New Rules for DC Superhero Movies
The Justice League movie. The Holy Grail for nerds. And like the Holy Grail, obtaining it has proven to be no easy task. While Marvel and Disney have been successfully kicking out the jams with their MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), releasing one decent superhero movie after another, all culminating in the spectacular blockbuster The Avengers, and then continuing with stellar solo movies afterward going into Phase 2, DC and Warner Brothers have been, shall we say, less successful. The Green Lantern movie bombed. The Jonah Hex movie bombed. The Wonder Woman movie has been stuck in development hell for years and Man of Steel, while not a box office failure, was a very polarizing movie which was utterly dark and joyless and left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths.
Part of the problem with making the JL movie a reality lies in the total lack of synergy between the companies which operate under the Time-Warner umbrella. Warner Brothers puts the “fun” in “corporate dysfunction”, it’s a giant conglomeration of people all with their hands in the cookie jar vying for big cookie with the giant morsels. The MCU is being helmed by Kevin Fiege, but who’s running the show for the DC movies and TV shows? Chris Nolan? Zack Snyder? Bruce Timm? Allen Smithee? Waldo? Who knows?Warner Bros. is a chaotic mess of executives who all want credit and where no one person is willing or able to be “The Man.” That has always been the studio’s fatal flaw, they’re ruled by committee and not an individual.
We all have our own theories as to what DC can do to step their game up: Regardless whether you think that WB/DC should opt to strike while the iron is hot or ignore the competition and take the “slow and steady wins the race” route, I think we can all agree that they need to formulate a strategy and do something, because right now they’re getting their collective asses kicked. Hard. It’s not pretty.
Personally, if it were me, I’d scrap this whole project and start fresh with a whole new beginning. Forget Green Lantern and Man of Steel ever happened and ignore the Nolan trilogy. For this purpose I present my personal plan for how to construct a DCCU (DC Cinematic Universe) and make the Justice League movie happen, or New Rules for DC Superhero Movies.
- Reboot Superman again, but get it right this time. For Flip’s sake, let’s skip the origin story this time! By now everyone and their Aunt Gertrude knows where Superman came from, so there’s no need to do an entire movie built around his origin; at the most, retell it briefly in a flashback sequence. I’d have the movie begin some few months after Clark Kent has arrived in Metropolis and started his job at the Daily Planet. He’s already been wandering for some time prior to the start of the film, and has started garnering some media attention with his exploits as Superman. Do NOT make the movie as dark, somber and joyless as Man of Steel was; Superman is supposed to about hope, idealism and sci-fi fun, giving Supes the Batman treatment simply didn’t work. If you want to see an example of a “iconic, all-American good guy superhero trying to make his way through a modern, cynical and paranoid new world” movie done the way it should’ve been done, look no further than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That movie was what Man of Steel should’ve been. Make Metropolis semi-futuristic and high-tech, and have it run and bank rolled by Lex Luthor, and you’ve got yourself a decent Supey flick and a good starting point for the DCCU.
- Reboot Batman again, but this time set in the same universe as the new Superman movie. Tone down the grit, realism and darkness and make it less grounded and more fun. That’s the only way the movie can work in a shared universe. I know the thought of a lighter Batman makes some folks cringe, with nightmarish visions of Batman and Robin dancing the Batusi in their heads, but that’s not what I mean. I’m not talking Bat Credit Card goofiness, but rather tone down the dark and grim aspects of the Batman mythos and focus more directly on why it’s so cool to be Batman: how he’s got boo-billions of dollars to throw around, how he’s a playboy with hot ladies falling at his feet, how he’s got gadgets, gear and gizmos for every occasion, how he gets to lay the smack down on weirdo costumed villains, etc. I’m thinking a slightly edgier Iron Man in black.
- Do a Wonder Woman movie at long last, again set in the same universe. Focus on the mythological aspects of WW’s origins crossed with some patriotic idealism, reflecting the character’s status as an ambassador to Earth. Have some tensions begin to rise in “Man’s World”, and Diana takes notice and wants to help, but her mother Hippolyta doesn’t want her interfering. She does of course, and gets mixed up with the US Air Force, introducing Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, et al. It could turn out that someone like Ares or Circe is secretly manipulating events for some diabolical purpose. I’m thinking a mix of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.
- Reboot Green Lantern and maybe make a Flash movie, again set in the same shared universe as the other movies. The reason I say “maybe” to a Flash movie is because he’s already got a TV show coming up for the CW, so WB may not want to have too many solo movies preceding Justice League. At the most, some of the movie’s events could be reflected and/or alluded to in the Flash series. Also, I’d probably make the GL of this film John Stewart rather than Hal Jordan, so there’d be a non-Caucasian face on the team.
- Throughout all of this, the linkman connecting all of these movies could be J’onn J’onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter. MM first turns up in the Superman movie as a detective named ‘John Jones’ who has been investigating Superman since he showed up in Kansas. ‘John’ meets Clark and befriends him, but doesn’t reveal to him that he’s a Martian…yet. ‘John’ also turns up in the Batman movie, and at the end of that film, he shapeshifts into his green alien form. Dun-dun-dunn!
- Make a World’s Finest team-up movie starring Superman and Batman, or a Trinity movie featuring Supes, Bats and Wondy meeting one another and joining forces to tackle some big threat, like say, the White Martians, which could lead to the Big Three meeting ‘John Jones’ together and he’d finally reveal to them all his true identity of J’onn J’onzz and inform them that something big and bad is coming. This would lead to…
- The long-awaited Justice League movie, which would bring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash, organized by J’onn (why no Green Arrow? I think 7 main heroes–yes, I said 7, more on that later–is enough, and the team doesn’t need 2 rich guys with toys right now. Plus, moviegoers hot off the MCU films not familiar with the DC Comics would just see Ollie Queen as a Hawkeye ripoff, so we can save him for a sequel) to combat said big bad. Speaking of, I can’t over-stress this: DO NOT, under any circumstances, make the villain of the movie Darkseid! Using Darkseid in the first JL movie is a great idea, if you don’t plan on making any sequels. If the plan is to stretch this franchise out to say, 3 movies, you can’t begin with the biggest bad guy in the DC Universe. Save Darkseid for movie 3, and make the villain of the first movie someone like Luthor or Brainiac or Gorilla Grodd or Starro the Conqueror. Personally I’d go with Starro, so we could introduce Aquaman in the movie (Starro starts out making trouble in Atlantis, where Aquaman fights him and maybe gets possessed and controlled by him for a time in the film, where he and his army takes on the League until they free him and he joins the other heroes to defeat Starro), possibly leading to an Aquaman solo movie afterwards, along with solo sequels for the other heroes.