DC Comics looks be­yond Bat­man, Su­per­man

Peace never reigns in the pages of DC Comics. There’s al­ways a world to be sav­ing, a cat­a­clysm to avert. The mak­ing of the DC su­per­hero team-up film “Jus­tice League” was hardly any more tran­quil.

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Made in the wake of the dis­ap­point­ment sur­round­ing its pre­de­ces­sor, “Bat­man v Su­per­man,” and the crit­i­cally-panned “Sui­cide Squad,” “Jus­tice League” was, like a jet­liner given new wings in midair, re­tooled on the fly. Warner Bros. sought to lighten the tone of Zack Sny­der’s grandiose and mus­cle-bound DC uni­verse — a much-pub­li­cized pivot that came just as tragedy was strik­ing.

Sny­der, the “300” film­maker, had over­seen this lat­est series of DC movies start­ing with “Man of Steel,” but he stepped down af­ter “Jus­tice League” had been shot fol­low­ing the death of his daugh­ter.

Joss Whe­don, the “Avengers” di­rec­tor known for snappy di­a­logue who had al­ready been help­ing to punch up the script, was brought in to steer the film through post­pro­duc­tion and two months of reshoots. (He’s cred­ited as co-writer.) Writer Geoff Johns and pro­ducer Jon Berg had al­ready been brought in to brighten “Jus­tice League” and over­haul the wider DC slate with a more op­ti­mistic tone.

But that’s not been all. Ben Af­fleck, who stars as Bat­man, with­drew from di­rect­ing a stand-alone Bat­man film, while also com­bat­ing crit­i­cism over his be­hav­ior with women in the past.

Whe­don, him­self, was called a hyp­ocrite for es­pous­ing fem­i­nist ideals by his ex-wife, Kai Cole. Ja­son Mo­moa had to apol­o­gize for a 2011 joke about rape and “Game of Thrones.”

And just weeks be­fore re­lease, Warner Bros. sev­ered ties with one of the film’s chief fi­nanciers, Brett Rat­ner’s RatPac-Dune com­pany, af­ter sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions were lev­eled against Rat­ner. Gal Gadot, who plays Won­der Woman, has re­port­edly in­sisted Rat­ner have no con­nec­tion with any fu­ture Won­der Woman film.

“Jus­tice League: is the kind of pro­duc­tion that, one sus­pects, its mak­ers will cel­e­brate the re­lease of with a stiff drink.

“I’ve prob­a­bly had a stiff drink along the way,” pro­ducer Charles Roven says, chuck­ling. “It’s been dif­fer­ent in the sense that we’ve had some sad­ness along the happy-joy of mak­ing the movie. But for the most part it’s been an in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Now, Warner Bros. and DC are hop­ing that the fin­ished “Jus­tice League,” which opens Fri­day, doesn’t show any Franken­stein-like scars from its tu­mul­tuous cre­ation.

“The goal is to make sure when you’re watch­ing the movie, it all feels co­he­sive,” says Roven, the vet­eran pro­ducer of “The Dark Knight” tril­ogy.

“That im­print that Joss had, some as­pect of it is go­ing to come out in the di­rec­tion, but the ac­tors are al­ready pretty much down the road on their arcs. Let’s just say 80, 85 per­cent of the movie is what was orig­i­nally shot. There’s only so much you can do with the other 15, 20 per­cent of the movie.”

In in­ter­views, Roven and cast mem­bers pledged their loy­alty to Sny­der and his vi­sion for the fran­chise, one they say in­cor­po­rated a chang­ing tone be­fore Whe­don’s in­volve­ment. (Nei­ther film­maker was made avail­able for in­ter­view. Each has stayed silent pub­licly since Sny­der’s de­par­ture.)

“Zack from the time that I first met with him said, ‘Look, Bat­man makes the DC world dark. The DC world has to be cre­ated as some­thing dark,’” says Ezra Miller, who plays Barry Allen aka the Flash. “He said what’s great now is that the League gets to bring Bat­man out of this dark­ness. That was al­ways Zack’s vi­sion. That was the in­ten­tion from the be­gin­ning.”

The film, Miller says, has “a won­der­ful col­li­sion of tone” that he con­sid­ers “a tes­ta­ment to both the strength of Zack’s vi­sion and the gen­eros­ity of Joss’ com­mit­ment.”

It’s also a turn­ing point in the larger DC cin­e­matic world. “Jus­tice League” finds Af­fleck’s Bruce Wayne, in the wake of Su­per­man’s ap­par­ent death, gath­er­ing to­gether the League to fight a new en­emy. That means push­ing not just Won­der Woman to the fore, but also Miller’s Flash, Mo­moa’s Aqua­man and Ray Fisher’s Cy­borg.

“It was very clear that the tone of the movie was dif­fer­ent than ‘Bat­man v Su­per­man,’” says Gadot. “Henry (Cav­ill), Ben and I had a won­der­ful ad­di­tion with Ezra and Ja­son and Ray (that) just stirred ev­ery­thing up.”

Gadot and “Won­der Woman” are a big rea­son for op­ti­mism in the fran­chise, fol­low­ing its crit­i­cally ac­claimed, zeit­geist-grab­bing $412.6 mil­lion box of­fice suc­cess do­mes­ti­cally. Though the epi­cen­ter of DC Comics has al­ways re­volved around Bat­man and Su­per­man, that’s start­ing to change.

Matt Reeves has taken over the Bat­man movie, but he’s start­ing fresh on the screen­play, mak­ing a re­lease date sev­eral years off. That leaves open the pos­si­bil­ity of fur­ther changes, even po­ten­tially Af­fleck’s cast­ing.

“From ev­ery­thing I know, he’s go­ing to play that Bat­man,” said Roven. “They’re re­tool­ing the script, so I can’t re­ally say any­thing for cer­tain.”

The Su­per­man se­quel “Man of Steel 2” also isn’t com­ing any­time soon, if at all. Roven says there’s no script but “var­i­ous story ideas” are be­ing kicked around.

On the front burner, how­ever, is “Aqua­man,” sched­uled for re­lease in De­cem­ber 2018, a Won­der Woman se­quel due in 2019 (with di­rec­tor Patty Jenk­ins re­turn­ing) and a Cy­borg movie. Whe­don is also prep­ping a Bat­girl movie.

“Jus­tice League,” a team-up movie, will be fol­lowed by solo ef­forts.

“One of the things that’s re­ally im­por­tant to us with all of these DC movies is mak­ing sure that while they make sense, one from the other — be­cause they’re in a cer­tain way linked — we also want to make sure that the au­di­ence is hope­fully ex­cited by the fact that you don’t know ex­actly where you’re go­ing to go.”

“Jus­tice League” cast mem­bers Ja­son Mo­moa, Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot, Ben Af­fleck, Ray Fisher and Henry Cav­ill

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