This is the one that sticks out in my mind as being the biggest movie Warner Brothers has ever made. Sure, a lot is riding on the first film, but the sequel is where we find out if the series has legs or not. Getting off the ground was only the first step.
There are tons of questions yet to be answered about the first film, so speculating on this one will be purely off the cuff. Is it the second part of a single movie or an actual sequel? Do the previous superhero films in the line take place before during or after this? Can this movie still happen if certain other movies have failed? Is it a lock that the entire cast will return, new heroes/villains introduced, Zack Snyder back in the director chair?
By the time we get to this film, lots of things will have occurred, but how much of it was successful is still a big question. And with that, we dive right in!
World’s Finest Richest
It all comes down to money, doesn’t it? Let’s face facts, though, if you don’t have the cash to front this kind of film, it’s going to look awful. We still have no idea how much Justice League Part 1 is going to cost, but my estimate of over $300 million is accurate, this one is likely to land somewhere in that same range. Of course, that all depends on how much money the first film makes, too. If it goes over $1 billion, then getting a budget even higher than my initial estimate is possible. Although a couple of other movies would have to pull in big numbers, too.
Calling estimates now is difficult given I only have Man of Steel to go by so far. But, if you look at the hype and how the internet seems to hang on every little development surrounding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (whether it’s true or not) then you can easily see that the demand for this series is at an all-time high. People are talking about this new cinematic universe in ways they never have before and if BvS can deliver even a bit on that it’ll give enough of a push to keep that momentum alive.
And momentum is what the DC Cinematic Universe desperately needs. I and many others loved Man of Steel, but there are plenty who didn’t. Some of those could potentially be won over by the next film, while others have already written it off. If those possible converts could be won over by a movie that makes them happier then Warner Brothers could see a real payoff. And we might even start seeing other DC properties being brought to film. And it’s obvious that WB/DC have ideas they’d like to explore and even a few they plan to revisit.
To keep investors happy, though, the other DC films need to do well. Maybe not all of them, but the majors need to clean up at the box office. BvS, Wonder Woman and the first Justice League need to be homeruns. Suicide Squad being a sleeper hit would certainly make them happy, too and could lead to a fun new franchise no one expected. And honestly, the cast and director on that one are so strong; it’s hard to imagine outright failure. Here’s hoping it keeps that forward momentum going. Budgetary hopes for the future may just hinge on it.
Superfriends in a Tower of Babel?
We all have our favorite versions of the DC characters and it’s likely that no two fans have the same idea about what makes for the “definitive” version of any of them. But let’s look at what kind of world we seem to be dealing with here.
Zack Snyder gave us a much more “grounded” take on Superman in Man of Steel, but Batman v Superman seems to be going for more comic book elements and embracing that larger world. If that’s how it goes, we might see some real tension between the heroes. We’re already getting that in Batman v Superman, but everything is supposed to be cool between them by the end of the film. But that doesn’t mean Batman is going to trust all the other “heroes” who suddenly come out of the shadows.
One possible story arc to follow here is the Mark Waid classic, Tower of Babel. In it, Batman’s contingency plans to take out all the members of the Justice League are stolen by Ra’s al Ghul and used against them. When it’s revealed that Batman was responsible for each of the plans, he’s kicked out of the League. Temporarily, of course. An animated adaptation of this, Justice League: Doom, came out a couple of years ago and it was really well done, though a few liberties were taken. That could be a strike against using it as a story here, too, since the worlds of animation and live action rarely intersect.
Tower of Babel and JL: Doom also featured another set of villains: The Secret Society/Legion of Doom. With Jesse Eisenberg signed to multiple films as Lex Luthor and the likely introduction of many different villains across the various superhero films, including quite a few from Suicide Squad (that Luthor is also rumored to be part of), could this be the formation of an “Injustice League?” If the first film is all about an invasion being repelled by combined forces of heroes and villains (be it Brainiac or Darkseid), then wouldn’t it be interesting to see the villains taking on the self-appointed “protectors of Earth” title and ridding the world of the so-called heroes? It’s just one possibility. You could easily reverse that for Justice League Part 1 and save the invasion part for this chapter instead.
With Shazam being the lead-in movie for this chapter, it almost makes more sense to have a magical-based villain or even a coming together of other villains for the next time around. There are lots of possible angles to explore, but all of it depends on what happens in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad first.
And we may even see other DC concepts introduced in this feature to set up the future of the individual franchises. We still need a Green Lantern in this picture (c’mon John Stewart!) and what about a possible appearance from Martian Manhunter? Maybe we get The Metal Men and/or Red Tornado. There’s also the possibility of Amazo (sentient android capable of replicating the powers of any Justice League member) or even Doomsday (rumored for Batman v Superman though you should probably not buy into it). Maybe they even do something really crazy like adapt the Doom Patrol. Too much?
There’s a house built out in space
Not every concept is going to make it to film and there’s no way to please every fan. Trying to do so would just lead to disaster. Telling a cohesive story with compelling characters is the most important thing to do for this or any comic book adaptation.
We may not get the Hall of Justice or the Watchtower, but who cares? It doesn’t have to go that direction if there’s another viable one. We may not get a panel for panel adaptation of your favorite comic story, but we shouldn’t expect that or write off the movie if it doesn’t give us that. Some things work great on the comic page and translate very poorly to the movie screen. The reverse is true, too.
What we have here is a real possibility of something great. Keeping expectations low is fine, but cynicism is just going to ensure you have a terrible time. It takes time to figure out the right formula for these movies. Marvel films had a tough time in the early 2000’s (you guys probably remember since you can’t stop harping on how much you hated Daredevil). The hits were few, but the ideas were formulating and eventually they found their footing.
Justice League is a long way from being finalized and plans can always change. We’ll all find out together and I, for one, am looking forward to being surprised. I hope they can deliver something I’ll want to watch again and again.
And frankly, it needs to be that and more. It needs to outdo every superhero movie before it and ultimately take a victory lap for WB/DC. Of course, that’s just the DC fanboy coming out. In fairness, it’s a movie I hope all of us can go to with open minds and come away having had a good time. Now, if only the full Batman v Superman trailer would hit the web already so we can all gawk in amazement and hit “replay” over and over again.
Opens June 14, 2019. Subject to change, of course
Come back in two weeks for a breakdown of Cyborg!