So it's semi-official. Warner Bros. reportedly wants to do a Justice League movie, as soon as 2015. They won't follow the Marvel plan, putting out a string of solo hero movies and then building to a team-up — instead, they'll introduce the team, and then maybe spin off some solo adventures.
But how do you make a team-up movie that introduces characters who've never had their own big-screen movies, like Wonder Woman, the Flash, and so on? This is a tricky task — with lots of ways to screw it up. In fact, we've come up with 10 absolutely guaranteed ways to make a Justice League movie fail.
Actually, there's one obvious way to do this — put out a decent Superman/Batman movie first. And then, once that team-up makes a billion dollars, make a Trinity movie, introducing Wonder Woman as a co-protagonist. Then do Justice League, along with a Wonder Woman solo film. But let's assume that DC doesn't take the easy route — how do you make a movie that introduces five to seven heroes, and also gives them a reason to team up?
Here are some great ways to fail at that:
1. Make all five or six heroes' origins turn out to be interrelated.
So, for example, Abin Sur shot Bruce Wayne's parents, and Jor-El wiped out the Martian Manhuter's family along with most other Martians. Screenwriters of superhero films love to do this sort of thing, because it's a way to cut through the tangle of continuity. Sometimes it works pretty great, like when Batman Begins has Ra's Al-Ghul being the guy who trained Bruce Wayne, as well as the movie's main villain. Or, it can be a horrible disaster, and make the world of the film seem too small and overly intimate.
2. They're all teenagers, and they go to the same high school.
What? It could work. This way, you get the Hunger Games demographic, and there's an instant reason for the Justice Leaguers to interact with each other. Maybe Wonder Woman belongs to the "popular girl" clique and everybody thinks she's stuck up. Meanwhile, Batman is a jock but also on the debating team, and people keep wanting him to choose. And Superman is a nerd who wishes he could play football without giving away that he has superpowers. And Black Canary is the goth girl that nobody talks to, but at night she puts on her blonde wig and ... What? Why are you looking at me like that? Image via ARMYCOM/DeviantArt.
3. Find the most convoluted DC Comics storyline and do a straight-up adaptation.
Mad Max director George Miller was going to adapt the continuity-heavy "Brother Eye" storyline from Infinite Crisis for his abortive Justice League movie. But we can do better than that. How about Millennium, the story where the blue people from Green Lantern come looking for the next evolution of humanity? Or maybe Armageddon 2001, where a guy goes around touching people to see their futures and find out if they're a future dictator? Or Countdown to Final Crisis, where some people go universe-hopping? Cry for Justice, where the heroes get proactive? Or Legends, the miniseries where Darkseid's minion masquerades as a right-wing pundit who turns public opinion against the Justice League — which could easily be turned into a hamfisted spoof on Fox News? Probably the best option is to take every Justice League story of the past 20 years and mash them up into Cry for Infinite Final Legendary Crisis of Armageddon. (Actually, I'm seriously afraid that someone might think an Identity Crisis movie is a good idea.)
4. Since the main purpose of this movie is to sell toys, just make a toy-centric movie.
In particular, why not go ahead and do a faithful adaptation of Total Justice, the 1996 miniseries that was mandated by Kenner purely to launch a new toy line? It's 1000 percent more toy-oriented than any other DC comic. (The main lasting impact of Total Justice was introducing a friendly Parademon, who later became Ragdoll's special friend in the Secret Six.) In Total Justice, the Justice League travels to an island where their powers are nullified — forcing all the League members, even Batman, to wear "Fractal Techgear" armor to duplicate their lost powers. Why does Batman need to wear special power-emulating armor, when he normally has no superpowers? Umm... Hey, it's a friendly Parademon! That's something you don't see every day. (Unless you're Ragdoll.)
5. Make a whole "Justice League tryout" movie
Everybody's nostalgic for the "Satellite Era" nowadays — so why not do an homage to one of those issues where they recruit a new member? Except in this version, a bunch of heroes try out for the JLA. The movie could follow half a dozen younger aspiring heroes, who jump through hoops trying to impress the classic JLA members. That way, we see the Big Five through the eyes of these aspiring new members, and it could be like reality TV, with people being eliminated. (In a shocking twist, Hawkman is the first to get knocked out, but Hawkgirl stays almost until the end.)
6. Create a "dark gritty" Justice League.
This is the best solution to the problem of having to introduce characters and show why they belong together, all in one movie. There's no explanation needed, if they're dark and gritty enough. Everybody instinctively understands "dark and gritty," and nobody ever wonders what motivates a dark, gritty character. Batman gathers a team that includes Dark Superman (wearing his black Super-suit from The Death of Superman), Dark Wonder Woman (wearing armor, or maybe even pants!), Dark Flash, and Nihilistic Olive-Drab Lantern. Together, they join together to battle the darkness... darkly. The conversations among the group could consist of all of them arguing over who's more tormented: "Nobody can understand the things I've seen." "Eh. The things you've seen are much easier to understand than the things I've seen." "I am the night." "Well, I ate the night and pooped a total eclipse of the soul." And so on. Plus they all keep insisting they work alone, but then working together.
7. Don't even have them meet each other until the end of the movie.
That would be wacky, right? And that way, you kick the ball of the "showing how they get together" portion of the film to the very end, while focusing on the "introducing them separately" portion. They can all be investigating separate things that turn out to be related. You could even have them keep almost meeting each other, like the Flash runs out of a room just as Superman flies into it. Batman could keep hearing about that guy in all green, but not crossing paths with Hal. And then they all finally show up in the same place just in time to square off against Mongul. Bonus point: They all think Mongul is their personal arch-nemesis, and then they find out that he's like everybody's nemesis at once. You can't call dibs on Mongul.
8. Create a zany line-up of just characters who've had classic TV shows.
Almost every DC character has joined the Justice League at some point — so why not just stick to the heroes who've been on classic TV, and thus have nostalgia value? Shazam, for instance. Shazam had a TV show in the 1970s, and it was pretty jammin'. Also, the Flash and Wonder Woman, of course. You could throw in Isis, and maybe Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl. (Who owns the rights to Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl? I bet they'd be cheap to license.) Plus maybe the Birds of Prey had a TV show. Actually, this approach has the benefit that it would give you an honest-to-goodness gender-balanced Justice League. In fact, why stop there? Put Underdog in the Justice League too — he's a character who needs no introduction. And Mighty Mouse! I would pay good money to see Superman and Batman team up with Mighty Mouse. (There's zero sarcasm there. I would actually pay for a Superman/Batman/Mighty Mouse team-up, especially with Shazam in the mix. Holy Moly!) Top image: View From a Goon.
9. Go for the straight-up sitcom vibe. Maybe even a rom-com thing.
She's an uptight Amazon princess. He's a cocky dickish billionaire with a heart of vengeance. Can they ever learn to love each other? Their lovable dork friends (including the too-earnest newspaper reporter and the cuddly test pilot) try to help Bruce and Diana discover the mutual attraction behind all the barbs they trade back and forth. Can Bruce find the key to Diana's heart, before the Key finds the means to destroy North America? One thing's for sure: Those kids are Justice messed up as the rest of us. (See what I did there?) The start of the third act could be when Diana finally hooks up with Bruce, before realizing he's a cad and telling him to take a Hiketeia.
10. Spend the whole movie on "they fight each other before teaming up"
The "heroes fight each other before teaming up against the real enemy" thing is a formality — it's like stamping your passport. Avengers got the actual physical brawl out of the way in an entertaining but brisk fashion, with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor battling in the forest. But I seem to remember the first two issues of the recent Justice League comics reboot were just Batman, Green Lantern and Superman fighting each other before any actual baddies showed up. And that was one and a half issues of "heroes fighting each other" too many. I could totally see a League movie trying to copy that format, resulting in an hour of good guys smacking each other due to wacky misunderstandings — as a means of introducing them to each other, and to us.
But seriously, Warner Bros. — it's not that complicated. Superman/Batman (not Superman vs. Batman). Followed by Trinity. Followed, in turn, by Justice League (and a Wonder Woman solo outing). Make it happen! Or else, just make a Wonder Woman movie, before doing the full Justice League. Wonder Woman's origin needs a whole movie to itself.