Making the Justice League Movie Work
My thoughts on making the DC cinematic universe a viable one
It cannot be refuted that when it comes to putting together a cohesive cinematic universe, DC has found itself miles behind its rival. Marvel has so clearly succeeded because they took the time to make you care about the individual characters. By giving the main characters each a staring role in their own films, each had found a place in the collective hearts of the audience. While not all were popular, when it came time to assemble those characters, the fact that each had their own endearing qualities and a rich backstory helped to make you feel connected to those characters in a way not quite possible in other team movies like X-Men and Fantastic Four where only a limited time can be devoted to each character. As a result of the solo films, each character in Avengers seems a little more important than the individuals comprising the ensemble teams of those team up movies. Creating a situation that is so impactful that the stars of various movies need to come together into a single film to counter a single threat enhances that idea in the minds of the audience.
It is for this reason that if DC wants to launch a successful DC unified universe, they need to start slowly and build from the ground up with their individual properties rather than launch an ensemble movie from the start. They need to scratch any notion of fragmenting the movies into solo and team up flicks with different versions of the same character. Though the Hulk as a solo movie was moderately successful, it took the Avengers to prove to the audience what kinds of potential rests in the character. The same, I posit, goes for characters like Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter (if at all).
With Nolan’s Batman now at its conclusion, Superman seems like the most viable character to start. While Green Lantern, I felt, missed an opportunity to acknowledge a grander universe (old scripts mentioning the ring seeking out Clark Kent, for example), the fact that the movie reveals a universe filled with thousands of alien races somewhat alludes to there being more “out there” in the way of special beings other than the Green Lanterns so it wasn’t exactly against the idea. Because, however, he wasn’t a huge box office draw, it would be unwise to use him in the early stages of this process. While Hal Jordan is an excellent character, he was not given his proper due, much like the Hulk, and will require a strong ensemble to boost his popularity. Rather than reboot Green Lantern, I suggest they continue with Ryan Reynolds and hold off until after Justice League for more solo adventures. More on that later.
Starting with Superman, I think it is quite evident that Snyder is playing the angle of a man who doesn’t feel like he fits in with the world. A man who is constantly searching for a place to belong. Though I won’t pretend to know what happens in Man of Steel, certain things are likely:
1. He will embark on a journey of self discovery
2. He will find others like him who will try to make him see that his old way of life isn’t suitable for a person with godly power
3. He will uphold his earthly values and save the world, thus ostracizing those of his own race.
4. He will ultimately still feel a sense of isolation once he vanquishes his foe and the humans will look at him as a reckless god among them, and though some may venerate him, he will never be one of them.
Supposing the movie ends with him still alone and searching, it may be a good opportunity to introduce the idea of another DC universe character. Something that will offer him a glimmer of hope that there are others like him with similar abilities and similar morals who also feel outcast. His reporter instincts would kick in and jump start his quest to discover other remarkable characters. Leave them all nameless. Or leave a “joker card” hint such as a nod to Gotham or sightings of a green streak over Coast City that whets his curiosity.
Next, start introducing the individual characters. The Flash and Wonder Woman would be the most obvious choices. Each having some tie to events from Green Lantern and Superman and each other.
Next, a World’s Finest movie teaming up Superman and Batman. Superman continues his journalistic quest about a defender of the night in Gotham. What he doesn’t know is that he’s also being investigated by the worlds greatest detective. The two end up on a spiraling collision course that initially sees them at odds and then eventually joining forces for a common good. Use the popularity of Batman to kick up the popularity of Superman and have those two join together for the first time to:
1. Introduce the new cinematic universe Batman
2. Get the audience into the frame of mind that these characters exist in the same universe and something, someday, is going to bring them ALL together to kick ass.
3. Have the two join together at the end to seek out more amazing individuals as a continuation of Clark’s initial quest. They intend to put together a team and they make it known.
After that, the universe is officially open. Either put out another solo Wonder Woman, Flash, or Batman, or go straight into The Justice League. Having both Superman and Batman surrounded by these characters automatically gives the lesser known characters some street credibility.
Like Avengers to the Hulk, The Justice League movie should be the spring board for phase 2 of the DC universe characters. Characters like Aquaman and Martian Manhunter or Cyborg wouldn’t be able to carry a solo movie until the Justice League proves how awesome they are. The Green Lantern would need to use this opportunity to really shine and become a household name. His classic rivalry with Batman will instantly make him a character that’s talked about if that confrontation is explored. Ryan Reynolds has perfect comedic timing and he could end up being DC's Iron man.
If all goes well, this should hopefully help to close the gap between Marvel and DC’s cinematic universe. The one strength DC has is the popularity of it’s big three characters which could help propel this endeavor forward.
At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is not to fragment the characters any more than they need to. Green Lantern had one film and a reboot would be a waste. Assume it happened and move on. Stop re-rebooting everything and get on with it. If there are two versions of Batman (JLA and solo) it is just going to cause confusion. These are characters that are bolstered by each other. As individual entities they don’t work in a normal world (as awesome as Nolan's movies are), but together, they all make sense. Let’s stop pretending these things could actually happen and embrace the fact that these are larger than life characters intended to draw you into a make believe world that makes you forget your own for several hours and have fun with it. The Avengers made you believe a god of Thunder and a gamma irradiated monstrosity can stand side by side. What's stopping Superman and the King of the Sea from doing the same.
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