Justice League: Defining the Icons
We’ve all seen the countless fan-casts for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Justice League film... but what about the characters themselves? What about their places in the story?
So apparently Warner Bros. is aiming for a 2015 release date for the long-awaited Justice League film.
While this news is certainly exciting, it’s also a bit worrisome -- after all, it means the studio doesn’t have much time to get their act together. Heck, it took Marvel Studios five years of buildup before The Avengers was finally released. Still, I’d like to remain optimistic.
Now many fans have been fantasizing and speculating on what the production will be like -- who the director will be, what actors are going to be cast, and so on. But what I find myself wondering is, can the filmmakers -- the writers and director, mainly -- properly convey who the Justice League members are?
I don’t mean their names or their powers. Everyone knows Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern... but they only know them as icons. Ask a random, everyday person who the Flash is and they’ll tell you, “He’s that red guy who can run fast.”
Ask the same person who Barry Allen is and they’ll probably say, “Who?”
If Justice League is going to work, the characters need to be MORE than just icons. By the end of the film, the audience ought to have an understanding of who they are as people, as well as who they are as superheroes. This is one of the reasons I believe The Avengers was so successful: Joss Whedon wrote each character with their own voice and personality, just as they are in the comics. That way audience members have a wide array of characters to choose from. Who is their favorite? Who do they most identify with?
Is Captain America too goody-two-shoes for you? Okay... maybe you’ll prefer Iron Man. Do you prefer fantasy over sci-fi? Alrighty then, here’s Thor. In this way, The Avengers pretty much summed up why superhero team-ups are so fun in the first place. Yes, we all love to see super-powered action sequences and titanic battles. But Justice League has to be more than just a clash of costumed Gods.
So, in an effort to discern how these characters should be portrayed in live-action, I’ve done some thinking: what is “THIS” character’s function on the team? How do they serve the story and the audience’s experience? And how would they react when placed in the same room as the other Leaguers?
First up on the list is Superman. The grandfather of all superheroes, and easily one of the most iconic fictional characters in the world.
Everyone walking into the theater ought to know Superman. He shouldn’t really need any introduction, especially with Man of Steel slated for release this summer. Hopefully after that film, audiences will know who Superman is beyond his cape and “S”-shield.
Even so, it would be disastrous to let Superman just stagnate in the background. He is the Justice League’s figurehead. In many ways, he’s their unspoken leader. What we need is to look up to and admire him, even if we don’t exactly relate to him.
How should the filmmakers achieve this?
Without too much difficulty, actually. It’s an undeclared fact, for both the audience and the characters, that Superman is the greatest hero in the League. When nobody else knows what to do, they look to Superman. When the going gets rough, they look to Superman. When things look like they can’t possibly get any worse... well, you know.
I’m not saying that Supes should be portrayed as an infallible God or a porcelain saint -- far from it. In a lot of ways, he’s just as conflicted and human as WE are. Here’s a character who’s dedicated his life to helping people, and yet for all of his strength, he can only do so much. He can change the course of mighty rivers -- hell, he could change the course of the future -- but he won’t, because he knows it’s not right.
In relation to the other heroes in the Justice League, Superman is the “king-daddy”... the “main-man”... whatever you’d call it. My point is that he leads more by example than anything else. He shares Wonder Woman’s honesty and naivety, and I think it should be stressed that he and Batman do not get along... at least, not at first.
Which brings us to...
I don’t know if I’m in the minority or not when I say this, but I’m a little tired of seeing Batman in live-action by now. As such, I’d like to see him take a bit of a backseat to some of his lesser-known (and lesser-appreciated) teammates. Now obviously this isn’t going to happen; Batman is too much of a cash-cow for WB to even consider such a thing. But a fan can hope, can’t he?
Anyway, I would like to see a Justice League Batman that draws more from the comics than just names and political themes (*cough*Chris Nolan*cough*). His defining characteristic (and any Bat-fan would tell you this) is that he’s a genius. Without a doubt, he’s the smartest member of the Justice League. If he’s a character that’s supposedly always ten steps ahead of his enemies, then SHOW that.
Have him do something shocking and unexpected that turns the tide of a major conflict. Have him outsmart Darkseid, or whatever villain that is used. Show audiences just how cunning Batman is.
But of course, having Batman on a team is a great opportunity to acknowledge his character flaws. He’s stubborn, cynical, prying, and often arrogant, and I would love to see Superman or Wonder Woman call him out on that. It should also be emphasized that Batman is NOT a team-player. His methods are extreme, and sometimes questionable, which is a great opportunity to cause friction in the group.
To the writer(s) of the official Justice League film: you have a great opportunity to do something new with Batman. Please don’t waste it.
I’ll openly admit that I’m not an expert on Wonder Woman’s comics mythology. I do, however, believe I have a pretty good understanding of her character.
Having been born and raised in Themyscira, Diana ought to be relatively unfamiliar with the world of men. She’s passionate and idealistic, but also woefully naive, and I think the best possible thing to do for her is to play up her role as a “stranger in a strange land.” Audiences would easily identify with her fish-out-of-water situation, and it wouldn’t be difficult to find humor in her interactions with the modern-world.
What I do NOT want to see is Wonder Woman being used as no more than the “token female” of the group, who is just there for the sake of being there. We need to see that she’s the most level-headed of the group, able to keep her emotions from clouding her judgement... especially when tensions start running high between her male counterparts.
Out of DC’s entire wealth of characters, I am absolutely shocked Wonder Woman has not yet been brought to the silver-screen. We all know that the character needs to shake off the image of the campy Lynda Carter TV series... and for God’s sake, we need a respectable female character in blockbusters nowadays. How about a role model for young girls who ISN’T Bella Swan?
I’ll start this section off by saying that the Green Lantern in question here is Hal Jordan. I’m not just saying that just because I’m a fan of the character, but because I feel that out of all the GL’s, he brings the most to the table.
Green Lantern is the hotshot of the Justice League. He’s brazen, reckless, and probably enjoys being a superhero more than any of his teammates. Primarily, GL is used as a foil to Superman’s stern stoicism; he’s fun, carefree, and doesn’t take his job too seriously.
But why use Hal Jordan? Why not John Stewart, who was the Green Lantern on the popular Justice League Unlimited cartoon?
Well, for multiple reasons really. Reason number one being, Hal was a founding member of the League in the comics. Not the strongest reason, I know, but comic book faithfulness always gives a CBM brownie-points. The second reason is that Hal’s personality offers a good contrast to the rest of the League. When portrayed properly, he IS a very fun character. Stewart, a former Marine, is pretty much a hard-ass. He’s a good character, for sure, but when Batman is on the team, we don’t really need yet another take-no-prisoners kind of guy.
If you were to compare Jordan to an Avenger, he would probably be most similar to Iron Man. He might not bring too much substance to the plot, but his bold personality would draw audiences’ attentions and inject a healthy dose of fun into the proceedings.
With Hal Jordan in mind as the team’s Green Lantern, I think that the best choice for the Scarlet Speedster would be the Silver Age incarnation of the character, Barry Allen.
Allen gets an unnecessary amount of hate from fans nowadays. I’ve heard him be called boring, lame, stiff, square, bland, generic -- you name it. Some people just can’t appreciate the character, and that disappoints me. But despite what all the naysayers would have you believe, Barry IS a very good character.
Although not as goofy or immature as his successor, Wally West, I don’t find Barry any less appealing. He’s just an everyday guy who suddenly finds himself swept up in a larger-than-life adventure. As audience members, he’s actually the first character we should be able to identify with.
I’ve heard people ask, “Why have the Flash in Justice League? What does he bring to the table?”
I think the best answer I can give is this: Hal Jordan is to Han Solo as Barry Allen is to Luke Skywalker. Barry’s the guy that brings things back down to Earth when they get too wild, and offers enough humanity for us to really care about the fictional world of the DC Universe.
And speaking of Jordan, the inclusion of both he and Barry would bring one of comics’ most beloved bromances to life. In many ways, Barry and Hal are the only “regular people” in the team, a fact that eventually turns them into best friends. Not to mention that the two characters could play off each other for comic relief.
I apologize for leaving out Martian Manhunter and Aquaman, but from the looks of it, Warner Bros. just aren’t interested in using those characters... at least, not at the moment.
Do you approve of WB’s (supposed) plan for this movie? Do you disapprove? Do you think it will ever actually be made?
Post your thoughts below, and thanks for reading.
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