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WHO’S AFRAID OF A JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE?
 



 

According to recent news reports Warner Brothers and DC Comics are “looking at Marvel's recent success for a new way to operate.” Does this mean that the big screen Justice League: Mortal project is on again?

For the time being it would seem though that the planned $200 million plus big-budget live-action movie featuring DC Comics’ best-known superhero team featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman amongst others is quite dead.

Lately Warner Bros. just can’t get their act together when it comes to their potentially lucrative superhero franchises. The Batman Begins reboot of that franchise is the sole exception, a lucky accident almost – after all, this is a franchise which had to suffer Joel Schumacher putting nipples on the bat suit!

Attempts at reviving the Superman franchise also floundered around for ten years before Superman Returns finally made it to the screen in 2006. The movie did okay-ish business and probably would have been profitable if it hasn’t been for the millions the studio spent on the project while it was stuck in what seemed to be indefinite production hell. (At one stage Nicolas Cage was to star as a capeless Man of Steel, with Tim Burton directing.) And don’t even mention the recent efforts by Joss Whedon to bring a Wonder Woman movie to the big screen as well as a Flash movie that just can’t seem to, well, move . . .

The latest victim of this vacillation is a big screen Justice League movie. The Justice League is of course a superhero team consisting of some of DC Comics’ best-known characters, namely Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter. This was of course the original line-up when the team first made an appearance in issue # 28 of The Brave and the Bold back in 1960. Since then, in typical comics fashion, the team roster were in constant flux. Other notable superheroes include Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, and Plastic Man amongst dozens of others. Typically the League would fight off alien invasions or super-villain teams.

Justice League: Mortal, as the film was titled, seems to be just that: pretty much mortal. As in, it can die – and did.

In fact the project was doomed from the start. First off, it ran into a literal shit storm when fans online objected to the fact that actors from the existing Batman and Superman movies won’t be reprising their roles in Justice League: Mortal. Nope, no Brandon Routh or Christian Bale. Instead newcomers D.J. Cotrona would be Superman and Armie Hammer would be Batman (see photos).

 

(Click on images to enlarge)

 

The rest of the cast would be newcomers too. Australian supermodel and actress Megan Gale would be Wonder Woman (see photo), American actor Adam Brody (Seth Cohen in teen drama The O.C.) would be the Flash, US rapper Common will be Green Lantern and London-based Chilean actor Santiago Cabrera (who was prophetic painter Isaac Mendez in Heroes) as Aquaman. Sixty-year-old Australian actor Hugh Keays-Byrne was also cast as Martian Manhunter.

Copies of an early screenplay by Kieran and Michele Mulroney were also leaked and attracted negative reviews. Reports are still vague on what exactly the plot would be though. A source on the Internet Movie Database had it that the story involved Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and others of the JLA who “must deal with the expulsion of Batman and the death of Superman at the hands of the monstrous Doomsday.” Still another source says that the movie’s plot revolved around “villainous businessman Maxwell Lord and cyborgs called OMACs (One-Man Army Corps), who can take over humans and turn them into killing machines.” In-between all of this, the 1997 live action Justice League TV pilot (see photo) that was so god-awful that they never even bothered to telecast it must have been in the back of everybody’s minds all along as well . . .

Then the film ran into delays because of the recent Writers Guild strike. Australian director George Miller, who did the Mad Max movies and, um, Happy Feet, wanted to film the movie in Fox studios in Australia, hoping to get a 40% tax rebate from the Australian government in the process. It was not to be. Even though Justice League: Mortal boasted an Aussie director and three Aussies in major roles, it wasn’t Australian enough as far as the taxman was concerned. Rumor then had it that despite Miller’s objections that the production would be moved to Canada.

Next up were definite signs of mortality: the actors were “let go” (the production was allowed to stall so that their contracts would lapse) and producer Joel Silver announced that the project has been “shelved” – Hollywoodese for cancelled. So Justice League: Mortal won't happen, right?

Well, maybe. Considering the huge amounts of bucks that Marvel is making from Iron Man and their plans to bring The Avengers to life, the chances are that - like Superman himself! – this is one idea that probably won’t stay dead for long.

And comic book fans needn’t fear a Justice League movie. Miller is a talented director after all. Even Happy Feet was a lot darker than its reputation let on. The idea of using animation processes similar to those used in Beowulf would also be an interesting creative choice for a comic book adaptation. (This idea has been thrown around during the initial development of the project, but hasn’t been confirmed or denied since then.)

The League may seem old-fashioned when compared to newer, more “hip” superhero teams such as Fantastic Four and X-Men, but there has been several successful adaptations of the material at hand over the past decade or so. In fact we would recommend the below reading list for any screenwriter tasked with writing a future Justice League movie:

They should also give the recent animated TV series Justice League (2001-2004) and Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006) a spin in their DVD players. It was actually while watching season two of Justice League Unlimited with my five-year-old daughter that I realised that many of the recent big screen superhero movies were aimed at adults instead of kids. (After all, which kid has the patience to sit through a 156 minutes long Spider-man 3 movie?!) This is a problem if we want to introduce future generations to the superhero comic book characters we love so dearly and ensure a future for the comics medium. What the hugely entertaining Justice League Unlimited illustrated was that kids and their comic book geek parents can actually sit down to watch something together, without the adults feeling that their intelligence are being insulted and the kids without getting bored.

So if you’re the type who feels that teaming up Batman with other superheroes will “dilute” his character – then chill. A Justice League movie is nothing to be afraid of. If you’re a Hollywood exec: check for an open space in both Brandon Routh and Christian Bale’s diaries, get your screenwriters to check out our handy reading list and slash the budget. A Justice League movie will sell loads of tickets and move a lot of lunchboxes . . .

(Plus, we start drooling at the mere thought of actress Megan Gale in a Wonder Woman costume . . .)
 

UPDATE: Justice League: Mortal seems pretty much dead right now. The disappointing box office of another group of DC masked superheroes namely Watchmen also isn't likely to help.
 

 



 

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