The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Justice League (A Trilogy) 3 - The Search For Spock

Will DC finally grow a set and make a Justice League movie?

For part 3 of this editorial, I examine the possibilities of a Justice League movie and further examine the challenges of creating the world of this superhero team-up. Part 1 can be read here and part 2 can be read here. Don’t you just love trilogies?

Don’t forget to read the disclaimer from the first article so you don’t inadvertently start a nuclear flame war. Like a lot of threequels, this will probably let you down and make you mad.

Will DC finally make a Justice League movie?

Who cares? The Avengers kicked ass! End of editorial.

Or not.

I would say that the answer to the question would be extremely likely now that The Avengers has changed the game. At least, I think Warner Bros. will definitely be moving in that direction. Regardless of whether or not such a film would work, they would be foolish not to seriously explore it.

Of course, exploring it is one thing. Executing it is another. DC would be foolish not to explore a Justice League film, but they would be just as foolish to make one just because Marvel made an Avengers film.

Marvel defied the odds and spent the better part of a decade building the world of the Avengers and putting all of the pieces together. Just the cost of making the movies that lead to The Avengers, which could be viewed as development costs, is pretty staggering itself. They spend $140 million on Iron Man, $150 million on The Incredible Hulk, $200 million on Iron Man 2, $150 million on Thor and $140 million on Captain America: The First Avenger. Throw in the $220 million budget for The Avengers and Marvel has spent $1 billion just making these films. And that doesn’t factor in the cost of marketing and distribution. The films have grossed over $3 billion worldwide and counting. And of course, we already know there will be the next wave in Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2. Presumably, that will be followed by The Avengers 2 and probably a new Hulk solo movie. Add to that the possibilities of films for characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow and the growing of the roster with characters like Ant-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just getting larger. With these characters plus X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Punisher and Spider-Man among others all getting films at one time or another, Marvel has made every effort to bring its characters to the silver screen.

Meanwhile, in the modern era (starting with the release of Superman in 1978), DC has essentially done nothing but release Batman and Superman films. There have been five Superman films, with a sixth forthcoming and two loose spinoffs: Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987), Superman Returns (2006), Man of Steel (2013) plus Supergirl (1984) and Steel (1997). There have been six Batman films, with a seventh forthcoming and one loose spinoff: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) plus Catwoman (2004). Other than a couple of Swamp Thing movies in the early 80s (not produced by Warner Bros.), DC has only ventured outside of its big two with the 2009 release of Watchmen, the 2010 release of Jonah Hex and the 2011 release of Green Lantern with fairly mediocre results. Granted, not all of Marvel’s films have been juggernauts, but they can say they’ve been successful with Spider-Man, X-Men, the Avengers as solo films and the Avengers as a team. DC can only say Batman and Superman. And really, there hasn’t been a truly successful Superman movie in 30 years.

Both the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises were entering (or on their way) reboot/prequel phases when Iron Man was released in 2008. But they had both had recent success. Marvel knew that those franchises were still very much viable as they entered into the Avengers phase of their cinematic plan. In short, they had enough experience to know what worked and what didn’t with more than one franchise.

DC’s cinematic universe, on the other hand, at this point in time really only has Batman as a recently proven franchise. It’s all on you, Dark Knight.

Superman Returns was not a flop, but it was not successful enough to warrant sequel. Even Batman Begins was not a huge hit. It was just plain as daylight that the franchise had found its voice and its filmmaker. And add to that the fact that The Dark Knight Rises represents the end of that trilogy. Christopher Nolan may have some involvement with future Batman films in a producorial capacity, but his days as the visionary of the franchise appear to be at an end. Granted, Nolan has a key role in the DC cinematic universe outside of Batman as he is the producer of Man of Steel. But somehow, I don’t see Nolan wanting to become the Kevin Feige of DC movies and a Kevin Feige is what DC movies need. They need someone who can find the appropriate filmmakers for each character while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the DC cinematic universe as exactly that: a universe. A universe that encompasses all of these characters.

In order to take the journey that will result in a Justice League movie, DC/Warner Bros. must first begin the process of building the world that the Justice League film will inhabit. Whether or not Man of Steel can be the launching pad for this remains to be seen, but it would seem that that film would be the earliest that any seeds could be planted. And judging by Christopher Nolan’s many comments on the matter, Man of Steel doesn’t appear to be shaping up to be the start of a Justice League franchise.

“A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that’s what I know how to do,” Nolan said, emphasizing the idea that Batman exists in a world where he is the only superhero and a similar approach to the Man of Steel would assure the integrity needed for the film. “Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other.” - From Geoff Boucher’s The Hero Complex at

It would seem highly unlikely that Warner Bros. would reboot Superman and then reboot him again for a Justice League film, especially if Man of Steel is successful. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for any filmmaker tasked with creating the Justice League movie.

Green Lantern may be able to be retroactively included in this new Justice League universe, but the franchise has just as much chance of being rebooted given the mediocre box office results. Then, Batman will be rebooted after The Dark Knight Rises. In order for it to work in a Justice League universe, it would have to have at least a significant departure from the tone of Nolanverse, at least in terms of having more supernatural and science fiction influences. If you consider that it took 5 years to reboot Spider-Man, it would be difficult to see Batman having a significantly quicker turnaround. In the interim, you’d have to develop movies for the Flash and Wonder Woman, characters that have already been in development hell for a few years now. You’d also have to decide whether or not characters like Aquaman, Cyborg or Martian Manhunter can have their own films or go the way of Hawkeye and Black Widow (at least in the first phase).

And in all that time of DC developing a Justice League world, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and probably The Avengers 2 will all be released.

One of Marvel’s advantages in making The Avengers was that they essentially started from scratch. With the exception of a direct-to-video Captain America film and Ang Lee’s forgettable Hulk, they virtually had a blank canvas on which to paint. With The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel and Green Lantern, DC currently has no such luxury, the end of the Nolan trilogy notwithstanding.

To sum up, Warner Bros. has to develop each character’s individual world on its own with an eye towards the larger world of the Justice League. In doing so, they must make each character relevant in their own right (not to mention successful). Then, they have to make these characters relevant together. They will have lost the audience the first time someone says “Can’t Superman just spin around the world and turn back time?” or “Batman’s a human being. How can he make as much difference as these other superhumans?”

Personally, I don’t see how they’re going to do it. But I dare them to prove me wrong. I hope they do.

But for now, we get to bask in the glory that is The Avengers. Marvelites, enjoy the moment. DC-ites, let the Marvelites enjoy their moment. You may be getting yours on July 20. If not, another one is bound to come along. It certainly looks like comic book movies are here to stay and I’d think we could all agree that that is a great outcome.

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