1. They Might As Well Call It Justice League: I’m So Sorry I Hurt You, Baby! Please Take Me Back!
If at first you succeed and then fail try to convince the world to remember the good times.
That’s the new m.o. for certain film franchises. Did you make a bad sequel (or two or three)? Screw it. Just pretend those never happened, and you’ll be surprised how much audiences will go along with that. Last year, Vulture dubbed it the “summer of tentpole amnesia,” pointing to Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys and The Force Awakens, among others, as “movie mulligans,” the equivalent of producers shouting, “Do-over!” and creating new narratives with rather selective memories. Earlier this year, THR called it the age of the “requel,” a made-up word used to describe “a movie that’s both a reboot and a sequel, blending old with new in an effort to extend the life of a franchise and, in the best cases, reinvent it for a ‘universe’ of follow-up movies.”
Neither of those terms describe Justice League, which is currently a month into its filming schedule, staring down the barrel of a November 17, 2017 release date. It’s not a movie mulligan nor is it a requel. Instead, it is a direct sequel to BvS, but it oddly has the feel of a movie mulligan. Plot-wise, they can’t quite shout “Do-over!” or time-travel BvS out of continuity like Days of Futures Past did to The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine. However, the tone being struck in the many set reports flowing through the geekosphere today is that everyone making Justice League has reached the same conclusion: “We know people were disappointed and we want to do better.”
It’s not quite “if at first you succeed and then fail try to convince the world to remember the good times” because there were precious few good times in either Man of Steel or BvS. This time, it’s more like we’re all the long-suffering spouse to a partner who’s begging us to take them back because they’ve really changed this time. Look, they’re even seeking outside help. In this case, that comes in the form of Ben Affleck and Geoff Johns being granted more behind the scenes power and essentially acting as quality control agents looking over Zack Snyder’s shoulder on the Justice League set.
2. If Ezra Miller Isn’t Funny As Barry Allen They’re Pretty Screwed
There’s honestly not much else to go on here. The reporters who visited the set were all shown a finished scene of Bruce Wayne recruiting Barry Allen to the Justice League, and then they witnessed the filming of a scene in which the Justice League (sans Superman, obviously) come together for the first time on the Gotham City Police Department rooftop alongside J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon. They also briefly interviewed Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder and various crew members, and toured several of the sets. That’s it.
However, WB’s publicity department knew exactly what they were doing inviting them to the set this early. They wanted them to see how funny Ezra Miller supposedly is as Barry Allen so that they could then tell the world, “Hey, this movie actually has jokes.” Several have described the tone as being almost Marvel-like.
The fact that much of this newfound humor will stem from Miller’s version of the Scarlet Speedster is not uncommon. Either in the comics or in the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited cartoons. Barry Allen is frequently positioned as the entirely well-intentioned, honest and pure person at the heart of the League, the glue keeping them together. The rest of the League just isn’t always aware of this because Allen cracks so many jokes.
At the very least, that last part is going to factor quite significantly into Justice League, but it’s remarkably tricky to have a quipping hero. If done wrong, you end up with Andrew Garfield’s divisive version of Spider-Man; when done right, you have Tom Holland’s universally adored version of Spider-Man in Civil War. In fact, the Civil War comparison is quite appropriate because the finished Justice League scene shown to reporters is essentially WB’s version of Tony Stark recruiting Peter Parker except here it’s Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen.
The scene opens with Ezra Miller as Barry Allen entering his dingy, yet decked out with high-tech electronics, apartment. Barry turns on the light and Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is sitting in a chair. Bruce has a printout of that scene of Barry at the grocery store we see in BvS and wants an explanation. Barry insists it’s not him, but instead it’s “a nice looking Jewish boy who looks a lot like him.”
Bruce then notices a Flash costume being built on a mannequin. Bruce asks Barry about the costume. Barry tells Bruce he’s a competitive ice dancer. Bruce then points out that the material used to make the suit is the same material NASA uses to prevent burn up during reentry. Barry quips, “Very competitive ice dancing.”
Bruce, having enough of this nonsense, hurls a batarang at Barry. Then the action hits slow motion, other than Barry. (It’s similar to the effect we see with Quicksilver in the last two X-Men movies.) Barry easily moves out of the way of the batarang, then grabs it out of the air, then asks Bruce, “You’re the Batman?”
The big laugh happens when Bruce starts his pitch for Barry to join his new team. He barely gets through telling Barry that he has reason to believe there will soon be an alien invasion before Barry says, “Stop right there, I’m in.” Bruce looks surprised it was that easy and Barry says, “I need friends,” before asking Bruce if he could keep the batarang.
The scene they witnessed being filmed ended with a similar Barry Allen one-liner. Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg leave Gordon on the Gotham rooftop in mid-sentence. When he turns around Allen is the only one remaining, quick to joke, “Wow, they just left like that, didn’t they? That’s rude.”
Honestly, on paper I don’t think any of these jokes sound particularly funny, or unfunny for that matter. Instead, they sound rather dependent on crisp comic timing and memorable line deliveries, although I suppose that’s true of many scripted jokes. Miller is hilarious in Perks of Being a Wallflower, and likely has the chops to pull of these jokes. If not, though, they could be pretty screwed because it seems like so much of Justice League‘s levity will depend on him. As far as cinematic speedsters go, they desperately need him to be more Evan Peters Quicksilver than Aaron Taylor-Johnson Quicksilver.
3. Flash’s Costume Won’t Be For Everyone
It’s not going to help that The Flash’s costume is going to look supremely weird, unlike anything we’ve seen from the TV show. As per Uproxx:
As a lifelong fan of The Flash, it took me some time to wrap my head around it. It’s not anything like what we see in that “dream sequence,” or whatever that was in BvS, but it also looks nothing like what we’ve seen before — but it’s still very much The Flash. It kind of looks like a sleek Iron Man suit, with individual crimson red metallic parts (148 of them, to be accurate) form-fitting to the body. From the side, the top of the cowl kind of looks like a bicycle helmet. We got an up-close look at the suit during the tour and it’s pretty nuts. It has these weird wires wrapping around the whole suit, which we were later told were electrical coils to trap the electricity The Flash produces when he runs at high speeds. So, there’s that.
Let’s not give into any comic book nerd nitpicking or “That’s not my version of The Flash,” but instead explore the more pertinent question: does this costume at least sound like it will look good on-screen? We’ll have to wait until Comic-Con to find out, where they are expected to play this scene for Hall H fanatics. As a reminder, we already glimpsed at least some version of Flash’s costume over Zack Snyder and Jason Mamoa’s shoulder in this picture:
4. Affleck’s not committing to a solo Batman until the script is ready, and Zack Snyder’s not necessarily directing the second Justice League movie
WB is clearly trying to fast-track a solo Batman movie to be written and directed by its star, but Affleck is having none of that. He’s done the paycheck gig before. In fact, he did the movie Paycheck. According to him, a solo Batman flick isn’t happening until he’s happy with the script:
“I think they have a date for it, but honestly I don’t know if I’d be able to make that date because I don’t have a script that’s ready yet. My timetable is I’m not going to make a movie until there’s a script I think is good. I’ve been on the end of things when you make movies with a script that’s not good and it doesn’t pan out … I have a script, we’re still working on it. And I’m not happy enough with it yet to actually go out there and make a Batman movie – which has to have the highest standard. It would have to pass a very high bar for me.”
Zack Snyder, on the other hand, is possibly a man running out of options. When asked if he will still direct the second Justice League movie, as has been the plan for literally years now, he would simply say, “We still have a release date … [Justice League] doesn’t end and you’re like, ‘Well, that’s the DC Universe.’”
5. Damage Control
There are loads of other plot spoiler-y tidbits to be gleaned from the set reports. We can look forward to several new Bat-themed vehicles, one of which tunnels underground and has a separate gunner’s chamber for Alfred (imagine the Michael Caine version doing that). This will come in handy because there will be an underground tunnel fight scene between Batman and those flying demons we glimpsed in BvS‘s so-called Knightmare sequence. Superman will definitely be back, but they don’t want to spoil the specifics (nor should they). The villain has yet to be cast. Willem Defoe’s character will somehow factor into the Atlantis section of the story.
However, I’m more inclined to step back from it all and marvel at the existence of these set reports in the first place. I cannot remember the last time a movie of this magnitude not only invited reporters to visit the set this early in production but also did not place any kind of blackout restrictions on when they could publish their reports. Usually these kinds of set visits occur, are written up and then the editors sit on them for months until the studio allows them to move ahead with publication during a time which is more advantageous for publicity purposes. Not in this case. These reporters were literally on set four days ago.
The message seems remarkably transparent: this is straight-up damage control. BvS stunk, and WB knows that now. They want to take back control of the news cycle (i.e., so many rumors of behind the scenes turmoil), and start building up positive buzz leading into Comic-Con, BvS’s home video release and Suicide Squad. That way, they might essentially get their “Do-over!” on this wobbly cinematic universe they’ve started. So, they opened up their doors to reporters and walked them through a very controlled atmosphere with a very consistent message from all the principle parties: We’re sorry. This time will be better.
Cool, but, dude, this movie’s almost 18 months away. You’re only a month into filming it. Let’s talk more about Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman because those will be fresher in our minds than BvS by the time we actually see (or choose not to see) Justice League.