DC’s upcoming Justice League film won’t be able to match Marvel’s epic continuity driven movie, The Avengers. I may be a little biased as I’ve always enjoyed the product produced and created by Marvel more than DC’s output but regardless of my own personal preference, I enjoy good films, television shows and comics regardless of who creates them. I’ll happily admit that The Dark Knight is a better film than Iron Man or Captain America. However, DC’s very slapdash approach to a Justice League film leaves little doubt that it is just a shameless attempt to cash in on Marvel’s success.
While it is true that DC and Warner Brother’s have been trying to get a Justice League film off the ground since about 2007, it was rarely connected or considered to be in canon with DC’s other films. For instance, in October of that year, Armie Hammer had been cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Justice League despite Christian Bale having portrayed the character in Batman Begins only two years earlier and would go on to reprise the role a year later. There’s nothing wrong with that route and I’m sure Armie Hammer would have been an excellent Batman but it clearly shows that DC was working on the projects as separate franchises.
That original Justice League film was put on hiatus until summer of the following year when the project was scraped and DC announced a plan similar to how Marvel built up to The Avengers. Four films would be released accumulating in a Justice League film. Of those four, only Green Lantern, The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel made it to or will make it to public consumption. We can only guess what the fourth film might have been but The Flash or Wonder Woman were most likely. However, I’ve seen both Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises and neither film alludes to any grander scheme. In Iron Man, Nick Fury appears and presents Tony Stark with plans for the Avenger’s Initiative. In Iron Man 2, he pulls out Captain America’s shield from a box of stuff his dad kept. The Tesseract from Thor was later (or before, chronologically) used in Captain America: The First Avenger to power Nazi weapons. Neither Green Lantern nor The Dark Knight Rises suggests that the two worlds are connected or that there is some great evil coming that they might need to join against. In fact, The Dark Knight Rises ends with the retirement of Bruce Wayne as Batman.
Given the failure of Green Lantern, it’ll be a surprise if Ryan Reynolds returns. That’s not Reynolds fault really since he made the best with what he was given and it won’t necessarily adversely affect Justice League. Edward Norton originally portrayed The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk but Marvel ultimately decided not to bring him back for The Avengers. And if the Justice League film had really been planned ahead, I wouldn’t have a problem with a few casting changes but it is painfully obvious a Justice League movie is being thrown together at this point. That plan from 2008 was scraped too, later in the year, and in 2010 a representative for DC Entertainment said there were no plans to connect future film projects. It wasn’t until after The Avengers was released and was successful in theatres that DC announced that a Justice League film would released in 2015, despite having no director and no script.
Conversely, planning and development for The Avengers begin way back in 2005. Just let that sink in for a moment. DC are attempting to rival a film that was the fruition of seven years work and their plan is to take their current solo products and shove them together and release the result in two years. How can anyone at DC think that is a good idea? Some fans have been quietened by the idea that Christopher Nolan will oversee all DC projects and that Christian Bale will return if Nolan returns. DC hasn’t commented on these rumours but personally it doesn’t seem like a good idea for Bale or Nolan to return. Christian Bale returning makes zero sense following the conclusion of The Dark Knight Rises. I’m not saying it has to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt but at least that would be logically in keeping with the final Batman film.
Another problem exists in the yet unreleased Man of Steel Superman film by Zack Synder. To play captain obvious for a moment, Superman isn’t Batman. You can’t approach the two characters in the same way. Batman is a darker character and therefore conforms to a code to distinguish him from the monsters and villains that he faces. Superman needs no such code. He is just naturally idealistic and hopeful, partly due to the positive influence instilled in him by his parents Martha and Jonathan Kent. The ultra-realism style may have worked for Batman but nihilism does not fit with Superman. Has anyone actually seen the trailer? Specifically, I’m referring to the point where a young Clark Kent questions his father on having saved a school bus of children from drowning. He asks Jonathan ‘was I meant to just let them die’ and his father replies ‘maybe’. Maybe? If you’re going to throw out the Kent’s good natured upbringing, you may as well have him raised by Darkseid, Lionel Luthor or the Waynes.
This standardised style that DC seem determined to incorporate into their films since Nolan’s success with Batman isn’t going to do them any favours. Iron Man, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger are good films because they are different and when the characters come together in The Avengers it works because they are distinct. The Iron Man films are wittier and focus on the benefits and abuse of technology, whereas Thor used more physical humour and it was more classically dramatic. A lot of work went into creating the many pieces that made Avengers and for DC to think that they can simply repeat what has done them well in the past and hope to compete is just ridiculous. Perhaps if they took their time and released a Justice League film in 2020, it might be as good but as it stands, even objectively speaking, DC can’t hope to beat Marvel’s The Avengers.