Retcon This! – The JLA Movie

In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.

Ever since Hollywood started making movies based on superhero properties, comic and movie fans alike have been clamoring for a movie starring DC Comics’ elite superteam, the Justice League of America. It always seemed like a no-brainer to have a movie featuring not only icons like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but also popular DC heroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, and, what the hell, even Aquaman, and the fact that all of these characters have been owned by Warner Brothers for the past thirty years or so made it even more of a realistic possibility. Somehow, though, this project never came to fruition, despite many development attempts and rumors that have been floating around for the past few years. Earlier this month, however, Warner Brothers finally announced plans for a Justice League movie slated for release in 2013. This normally would be cause for great celebration, but the way Warners is currently planning to bring this project to the screen worries a large number of fans, myself included. It seems that the studio is being a bit too hasty to make this movie a reality and should instead take its time to make sure the movie is going to be worth our time and money.

The main bone of contention I have with this announcement is that they are planning on releasing this movie a year after Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and just a few months after Zack Snyder’s Superman: The Man of Steel. Warners has gone on record that the JLA movie will not have any relation to what happens in these two movies and will in fact have completely different takes on Superman and Batman with completely different actors playing them. Comic book movies are no stranger to reboots, but rebooting these two characters onscreen so soon after their last incarnations would be a really stupid move on the part of the studio and would more than likely hurt the movie’s chance of catching on with a wider mainstream audience. Comic fans would more than likely have no problem accepting these new interpretations, because they would be used to seeing different takes on these characters in the comics, but the general moviegoer would more than likely be confused because they are not seeing Christian Bale and Henry Cavill in those iconic costumes. Because of this, they may not put much stock in the JLA movie, thinking that it isn’t “official,” despite the studio’s efforts to establish an official DC movie universe on par to what Marvel Studios is doing nowadays.

Another concern I have with this announcement has to do with the sheer volume of comic book and superhero properties being adapted for the big screen nowadays. I don’t think the comic book movie has any real danger of going away, but after eleven years of prominence at the box office, the time is ripe for the bubble to burst on the current Comic Movie Renaissance. The general moviegoing public can be a fickle bunch and can only take so much of a certain kind of movie before it starts to reject it in favor of something else. With this announcement, Warner Brothers seems to be desperately trying to get this movie off the ground before the public moves on, and their haste to get it made does not bode well for the film’s success. That’s not to say that the movie has no shot at being good, but the cards are definitely stacked against it. For these kinds of films, perhaps more than any other genre, the overall quality of the movie tends to trump how fast it comes out with regards to how well it does at the box office, and if Warners is in such a hurry to get this movie out in two years, quality will more than likely be a casualty.

Time and financial matters aside, the Justice League is actually a pretty risky idea for a motion picture. For the most part, the Batman movies have been more or less based in reality with little to no supernatural or sci-fi elements, so teaming him up with Superman and the other superhuman beings in the Justice League might not work in a movie. Audiences used to seeing the grounded, realistic Batman of the Nolanverse may not buy what they may view as an inferior version of the character existing in a more fantastical world. Superman’s inclusion in the movie would be less of a stretch, but again, they would be used to not only seeing Henry Cavill in Snyder’s Superman film but would still remember Brandon Routh from 2006’s Superman Returns. Seeing three different actors playing Superman in the span of ten years and especially seeing two different Supermen in successive years may further alienate John and Jane Moviegoer.

DC characters who aren’t Superman and Batman have not enjoyed a lot of success on the big screen. Warners will try to buck this trend with this summer’s Green Lantern film, which has divided fans with the two trailers released so far. The underwhelming box office earnings of Zack Snyder’s current movie Sucker Punch has also worried many about whether or not his upcoming Superman movie will be successful. Instead of jumping into a Justice League movie, the studio should take its time in building the universe by dropping hints into the movies of the individual DC heroes, much like the Marvel films are doing. Also like Marvel, Warners should release more solo hero films such as The Flash and Wonder Woman in order to get the public more familiar with these characters before putting them into a team book where they have to interact with each other. This of course will take a lot longer, but it would be in everyone’s best interest not to be too hasty in bringing comicdom’s premier superhero team to the big screen. This decision may be the main factor in determining whether the JLA film will be one of the greatest comic movies ever made or one of the worst.

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Who ARE these people!?

Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

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