Make It So: Justice League the Movie by Jerry Whitworth
Most of my Make It So articles have been about projects that make sense to me to be produced but have yet to be realized. For this installment, I’m going to break tradition and discuss a movie recently announced to be in development. The Justice League of America is DC Comics’ premier super hero team generally featuring their biggest icons like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (of these, the final film in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy will be in theaters next month, the first in a new Superman film series begins the summer of next year, and Wonder Woman has also been recently announced to be developed for film which was previously featured in Make It So). Developing the Justice League in a live action format is nothing new.
An early attempt was largely a sequel to the Batman television series of the 1960s called Legends of the Superheroes. Seeing Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin returning to their roles of Batman, Robin, and Riddler, respectively, the show was produced by Hanna-Barbera as a live action version of the popular Challenge of the Super Friends series. However, the show was played up for laughs rather deliberately than the former Batman series which was played straight faced and after airing two specials, it quietly went away (Superman and Wonder Woman were noticeable absent, the former tied up in a film series and latter in her own television series). In 1997, a pilot was filmed called Justice League of America loosely based on the Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire Justice League series that was never even aired in the United States (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were all absent). In recent years, the popular television series Smallville featuring a teenage Superman introduced the Justice League (minus Batman and Wonder Woman) but DC Comics tried to expand in the Batman-based Birds of Prey television series and a pilot for Aquaman called Mercy Reef which seemed to fizzle with fans leaving the company gun-shy (a television series for Green Arrow called simply <a href=”http://comicartcommunity.com/2012/05/arrow-from-page-to-screen/”>Arrow</a> will make its way to television in the Fall). A film called Justice League: Mortal was planned for release in theaters in 2009 until a writer’s strike in Hollywood and an inability to qualify for a tax break to shoot in Australian put a bullet in it. Still, the overwhelming success of Nolan’s The Dark Knight film and the recent of success of The Avengers film have finally got plans back on track for a Justice League movie. Lets look at what such a movie would need.
THE BIG 7
The number seven seems to be rather symbolic with human history. Seven days of the week, seven wonders of the world, seven sins, sacraments, and virtues, seven Heavens and Hells, seven pillars of wisdom, seven chakra, seven seas, seven stars in the Big Dipper, the seven year itch, three sevens for slot machines mean the jackpot, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven, etc. In numerology, the number seven is considered the holiest and most powerful of numbers. Even the recent hit film The Avengers featured seven heroes when you include Nick Fury. The Justice League of America started out with seven members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman.
Generally speaking, it is the presence of those seven characters that have generated the most success (though, Hawkgirl subbed out Aquaman in the Justice League animated series). And while the media history I’ve described has tried to bring the Justice League into live action, it’s always missed something: the Big 7. With the Nolan era of Batman coming to a close and Superman arriving next year, it would likely work best to let the Superman film be the first of the series that produces the Justice League film (in the same manner Marvel used various solo films to lead into the Avengers). Green Lantern had a film some time ago (that unfortunately didn’t do well) and it has been announced Wonder Woman and Aquaman have upcoming films in development, meaning by the time a Justice League movie hits theaters people will generally be familiar with all but the Flash and Martian Manhunter (though, a Flash movie has been in development Hell for quite some time now). Regarding Green Lantern and his box office failure, perhaps it would be best to substitute the Lantern used. I’m reminded when the film hit theaters, many complained it wasn’t the real Green Lantern. Meaning, the latest Lantern the public was familiar with was John Stewart on the Justice League animated series. Stewart would also add an interesting dynamic. Superman is Earth’s mightiest hero and its savior, Batman is the pinnacle of human achievement, Wonder Woman the warrior princess, Green Lantern the soldier and intergalactic cop, Flash the scientist, Martian Manhunter the alien and outcast, and Aquaman the long lost king. With this in mind, it creates several personalities that will keep interactions from becoming monotonous as they were in the Super Friends. However, it would likely benefit the film to keep away from being comedic like Green Lantern yet incorporate small bits of quirky humor like the Nolan Batman trilogy. An aside, Martian Manhunter has on occasion been left out of Justice League adaptations like Super Friends because of his similarities to Superman so it may behoove the film to adopt his treatment in Young Justice where they play up his powers that differentiate from Superman and down where they’re similar. Also, considering Manhunter has been portrayed of late by African-American actors like Carl Lumbly, Dorian Harewood, Phil Morris, Jonathan Adams, and Kevin Michael Richardson, it maybe best to continue the trend as it adds diversity to the cast.
The Justice League has had a lot of bases: Secret Sanctuary, Hall of Justice, Watchtower, etc. But talking to many fans, people seem to really connect with the satellite headquarters that hovers above the Earth (and adapted for the Justice League animated series and Young Justice). And while I don’t think we should expect a fully functioning satellite in the film, fans will be impressed with seeing the beginnings of it much in the same manner we see the origins of the Batcave in Batman Begins. Perhaps the appeal of the satellite is the dramatic appearance of seeing the League as it looks down on the Earth, some modern age guardian angels who can teleport to any location on the planet and immediately jump into action. It’s also practical as a base on Earth can be attacked by virtually any enemy but operating in space offers a strong defense as well as allows the base to defend itself without great risk to innocent bystanders and property. But maybe the greatest reason for the satellite is if the heroes of Earth come together as a team, it would have to be a grave threat. The satellite can serve as a means for the group to catch its breath, regroup, and attack its enemy as a united effort. And if you really want to psych up fans, you can show the beginnings of the trophy room in the falling action.
I know, I’ve read many articles that want the Justice League movie to feature an invasion from Apokolips. And, while I think that will be cool, where do you go from there? What if you have the team fight Darkseid, the film does well, and then you have to make a sequel. Who will they fight next? The Key? Royal Flush Gang? Shaggy Man? Take a note from The Avengers and stick to the source material, build towards something instead of putting everything in the first film and leaving nothing for later. And before you say the Justice League formed battling the Appelaxians, the first time we were introduced to them was with Starro. Using Starro works on various levels. His presence combines together elements of an alien invasion while adding the depth of being able to enslave minds. It’s a minimalistic way of creating a threat that can wipe out humanity by using humanity itself, forcing the League to form because of its threat level, forced to work as a team to avoid being enslaved, and make this team of strangers forced to work together which causes tension while adding the element of casting doubt on each other if Starro could have secretly entranced one of the members to increase tension (like how Starro was used in Batman Beyond). And, what if members are enslaved? Superman vs Batman, Wonder Woman vs Martian Manhunter, Flash vs Green Lantern, or any other combination you can imagine. Something else to consider, this film has to legitimize how people like Batman and Aquaman deserve to be in the League. For Aquaman, an alien threat that enslaves humanity and lives in the sea? Aquaman’s involvement writes itself. Having to sneak around to avoid a direct confrontation and risk being enslaved? Batman’s your guy. Not to mention, if you need to find a way to free people and uncover Starro’s weaknesses, someone like Batman would think about it the second he knew what he was up against.
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