MovieBob - Intermission
Advice From A Fanboy: Justice League

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 30 Nov 2012 16:00
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Don't Try To Make The Avengers

Obviously, the reason Warner Bros. is hot to make Justice League happen is because a rival studio is raking in millions off of a similar, historically less popular equivalent franchise. And while I'd call it wise to make note that The Avengers decision to aim at turning a movie into a comic book rather than the other way around is also the only way a League movie would actually work, that's probably where the borrowing should end.

The thing is, DC Heroes are different than Marvel Heroes. If you want a simple catch-all explanation, most of the more powerful/important Avengers could be called men playing at being gods, most of the more powerful/important Leaguers are gods who pretend to be men. On The League almost everyone is Thor, while The Avengers are swarming with Batmen.

You can't approach these characters or their worlds the same way, no matter how tempting or obvious it may be. Digging through the cast roster and trying to figure out precisely how much like Tony Stark Batman should act, or if "Thor with better legs" is all you need to do with Wonder Woman, or if you have room to write some Red Kryptonite in so Superman can go nuts and fight everyone for a little while because it was cool when The Hulk did that - that way lies ruin.

Team Movies Are Relationship Movies

Just to be helpful, here's a quick shorthand for how the three (likely) main characters relate to one another, strictly as character sheet data: Their "job" is the only important thing that all three of them have in common, while in almost every other way they only "connect" in pairs. Two men (Batman and Superman, also both orphans), two aristocrats (Batman and Wonder Woman), and two non-humans (Wonder Woman and Superman).

Being "odd woman out," even though she shares social status with one of the two men and "other-ness" with the, er ... other - helps characterize Wonder Woman as an individual. "Bro" camaraderie with Superman, a guy he'd likely never know, much less befriend, in civilian life, is a situation we seldom see Batman navigate, as is encountering what could easily be Bruce Wayne's ideal female companion in Diana. She's richer than him, same basic profession, almost impossible to kill despite how much that sort of thing follows him around. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman's fellow "alien" is a man, and not only do they not have those where she's from, the idea of a man whose strength outclasses her own (or anyone else's really, but still) must be alternately terrifying/fascinating for an Amazon.

There ya go. There's some team dynamic. Study the Brodie/Hooper/Quint interplay from Jaws if you're still not feeling it.

Get Over Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan made two and a half great Batman movies, and he deserves credit for pulling it off. Given that his trilogy represents some of the only good (and profitable) filmmaking based on DC properties to come out for a long time, it's understandable that Warners would want to keep him around (he's serving as producer and helped craft the story on Man of Steel), and perhaps keep some tangential links between their planned DC Universe movies and his version of Batman, hoping that some of that magic will rub off. This is a sensible, business-like approach to movie franchise production.

And they shouldn't do it.

Let's set aside for a moment that fact that the Nolan Batman movies were designed, specifically, to be incompatible with a genre-bending cinematic universe, which they are - Bane, Joker and Ra's Al Ghul's respective schemes rely on the assumption of a world where flying demigods or lightspeed-runners won't be sweeping in to offer Batman any backup. The fact is, there's a simple issue of long-term planning in play that deserves some attention. The DC Universe has endured for almost 80 years, while Nolan's one vision of one corner of it has merely existed for about 7.

Why tie a set of unified movie franchises into a vision that could potentially be bordering on passé by the time you get the new projects to the big screen? Why limit Wonder Woman, or The Flash, or Aquaman, or Zatanna (hey, a boy can dream, can't he?) with the constraints of the now concluded Dark Knight trilogy? For that matter, why lessen the trilogy by association with something it was never meant to be part of?

For example? This rumor about Joseph Gordon Levitt's John Blake character from The Dark Knight Rises being the man under Batman's cowl in Justice League, (Blake, whose super-secret middle name is Robin, is set up to inherit a death-faking Bruce Wayne's cache of Bat-gear at the end of The Dark Knight Returns) thus continuing on directly from that film and placing Nolan's Batman movies in the same universe as Man of Steel and League. Let's not do that.

Again, this would be kneecapping the film(s) long term, along with doing a bit of minor violence to Nolan's original vision by explicitly tying his films to a more fanciful DC universe. Bruce Wayne will always be the name associated with Batman, and aside from it being preposterous to have the first ever live-action meeting of Batman and Superman happen with a second stringer (you lose the entire Wealthy Playboy Who's Secretly a Depressed Wreck vs. Middle Class Farmer Who's Basically Space Jesus dichotomy!) and you're just dating your movie. Again, Bruce Wayne has been around for almost 80 years, and its unlikely John Robin Blake will be cared about for another five. Easy math.

Resist The Darkseid

There's a pervasive belief in fandom and elsewhere that the only good enemy with which to challenge the Justice League is Jack Kirby's Fourth World heavy, Darkseid. Bad idea. Oh, Darkseid is cool, but the fact is WB is going to be opening this thing against Avengers 2, which is likely to feature very Darkseid-esque enemy Thanos as the enemy. And while Darkseid has the better posse to order around, JLA loses that matchup. Thanos is cooler. He just is. Darkseid's evil motivation is to solve a math problem. Thanos' evil motivation is to murder the Universe because he thinks The Grim Reaper is a cutie and he's into grand displays of affection. Thanos wins.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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