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.

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Looking Ahead: Ten Movies That Might Be Worth Seeing In 2013

Disclaimer: I am not clairvoyant, and this list is by no means comprehensive.  Based on what little information I have gleaned at this time (made up mostly of press releases, rumors, and IMDB entries), these ten movies are the ones that I am currently aware of which, in my mind, hold the most hope of being worth watching.  Undoubtedly, there are a lot of future great movies that I am currently unaware of; many of these movies are independent, small-budget, and have not been marketed enough to appear on my radar.  So here is my Christmas wishlist: Santa, please make these movies not suck.

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Zero Dark Thirty – January 11 (Wide Release)

Going in, I am fully expecting this movie to be The Hurt Locker 2, and following the rule of sequels, I expect that it will not be as good as the original.  I acknowledge that Zero Dark Thirty is not actually a sequel, although it retains the same screenwriter (Mark Boal) and director (Kathryn Bigelow) and looks to follow a similar U.S.-troops-fighting-a-modern-unconventional-war trope.  That said, going into a theatre with moderate expectations has paid off for me before (I’m looking at you, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

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Sound City – February (Sundance)

Usually when these types of “most anticipated” lists are made, they are dominated by big-budget blockbusters.  While this list will have its share of those (see below), special effects and explosions can only get you so far.  I love a good documentary (some recent ones: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Restrepo, and Exit Through the Gift Shop), and Sound City is the one I am most looking forward to.  Ever wanted to know where some of the greatest music of all time came from?  Then you might want to check it out.

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42 – April 12

So, this is my sports movie that isn’t really about sports.  If you don’t know already the “42” refers to the number worn by Jackie Robinson, the first player to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier.  So think more “social history of racism” than “watch people play sports”.  Race in sports is a topic which has been tackled before (Remember the Titans, Glory Road, The Great White Hope), but it is about time that Jackie Robinson got the big-screen treatment.

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Iron Man 3 – May 3

I think we can all pretty much agree: Iron Man – great, Iron Man 2 – not as great.  Not that the second film was bad, it just had a lot to live up to, and a lot of jammed-in Avengers preparatory elements that muddled the story a bit.  With all the Avengers build-up out of the way, Iron Man 3 will have a better chance of standing of existing to itself and standing on its own merit.  Ben Kingsley as the villain probably won’t hurt either.

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Star Trek Into Darkness – May 17

J.J. Abrams successfully breathed new life into the Star Trek franchise with his successful 2009 reboot.  The question, as with all sequels, is whether the next film can live up to the expectations from the first.  Abrams originally cast Benicio Del Toro as the villain; after Del Toro dropped out, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock himself, was brought in.  It will be interesting to see how Cumberbatch performs as an antagonist, and what kind of screen chemistry he has with Kirk/Spock etc.

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Man of Steel – June 14

DC’s hopes for a Justice League movie and all the assorted film properties (Wonder Woman, Flash, more Green Lantern?) hinge on this film’s success.  Man of Steel doesn’t necessarily have to perform on the level of Dark Knight, but a Batman Begins-type reception would be a step in the right direction.  What it truly needs to do is wash the bad taste from filmgoers’ mouths that was left by Superman Returns and Green Lantern.

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This is the End – June 14

A.K.A. The Apatow Crowd.  So, Seth Rogen is hanging out with pretty much everyone who he ever worked with.  And then the world ends.  It sounds like somewhat of a self-indulgent meta film-making model, but I’m hoping that the comedic talent (Paul Rudd, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari) will win out.

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Pacific Rim – July 12

Guillermo Del Toro?  Check.  Ron Perlman?  Check.  Robots and monsters?  Check.  Another Hellboy movie?  Nope, not this time.  Throw in Perlman’s “Sons of Anarchy” co-star Charlie Hunham, Prometheus/Thor/“Luther” star Idris Elba, and “It’s Always Sunny” scene-stealer Charlie Day, and make those robots and monsters GIGANTIC, and you’ve got yourself a movie worth seeing.

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Elysium – August 9

Elysium is Neill Blomkamp’s second feature film, as well as the much-anticipated follow-up to 2009’s District 9, one of the best sci-fi movies of the past decade.  District 9 was a huge step in the right direction for modern sci-fi, as films like it and Moon sought to balance out the terrible, bloated, story-and-heart-less spectacles produced by Michael Bay & Co.  Elysium boasts the talents of Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Diego Luna, and District-veteran Sharlto Copley.

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The World’s End – October 25

Not to be confused with the aforementioned This is the End.  This film is the final chapter of the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg “The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy”, begun in Shaun of the Dead and continued in Hot Fuzz.  The film brings back mainstay Nick Frost, along with Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Rosamund Pike.  If this film is anything like the previous Wright/Pegg endeavors, then you may as well buy a 2013 calendar, flip to October, grab a Sharpie, and mark the 25th as BUSY.