Why Mark Millar is wrong about the Justice League film
Recent comments regarding the Justice League film made by fairly popular comic book writer Mark Millar have created a heated debate amongst CBM fans. These comments have led many fans to ask a few particular questions: “Is it possible to make a Justice League movie work?,” “Are the core members of the Justice League in some way outdated?,” and “How could any film display Aquaman speaking while under water?” Here’s my take on how these questions should be answered and why Mr. Millar is unquestionably WRONG:
Why I believe a Justice League movie can (and hopefully will) work...
First of all, any CBM fan would be hard-pressed to find any comic book movie that stayed 100% identical to its source material. Even if the changes were miniscule in the overall scope of the film, there were indeed changes to the source material made during the adaptation process. Therefore, the Justice League film could greatly benefit from some intelligent adaptation choices (carefully selecting which Justice Leaguers will appear, which team members will require the most screen time regarding origins, changes/alterations to costumes and powers, etc.). So, to suggest that any of the Justice League characters are too outdated is asinine, simply because of any writer/director’s ability to change certain aspects. A perfect example of this concept is Captain America. Cap first appeared in 1941, about three years after Superman’s first comic book appearance. He is an old-fashioned character with an old-fashioned attitude, and Joss Whedon had to decide whether to highlight the old-fashioned aspects of his character in the Avengers or to alter him for “the times.” Clearly, he made the right decision by sticking to the former, which helped to sell the audience on his otherwise ridiculous looking costume.
So, despite the fact that many comic book films have successfully altered several aspects of the source material to achieve higher levels of cinematic plausibility (the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Dark Knight films among many others), Mr. Millar still believes that a Justice League film will be a “200 million dollar failure.” Well, it is my opinion that every successful comic book film achieved its success and made the concept of costume-wearing crime fighters plausible via successfully nailing one concept: tone. The tone of a film is what creates the scope that the audience views the film through. Imagine the potential disasters that could have resulted had the directors of several successful films taken a different approach regarding tone: Avatar could have been “Smurfs in Space,” Looper could have been “Marty McFly Attempts to Kill Himself,” and Inception could have been “Freddy Kreuger meets James Bond.” The plot of each of these three films sounds pretty ridiculous on paper, but the tone established by each director made the otherwise wacky events of each story seem not only plausible, but serious (and the casting choices only helped in this matter).
Okay, let’s take a look at some other films that could have been disastrous (or more disastrous if you hated them), had they been created with a different tone (and different cast): 2008’s Wanted made curving a bullet by shooting a pistol like you’re doing the Macarena look cool (in part because Angelina Jolie was doing the shooting). 2010’s Kick-Ass made a cute little girl brutally murdering countless thugs look cool by not taking itself too seriously, which was evident in the casting choice of the always brilliant Nic Cage, who actually gave a brilliant performance (how’s that for irony?). Now, indulge in this alternate reality: studio execs decide that they want the big-screen adaptation of Wanted to play more like a dramatic action-epic. They cast Tom Cruise as the nerdy Wesley, and Jennifer Connely as the badass assassin. Brutal, violent assassinations in slow motion would be traded in for “stylish,” hyper-realistic takedowns, and curving bullets would be changed to run-of-the-mill “accuracy.” Jump to the alternate-reality production of Kick-Ass and you find Liam Hemsworth in place of Aaron Johnson as the title character, along side Christian Bale as his well-to-do crime fighting ally (with large glasses and furry mustache in place). Scenes of Big Daddy shooting his bullet-proof vest-wearing daughter are replaced with “Batman Beginsesque” Liam Neeson training scenes, indicating that we are really supposed to believe that this little girl actually is a killing machine.
As you can see, the tone established in both Wanted and Kick-Ass played to the strengths of those stories, thus making them work. The casting choices helped to sell the tone and the direction helped to highlight the cast in the desired context. I sincerely hope that Mr. Millar will keep the importance of tone in mind as he tries to convince us how cool a movie revolving around Stretch Armstrong, hollow woman, interchangeable fire-wielding character, and poor man’s Hulk is.
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