Marvel Films are sitting pretty at the moment. Their co-productions, dating back from 1998 with Blade to The Amazing Spiderman, the current reincarnation of the web-slinging hero, have dominated box-offices worldwide and reintroduced comic book superheroes to a new generation.
In June 2012, Warner Bros. announced their intention to release a film based on DC Comics’ premier superhero team – the Justice League; featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Lantern. This announcement comes a month after The Avengers reaches $1 billion mark in worldwide box office takings.
The original development for a live-action Justice League movie started in 2007, when Warner Bros. had brought on scriptwriters Kieran and Michele Mulroney (best known as the scriptwriters for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) as well as George Miller to direct the project. Amongst the problems brought on by the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike and dubious casting choices, the project was put on hold. In 2008, Warner Bros. made a decision: to create a number of movies focussing on the individual members of the League, which will eventually lead to an ensemble film. This led to the release of the live-action adaptation of Green Lantern (released in 2011), The Dark Knight Rises – the much-anticipated sequel to superhero epic The Dark Knight and the forthcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel, due out in 2013.
So, now with a number of characters gracing the screen once again from the DC universe, and given that that Marvel has created such a large fanbase as a critically – not to mention – financially successful filmography, is it too late for DC to jump on the bandwagon?
The success of the Justice League project is debatable. The Green Lantern adaptation starring Ryan Reynolds didn’t meet the expectations of critics and fans; Christian Bale, along with director Christopher Nolan, are ending their tenure with the final chapter in their Batman adaptations, The Dark Knight Rises, and plans to re-introduce a modern TV series of Wonder Woman, starring Supernatural‘s Adrianne Palicki, were dropped when NBC did not pick up the series in May 2011. A glimmer of hope comes is presented as British actor Henry Cavill and his take on Superman in Man of Steel, directed by Watchmen‘s Zach Snyder.
Comic-book superhero film adaptations are a currently big business and it is a film genre that is being dominated by Marvel. While DC has The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel, Marvel has Iron Man 3, The Wolverine and the upcoming sequels to X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and eventually, The Avengers. Man of Steel is planned to come out seven years after the commercially disappointing Superman Returns, which was ironically directed by X-Men‘s Bryan Singer. Warner Bros. are seemingly using the Superman reboot to test the waters in preparation for a live-action Justice League movie. The project doesn’t appear to be very advanced as they only have confirmed its scriptwriter, Will Beall, who is also the writer of the forthcoming film Gangster Squad, starring Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling.
However, an additional feather in DC’s cap in regards to a possible Justice League movie is how established these characters are. Like with the Avengers, most of the members of which date from The Golden Age of Comic books (late 1930′s to early 1950′s) – so people have been growing up with the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman for years. These three League members in particular are key figures not only within the DC universe but also comic book world, helping to make superheroes into a popular trend. Comic book fans have been waiting for a live-action Justice League movie to be shown on the big screen for so long. Providing the story, the script and the cast is as good or better than Joss Whedon’s successful adaptation, DC and Warner Bros. are onto a winner.
Seeing as the League is currently not directed tied to any DC movies (i.e. in Green Lantern, there was a possible sequel hinted but nothing to suggest Hal Jordan will join the Justice League), Beall and the eventual director can effectively start from scratch and take the time to divulge into possible storylines relating to the League’s origins and explore what can be done to live up to the expectations of DC Comics fans the same way that The Avengers has done for Marvel fans.
In September 2011, DC Comics cancelled all their titles, intending to reboot the DC continuity. The Justice League of America was relaunched as Justice League. Set five years in the past, the starting line-up team features Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Cyborg with additional members such as Green Arrow and Firestorm to come later. Even though the events begins five years in the past, the reworking of the origins story and the respective personalities of the members are more relatable to today’s audience.
At the moment, fans may be feeling the end of an era due to the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman trilogy but DC’s decision revamp of their comic books, along with the introduction of digital versions, could be the first step in keeping their financial future in the green.
– Katie Wong