After months of speculation, double-talk, denials and unofficial "confirmations," word has finally come down Warner Bros. is going to create its answer to The Avengers with what was once the more famous big superhero team: DC Comics' Justice League. On the heels of the as-yet-untitled Man of Steel sequel - featuring Batman, Wonder Woman and now Cyborg - Justice League will reunite cast members Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot with director Zack Snyder.
Reaction to the news has been polarizing, to say the least. Some fans cite that it's too similar to Marvel's film slate to have any unique value. Others are generally cautious of the studio's ability to either build a universe or to properly exploit the characters of DC Comics. It's true Warner Bros. has arrived at this film in a rather roundabout kind of fashion, but here's why a film bearing this team's name should only serve to make comic book fans, particularly those with a noted affection for DC's characters, at least optimistic about what's to come from Warner Bros.
DC/Warner Bros. Are Not Taking the Marvel Approach
In a February 2013 piece discussing different ways Warner Bros. might produce a Justice League film, the number two method detailed how the potential DC Cinematic Universe should arrive at their premiere superhero team not in the "Marvel way," but in a "DC way":
"DC could accomplish the goal of a shared universe in efficient manner by starting with a Justice League film and then using that franchise to feed other, future solo films. It’s a fundamentally different approach than what Marvel has done, and DC would come out of the gate with both arms swinging in a definitive statement to both hard-core fans and the public at large that this is the way it’s going to be. The risk is high, yes, but the reward is also just as high: if the film is as successful as is hoped, then the fuse will be lit in several places at once for successful solo films on other characters like the Flash, or maybe even Aquaman."
While the sequel to Man of Steel will provide some limited preliminary story exploration with some of the major players of the team (and actually accounts for the number two method from the cited op-ed), it appears that the studio is going with this tactic, since this will definitely serve as the biggest "opening shot" for multiple League characters should they appear, potentially including the likes of Aquaman and the Flash, and perhaps a new or reinvented incarnation of Green Lantern. Contrary to what some fans may be saying in making comparisons with Marvel Studios and The Avengers, Warner Bros. is instead betting on its team first, using it to potentially test the waters and see what other viable solo properties the studio can get out of it.
Marvel's approach, of course, was the opposite: introduce each major player in their own film first, before bringing them together in a crossover project. In many ways, you needed to do that with the Avengers. Before their film, the Justice League held the throne of mainstream knowledge of a superhero team before Iron Man, Captain America and Thor made for the hottest trio in superhero film. By taking a chance with the team first, Warner Bros. could be eyeing every DC character that could appear in the team-up film for future exploitation, which would be both a unique approach (helping combat allegations of copying Marvel) and a safer way to determine how to blow up the balloon in the future (which Warner Bros. has demonstrated it's much more willing to do).
More DC FIlms Means More Diverse Superhero Fare
On top of the potential a Justice League movie has for further DC Comics movies, it would also mean some newer blood for moviegoers at the box office when it comes to superheroes. As we can see with the production of films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, Marvel Studios is making some efforts to create blockbuster fare through its brand that don't necessarily line up with what audiences might think of the "traditional" comic book film. While its track record has been very good, if not phenomenal so far, having some new properties around beyond the Avengers, Spider-Man, Batman and Superman would be good for everyone, and a Justice League film can help make that happen.
It's no secret that Warner Bros. has had a chronic case of cold feet for years when it's come to its DC properties (at least in terms of making films). By helping create a launch pad, of sorts for more DC characters in a film that will need to feature more of them to work, we could be seeing the beginning of a rival cinematic universe, or just simply a new breed of superhero film. There is plenty of time on the calendar for superhero cinema to coexist peacefully (as Captain America: The Winter Soldier recently proved, April can be a good month), and there are so many great DC characters that at this point it feels criminal they've not been properly exploited.
Now, is there a chance that things could end up going badly? Of course! This is the movie business, and the word "flop" exists for that very reason. As far as the creation of a Justice League film being somehow bad for fans and general audiences, though? If you think that, you may want to reexamine exactly what your definition of "bad" is. With so many great untapped properties on DC's side of things (Shazam, the Doom Patrol, the Suicide Squad, Teen Titans, the Outsiders, the New Gods, the Legion of Superheroes, or HOW ABOUT WONDER WOMAN?), the first major push on Warner Bros.' part for an all-inclusive DC film could make for limitless possibilities.]
For that alone, isn't it worth being a bit more optimistic? What do you think?
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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