Last week, the utterly shocking news broke that not only was Warner Bros. pursuing a Justice League movie, but it also was in no way at all ever influenced by the unbridled financial success of Marvel’s The Avengers. We can all believe that, can’t we? After all, we read it on the internet.
With Man of Steel coming out next year and a no-brainer Batman reboot coming now that Christopher Nolan’s movies are wrapping up this summer, this is an opportunity for Warner Bros. and DC to set a new stage. Plus, with adaptations of The Flash and Lobo, and the potential for a Green Lantern reboot, Warner Bros. and DC have things laid out for them to work out very similar to the pre-Avengers line of films.
But this is Hollywood, and so many things can go potentially wrong with a project like this. Here are seven ways Warner Bros. can avoid a potential disaster as they develop this film series.
1. Read Your Own Damn Comics
One of the biggest annoyances to comic book fans over the years has been Hollywood almost ubiquitous inability to understand what made the actual comic books great. There are a few instances where filmmakers understood and read the books (including Richard Donner’s Superman, Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies, and most obviously Joss Whedon with The Avengers). Unfortunately, Hollywood has a habit of buying properties and then developing them without going to the coveted source material.
In the 2000s, Hollywood started getting it right occasionally. However, there have been plenty of times even in recent years where ideas, concepts and entire storylines have been tweaked or downright changed at the whim of the studio. Think of Doctor Doom in the Fantastic Four films, or what about the Dark Phoenix storyline in X-Men: The Last Stand. Warner Bros. needs to stay true to its original books to make this thing work.
2. Make Your Directors Show Some Restraint
While comic book artists and writers have been putting their own spin on various stories over the years, they still need to fit within the mythos set up in the given series. Rarely will a writer or artist completely take over a property unless it is in need of a full revamp, as John Byrne did with the Superman titles back in the late 1980s.
What Warner Bros. doesn’t need are directors so wrapped up in their own art (or whatever you might call it) that they become bigger than the character in the film. What made the pre-Avengers movies work was there was a consistency among them. This was spearheaded by Jon Favreau for the original Iron Man, but it was successfully carried through the other films the other directors.
We don’t want a return of the Tim Burton Batman movies that looked nothing like the books or any other movies made since. We don’t want music video hacks like Pitof ruining a franchise by reimagining things outside of its own source material like he did with Catwoman. And while he develops great graphic novels, let’s keep Frank Miller as far from this as possible.
3. Think Like Marvel Studios, Not Like Time Warner
Four years ago, it seemed to be counter-intuitive that a newly-formed company like Marvel Studios could juggle three major movie studios and make consistent movies which inadvertently locked out other characters from competing studios. It seemed that a place like Warner Bros., which owned all the DC titles, characters, and universes, would be the logical choice for this feat.
Maybe it was the fact that Marvel Studios was an outsider to the process, and it was focused only on comic book properties. Maybe it was the fact that studios weren’t yet thinking about long-term franchises in lieu of single movies that might get a sequel (even though Warner Bros. pioneered this sort of thing with The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series).
If Warner Bros. (and more specifically DC) wants to make a successful Justice League film, it needs to operate like Marvel Studios rather than a big, dumb corporation that only sees the short-term bottom line.
4. Don’t Make a TV Show for the CW
Don’t get me wrong…I liked Smallville. That was a fun show, and like the animation arms of Warner Bros, it produced a series that was arguably more in tune with the mentality and spirit of the original comic books than any of the movies it’s made. However, as anyone in the industry will remind you, movies are movies, and TV is TV.
Between the soft ending of Smallville with a star who only really works on the small screen and the production of a Green Arrow series in the works, there’s no way to tie a weekly scripted drama into a massive, big-budget movie series.
Warner Bros. needs to not get its panties in a bunch, worrying about how these could tie into their television series. Make the movies, and let them stand on their own. It never bothered you that The Brave and the Bold animated series conflicted with the Nolanverse, did it?
5. Let the Past Be the Past
One of the biggest problems with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (aside from the superstalker aspect of the film) was that he kinda-sorta made it consistent with the films from the 70s and 80s, but then again, he didn’t. This wasn’t the best approach because those films were products of their times, and the series was decimated by Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
When developing these new films, make them new films. After all, what’s the point of a reboot if you’re going to somehow connect them to the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV show, the Nolanverse, or the Flash series from the early 1990s?
6. Don’t Expect The Avengers
Even though Warner Bros. swears the development of this movie is more from anticipation of The Avengers than in reaction to its success, we all know it suddenly hit the top of the development pile when that other little superhero movie cracked $200m at the U.S. box office on opening weekend. However, to expect the same thing from The Justice League is just foolish.
For years, Hollywood has hoped for “the next” of any great franchise, but these have been very bumpy roads. In the search for the next Harry Potter series, we got movies like Eragon, The Legend of the Seeker, I Am Number Four, and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (the last of which being the only one that showed any modicum of success).
The Avengers is a phenomenon. It was lightning in a bottle. It was a huge gamble for Marvel, Disney, and Paramount. It just happened to pay off. So perhaps The Justice League will be a massive hit, but more likely it will just do solid business in the summer it is released. Hope for The Avengers, but expect something more in line with your run-of-the-mill $200m final grossing superhero movie.
7. Don’t Rush It
This is perhaps the most important thing about making a Justice League movie, and something that can be really learned from Marvel’s lead-up to The Avengers. Fast-tracking a movie is one thing, but rushing it is another.
In regards to the pre-Avengers movies, the first Iron Man was made expeditiously, but it was also given a reasonable production schedule. Conversely, Iron Man 2 was pushed through production with a burned-out director to meet a release date. It was rushed, and it also had a S.H.I.E.L.D. origin story crammed in the middle. To many folks out there, it’s the big hiccup on the road to The Avengers.
So Warner Bros. needs to make its slate of movies, but it can’t expect a build up of these films to meet a 2015 release date or any such nonsense. It took Marvel four years from the release of Iron Man to build up to The Avengers. If The Justice League is going to have a half-dozen movie tie-ins leading up to it, we should expect at least the same wait.