Saturday, July 7, 2012

How DC Can Get Its Groove Back, Part 2

Despite being crushed for the last 15 years at the box office by Marvel, DC/Warner Brothers has several advantages in general where adapting its properties to the big screen are concerned, which we looked at yesterday. Today we’ll examine how they can specifically make a Justice League movie that doesn’t suck.

#1 Do it in reverse. After Man of Steel next year, just go straight to a Justice League movie. F’crying out loud, much of the work in setting up the Justice League was already done on Smallville

All completely pointless to have on a team with Superman ... if you think about it

You don’t need to introduce all these iconic characters to an audience like you did Thor or Iron Man, so you can just jump to the main event after Supes has laid some foundation. Then subsequent films with individuals can be made based on Justice League’s success.

#2 Don’t screw up the line-up. The Avengers has always had a pretty set line-up, but Justice League is a revolving door: pretty much every hero has been a member at some point, a point highlighted dramatically with Justice League Unlimited, where they put every hero on the team all at once.

All STILL completely pointless to have on a team with Superman ... if you think about it

Of course the core line-up is Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhuner, and Green Lantern – but this isn’t who they should go with. It’s too big (Avengers had four team members with two secondary characters, one of whom was muscle for the bad guy for most of the film) – they should keep the team at five.

Obviously you have to include Supes and Bats. I would add Flash as well, since he’s a relatively well-known property and doesn’t have a counterpart in the Avengers (which is why Green Arrow will struggle to hit the target - ah ha). Also Flash's power and costume are cool visually. Of course you’d have to use the Wally West Flash and not Barry Allen.

I would also add Green Lantern, since he’s already been adapted (but see below on casting)

I feel guilty leaving Martian Manhunter off the list, but I think you have to at the start. His back-story and power-source are virtually identical to Superman, he has kind of a weird name, and you want the team to be more Earth-grounded, since it already includes one alien and one guy who works in outer space. No regrets about striking Aquaman off.

So this leaves our fifth spot, and it has to be a girl. Wonder Woman, right? Wrong. Again, it needs to be Earth-grounded (they’re even billing the JL film as “very real world!”), so you can’t have another alien on the team. So who should the girl be? 


She has a great costume, different powers than the rest of the League, and a terrific catch (speaking her spells backwards). The one flaw of the DCAU Justice League was the inclusion of Hawkgirl instead of Zat.

But you can’t ignore WW, can you? No. Just remember her when you …

#3 Don’t screw up the bad guy. And the best way to do that is to make the bad guy Wonder Woman. The movie could start with her leading an assault by Amazons on “man’s world” because she’s being manipulated by Darkseid or Vandal Savage or Doctor Destiny or even (best of all) Lex Luthor. She joins the team during the third act after seeing the error of her ways.

Another of DC’s liabilities is (Batman notwithstanding) they have a pretty lame rogue’s gallery. Even with Superman, their signature character, you have Lex, Braniac, and then a whole lotta nothing. Making Wonder Woman the villain would ensure that the primary villain seen on movie posters has as much gravitas as the heroes.

#4 Don’t screw up the cast. OK this is an important one. Avengers succeeded overwhelmingly because of the strength of RDJ as Tony Stark in three previous movies. Warner Bros has already cast Superman. No indication on who would play Batman after Christian Bale hangs up the cape and cowl, but his is the least important because it’s the character that’s already the best known.

Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan. He has oodles of nerd street cred, he’s perfect for the role, and if you had already done it, people would have seen Green Lantern. You don’t need to divorce yourself from an under-performing individual film (like Incredible Hulk) if it’s salvageable (unlike Hulk). This is so obvious I can't believe no one ever thought of it - OH WAIT we did!

Zooey Deschanel as Zatanna


Neil Patrick Harris as Flash. He’s charming and has great comedic timing. He has nerd street cred because of Dr Horrible, mass appeal because of HIMYM, and stoner appeal because of Harold and Kumar. And oh yeah he’s already done Flash.

Morena Baccarin for Wonder Woman. Obviously it would be great to see her and Fillion on screen together again, she can do tough and sexy equally well, and she would add some much-needed (ahem) color to the line-up. Wonder Woman is supposed to be Mediterranean anyway, so a Brasillian is technically a better fit than a white lady. 

Terry O'Quinn as anybody. He's bald, so people would like him as Lex, but he could play just about any villain well. 

 Just don't tell him what he can't do

Like I say about the Arrested Development movie, I’ll believe that there’s a Justice League movie when I see it. I really think Marvel just has too much of a head start. But DC/WB has some huge advantages, and can make a successful Justice League movie … unless they screw it up. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How DC Can Get Its Groove Back, Part 1

So last week it was revealed that, as part of the build-up to Avengers 2, Marvel will produce a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, bringing the franchise into the cosmos and establishing Thanos as a baddie in his own right. This is unprecedented. GotG was always a third- or fourth-tier property that no one ever imagined could be its own film because no one ever cared that much. (Except maybe Jim Valentino.)

Also in the works Marvel currently has Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, and maybe movies about SHIELD, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange. There are so many in the pipeline that all the Marvel Studios movies so far are just called “Phase 1.”

Note that this is in contrast to Warner Brothers/DC, which only recently announced plans to maybe try to develop a Justice League movie.

With the disappointment of Green Lantern and Superman Returns (as well as the failure of the Wonder Woman pilot), DC does not currently have the momentum to pull this off. Dark Knight Rises will be successful (though less so than Dark Knight, critically and commercially, and probably Avengers too), after which point the Caped Crusader will be subjected to a reboot everyone will roll their eyes at. Other recent DC films have sputtered (The Spirit, Jonah Hex), so the organization is really going to have to stretch to succeed with the Justice League – or ANY movie for that point.

Take that, Brandon Routh!

But they could – DC has a few advantages that Marvel doesn’t, which they could leverage into box office gold, namely: 

#1 Better known title characters. DC’s big three – Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman – don’t need introductions. They’ve each been around for 75 years.

#2 Experienced cross-over talent. Historically moreso than Marvel, DC has had access to creators who are experienced in adapting comics to other media. Foremost is of course Christopher Nolan, who has already been tapped to provide elder statesman-esqueguidance to Superman and other adaptations.

Other qualified creators DC could marshal include Neil Gaiman (who is also popular with women!) and Bruce Timm (overlord of The DC Animated Universe for 20 years). DC can also win nostalgia points in films with cameos from Adam West, Lynda Carter, and anyone from the Superman movies.

Millions of Family Guy fans can't be wrong ... 
well they are, but not about this guy

#3 A better library of stories. While Marvel has a higher RBI, DC is better at grand slams. You can adapt pre-existing, popular source material into films rather than needing to synthesize original stories. The DC Animated Universe is already doing this extremely well.

There are so many iconic Batman stories that you can have a list of his top 25 and still see a lot that are missing – you can’t really do that with any Marvel property, even the X-Men.

Literally the only thing that could be cooler than an Infinity Gauntlet movie

#4 Ability to leverage properties from other comics. Warner Brothers already did this with 300 (Dark Horse) and could do the same with other successful comics from DH or Image. The success of The Walking Dead shows that secondary publishers can have mass appeal. The fact that no one has tried to make an Invincible movie is surprising.

#5 Warner Brothers owns all its properties. Fox has the film rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four; Sony has Spider-man. Warner Brothers owns all the DC characters, so they can pick and choose whichever they want.

This great article on Screenrant outlines which movie studios own the rights to which Marvel characters. Sadly, Marvel can’t even say “adamantium” to describe Cap’s shield because the X-Men franchise got there first. These other production studios (Fox, Sony) are contractually obliged to keep producing new films or sacrifice the rights (X-Men, Spider-Man), which would then shift back to Marvel … this is why we’re subjected to sub-par remakes trotted out with little grace or artistry (First Class, Amazing), kind of out of greed but mostly out of spite.

Because of course Marvel would hate to put Spider-Man and Wolverine on screen in Avengers 2.

 So hope is not lost for DC. But if it wants to successfully pull off a Justice League movie, it needs to leverage those advantages successfully, which we’ll look at tomorrow.


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