How 'Justice League' Sets Up the Future of DC on Film

How 'Justice League' Sets Up the Future of DC on Film

Nov 21, 2017

WARNING: Spoilers for JUSTICE LEAGUE will follow immediately.

Although yesterday's headlines were focused more on the struggling box office performance of Warner Bros. Pictures' ambitious DC Comics-based superhero team-up film, we certainly found that there was quite a lot to like in Justice League. While the actual future of DC Comics on film will undoubtedly be debated within board rooms on the WB lot in Burbank for a while to come, that doesn't mean that the film as it was released doesn't have some pretty notable happenings that could reverberate through the future of the DC movie slate.

In addition to both mid- and post-credits scenes, some present expository work midway through the film definitely laid the groundwork for a solo adventure that is definitely coming for one of the team members, while we also get some hints and nods to both the history — and potential future — of several characters.

So, let's dive in and take a look at some of these elements.

 

Mid-credits Scene: A Familiar Race

It's a debate seemingly as old as the characters themselves: who of the Justice League's fastest characters is...well, faster? Superman and the Flash have been depicted racing in virtually every medium they've appeared in together. In his very first appearance in the DC Animated Universe in an episode called "Speed Demons," the Flash and Superman challenged each other to a race for charity. On the small screen in episodes of Smallville, Clark and Bart Allen ran together to see who could come out on top. Because Superman is generally considered to be one of the strongest and fastest beings in the entire DC Comics Universe, having him race a guy people call the "Fastest Man Alive" is bound to create a sense of competition.

From a comics-based perspective, though, if you know these guys and what they're fully capable of, there's not really a question: the Flash is faster. At times, Flash has run so fast that he's vibrated between universes, or even turned into a bolt of lightning, to say nothing for the way he's used his speed to travel through time. So, does this set up anything for the future of DC on film? Probably not, except to give us a nod to one of the oldest friendly rivalries in comics, as well as to endear us even more to Ezra Miller's incarnation of Barry Allen.

The Flash is currently rumored to next appear in a film adaptation of the 2011 comic book story Flashpoint, which may have some fundamental structural ramifications to the cinematic DC Universe.

 

Post-credits scene: A League of Their Own

There definitely seemed to be a sense of surprise that came over some showings of Justice League when, after the credits were finished rolling, we saw not only the return of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, but we saw actor Joe Manganiello fully suited up as one of DC Comics' most dangerous assassins: Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator. After apparently breaking Luthor out of Arkham Asylum, he makes a proposition to Slade after learning about both the return of Superman and the formation of the Justice League: "Shouldn't we have a league of our own?"

What the scene is apparently making reference to is a team in the comics known as the Injustice League. Making its first appearance during the memorable comic book run of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire in Justice League International, Luthor was a primary member on the first version alongside the likes of SInestro, Dr. Light, Catwoman, the Penguin, Black Manta, and Felix Faust. Other historical members have included the Joker, Bizarro, Bane, the Key, Chronos, Harley Quinn, the Reverse-Flash, Poison Ivy, and yes, even Deathstroke. Still, while the word "league" definitely sticks out in the dialogue that Luthor spoke, it's possible that he could be hinting at a couple of different unions of super villains that don't necessarily go by the name of the "Injustice League." 

Luthor has also been a part of groups like the Secret Society of Supervillains (mostly known these days as simply "the Society"), as well as the very memorable and apocalyptic Legion of Doom. Both Luthor and Deathstroke have been members of multiple incarnations of the Society, while the actual name "Legion of Doom" has only been used sparingly in the comics for teams that Deathstroke has never personally been a part of. While the films can definitely go with the "Injustice League" moniker, some other, larger union of supervillains seems like it would best be served by becoming a new, cinematic incarnation of the Society, with Luthor pulling the strings and potentially with Deathstroke as a primary member. In a recent Society incarnation, both Luthor and Slade were some of the leading councillors, both highly capable in their own ways.

While Deathstroke has been rumored to feature in an upcoming solo Batman film, it's not currently known where either he or Lex Luthor could turn up next in terms of future DC films. We'll have to wait for more information as Warner Bros. contemplates their post-Justice League plans.

 

Other Hints and Service: the King of the Seas

In addition to the mid- and post-credits scenes, one character in particular that got a fair amount of service toward the future was Jason Momoa's Aquaman. With his own solo film hitting theaters next December, Aquaman was a character that likely could've used a fair amount of tweaking when it comes to his public image. We've talked about this in the past before, but chances are he got more than a few new fans from people who went to see Justice League, and beheld Momoa definitely going a long way to make the role his own.

After we learn that the Atlanteans teamed up with both the Amazons and the tribes of man in order to drive Steppenwolf off of the Earth, we also discovered that each of the three factions took an Apokoliptian Mother Box to hide in their own realms. It's when Steppenwolf enters Atlantis to take the fabled city's Box that Arthur Curry enters the place of his birth, attempting to fight with the Atlanteans in order to drive Steppenwolf out of the city. They fail, but not before Mera — ward of Aquaman's mother, Queen Atlanna — explains some key facts to him about why his mother left him on the doorstep of his father above the ocean. While we learn that Arthur harbors resentment toward his mother and has a rebellious streak by not wanting to follow either the will of humans or Atlanteans, hearing the revelations about what his mother apparently went through to help him survive seemed to legitimately surprise him.

This is what leads him to take up Atlantean armor and a quindent in order to help the Justice League fight off Steppenwolf. If he didn't know it before, Arthur now has to know that he's Atlantean royalty and the responsibility of the Queen of Atlantis has been actively picked up by him with some major potential consequences. We know there's a fair amount of Aquaman-related material on the film's cutting room floor, since actor Willem Dafoe was slated to first appear in Justice League as Nuidis Vulko, who in the comics is one of the chief advisers to the Atlantean throne, and by extension King Orin, aka Aquaman.

Either way, Aquaman directed by James Wan will feature the return of Jason Momoa as the titular character, as well as Amber Heard as Mera, Dafoe as Vulko, and Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master. It hits theaters on December 21, 2018.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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