Monday, April 30, 2012

Why No Justice League Movie?

Looking at the grand scheme of things, DC Comics has had just as much, if not more, success with film adaptations than Marvel Comics has, and yet beyond Batman and Superman and the atrocious Green Lantern movie, DC hasn't done much with their superhero properties on film.  With Marvel's The Avengers hitting the big screen this week, I ask the big question:  What would it take for DC to get a Justice League film made?

The Justice League has been in existence far longer than the Avengers.  The Justice League premiered in 1960, for the first time ever bringing together superheroes into one big team to fight evil once a month:  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, and Martian Manhunter.  The success of the comic was so huge that Marvel asked Stan Lee to design a team of heroes to compete with the Justice League in monthly sales, thus began the Marvel Age with the creation of the Fantastic Four.  However, Stan "The Man" did not create the Avengers until 1963, two years after the Fantastic Four was introduced.

Fast forward to modern day, Marvel is releasing a movie based on The Avengers this Friday, and DC has no Justice League movie anywhere in sight.  At one time, DC was leading the charge, and now they have dropped the ball.  Why has Marvel been able to make The Avengers a reality?

I really feel the primary reason DC has fallen behind Marvel is because Warner Bros. (who owns DC Comics) has only in the past few years, even tried to get movies made on any hero that wasn't Batman or Superman.  If you look at the history of films based on DC Comics, save for the occasional oddball, like Steel or Catwoman, Batman and Superman have been it for DC on film.  There have been 9 Batman movies to get theatrical release, counting this Summer's The Dark Knight Rises, and there have been 7 Superman movies to get theatrical release, counting next year's The Man of Steel.  Great numbers for only two characters, and yet over the past decade, almost every major Marvel hero, from Spider-Man to Thor to Captain America, has had at least one movie grace the silver screen.  This is the main reason why The Avengers is a reality, they have made more movies off of their other big screen heroes, but there's still more to this story.

You could argue that last year's Green Lantern was DC's attempt to do what Marvel did, starting with Iron Man, and start trying to build a DC Universe onscreen that would lead to a Justice League movie, but it didn't work.  Here is why Green Lantern did not work, and it's why many Marvel characters like the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and even the Hulk, have been trapped in movie limbo.  It's because the studio churned out a mindless blockbuster with no real character behind it.  The fact of the matter is, you can say these movies are just for entertainment, and yet the superheroes movies that were overtly cartoonish without any real, humanistic character development and believable dramatic stakes, have all been panned by critics and audiences alike.

Look at what Marvel did with Iron Man.  They made a movie that, while still science fiction, was driven by a character whose motivations were spurred by real human emotional responses to these fantastical situations.  They asked the question, what if this happened in real life?  How would this character of Tony Stark respond emotionally?  By doing this, Marvel produced a movie that, while was still impossible science fiction, felt human and real.  The thing is, they didn't try to go the complete opposite of fantasy and try to find a realistic way to explain every piece of science Tony Stark used, but rather they used the character of Tony Stark and represented him as an emotional human being in implausible circumstances, and audiences believed that it was real in effect, without losing the sci-fi edge.  Green Lantern had none of this, nor did the Fantastic Four movies, and so may others, like Daredevil.  They just plodded along, trying to sell toys rather than finding the things about these characters that have made them relatable for decades of comic book readers.

Since Iron Man, Marvel has used the same model to make films based off of the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, and have succeeded.  Audiences bought it, better than they bought Green Lantern because DC did not try to find the human elements within the fantastical.  That is why the original Superman:  The Movie worked, and it's why Batman Begins and The Dark Knight worked, DC had found the human elements beneath those characters, so it's not like they can't do it, it's more of they're in a knee-jerk reaction phase in regards to Marvel.

After Iron Man hit theaters and there was the whole idea of The Avengers coming to the big screen, while it seemed like a longshot, DC tried to rush in production a Justice League movie that ultimately fell apart due to backlash from fans thanks to leaked production details that showed signs of a large flop on WB's hands.  To be honest, I am glad that failed Justice League film never went before the camera, because it would have been a train wreck from all I've heard about the script, however this explains DC's biggest problem as to why there is no Justice League movie.

Marvel has taken their time to develop The Avengers.  They have hired filmmakers with immense passions for the source material to transform these wonderful characters into cinematic icons, and they have succeeded because they did not rush any of these characters to the screen.  They took their time to find the right way to do Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, and The Avengers is simply the next logical move for them.  Why DC is struggling is because they haven't taken the time to develop their heroes.

I mean, Green Lantern was rushed through the production cycle with a cast and crew that was simply in it for a paycheck.  They didn't hire a filmmaker who was a passionate Green Lantern fan, and had a unique vision for the character, and that is why it struck out.  This is why none of the originality from the Green Lantern comic books bled over into the film adaptation, because it was being made not as a faithful adaptation, but as a popcorn movie and nothing else.  Yes, Iron Man is a popcorn movie, but the character of Tony Stark is a deep, three-dimensional character true to his comic book counterpart.  You'd be hard-pressed to find even two dimensions in Ryan Reynold's performance as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern, and it is not Reynolds' fault either, but it's a combination of poor script, poor direction, and poor miscasting.  Reynolds was never right for Hal Jordan, he'd of made a good Flash, but not a good Green Lantern, and it showed.  Of course, the other argument people have is that DC's characters just aren't relatable to modern audiences like Marvel's are, and I say that is just a load of crap.

Compare and contrast Thor and Wonder Woman, both are mythical heroes fighting against Gods and characters from mythology.  If a Thor movie can work, so could a Wonder Woman movie.  You could even compare a Thor movie to a potential Aquaman movie.  And to say in a world where audiences adore alien material like Star Wars and Transformers, you can't tell me that the tale of an intergalactic police officer, like Green Lantern, is not viable in today's market place.  He just wasn't done right.   So the argument that DC is no longer relevant, is just a bunch of ignorance, and is a misunderstanding of the DC heroes.

Currently, every superhero property other than Batman and Superman seems to be dead at WB/DC.  In a time where Marvel's second and third string heroes are starting to make their way to the screen, DC is still struggling to get their first string off of the ground.  Green Lantern writer, Greg Berlanti, was hired to try and crack the code on The Flash, but does anyone think WB is gonna continue with his script after the failure of Green Lantern?  As for Wonder Woman, a TV pilot was made for last season, word was it was atrocious, and if The Avengers is successful, we can bet WB will be kicking themselves for never allowing writer/director Joss Whedon to make his Wonder Woman movie.  However, the court is not out on the Justice League anytime in the near future.

 If next year's Superman flick, The Man of Steel, finds success with critics and the box office, then that could be the springboard for DC like Iron Man was for Marvel.  Perhaps DC should call Joss Whedon and let him do Wonder Woman, and why not actually take the time to do these heroes right rather than trying to make a movie that will sell toys.  Just saying, but there's a reason Marvel has had more success than DC, and that is why.

Regardless, Marvel beat the Justice League to the party, so rather than trying to compete with The Avengers, DC should just do their own thing.  They're gonna be called copycats of Marvel at this point, no matter what they do, so just take the time to develop each individual hero, do them right, and don't pull the plug before they go before the camera, something that WB is notorious for doing with DC Comics' based films.  Rather than pulling the plug on someone like Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams, which believe it or not they did on both counts over the past decade, let talented filmmakers play and create.  It's what they're paid to do, and if you let someone passionate like Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer, or Sam Raimi have the reins of a hero that they love, you will see the results.  Then, once this is done, DC can do a Justice League movie, but no need to rush it simply for the sake of competing with The Avengers.

1 comment:

  1. Great article ! I read it all and agree with you totally. I just saw Avengers yesterday and was wondering why hadnt DC made a Justice League movie yet and this answers my question, thanks!