New Justice League 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.
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-publicised 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 post-production and two months of reshoots. 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 behaviour 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 apologise 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 (Wonder Woman) has reportedly insisted Ratner have no connection with any future Wonder Woman film.
“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.” Warner Bros. and DC are hoping that the finished Justice League, which opens in the UAE this Thursday, 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 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.
“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.”
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.”
Teaming-up to save the world: Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ezra Miller (Flash), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Ben Affleck (Batman), Ray Fisher (Cyborg) and Henry Cavill (Superman)