Welcome to 2013, everyone! DC announced a while back that they’re planning to release a Justice League movie in 2015. That’s only two years away now! As you might have guessed that means that the film has had a quietly building typhoon of rumor and speculation around it ever since the announcement. So, being the unoriginal egotist that I am, I thought I would give you my prescription for a Justice League film for 2015.
I wish to quickly note that this is not speculation about the film DC will release but rather what I think they should release. I’m not the guy who wins the Oscar pool. I’m the guy who thinks that that clever understated movie should win and knows he’s to be disappointed.
Now that that’s out-of-the-way let’s get to it.
Especially if we’re sticking to that 2015 release date, it’s simply not possible to see a full DC movie universe set up by the time that Justice League comes out. We can’t give it the full Avengers treatment (even if they did throw all of their preparations out in Iron Man 2). When Justice League comes to theaters, DC will have The Dark Knight Trilogy, Green Lantern, The Man of Steel, and Jonah Hex out. It’s worth noting that if you put “From the Studio that Brought You Jonah Hex” on a Justice League poster, it would not drive your box office sales. The same is probably true for Green Lantern, unfortunately (not because I liked it, but because it should have been better). The Man of Steel is DC’s only real chance to do any set-up if they don’t want to go against Christopher Nolan’s wishes, which I imagine will be harder than usual since he’s producing said Man of Steel.
So what comes next is probably the most controversial opinion I have about the idea of a Justice League movie. If and when the post-credit scene for The Man of Steel rolls, it should be Superman entering a fancy office and coming face to face with its unseen resident who informs him that he’s trespassing . Unfazed, Clark should talk about how he’s been suspicious of his host’s corporation and how uncovering his illegal activities has put a lot of pieces together. And his rather charming host should casually ask why it should matter to him what Superman thinks about his after hours activities. And Superman should tell him that Clark Kent at the Daily Planet would probably be fascinated by it.
“We don’t have to be so cloak and dagger about this,” he should reply.
“Very well. I know that you’re the Batman.”
Bruce leans back in his chair, swirls a glass of fake scotch and smiles. “I’m well aware of that, Mr. Kent,” he replies calmly before changing his voice, “so what do you propose we do about it?”
And the screen cuts out to a logo for Superman/Batman coming summer of 2016.
And that’s the last we see of them for a while.
Which brings us to the cast of the Justice League Movie. The Avengers is a triumph of a film, if only in the sense that it managed to successfully play eight characters off of each other (seven if you don’t count Loki), but the simple fact is that DC can’t count on replicating that and doesn’t have the set up that Marvel did. That’s why we need a smaller cast, and that smaller cast is better off being new faces.
So who’s my Justice League? The answer is simple, my Justice League is Wonder Woman. Princess Diana of Themyscira is purportedly one of DC’s trinity of superheroes, but she’s never had the widespread fame and fan reaction that her two fellow heroes have received. Without Batman or Superman, she gets to shine, and shine she must, for it will be her name that brings butts to chairs, at least among the casual fan.
As the leader and center of the League, Diana will be able to show why she’s such a strong character and have an instant respect among the assembled heroes that can spread to the audience if well handled. Diana’s the strongest member of the League and its most compassionate. Honestly, it seems to me (though I lack the authority to discuss Diana’s character with any real authority), that Diana is not a character that inspires love through exposition, she inspires it through simple and often direct action. As the leader of the League and our most established hero, Diana can move the plot along so other characters can have their exposition time. I think that a couple of well placed moments of badassery and a couple more of compassion and inner strength will say all that needs to be said about Diana.
So who shall be her Argonauts? Start with Aquaman. As the fourth Golden Age hero that survived into the silver age (and the Superfriends), Aquaman is another hero who can inspire the average viewer to buy a ticket. Some may write it off for his perceived uselessness, thinking that it can’t match the Avengers with some freaky fish guy, but just as many tickets will be sold on the basis of wanting to see how much of a loser he is or if he can turn it around for himself. Either way, Aquaman belongs in the Justice League movie.
Arthur is all about nobility to me. Look at Peter David’s work with him or even Geoff Johns’ current run. He stands tall despite any storm and writing his moments of strength and weakness well could make for a great arc for the character. Aquaman is another bruiser of the team, making two of DC’s biggest but most under appreciated heroes the strongest of them all. His telepathic abilities are always hard to work into a story naturally but I think you’ll see potential for him as this goes on.
Next up is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Whether they decide that he’s been living among us as a detective or newly arrived from the stars, he’s a classic member of the League and one that deserves some public exposure. Not to mention that his psychic powers give him a distinct identity on a team. In this I think we should take a page out of Bruce Timm’s book and focus on J’onn’s shapeshifting and psychic powers rather than on his strength. He’s not only overpowered with it but redundant. I think that while friendships between the team could flow naturally, a nice one between J’onn and Arthur or one of the remaining members could earn the distinction that he’s long held of being the heart of the JLA.
The last two spots are a little more open to discussion in my mind but I know who I would suggest. Though I have concerns, I think it’s not quite a Justice League film without the Flash. Wally West, please. Just kidding, we know that nobody likes him (I need to go cry now). Whoever they pick to wear them shiny red boots (I said as if there’s any doubt that it will be Barry Allen), the core element of the Flash seems to be how honestly good-natured he is. The Flash is a superhero you’d want to have a beer with, if he drank (which Barry may be too white bread to do). His rogues are less a Legion of Doom and more the local supervillain’s union. He’s on a first name basis with his entire city in some interpretations. That makes the Flash our grounding character; the one that we identify with and feel comfortable around. To use a terrible metaphor, referencing a decent movie and its abysmal sequels, if Wonder Woman is this movie’s Optimus Prime, then the Flash is Bumblebee.
The Flash is also another familiar name to the public, but he’s not as perfect as he seems. There is the issue of the Flash being monstrously overpowered. A basic understanding of physics and/or Flash history quickly shows how dangerous a speedster can be, and super speed is a power that is kind of better in sequential image. He is, after all, called The Flash, and a flash is not terriblly interesting to watch.
Finally I would give the team a little more kickass, and if you want it done right, that means Dinah “Boss” Lance (actually Laurel, but whatever, the woman is a Boss)! Though her Canary cry is neat and might serve to distract people from how weird it is that there’s a badass normal in black leather with an archer boyfriend in this movie, the focus should be on skill: the kind of skill that you can’t be born with. Thanks to Young Justice more and more people are thinking of Black Canary as more than Green Arrow’s girlfriend (Greg Weisman has done so much for that girl…and people who enjoy happiness), but people are still not aware that Black Canary is one of, if not the, most talented martial artists in the DCU. Like has a rivalry with Lady Shiva talented. Makes metahumans cry regularly talented. Better than the mother-flipping Batman in straight fighting talented.
Obviously Canary brings something different to the team. She’s also another great personality, though one that would likely be tweaked one way or another. Not to mention the obvious, that she brings a little more estrogen to the League. The Avengers did well by its decision to stand behind Black Widow, it wasn’t perfect but it was a well above average role for a woman in a comic book movie. Now obviously quality will always be ranked above quantity, but that was a team of seven with one woman, we can surely do better for 51% of the population. Two out of five’s a start.
The other thing about The Avengers was the force with which I could feel Joss Whedon begging me to love Black Widow. There were plenty of moments where Natasha’s characterization seemed, to me, to be ‘better than you and everyone you know’. Now I admit that I may have been a little loose with my use of the word boss earlier, but with two women on the team a writer might feel a little more comfortable giving each of them different strengths and weaknesses. Besides if one of them gets stuck with the ‘perfect character’ issue, I’m telling you it won’t be Dinah. Hopefully it won’t afflict either of them, the pressure to be perfect is something we need less of in our women, media created and otherwise.
So now that we’ve outlined our team we need a villain. Not to be too honest about how this all came about but the Avengers is a really good example to learn from again. This time it’s not as positive. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a favorite villain of mine, at least in Thor, but his Avengers characterization was whiny and flat. He paid the price for the large cast size, going from a Shakespearean godling to a mewling pawn of the Chitauri, themselves more bluster than anything else. In a team story, it can be quite helpful to have an opposing army so that things don’t get boring or the odds too one-sided. But if you lose sight of the primary antagonist then the opposition feels faceless and expendable.
So who’s our adversary? DC recently chose Darkseid but that’s predictable and does nothing to quell comparisons to the Avengers (which hinted that its sequel will feature Darkseid’s Marvel counterpart, Thanos). Unfortunately, Wonder Woman lacks an enemy who has the right profile and skills to be a comfortable League level-threat. The Rogues aren’t up to it, and Black Canary and Martian Manhunter barely even have enemies they can call their own. Geoff Johns is currently in the middle of making the argument that the best option is Ocean Master and the armies of Atlantis but Orm is only really suited to a climactic one on one with Aquaman, unless you want Aquaman vs. his brother and the Justice League vs. the Kraken it doesn’t seem like they’re quite up to the task (also, another choice that wouldn’t instantly differentiate it from The Avengers). Luckily the annals of JLA history hold the answer.
Though he’s probably been suggested countless times before, I doubt he’s felt like a serious contender to many. Nonetheless I believe that the original Justice League baddie is best in this case. Mere mortals tremble before the wrath of STARRO THE CONQUEROR! No, no, not that Starro; this Starro.
Revolutionized by Tony Bedard’s underrated R.E.B.E.L.S., the star conqueror made for an excellent villain to Vril Dox and his cohorts, mixing beloved fantasy clichés and sci-fi menace into a delightfully charismatic Vader-esque opponent. This Starro has the power to be a deadly serious threat while still cracking the occasional joke and the mind control powers he gained in his last reinvention (from the bwa-ha-ha days) allow for an army to challenge the league individually before any number of them can break off to challenge Starro directly. Not to mention the cameo potential. Set your climax in Central City? Star-fished Captain Cold takes a shot at Aquaman. Need a mid-boss for Diana to fight? Star-fished Parasite or Solomon Grundy. Not satisfied with my idea about who should be in the movie. Have your cake and eat it too, star-fished Superman.
Starro can even connect to the heroes without going all Tim Burton’s Batman on us. Perhaps his landing splashed a mild-mannered police scientist with chemicals. Perhaps he was lead to earth by the Machinations of Ares. Perhaps J’onn has come to earth to warn us of the star conqueror. Not to mention that there’s bound to be a crowning moment of awesome where Aquaman lampshades his obliviousness as to why his powers work on alien starfish.
Since I see this as a lengthy pitch rather than my version of the movie we can work out the details later, but there is the message of the movie. The Avengers, both literally and metatextually, already argued that we can be more than the sum of our parts, but while Spiderman and the X-Men give Marvel a kind of general theme of navigating a harsh world heroically, there is a story for DC too. Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, even Black Canary and Flash, depending on how you write them, can all be seen as outsiders. The first three struggle between two worlds as a basic part of their character. So the theme of this movie is the way that outsiders make a place for themselves where they can be appreciated. It’s a story that we all relate to, especially in geeky communities. And against our unlikely team of outsiders is the ultimate insider, a being who has replaced the thoughts of nine galaxies with his own. Starro is the perfect team forming villain, he is the crushing weight of conformity.
And that’s my pitch for the Justice League movie. Which DC can never use now for fear that I’ll sue them…crud.