Let’s take a trip back, shall we?
Had Paramount/Marvel’s 2008 ‘Iron Man’ flopped, just made its budget back, or earned ‘modest’ returns, the end credits scene with Nick Fury hiding in Tony Stark’s living room would’ve been nothing more than a wink and nod to the hardcore fans. Of course, Iron Man smashed and that wink-and-nod opened up a whole new universe of movies, TV shows, and DVD one-shots. Personally, I waited to see how Iron Man 2 would pan out before making any proclamations or statements. Soon as I saw Black Widow and it was clearly evident that Marvel was building a cinematic universe of its own headed towards The Avengers, I announced that DC/WB IMMEDIATELY needed to hop on the idea train and start working their way towards a Justice League movie.
What did DC/WB do? Nothing.
They had a HEADSTART on Marvel. Batman Begins debuted in 2005, a full 3 years before Stark and his shiny bright world came onto the scene. They had successfully captured a vision of Batman not seen since the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton days: dark, brooding, mysterious. Batman Begins made its budget back, doubled it, and then some. Obviously, glaringly obvious, DC/WB had the proper path already laid before them. The Dark Knight, arguably the best movie of Chris Nolan’s trilogy, hit theaters a few months after Iron Man, so not only did DC have a head start on Marvel, but when Iron Man premiered, they already were full steam ahead with another movie, fully backed by Heath Ledger’s performance and riding high off the success of the first film. Suffice to say DC and Warner Bros dropped the ball roundabout here.
Here’s what I think they should’ve done in 2008, after the premier of The Dark Knight:
First of all, let Chris Nolan be the executive producer/mastermind of the whole franchise, a la Joss Whedon. He already got his directed movies out of the way with the first two Batmans, and being executive producer still frees him up to direct other movies, such as Inception and Interstellar. After the monumental explosion that was The Dark Knight, DC/WB should’ve put Man of Steel into action (I think had MoS hit about then, the public would’ve forgiven them for Superman Returns). That gives you two well-received Batman films, and a (generally) well-received Superman film. Between the Batman films and MoS, the tone for the rest of the universe should’ve been set.
Coming off the success of Man of Steel, DC should’ve put a Wonder Woman film into production. Dismiss what the suits think, WW will make money. Exactly what demographics do they think they’re alienating? Casting with her good looks (I disagree with the casting of Gal Gadot, I would’ve given the role to Emmanuelle Chriqui) and the fact that it’s a comic book movie, WW already captures every male base, and seeing a strong woman in the lead role secures a good percentage of the female side. Not only does this seem a no-brainer, it’s a win-win. The only JLA member that really stands shoulder to shoulder with Diana is Superman, who needs to make an appearance in this film. Supes can help Diana in the second act to grow and muture a bit, leaving her to deal with the villain in the third act. This also further develops Superman into becoming the future leader of the League. Let Superman drop a few none-too-subtle hints that something is going on in Gotham, but he decides that Batman is competent enough to handle it himself (or perhaps whatever WW is dealing with takes a higher priority than Gotham, a decision Supes has to wrestle with). This, of course, would be The Dark Knight Rises, which would explain why Superman isn’t there to help Bruce during the film; he’s with WW.
After Wonder Woman drops, you set up for a Green Lantern movie (a good one). Preferably, the Hal Jordan GL, to set up for future movies. During the film, you introduce Barry Allen, who will later go on to become The Flash (think Hawkeye’s appearance in Thor). At the end of this movie, you give your first mid-or end credits sequence: the Green Lantern Corps, telling Hal that spectacular people are accomplishing superhuman feats on Earth, and it’s something he needs to keep an eye on. They suggest he get close with them and stay close. Hence, your first Justice League movie.
Yes, even Aquaman.
The JLA movie would have to introduce the Martian Manhunter somehow, making him both the outsider of the Justice League and the window through which the audience views the League, the role that’s filled by both Captain America and Agent Coulson in the Marvel universe.
That pretty much fills out the first run of JLA movies. Use the second round of movies to beef up the lesser known characters like Green Arrow and Hawkman by adding them into a Man of Steel 2 and a Wonder Woman 2. Give The Flash room to breathe in a second Green Lantern movie; it only makes sense, seeing as how The Flash and GL are often portrayed as best friends. Let Aquaman get his shine, it’s the role Ryan Gosling was born to play. I’d save Batman vs Superman for the second JLA movie, drawing heavily from the Frank Miller ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ series, and adding the element of letting other members choose sides (in The Dark Knight Returns, Green Arrow is seen to be on the side of Batman). Set the Batman/Superman tension in the first JLA movie, have it come to a head in Batman vs Superman, then have all said tension gone and the crew running in perfect tandem in the third JLA movie.
Rather than seeing the usual ‘struggle to come together’ theme happen in 90 minutes (looking at you, Avengers), stretch that out over a few movies; the payoff is sweeter. I sometimes find it a bit convenient when a group of people gel together just in time to defeat the bad guy.
Especially if Parallax is your villain in JLA3.
This his how DC/WB should’ve worked the Justice League movie.
*this is allowing for the 3 Nolan Batman films and most recent Superman movie that have already been released.