BATMAN ON FILM, 'The Dark Knight Fansite!' Est. 1998.

OPINION

JUSTICE LEAGUE: Later Rather Than Sooner
Author: Cary Ashby
Wednesday August 29, 2007

So WB's planned "Justice League of America" film might be coming a lot sooner than any of us expected, but is this a good thing? Did anybody associated with JLA check WB's summer 2009 schedule when they said they want to be in production as early as February or March?

After all, "Superman: The Man of Steel" originally was expected to be released June 2009. And I'm assuming the BOF community would like to see Christian Bale back as Batman in JUSTICE LEAGUE -- if they even want the Caped Crusader included at all. (I can see it, but more on that later.) Besides, WB has this little project called "The Dark Knight" to finish and get released before the Justice League film.

First, let's go through a JLA checklist: Writers? Yes, but who has heard of them?

Director? Supposedly. The strange part is George Miller was the creative force behind "Babe" and "Happy Feet," but he also oversaw the gritty "Mad Max" movies.

Now if this actor-manipulated CGI is the way WB as one of the rumors suggested, Miller's questionable "Babe" past would play to his recent strengths. But, can the man behind a talking pig and dancing penguins appropriately handle a group of super heroes? Time will tell.

Time frame? That's the biggest problem.

Basically, something's gotta give. It's not a smart business decision for WB to release two films -- featuring the same super hero (Superman) - in the same summer (2009). Just as dumb would be for WB to renege on sequel plans for the world's most recognizable man in tights.

Let's assume Bale is up for the Batman JL role, even though he's said he hasn't been approached about doing it. If that's the case, Bale won't have a lot of time out of the Batsuit anytime soon.

“TDK” principal photography is expected to be wrapped up in Hong Kong, probably about December. That only would give Bale a few months of respite before once again undertaking a physically demanding role while also probably doing press for “TDK.” Soon after “JL,” the actor would start on "Shadow of the Bat," to be released 2011.

IESB's Robert Sanchez was very wise in saying, "Warners should bring a few of the Batman/“TDK” producers on board the “JL” production to keep that (Batman) camp happy." I also wholeheartedly agree it's definitely worth paying Bale a "huge amount of money to keep him for possible future 'JLA' and Batman films."

"Superman Returns" star Brandon Routh might be doing even more double-duty than Bale if “JL” keeps its current schedule -- he has said prep work for "The Man of Steel" should start early next year for a June 2009 release.

Casting? Nothing but fan speculation at this point.

Personally, casting stability means everything, so I firmly believe WB should get Bale and Brandon Routh involved.

Comic book readers can handle stories that don't fit into a character's current continuity or different interpretations, but most audience members will be confused if someone else besides Bale and Routh play The Batman and Superman. People had a hard enough time realizing "Batman Begins" wasn't related to the previous four films, even with a gap of eight years.

So how exactly do you do an ensemble film like “JL?” It's a no-brainer that WB will have to open its checkbook wide and often to pull off a slick looking film with a solid story and dazzling special effects.

A cast with some big names wouldn't hurt -- George Clooney was able to do it in the "Ocean's" trilogy.

We'll assume Bale and Routh are a given. Here's my wish list for the rest of the “JL” roster: Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway or Charisma Carpenter as Wonder Woman (In the case of Jolie, it might be an incident where an actress actually has to gain weight for a role!); Brad Pitt as Green Lantern (He's got the intensity and swagger to play Air Force pilot Hal Jordan -- the "Brangelina" connection is purely coincidental); Woody Harrelson as Green Arrow; Nicole Kidman as Black Canary (Hello, long legs in black fishnet stockings!); Michael Clarke Duncan or Laurence "The Voice" Fishburne as Martian Manhunter; and Liam Neeson as Hawkman. I'd also like Atom, Aquaman The Flash and Zatanna to be included, and if necessary, a computer-generated version of The Elongated Man or Plastic Man, for comic relief.

Here are some possible answers to what some BOF‘ers want to know: How could a "loner Batman" -- as we've seen in Christopher Nolan's films -- be used in JLA?

I envision a cameo or smaller part in which Batman tells Superman "thanks, but no thanks" when Superman offers him membership. The Dark Knight also could serve as an underground source of information, somewhat like the JLA version of Gotham City's Oracle.

Or maybe Batman joins forces with other JLA’ers at the beginning of the movie, only to to decide active involvement in the group doesn't work for him. The bigger payoff would be having Batman's name mentioned throughout the movie - something like a super hero urban legend, painting him to be a non-team player. Then the Caped Crusader shows up near the story's climax to save the JLA's bacon, only to retreat back to Gotham. (This would also keep Bale from being overtaxed if he is cast in “JL“)

For the record, you're fooling yourself if you think WB won't use Batman in “JL.” The bottom line is it's financially necessary for most of, if not all of DC's Big Three (Bats, Supes and Wonder Woman) to be in a “JL” film in some form or fashion. Besides, Bruce Wayne is more of a team player than anyone wants to admit; how else do you explain Alfred Pennyworth and Lucius Fox in "Batman Begins" or Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and Oracle in the comics?

Fans would feel qypped if the “JL” roster only includes lesser-known heroes. Again, it's a bad business decision and fans would protest by not paying to see “JL.”

CARY'S BOTTOM LINE

Ultimately, WB is pushing “JL” too hard, too quickly.

Here's how I see this situation going down: WB should go ahead with "The Man of Steel" for 2009 (since that was the original plan) and give more time to make JLA.

By postponing it AT LEAST one year to 2010, fans will have seen the Batman and Superman sequels by then and would be more pumped to see the pair onscreen together.

There's no doubt “JL” will be a launching pad to generate interest for films featuring other heroes. John Campea, of The Movie Blog, has written that WB "has no desire to make a great Justice League movie.… They just want to make a two-hour commercial for Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman…and all the other DC heroes that most of the general public don't care about."

Again, and I hate to keep shooting a dead horse, but it's matter of making money. It's simply bad for business for WB not to release and develop films about DC characters. (FYI: Shazam!, Jonah Hex, "Supermax" starring Green Arrow and Teen Titans films are in the works.) Both companies must realize the average moviegoer now recognizes more Marvel Comics characters than DC ones, thanks to Marvel striking quickly and (arguably too quickly) often in the comic book film genre.

Actor Ryan Reynolds, whose name has been attached to "The Flash" project for what seems to be years, sounds excited about a “JL” film. "I'd love to see a full-on 'Justice League' movie done, the scope of which is just enormous. I think it's something they can pull off," he said in an Aug 20th MTV interview.

I'm with him -- until at least 2010.

BOF contributor Cary Ashby writes a twice-monthly comic book column for the "Norwalk Reflector." He is the newspaper’s crime reporter. Cary has an extensive collection of Batman comics and has been an avid fan for nearly 30 years. He can be reached via e-mail at cashby@norwalkreflector.com.

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