How Do You Assemble The Justice League?
Author: Louis John O’Hara
How do you assemble The Justice League? It’s a question that Warner Bros. have probably been asking themselves over and over again in the last few years. Marvel made it look easy, they clearly had some level of plan in place since the very first Iron Man. Maybe it was just an idea at that point, but they played the long game and it paid off in the end. One of the best things about it is just how well it flows together. Iron Man and Thor exist in entirely separate worlds, but there’s something to the both of them, a kind of synergy that makes it seem like it’s entirely possible for both men (or man and god) to be a part of the same Universe, despite the stark contrast between a genius (billionaire, playboy, philanthropist) man in robot armor and the Norse God of Thunder made action hero. That’s not even getting into their slick ways of bringing in characters like The Hulk and Captain America, one of which has an origin film that Marvel likes to pretend doesn’t exist.
The Justice League is something of a different beast all together. Marvel has done a great job over the years of trying to seamlessly blend each characters world into one another. And whilst DC features each hero in a combined world in the books, a big part of the way they handle the characters stories is a lot more separate. Batman is almost something of his own world in the comics, he has his own Justice League featuring characters such as Nightwing, the Robins, Batgirl and more. Green Lantern is another case of having an entirely different franchise, within the franchise. And it’s because of this, that the characters are a lot harder to bring together in film, especially without their own films to tie in. It’s a tricky thing to do. But I’ve been thinking about it over and over again. And I think I may have finally figured out a formula that might just work. Now, keep in mind, there are smarter minds than mine out there probably getting paid to work on this problem, but this is the internet. What’s it for if not rampant speculation and videos of cats doing silly things? I’ll go through this with each character I think might appear, along with a villain and general plot.
So, there’s not a ton we can speculate about in terms of Man of Steel setting up Justice League. In a month everything could be thrown away by something as simple as a character having a cameo in the post-credits scene. But for now, let’s assume it’s a standalone film. The first thing I’d suggest is that it makes life a lot easier if we feature some reference to other costumed heroes. You don’t have to name a single name, but just set up that yes, in this world, Superman isn’t the only guy in spandex running around. As for what part Superman plays, I’d argue that he’d almost have to play someone that’s not trusted by the majority of the group. If we’re to think that the villain will be an alien (which is what I’ll be suggesting), Superman plays into the idea that was set up in The Dark Knight franchise: escalation. Jim Gordon once said that if we start wearing kevlar, they start using armor piercing rounds. This is the next step up from that, we have a hero from another planet, you start to see villains from other planets. I feel like Superman would have to prove himself to the group, that he’s almost a necessary evil. He’s here now, these villains will be, so they need him. He’ll spend the film fighting to prove that he belongs on this world. To one person, at the very least…
Batman is arguably the toughest character to bring into this franchise. The Dark Knight Rises set up a fitting end for the tale of Bruce Wayne. For that reason, I’d argue that you Burton the whole character. Make no mention of the events of Rises, outside of him having dealt with villains before. Obviously nothing on this scale, but he’s got the most experience. Maybe you don’t even let us know if it’s Bruce Wayne or not, leave the audience guessing. Play into the confusion and mold it into a mystery. Batman would play a few pivotal roles in the film, one of which, would be the Nick Fury role. There’s not really anyone else that could bring together a team like this. Not only that, but Batman would bring in an interesting dynamic to the team that The Avengers didn’t really have. He doesn’t think this is a good idea. He wouldn’t trust Superman, at all. He’d see the potential dangers in inviting an alien to fight for them. He’s dealt with escalation before and a villain from another planet would only further his thoughts that Superman brings nothing but trouble. He’d keep the team in line, but he’d walk an interesting line between trusting them and holding them at arms length. It’d work wonderfully in keeping the relationships interesting, especially the friendship that would build between Superman and Batman. It could even lead to a future film featuring the idea of someone stealing Batman’s plans for if any of the Justice League ever go bad.
Oh boy. I said you could argue that Batman is the toughest to implement. The argument against that, would be Wonder Woman. Marvel saw the sense in having Thor built in his own film. There’s such a rich mythos surrounding the character of Wonder Woman and so much would need to be done to set her up and how her and the amazonians exist in this world… that I’d probably say, don’t use her is the safest bet. The Avengers was a culmination piece. The Justice League isn’t, it’s a set up for the extended universe. Not every hero needs to appear, as much of a shame as it would be. It’s better to do a good job of the character and give her a real chance to shine in her own film, before bringing her into this more complicated world. I really wish there was a simple way of bringing her in, but I just don’t think they can do the character justice introducing her in such a large cast. Her story is just too complicated. If they really wanted to, quality be damned, they could always link the villains motives into the Amazonians world. Maybe there’s something about Themyscira that the villain needs, which introduces her and her people. I don’t think it would really give her the introduction or the set up she deserves, but then maybe Warner wouldn’t care quite as much as I would about this. Though they totally should, seeing as Marvel has yet to break new ground with a female led Superhero film. And no, Elektra doesn’t count.
Now, I might catch some hate for this, but Flash is far and away one of the simplest to introduce, because his origin doesn’t need to be all that complicated. Traditionally, he got his powers from chemicals, or lightning striking chemicals, take your pick. Through this, it’s not that hard to create him in this film. It might not go down too well with fans of the series, but it might not be a bad idea to link him to the villain for his origin, either. Maybe Barry Allen is a scientist that Batman uses to try and figure out some kind of device to do with the villain. This results in the creation of The Flash, when it malfunctions or is tampered with or whatever. Take your pick. I mean, it’s not really like struck by lightning and chemicals is a much better explanation. You could even have him don the costume by the end of the film, his own creation. It introduces people to The Flash as a character and gives them the chance to think “Hey, this guy is cool, I’d watch a film with him in it.” rather than the hard sell of a solo film about a guy that runs really fast. I wouldn’t spend too much time developing his powers, just introduce the character and have him help in the end. As with Wonder Woman, it’d be preferable to have him get his own film, but that’s not looking likely. So why not introduce him in a film that’s going to get people interested in a solo film?
Well, the easy out would be to just have him be the same Arrow from the TV Show. Personally, I’ve not been so keen on that portrayal, but it’d be something we haven’t really seen before. If you don’t want to have it be the same character, I’d say it might be worth mentioning Green Arrow earlier than Justice League. Drop a reference to him at some point during Man of Steel, maybe. If not, you could possibly get away with showing Green Arrow doing his usual heroics in Star City at some point when the villain starts wreaking havoc. Have him help out Batman or Superman or someone during one of the earlier battles in the film. Arrow doesn’t have to be a major part of the film, he could literally show up and lend a hand, with some talk between Batman and him setting up that he’s a hero that’s been around. You’ve got the show on your side having introduced the character to a fairly large audience, in the same way that you don’t have to reference Batman’s previous films, just accept that they exist, you can do the same with Green Arrow. It’d also lead to the other female character I’d introduce to try and feature at least one heroine if Wonder Woman isn’t going to be included…
This is where things get a little murky with the Arrow tie in. You don’t really want to include Black Canary if you’re linking to the show, because that’s a big part of the Arrow character that’s then been introduced out of the show. I realize Warner Bros. might not be too worried about that, but it’d suck for the show. If you don’t tie in with the show though, you can simply introduce her as someone that works alongside Arrow, as she does in the comics. You can really delve into the relationship a little more and they’d be a great way of putting the viewer into the roles of the heroes. These are just two fairly normal people who find themselves in the middle of something much bigger than them. Although it might be a little too close to a certain archer and spy in Marvels big crossover, but who cares? Green Arrow and Black Canary are awesome. And if you’ve ever read the comics or watched Young Justice, you’ll know just how useful they can be.
There’s plenty of Justice League members missing from this line up, even some of the original team, such as Martian Manhunter. Obviously you can’t include everyone in the first film, you need a minimum to give everyone some decent screen time. As explained earlier, Green Lantern really needs his own film and set up before introducing him to the team. Manhunter could potentially be in the first film, maybe involving himself in the problems of earth, but it’s another character that’d need a lot of set up and explanation. Aquaman is another that would most likely need an explanation of his own. Honestly, figuring out an effective Aquaman film is almost as hard as figuring out a Justice League film, no matter what Entourage would have you believe.
If you’ve read everything so far, you’ll see that I’ve mentioned the idea of escalation. That’d continue to be a theme in the film, bringing the the “class of criminal” up to a whole new level. After the events of Man of Steel, which obviously include some kind of Kryptonian invasion of earth that Superman battles, you’ve got earth… and Batman, in particular, wary of The Man of Steel. So what better villain to push that than someone that comes to earth FOR Superman? Honestly, the origins of all the different versions of Brainiac are so convoluted that it’s probably best to go the route of the animated show. Develop a whole new character using Brainiac as a basis, probably keep the name. Maybe he’s coming to find the last Kryptonian? In the show Smallville, he was referred to as being a construction of the Kryptonians. Maybe that could be played up? I’d ditch the whole “shrinking Metropolis” angle, though. It’s a bit too corny for a serious film. Maybe trying to assimilate Earth as a new planet to being Krypton anew, using the DNA of Superman as a catalyst to create a new Kryptonian race. If you were to play up the idea of him being from Krypton, you could create the idea that Superman isn’t so strong against him, as Brainiac can use Kryptonite that he may have collected. This leads into the idea that Superman can’t do this alone, needing the help of heroes like Batman (who has expert technology) and The Flash (a scientist to help understand Brainiac and how to defeat him) and so on.
WHERE DOES DC GO FROM HERE?
After the dust settles at the end of Justice League, you can then start setting up their own solo films. Introduce Wonder Woman, let the Flash explore his new powers, reboot or even just improve the Green Lantern franchise (I’d probably reboot it just to be safe.), build up some other heroes like Aquaman. This is really how the DC Universe will differ from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Avengers was a culmination, Justice League will be what blows open the doors to this whole new universe. You’ve got the audience hooked on this new world, it’s your best chance to try and bring in new fans for franchises that might have been harder to sell otherwise. An Aquaman film on it’s own isn’t likely to do the big money. But as a continuation of the Justice League world? Showing another side of this universe that hopefully people would be invested in? That’ll put butts in seats. Maybe we’ll even finally get that Wonder Woman film we’ve always heard about. Maybe.