I was just saying that the other heroes would need some fleshing out in movies of their own. And BBatB Aquaman could in fact carry a movie on his own. :p

        • If there was a formula to figure out how film able a property is aqua man would be at the bottom I know he’s a badass in some iterations but most I imagine he’s kind of a joke

  • Jeff Rogers

    Stokes, do you have access to the movie writers or if you really wanted to have them consider something substantial could you get their attention? You are right in your assessment of what would be a successful approach to making the JLA leap to movies. I’d like to offer you an Idea that may be useful to you and would be a slam dunk for the JLA (I’ve canvased a cross section of folks and they think it’s a brilliant possibility) but I’d like to bounce this off of you off-line… Is that possible? If my idea can happen (it’s not at all far fetched or outside of rational practical continuity) fans and non-fans would love it and the box office draw would be at the least somewhat spike. Why consider my request? I have in my possession a personally type written letter from Stan Lee (Marvel was more interesting than DC in that day) about my career in comic book publishing he wrote me in my teens after reviewing my work and told me the whole staff was impressed and that was January 1969. I may have something worth considering. I write now more motivational and powerful things these days, but I am a Superhero fan of print and video. I personally want to see DC universe have the same respect the Dark Knight acquired and the effort to set Superman on top is the right order to settle the foundation. Now the ground must be stretched just a little. So…can we talk? DC can/should be competitive with Marvel and the result should be great movies.