Yet Another Early Opinion on the Justice League Movie
Alternatively Titled: Albie Wishes the Justice League Movie Would be Delayed Another 5 Years, So We Could Go One of These Routes with it
First of all, let's get one thing very straight: Durr, none of this could happen. However, with 2013 now in the air, one of the killer flicks I've been excited for for quite a while already that comes out this year (later this month, actually) is the second part of Bruce Timm and co.'s animated adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. It's definitely way late now to bother reviewing Part One (it was released back in Sept.), but let's sum it up with: it would only have been more perfect had it included more of Batman's thoughts in the comics as voice over. Although some do get used as lines, it still sticks out, just because otherwise this really could not be more of an exact adaptation. That can work for or against, usually against, most things, but in the case of Frank Miller, he just produces such cinematic work to begin with, it's almost harder to adapt anything of his and change it than just do it as close as possible. Go back and re-read, then re-watch Sin City if you could use a reminder of that. Few movie adaptations of any written work are that functional and that close to the original; as much as I'm 50/50 on Fight Club personally, it's really the only other adaptation of written word to a 90-minute screenplay that works so functionally while staying so damn near 100% to the source material. Unfortunately, that adaptibility's been more consistent with Frank Miller's stuff than Chuck Palahnuik's, which, if you saw Choke, yeah...
But we've already digressed too far, let's get back to the issue at hand: a Justice League movie. The Avengers made so much money; it made so much motherfather chinese dentist money, so the Justice League adaptation last year went from kinda stalled as it had been the last few years and not planned officially (despite earlier attempts starting in 2007, including a cast list being announced later on. Apparently fervour died just enough to indefintely stall production at that point--the cast and director attached moved on, and DC even announced they would instead focus on solo movies in the near-future). The Justice League movie at that time had been planned around potentially working in and/or around the Chris Nolan movies, keep in mind, as we were only up to Dark Knight by then, and Christopher Nolan never had a multi-picture contract with the Batman franchise, no director has yet. So for each Batman he made, they had to decide to re-hire him or go their own way, same way they did before and hand the franchise to another director who attempts to continue the storyline. But, time continued to pass, and as the Justice League project fell apart, DC/WB saw the obvious dollar signs with Chris Nolan's own Batman movies and another shot at Superman instead, so they stuck with what they said in that press conference, they stuck with solo movies. They tried Green Lantern, too, yeah, and it sucked, but even that, totally stand-alone movie. It's not setting you up for the next five movies you need to see before Justice League. And that's the one unique thing DC can still have in theatres that Marvel has already (mostly) separated themselves from: stand-alone movies focussed fully on one hero and their city at a time. That gives room to move into Justice League in a much more organic way, by first showing each different city each hero is in is on the same Earth. Sometimes it's best when it's as small as, when you're watching a Superman movie, they're in Metropolis, and you hear a report about Gotham City on a radio or TV in the background.
Anyway, the Avengers' profit margins in theatres made DC feel like dumbases, I'll just say it, so a Justice League movie is back on again. This time, so far, details are scarcer. But how could you write your way through to an adaptation of Justice League and essentially lead up to a bunch of heroes in one movie by way of nothing but stand-alone movies? Here's where opinion will split down the middle, I'm sure, 'cause I think I see a clear and easy route to a naturally-led-up-to Justice League movie via only Batman and Superman movies, and we can save the movies for the rest of the individual Justice Leaguers for afterwards.
Back to Frank Miller. Without going too in-depth, here's the short version of this pitch, for the Batman nerds: There's Man of Steel coming out, so let's say they do a second, and just like I mentioned earlier, we have a subtle nod or two towards Gotham's existence. Then, a live action Dark Knight Returns, where all we really need to change is to adjust Batman and Superman's relationship, try to write it around this being their first or second meeting, which could go way wrong with some writers, but could easily go just right. Most especially in how they beat the absolute shit out of each other, and we get to see Superman finally really get matched by a human (well, no, I'm sticking by that for now, this paragraph we're supposed to be skimming through, remember?). This does also present the idea that Batman in these adaptations should be written to be younger than he was in the Returns mini-series, but I still think him being at least in his 40s and having already taken tons of beatings is not only essential to the Returns storyline if adapted, but would also be a great springboard for the Justice League movie (we're getting there). And this is why we skimmed through that as quick as possible; if you're still following me, this would be another adjustment, but I feel the most natural way to build up to the Justice League movie is via Batman and Superman movies, which doesn't get the audience divided on all the characters before the Justice League movie (or at least not as quickly if we aren't put through another Green Lantern movie, then a Wonder Woman, then a Martian Manhunter, then a Hawkman, then an Aquaman, then Justice League). They can go with which characters they have a better script for, or which ones people turn out to love most in the Justice League movie after doing it, etc,., gives better options there. Plus, the adjustment I was alluding to, is that I think it makes plenty of sense and would feel very natural to have that slightly older in his 40s Batman I was talking about for Dark Knight Returns start recruiting the Justice League with Superman after the events of Dark Knight Returns, being older now he can see a real need for organization amongst the separate heroes.
What's the hidden bonus to going this route? Well, we'd have to skip ahead in the Batman timeline, which means you could even go this route and still follow Nolan's chronology. Only three more changes would need to be made if you wanted to make that choice: Batman is now an older "John Blake," we need to re-cast Joker, and we need to replace the Two-Face storyline. Let's do the easier one first.
This is where I'm pretty sure no one will agree with me, but if you look at a photo of Heath Ledger with the Joker makeup and without side by side, you can really get a better idea of how much of his face it really does cover and almost contort, despite almost seeming minimal, and definitely being minimal compared to your standard on-screen Joker. What we need is someone with a similar physical build and a solid ability to be a flexible Joker. Someone who can be the Joker, but not quite Heath Ledger's Joker--an older Joker now. This is where, if I was one of those Photoshop nuts, I'd have a picture of Mark Hammill with close to Heath Ledger's makeup dropped onto his face. If you really were trying to follow the Nolan movies' story, you'd definitely have to direct Hammill closer to Ledger, but again, Joker's aged now, and since none of this is happening anyway, that's now two out of three down. Last is replacing the Two-Face storyline. We established earlier, though, that with Frank Miller's shit, staying closer to the mark is always the better option, so who could we almost just replace Two-Face with, just drop right in? I think there are at least three unseen-on-screen-so-far-characters that could serve well: Scarface, Killer Croc, or Clay-Face. These three are the top of my list of who'd work, but really, almost any others could, too, so long as they're not supposed to be dead already. The key thing we need is a character that would've needed extensive therapy and/or plastic surgery and then stayed criminal after all that and rehabilitation anyway. We would be missing the more emotional element of Bruce Wayne dealing with coming face to face with taking down Harvey again even after all he's done for him, but we'd also have more time for the street gangs, Carrie's stoner parents, and we still keep Batman's dealing with his own failure coming back at him so long as we use another character in Two-Face's place for most of his part in the story. Keeping him confronting his failures can naturally lead into Batman wanting to start the Justice League with Superman afterwards. Shit, actually, y'know who might work real damn well in Two-Face's place? Jason Todd, and after jail and therapy, within a week he's back in the Red Hood. Batman could even kill him accidentally, or Jason could kill himself, and we can keep the scene where Batman mourns his loss.
The real key here is that we get to do a Justice League movie focussed on Batman and Superman recruiting the Justice League to take down whichever villain. That's important as shit, because all audiences know Batman and Superman, and of course Wonder Woman would be in the Justice League movie, but at most, we'd see a report about her on a TV in the background of a Batman or Superman movie beforehand. The most effective introduction of the Justice League should focus on the few characters that everyone knows and loves, and there's innumerable Justice League stories already that are centered around Batman and Superman. They basically run the Justice League for the most part anyway, and then, like I said earlier, we can do a movie for individual Justice League heroes after they have proven to be awesome on-screen in the Justice League movie. Forget everything else I've said about adapting Dark Knight Returns to connect them, even--if they kept that idea in mind, of doing movies for say, Aquaman, after he proves to be cool enough for one in the Justice League movie, and didn't do Aquaman and another five movies that only half of us will see leading into the Justice League movie they would simply have infinitely greater options at hand for how to do each heroes' solo movie. Continue them from after Justice League? Show what happened to them leading up to Justice League? Go back further and do an origin? Every option possible is on the table.
This all would mean one final thing, too, a debatable bonus. More movies; debatable as in, well, Batman prequels, but ponder it for a moment. If they went the route I'm exploring, forget all the incorporating Nolan crap even, if they did one or two Superman movies, then a theatrical Dark Knight Returns, then Justice League, then we'd be skipping up to when Batman's older, which would lead to prequels. And doing that after a Justice League movie could mean way better incorporations of, let's say, a shorter storyline that incorporates Wonder Woman, or Flash, or any number of the different Robins, or Nightwing, since with Batman's age, it'd be appropriate for Dick to be running around as Nightwing whether we see him doing so in every (or any) movie or not. Wanna go the opposite direction? Okay, sequel: one of two directions, entirely new movie, or keep the Frank Miller storyline going (Batman gets back from the Justice League movie to build up the Sons of Batman army and continue to re-clean Gotham. He doesn't necessarily even have to mention all the events of Justice League), it's as simple as that.
No matter what happens, though, I'm just hoping the build-up to the Justice League movie works better than Marvels' lead up to Avengers (I hate Ryan Reynolds and Green Lantern, too, but Thor's never even counted as a superhero to me), which is what everyone else is hoping for, obviously. If you take nothing else away from this clearly extended ramble, just make sure you do see the animated adaptation of Dark Knight Returns, and read it if you haven't. Dec. 21, 2012 was Y2K, so Part Two of the animated adaptation will be out on Jan. 29th, 2013.
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