Justice League: Strange Union
Its absolutely no surprise that following the immense success of Marvel Studios’ various superhero movies, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers have announced their own plans for movies based on DC’s famous characters. Over the last eight years we’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, and Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern. There has been next to no continuity between these films, unlike the Marvel films which have all been connected through various agents of S.H.I.E.D and their infamous Director, Nick Fury. In fact, such interconnectivity has been one of the selling points of Marvel’s films.
You might ask, why is that? What makes the Marvel movies so different from the DC films?
Its straightforward. Marvel Studios stepped into the business with a clear direction of what they wanted to do. I don’t know exactly if it was the intention or not, but all of their films, especially from Iron Man 2 and out, have been building up towards a specific point, The Avengers. One by one, they released movies that would all tie-in together to culminate in the premier Marvel superhero team-up, thereby bringing their “Phase 1” to fruition.
And they’ve succeeded enormously. Which is where DC and WB step in because they want to mirror the success with their own properties. But its not easy to do that. All attempts so far have pretty much tanked. There just isn’t the same vision, and the same ability to face challenges at WB, from what we can see. Their various Wonder Woman projects seem to keep getting stalled for one reason or another. There are talks of a Green Lantern and Batman reboot already, and we are just about to have a new Superman movie that is another reboot after Singer’s Superman Returns from 2006.
A few weeks ago I was discussing this with fellow book blogger and friend, Nick Sharps, and I outlined the basics of what DC and WB should do to make sure that they are able to reproduce Marvel’s success.
It all ends up being about the vision.
To start off with, let’s just take Man of Steel, debuting here in Dubai next weekend. It is a reboot of the Superman property, as we already know. It is going to retell his story, and it is going to star some of the big names of Superman mythos like Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Zor-El, Lara-El, and General Zod, among others. Which is an excellent step. They are keeping the character grounded with characters that we are all familiar with, that the audience can readily recognise and connect with. And the narrative itself is about Zod’s invasion of Earth and will no doubt culminate in a spectacular showdown between Superman and Zod, with the Earth being saved by the narrowest of margins.
All well and good. Its a safe story, with safe characters. So… pretty grounded. Its a good approach. They want to be sure that they get this movie off the ground, because if Man of Steel does well, then the studio can move ahead with plans for their “Phase 1” of the DC movie-verse.
So far so good, I’m on board. But then… what happens after Man of Steel? What would we all like to see? The studio, we already know, wants to get to the Justice League ASAP. But that’s entirely the wrong approach, especially in light of what Marvel has already done, building up half of the characters in The Avengers in other movies and then bringing in the rest for the big one in a big superhero/non-powered superhero personality clash.
DC should adopt the same model.
DC Movie-verse Phase 1
1. Man of Steel (2013)
Come on, you all know you want it! A Flash movie, an origin movie at that, would be excellent. We haven’t seen a live-action adaptation of the character in forever. Its a really good time to reintroduce the character to the big screen, especially as the vehicle for an eventual Justice League movie.
Flash is one of those characters in comics that is always the heart and soul of the team. Wally West, the Flash that I’m most familiar with, fits that role to a T because he’s always the one providing the humour and he provides the light-hearted moments when the others are more… rigid.
So yes, a Flash movie in the wake of Man of Steel would be a great idea. And they can even keep the development time down since a Flash movie doesn’t need uber-graphics and visuals. The only big thing that they would really need to focus on is Flash himself: his costume, his constant vibration, and his Speed-state. Other than, a lot depends on what kind of villain he is paired with.
Speaking of which, I’m not all that familiar with the Flash, so I have little knowledge on his villains, but from what I’m seeing in some basic research, I’d say that Captain Cold and Mirror Master would work really well. I’m leaning far more towards the latter actually, since his concept sounds much cooler. Of course, that will also up the production time quite a bit I suppose, but that’s not all that important a consideration for me to be honest. Its not that complicated to be honest.
Now, you will ask, which Flash? There is Barry Allen, there is Jay Garrick, and there is Wally West. I would love, absolutely love, to see Wally on the big screen but considering that DC has completely benched the character for the New 52 reboot and don’t even mention him, that’s not encouraging. So, let’s go with Barry Allen. Jay Garrick is a bit too old school and he wouldn’t really fit in with a “modern” Justice League. In light of that, Barry Allen is a good way to go forward with the character of Flash. He’s also quite close to Wally in temperament and personality as well, so I can definitely roll with that.
And finally, who to cast? If we were talking about Wally, I would say Ryan Reynolds in a heartbeat. He completely fits the character and you don’t need to look anywhere else. But we are going with Barry Allen, so would that work? I don’t see why not. If Chris Evans can go from playing Johnny Storm in the two Fantastic Four movies to playing Captain America, Ryan Reynolds can do similar, going from Hal Jordan to Barry Allen. The trick to getting it all right is to make Flash into a fun movie with a strong humour side to it. Flash is not a serious or deep character, and you don’t need to present the audience with a complicated plot that goes deep into his psyche. Ryan Reynolds can do a great job and I’m all for him.
And, if we want to go with a young Barry Allen, why not pick Armie Hammer for the role? Or even Justin Bartha. Either of these two gents would make a great Barry Allen and they’ve already starred in some fairly successful films. Physicality is not a consideration at all here either, unlike some of the other characters.
3. Wonder Woman: Pride of Themiscyra (Spring/Summer 2016)
The time is perfectly ripe for a Wonder Woman big-screen adaptation. Let’s ignore all the issues currently ongoing with the television-screen adaptation of the character. The only good thing coming from there is that the producers want to do it and they are back on the drawing board, wanting to get it right.
Now, with a Wonder Woman movie, there is of course the outside chance that Marvel will do a female superhero movie first. Undeniably, they have the jump on DC/WB already and they are too far ahead to catch up to. But no fear. Wonder Woman still remains the most iconic female comics character out there, aside from Lois Lane. Wonder Woman automatically brings out a brand recognition, especially since she has always been an original member of the Justice League, from the team’s conception. She has remained a strong and vibrant character through the years, and there can’t be a Justice League without her, not unless we want it to be a sausage fest and I know for a fact that nobody wants that. That would be terrible.
Anyway, Wonder Woman movie. An origin story that occurs in the wake of Man of Steel, just like the Flash movie should, as above. Steve Trevor crash-lands on Themiscyra and Diana meets a man for the first time in her life. And everything follows on from that, with her accompanying Steve back to the United States, and there she meets her first villain, Barbara Minerva aka Cheetah. Its a good setup to introduce a whole host of different characters. For one, given that he’s a pilot as well, Trevor links back to Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan. And with Steve Trevor involved in the mix from the beginning, we get linkbacks for an eventual A.R.G.U.S connection for a Justice League movie.
But back to the characters. Steve Trevor, Diana Prince as Wonder Woman and Barbara Minerva as Cheetah. Cheetah is a fairly iconic villain for Wonder Woman and one of my favourites, with Geoff Johns recently having given her a great 2-issue outing where she takes on the Justice League in its entirety and can almost match them with her powers. Considering that we want everything to culminate in a Justice League movie, this is even more appropriate.
Now, for the casting, that’s a tricky matter. I think Adrianne Palicki looks good in a Wonder Woman costume, but given that Wonder Woman is one of those very few female superheroes who are actually well-built and muscled, that is a bit of a tricky proposition. I don’t want to see any kind of camera tricks that make the actress chosen for the role more than what she is. The casting has to be right, just as with Stephen Amell for the hit-CW show Arrow. But, I’m going to assume that if an actress is cast for this role, then she will be undergoing enough training to make her physically/visually appropriate for the role.
So my first choice for an on-screen Wonder Woman would be Rosario Dawson. She is a great actress and has done a number of good action-oriented roles before, so this one shouldn’t be too out of her way. If we can’t have Rosario Dawson, then I would love to have either Gina Carano (come on, she’s already a trained MMA artist so she’s already got the physical requirements already covered) or Lynn Collins (she was excellent in True Blood and John Carter), or even Jaimie Alexander, who played Sif in Thor (she might not be in the running however since she will no doubt be appearing in Thor 2). Also, I would put Adrianne Palicki in contention because she is a great actress and fits the bill outside of the physicality (but we are glossing that over a bit already, so who cares?). And she totally rocked it in the recent G.I.Joe film where she played Lady Jaye.
4. Aquaman: King of Atlantis (Fall 2016)
Aquaman has long been a comical character for many people. That certainly seems to have been my impression, based on everything I read about the character before I started reading Geoff Johns’ comics last year. And man, those comics have completely changed my mind about him. Aquaman, or Arthur Curry, is one of my favourite DC characters right now. It also helps that Geoff Johns has been absolutely killing it on that comic.
An Aquaman movie would be perfect for this since he is a character that we haven’t really seen before on the big screen. There was his occasional appearances on Smallville and the failed pilot for a Justin Hartley-starring show, but that’s all I can recall. Aquaman as a character is also quite unique in the comics-verse, with only Marvel’s Namor up for contention I think. And there has been absolutely zero on Namor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don’t see that happening personally. But Aquaman? Hell yeah. It also helps that he is an original member of the Justice League.
An Aquaman movie also provides plenty of opportunities for breathtaking visuals like never before. All of Atlantis is wide open for exploration, not to mention that I get a deep thrill whenever I imagine Aquaman at the head of an army of Atlanteans and numerous sea-creatures. Perfect scene to completely awe the audience with. Sky’s the limit with an Aquaman movie.
To tie-in with the eventual Justice League movie, and the other movies in this continuity that we are establishing, I think the setup is fairly obvious: Wonder Woman and Themiscyra. Following her adventures in her own movie, Wonder Woman is connecting with the larger history of Earth and learning about some of the other ancient civilisations. She comes upon the name of Atlantis, the fabled city of the Greek God Poseidon (although that aspect is a myth in the DC-verse) and so she begins to investigate. This whole setup could even be the epilogue of Wonder Woman, to lead into Aquaman, with a culmination in its epilogue as the two connect together, with Aquaman and Wonder Woman meeting for the first time. This would also setup Aquaman’s nemesis perfectly: Black Manta, who is after some Atlantean relics and has previously teamed up with Cheetah for his own ends.
Now, who to cast? Another tricky decision, but I have three choices that would be great, depending on how the character is played. If we want to go more with an old-school vibe to the character, then Josh Holloway (of Lost fame) is ripe for the picking. He’s a good actor and was certainly one of the saving graces of Lost (I disliked the show, by the way). If we want to go with experienced but full-on kick-ass, then Alexander Skarsgard has to be the top pick. His character Erik on True Blood has been plain awesome, and he definitely has the whole “old civilisation and warrior” vibe going for him. What’s not to like? And if we go with a young and uncertain King of Atlantis, recently come to the throne, then Garrett Hedlund is who I would choose. I loved him on Tron: Legacy and I think he can pull of Aquaman as well. An Aquaman movie has ample opportunities to be a political drama as well, and with Hedlund in the driving seat, it would be a great mix.
5. Justice League: Strange Union (Summer 2017)
So we finally get to it. The big culmination of the DC Movie-verse Phase 1, where we tie up everything together, and finally bring all the superheroes together to save Earth from a danger that they can’t handle alone. Given that its the Justice League we are talking about here, this needs to be a suitably epic event and it needs to strongly differentiate itself from Marvel’s The Avengers did. And we also need to differentiate the movie from what X-men: First Class has done as well. And that’s not so easy. Fortunately, DC has a huge variety of supervillains and supervillain teams that we can draw on for this.
- Wonder Woman
- Green Lantern
- Martian Manhunter
We’ve already done the casting here for four of the heroes. Henry Cavill is already playing Clark Kent/Superman. Rosario Dawson is my top pick for Wonder Woman. Ryan Reynolds is my top pick for Flash. And Alexander Skarsgard is my top pick for Aquaman. That leaves Batman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter, neither of which is an easy proposition, certainly not in the case of Batman, who has been portrayed so well by Christian Bale in Nolan’s trilogy. But, reboot time, and that means a new star must step in the shows.
Its no surprise that True Blood star Joe Manganiello has been pretty vocal about getting to star in a DC superhero movie. What I would love is to see him in Justice League as Batman. He is a bit tall for the role, I think, and he is also quite well-built, like a super-quarterback, but I think he can pull it off really well because he is an ace actor. Along with Skarsgard, he is one of the highlights of True Blood. He can bring the intensity, the menace and depth that the role requires, and he’s who I would pick for the role. Casting Manganiello as Batman, a sort of older version than what we’ve seen in Nolan’s films means that we can also eventually explore the rest of the Bat-family like Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirl, Red Hood etc.
With Green Lantern, we’ve already seen him portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, and it hasn’t worked out all that well. But at the same time, we are bringing back Hal Jordan for this team-up, so we do need to find someone who can fit the bill. Jordan is a bit of a goof-ball, but he’s quite the serious guy generally, and we need an actor who can carry that off, as well as the kind of physicality that the role requires. In that vein, I’d pick either James Marsden (who has already played Cyclops in the X-men trilogy, and rocked that boat), or Tom Welling (played Clark Kent for ten seasons on Smallville), or Jai Courtney (who has featured in a fair few action films of late and is a bit of a rising star). In fact, I would even add Josh Duhamel to the mix. That man certainly knows how to do an action film, and he’s pretty much pitch-perfect for the role of Hal Jordan.
Now, where the Martian Manhunter is concerned, it gets a little bit dicier. The character is all about the physicality and the presence, since there’s going to be a lot of make-up involved here given that Martian Manhunter has a green skin with glowing eyes. Automatically, I’m reminded of Lance Reddick from Fringe, where he totally owned that show. Look no further because he’s got the height, and the build for it, if we want to go with a Martian Manhunter that echoes the Justice League cartoon image. And to be honest, the build isn’t even that big a deal given that the character is a shapeshifter. That certainly makes things easier. Dressed up in the costume and full make-up, Reddick would certainly look the part, and he has that kind of a voice that the character requires as well.
My idea so far is to have continuity between all five films, whether that is a minor link or a major link. I picked Hal Jordan as Green Lantern instead of Guy Gardener or John Stewart because I wanted continuity between Steve Trevor and Hal Jordan as they are both pilots and we can use that as a basis to introduce everybody’s favourite galactic cop. An older, experienced Batman means that we can hint at previous encounters between him and Superman, since in reality the movies are 4 years apart and in-universe, its not a stretch to imagine that its taken a similar amount of time for the characters to get together with lots of adventures in the meantime. A link between Atlantis and Themiscyra cannot be ignored either given the whole old civilisation theme we got going on for both of them. A Flash film can in turn be linked to Batman given that Barry Allen is a forensics expert and that has obvious connotations with a Batman story.
So, to tie all these characters together, and to differentiate from Marvel has done, we need a suitable villain or group of villains, someone(s) who have a strong link to all the characters in their superhero identities. I also want to keep things limited to Earth villains, so that rules out all the crazies like Sinestro and Brainiac and the others. It has to be all Earth material. The best fit here would be Vandal Savage for me. He is an infamous enemy of the Justice League and has often flipflopped the line between good and evil, depending on the circumstances. He’s also a character who can stand tall alongside Lex Luthor, or even R’as al-Ghul, as a big-time enemy of the Justice League. The one reason I really want him to be the villain however is because he is not a comical character. He is… hardcore and he is a thinker. Mind-to-mind, he can match anyone in the Justice League, and that gives him an advantage over many of the other villains.
At this point in the franchise’s life, I’d be really hesitant to do a supervillain team-up, because that is something that needs to be built up over a much larger time-frame and putting that many characters together, many of whom the viewer might not be aware of, is taking a huge risk. Hence, Vandal Savage. He’s got ties to most of the superheroes already and he has the makings of a great movie villain without appearing too comical. He can also be the vehicle to reintroduce some of the villains from the other movies, such as Cheetah from Wonder Woman and Captain Cold or Mirror Master from The Flash. And we can also add in a cameo from other supervillains, such as Deathstroke, whom Vandal Savage can use as lures to defeat the Justice League. Or so he thinks.
Alternate villains: Maxwell Lord (sans Wonder Woman murdering him at the end of the movie), and Doctor Light.
So there you have it, a brief roadmap for DC Movie-verse Phase 1.
What do you think?
Posted on June 7, 2013, in Editorial, General and tagged Adrianne Palicki, Alexander Skarsgard, Aquaman, Armie Hammer, Arthur Curry, Barry Allen, Batman, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Comics, DC Comics, Diana Prince, Flash, Garret Hedlund, Gina Carano, Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, Henry Cavill, J'onn J'onzz, Jai Courtney, Jaimie Alexander, James Marsden, Joe Manganiello, Josh Duhamel, Josh Holloway, Justice League, Justin Bartha, Lance Reddick, Lynn Collins, Man of Steel, Martian Manhunter, Movie Casting, Movies, Rosario Dawson, Ryan Reynolds, Superhero Movies, Superheroes, Superman, Supervillains, The Flash, Tom Welling, Vandal Savage, Wonder Woman. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.