The Justice League Prognosis: Too Big Not to Fail

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We have six more months of waiting to see DC’s Man of Steel, and another two years (at least?) until the Justice League movie becomes an actual thing.  There is undoubtedly a lot of anticipation for this movie; the biggest question being whether DC/Warner Bros can pull off a team-up movie that is anywhere near as successful as Marvel/Disney’s The Avengers.  Honestly, at this point, I don’t really see how Justice League can work.

There have been three rumors in the past month or so that have all given cause for mixed alarm and hope: the GL 2 script, JGL, and Darkseid.  The first two were debunked pretty quickly, while the third is unconfirmed yet still worrisome (does this big purple megalomaniacal alien look a bit like another big purple evil megalomaniacal alien?).  While none of these are out-and-out poison pills, none of them are exactly encouraging to the success of the JL movie, which already has enough hurdles to clear.

Look at how Marvel built up to The Avengers: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk came out in 2008, Iron Man 2 in 2010, and Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011.  Beginning with the first Iron Man, Marvel was weaving in elements (Agent Coulson, Nick Fury, and the “Avengers Initiative”) to establish a “combined mythos”; creating a world where all of these heroes could co-exist in a believable way.  Nolan’s Batman trilogy was no doubt a huge success, and has in many ways set a certain standard to which comic book adaptations are now held; one of the things it did very well was to establish a world where Batman could exist believably.  The problem with a world where Nolan’s Batman could believably exist is that it is completely UNBELIEVABLE that a Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, or basically any other Justice League caliber of superhero, could exist.  Justice League works in the comics because it was created more than 50 years ago, debuting in 1960 (although essentially a reiteration of the Justice Society of America), when comics were still in their early adolescence.   This was a few years before Stan Lee had revolutionized Marvel Comics by creating Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and first assembling the Avengers.

More importantly, this was when comics were innocuously family-friendly, cartoonish and frankly, bland.  The plots of these books were bloodless and inconsequential.  This was when the Joker had been transformed from a maniac to a harmless prankster, and Lex Luthor wanted revenge for a fire that had taken his precious hair from him! (Later, of course (1978), he stole cakes!) This was a time when death and violence had basically been removed from comics; when each issue had an Inspector Gadget ending: “I’ll get you next time, (insert superhero’s name)!!!”  Moreover, it was a time when a team made up of several super-powered individuals teamed up with a vigilante with gadgets and a guy who talked to fish made perfect sense.

I’m not saying that the Justice League can’t work; I’m just saying that DC/Warner hasn’t properly laid the groundwork.  How can the gritty, flawed, and aged Batman from the Christopher Nolan-verse coexist with a team of super-powered archetypes?  The logistics of the movie alone are daunting.  By the time Justice League comes out, likely only three of the 7 original JL members will have been introduced (Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern) in films.  While it’s likely that Henry Cavill will return as Superman, the rest of the cast is up in the air at this point; a Green Lantern sequel (with or without Ryan Reynolds), while long rumored to be coming, is uncertain, and Batman may be completely rebooted.

Consider this: in one 2-to-3 hour movie, Justice League will have to introduce 3-4 new characters (Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and possibly Martian Manhunter, Hawkman/Hawkgirl, or less likely, Cyborg) while possibly re-introducing Batman and/or Green Lantern, produce a threat large enough to justify the need for a team of superheroes, provide a mechanism for the assembling of the Justice League, and then deal with the threat.  That’s shoving a lot of exposition into what should be more of an action-driven movie, so much so that it almost makes The Dark Knight Rises seem streamlined.

Overall, the most prominent feeling is one of trepidation.  The Avengers wasn’t perfect, but Marvel/Disney did a lot to make sure the movie had a chance to be as good as it was.  DC/Warner shouldn’t try to make Justice League ASAP just to try to repeat the success that Disney has had with the Marvel movies, because to do so would be to kill the potential franchise for the sake of a short term windfall.