Editorial: How DC Can Pull Off A Justice League Movie That Can Compete With The Avengers

With the release of the highly successful Marvel team up film The Avengers just last month, and release of Christopher Nolan's last Batman film The Dark Knight Rises rapidly approaching, I figured now is as good a time as ever to share my thoughts on Warner Brother's planned Justice League film. With Marvel now proving that a team up film and shared universe is a formula for success, there's no doubt that WB will take a few pointers from their strategy. But the real questions is how will they pull it off without being too similar to The Avengers? I've put together my own thoughts on how WB and DC should approach their own cinematic universe below.

Step 1-Establish The Big Two:
In order to have a successful Justice League movie Warner Bros. first has to make sure the team's two prominent leaders are well established, Superman and Batman. For starts Warner Bros. has been going through some trouble with their Superman franchise, originally trying to continue Christopher Reeve's series with Brandon Routh (Which I personally didn't hate, but also wouldn't say was the best way to bring Superman back to the big screen). Now while I think Superman Returns could've just had a sequel and everything would've worked out, Man of Steel seems to be the movie Superman deserves. Henry Cavill was actually my choice to play Superman in the film, and I really liked Zack Snyder's work on 300 and Watchmen (Sucker Punch not so much), so I think he has the comic adaption down. As for the recent Comic Con trailer, let me just say I'm amazed, and it seems to be everything I've wanted from a Superman movie. If Man of Steel proves to be as good as I think it'll be then we would have ourselves a great root for the Justice League movie, and an excellent actor to lead them.
As for Batman, things would be just fine with the huge success of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's brilliant Batman trilogy, but unfortunately neither Bale or Nolan will be returning after The Dark Knight Rises. This would leave Warner Bros. with no Batman background for a Justice League film. Now my prediction of what Nolan is/should be doing for Warner Bros. is the following. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in The Dark Knight Rises is supposedly a police rookie named John Blake. Now many people believe John Blake to actually be Dick Grayson, a.k.a Robin or more around Levitt's age Nightwing. Now while that would be pretty awesome, Nolan has stated numerous times that he will not be including Robin into his films because it really doesn't fit the realistic tone of his series (Which I would definitely agree with).
Now my prediction is John Blake, while not wearing a costume or anything, will serve as a sidekick of sorts for Batman and teaming up with him to stop Bane. Basically helping him out as much as a powerless police officer can, and growing a close relationship to him. Now many rumors have pointed to the conclusion that this may be the end of Bale's Batman period, now whether that mean he dies or just vacates the mantle is yet to be revealed. Now what I believe is that like Dick Grayson recently took up the mantle of Batman after Bruce Wayne's death, John Blake could possibly do the same. You could think of it as a sort of gift from Nolan to Warner Bros., setting them up with a new Batman for the JL film, who is also much closer to Cavill's age. There is also always the option of a Batman reboot, taking a more Arkham Asylum type of approach to the story, with David Fincher (The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) or Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Mist) directing, and Michael Fassbender (Prometheus), James Cavaziel (Person of Interest), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), or Sam Witwer (Being Human) starring in the lead role.
While this isn't a post about the Batman reboot, it's currently a big issue considering the fact that Christopher Nolan's trilogy comes to a conclusion this weekend. As a very big Nolan fan myself, it's going to be very hard to get used to a new Batman, especially after the previous films were done so perfectly, and were so well told and casted. While there's a lot for Batman fans to worry about such as how could the reboot surpass, or even meet the same level as the Nolan series, and how could they completely start from scratch just a few years after the popular trilogy.
Well I think it's better to think about the positives this reboot could bring, such as seeing some characters that never managed to make into Nolan's films. There are many interesting Batman rogues that haven't been touched on film yet, such as Killer Croc, Deadshot, Black Mask, Hush, and Hugo Strange. There's also the Riddler, who many fans were hoping to see in The Dark Knight Rises, and villains who really didn't get a fair shot on screen such as Mr. Freeze. If done well, and casted well the film could be a success, and separate itself from the Nolan films, just like Nolan himself did when making Batman Begins.
Now the real question is, how would the average movie goer react to a reboot. Well it's a real question of whether movie goers really like Batman, or just Christopher Nolan's Batman, and the answer to that is Nolan has made many people like Batman, and it shows in sale's (Arkham Asylum has no connection to Nolan's trilogy, and it's still a best seller) so if it's Batman and looks good, the fans of Nolan's trilogy should at least be willing to give it a look. As for recasting roles that have already been made iconic in Nolan's trilogy, there's really no reason to go back and use villains we've already seen such as Two-Face, Scarecrow, Carmine Falcone, or now even Bane. Fresh new villains would definitely help the film's success, but there's still recasting and bringing back characters made iconic by the actors playing them in Nolan's trilogy, such as Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, Alfred Pennysworth, and even the Joker.
Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Heath Ledger were all so perfect in those respective roles, the recasting almost seems like an impossible feat. But my suggestion is get iconic actors to replace iconic actors, such as Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Gordon, Denzel Washington as Lucius Fox, and John Hurt or Ian McKellen as Alfred. As for Joker, that's a much harder decision, but you just can't have a Batman series without the Joker. We could even finally see a quality version of Robin and Nightwing on the big screen, possibly even Red Hood in the future. Though it would be a hell of a lot easier if my John Blake theory proved true, and Warner Bros. doesn't have to go through this hassle, but they probably will.
If John Blake is the next Batman, I'd like to see him wear a slightly variated version of Bale's Batman suit

Step 2-Fix What's Already Broken:
There's no arguing about it, Green Lantern was not good, and definitely didn't do the character justice. It would be ridiculous for WB to simply bring in the Hal Jordan of last summer's failure straight into a JL movie. Now I know many people would not approve of the right now undecided Green Lantern 2, and now with the hero's reputation, not too many people would waste they're time seeing it. But there's definitely one way to please the fans for GL 2, and that's by introducing John Stewart as the new Green Lantern. While I'm a fan of Hal Jordan and I think Ryan Reynolds did okay in the role, much more people are John Stewart fans out there, and Stewart is even the one more associated with the Justice League in the first place. With a new director (Might I suggest Source Code and Moon director Duncan Jones) to take Martin Campbell's place, a much better story, better costumes and effects, and much more screen time for Sinestro, Kilowog, Tomar-Re, and space it's self, the film could be a completely fresh start without having to trudge through an entire reboot (See what G.I. Joe Retaliation is trying to attempt). Yes, Ryan Reynolds would return as Green Lantern at first, but with a similar storyline to the comics where Hal Jordan gets possessed by Parallax and John Stewart must take his place to take him down, the film could make the passage from one Lantern to another just as smooth as on the comics. With someone like Kick-Ass's Omari Hardwick in the lead role, you can't go wrong.

Step 3-Solo Movies, But Only For Those Who Need It:
A Flash movie is a must, if anything he deserved a movie before Green Lantern. I think the Flash has one of the coolest story lines of any DC superhero, and a very interesting ensemble of supporting characters (The Flashes, Kid Flash, Max Mercury, Jesse Quick, Impulse, etc.) who are all member's of the 'Speed Force'. The speedster definitely deserves his own film, now whether the Flash should be Wally West or Barry Allen is a debate of it's own. If anything Wally West would still be included only as Kid Flash, which is much more like the comics, and with someone like Dave Franco (21 Jump Street) in the role he could be just as likable and comedic as in the comics. I could definitely see a Brad Bird (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), or even Michel Gondry (Green Hornet) directed Flash movie starring either Zachary Levi, John Krasinski, or much preferably Scott Speedman or Chris Pine. I'm one of those people that isn't really a fan of having a cocky version of The Flash like Bradley Cooper would play, but rather just having the Flash be a funny charismatic guy. I'd want to see Flash square off against Zoom (Possibly played by Ben Foster), be able to time travel, even his rougues gallery (Captain Cold, Heatwave, Trickster, Captain Boomerang, and Mirror Master) with the right actors in the roles, and all the other adventures that make Flash much more than a guy who can run really fast.
Then there's of course Wonder Woman, whose movie has been in development hell forever. Joss Whedon was interested at a time, but the chance of that is long gone. The right way to do a Wonder Woman movie that isn't corny, is to focus much more on the warrior side of Wonder Woman. Most of the movie should take place with the Amazons, and the villain should definitely be Ares. it should be based off of the Wonder Woman animated film from 2009, and include many of the other gods including Zeus and Hades. As long as a good leading actress with the right look is cast, the movie should be a stable set up for the already well known character (See Lynda Carter's TV show). Maybe Thor's Jamie Alexander would be a good choice, or Olivia Wilde, or Taylor Cole. With the Flash and Wonder Woman set up, the main members of Justice League will have been established with solid backgrounds, similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Step 4-What To Do With The Other Guys
I think the line up of the Justice League in the film should really just be Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter, although it would be really cool to see Green Arrow. But unfortunately, Marvel sort of beat Warner Bros. to it with the whole skilled archer thing (See Hawkeye) and Green Arrow, if not done right, would sort of come off as a Hawkeye rip-off. Now to really differentiate them, Green Arrow would really need the back story of how he went from a selfish billionaire to Robin Hood type of figure. Now WB has recently announced their new TV series Arrow, which will star Stephen Ambell and will go through the very back story I just talked about.
Now if the show doesn't work out, I think Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) would make for a perfect Oliver Queen/Green Arrow in a film, but the show would be a much easier and better suited way to introduce the character. So rather than Warner Bros. having to take the risk of yet again making a film of a pretty unknown character, they can use the TV series version of the character as a set up to launch Green Arrow into a Justice League movie. Plus the series has nothing to do with Justin Hartley's version of the character on Smallville (Which came across much more as a Hawkeye knockoff), which would help avoid continuity issues, and a future place in the cinematic universe could be the very reason Warner Bros. is purposely making a new version of the character.
While Green Arrow is a possibility for a Justice League member, both Aquaman and Martian Manhunter aren't just optional, they are musts. Now the real question is whether they deserve their own movie or not. An Aquaman movie has been pretty controversial for a while now, considering the fact that the character comes off a bit corny to some people, and it's a risky film to make. Not only is there the problem of having the character taken seriously, but there's also the expensive budget of making a while underwater Atlantis come to life, and for those Entourage fans out there, I don't think there's a chance of having James Cameron tackle this project.
There's also the similarities to Thor, such as one of the characters signature looks (Long blond hair and a beard), and the story of Orin's evil turned brother Ocean Master (Sound familiar?). While Ocean Master could still be in the film, it would really have to be Black Manta as the villain (Although his back story is a bit, questionable?). With the right actor as Black Manta, the much less campy version of Aqualad currently included on Young Justice (Who just so happens to be Black Manta's son), and Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood, Battleship) as Orin, the movie could be very successful and interesting. But if you really think about it, these people managed to mess up a cool character like Green Lantern, so would you really trust them with Aquaman? Suddenly James Cameron seems like the only option for who can prevent this from being a catastrophe, unless you get Peter Jackson on the line.
As for Martian Manhunter, to me if done right he could be sort of like the Hulk was to The Avengers. What I mean is he's really the one that stands out, and isn't really as well trusted as a lot of the other heroes. While he has an interesting story behind him, I don't really think it would work well enough as a solo film, especially as far as box office and audience numbers go. He would also sort of be the Captain America type of the bunch, feeling out of place coming to a new planet and adjusting, just as Cap did after being frozen for seventy years. With the JL movie sort of being from his perspective (While not actually pushing to far), he could be the underdog of the team that not to many movie goers know, and will hopefully come out of the theater with him being a memorable addition to the otherwise well known superhero team. With someone likable like Dennis Haysbert (The Unit), or Lance Reddick (Fringe) in the role, it could eventually lead into his own film if the JL film helps to expand his fan base.

Step 5-The Director And The Villain
Marvel certainly made one hell of a good choice when they decided on letting Firefly and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon helm their big on screen team up. Now obviously when you hear the question of who could be DC's answer to Joss Whedon, the answer is apparent; Christopher Nolan. Nolan is by far one of the most talented directors in Hollywood now, and a Justice League movie in his hands would give Whedon and The Avengers a run for their money. But unfortunately (And yet very understandable), Nolan has already expressed he's done with Batman, and if he's no letting his Batman anywhere near the Justice League, why would he even direct it? He has numerous times that not only is The Dark Knight Rises officially his last Batman movie, but that he has no plans to direct a Justice League film in the future. He wants to move on from this, which makes sense, he can't stay around adapting DC characters for the rest of his career, and he also isn't the only talented director out there fit for the job. So maybe Nolan won't direct, but now that he's producing Man of Steel, maybe he at least wants to have a part in putting this together, whether it's big or small, Nolan's help would definitely help keep the DC universe organized (Very similar to Kevin Fiege with the MCU), and keep disasters like Green Lantern from ever happening again.
Now then there's always the thought of the second best director involved with DC film right now, and that would be Zack Snyder. Based on the recent trailers and footage for Man of Steel, we can definitely tell Snyder knows what he's doing. So if he does do wonders for the Man of Steel on the big screen, then he'd be WB next best thing to Nolan, especially with Man of Steel not being the only amazing comic book adaption he has on his resume (Watchmen and 300 for example). Now as great as Zack Snyder would be for a Justice League film, and considering he's already made a superhero team film with Watchmen, I really rather him focus on the Man of Steel franchise right now. Just like Chris Nolan kept himself moderately involved with Man of Steel, to focus on wrapping up his Dark Knight franchise, I think Snyder really needs to put in his full energy for an epic Superman trilogy, one that has been a long time waiting. 
This isn't to say Snyder shouldn't be involved at all with the Justice League, but maybe just as a producer similar to one Nolan is doing for Man of Steel. Snyder is already paving the way for an amazing series, choosing astonishing actors for all the roles, and a great Superman foe to start off with, I can't help but draw similarities to what Nolan did with Batman. It would be amazing to see Snyder make Superman just as iconic as Nolan made Batman, and see him choose great villains for the second and third movies (Might I recommend a Braniac and Lex Luthor team up for the second film, and Doomsday for the third), I mean in the end Superman is the real American icon, so it only makes sense that he be iconic.
That being said, Snyder and Nolan are the only two talented directors DC/WB has right now, but that doesn't mean there aren't other people out there who could really match up with them on top. One director I've always thought really belonged at DC was J.J. Abrams, who in the past has expressed interest in making DC films (Superman: Flyby), and has really proven himself with his films the last couple of years. I mean the guy made Lost, Fringe, Super 8, and did I mention he managed to bring Star Trek back to the big screen? If he can bring Star Trek back to the big screen, with it being a full on reboot and all, then he can pull off a JL movie with ease. But for some reason the another great director always comes to mind as well, and that would be Brad Bird, who is well known for making Pixar's The Incredibles, a superhero movie only held back by the fact that it's animated, the highly under-rated (But one of my favorites) Iron Giant, and not to mention he's excellent work this past year on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a major critical and financial hit. Now it just so happens that Brad Bird and J.J. Abrams seem to be the best of pals, and they collaborated on Ghost Protocol. Now I think a team up between the two of them is really the kind of talent that a JL movie needs behind it, and I think the that's an accurate substitute for Nolan and Snyder's absence. The two really know how to adapt from source material, work well with ensemble casts, and most importantly just make damn good movie.
Now as far as the villain goes, that's the real tough part about a Justice League movie. Aliens, aliens, aliens, practically all the JL villains are just that, and aliens are the very villains we just saw in The Avengers with the Chitauri. On top of that the aliens the Justice League fights have always been far less interesting and threatening than The Avengers ones like the Skrulls and the Kree, and some are even down right ridiculous (Starro for example, he's literally a giant star fish). So what I say to DC is don't use aliens, for one thing they are become over used and people are sick of them anyway, and on top of that DC should use what they have that Marvel doesn't to their advantage. What is that you ask? It's pretty clear the DC heroes have a much wider variety of villains to choose from, and on top of that most of them are classic.
Batman has one of the most versatile rogues galleries of any superhero, and almost all his villains are well known, Superman also has a cool ensemble to face off against, and even The Flash has some pretty cool foes (I did say SOME though). Perhaps a team up of each heroes greatest foes, similar to the Legion of Doom, or the Injustice League, from the comics would be a suitable match for the Justice League. A team that consists of Zod, Joker, Zoom, Ares, Sinestro, and Black Manta would be quite awesome to see on screen, and quite a lot more interesting then seeing the fight a giant star fish in my opinion.
Now the biggest problem is that the Justice League's biggest foe has always been Darksied. He's the guy who fans want to see, and he'd be great on the big screen, not to mention it's a lot easier to have one mega villain rather than six foes. But the problem is that The Avengers has mentioned Thanos, and Darksied and Thanos are near identical. Now I know they have very different motivations and back stories, but in the end Thanos was admitted to be originally a direct copy of Darksied, but over the years he's become more interesting a differentiated from him. Now the problem is Marvel really beat DC to the punch, and now Darksied on screen would really just come across as DC's Thanos rip off. So honestly I'm really not sure if there's a way we can even see Darksied as a Justice League villain at all (As much as I really want him to be), which wouldn't be very true to the comics, but would really help make the Justice League a very separate entity from The Avengers.
So what do you think of my ideas for a Justice League film and DC Cinematic Universe? Do you have ideas of your own?