At last week's set visit for Warner Bros. "Justice League" film, one prevailing sentiment was relayed repeatedly to the gathered press -- despite sharing a director (Zack Snyder), a writer (Chris Terrio) and much of the same cast, this movie will not be as dark as this year's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
While "Batman v Superman" was far from a financial disaster -- the DC Comics-based film, the second in a shared continuity which started with 2013's "Man of Steel," grossed $872.7 million worldwide in its box office run -- it has been viewed as a disappointment for falling short of a billion, a number Disney's Marvel Studios has reached four times as of this spring's "Captain America: Civil War." The movie also received a vocally mixed reaction from fans, and largely negative reviews from critics, inspiring the "Sad Affleck" meme. Center to that criticism was the notion that the film, the first live-action meeting between the two most iconic superheroes in history, was simply too dark and grim for its own good, with scenes including Batman branding criminals and Jimmy Olsen being executed by terrorists.
"I think the main thing we learned is that people don't like to see their heroes deconstructed," "Batman v Superman" and "Justice League" producer Deborah Snyder told reporters, including CBR News, during the press visit to the London set. "I think that's hard, because it's people we've grown up with and we care about. They like seeing them in all their glory."
As further proof that "Justice League" appears to be aimed in a relatively brighter direction, the set visit culminated in "Man of Steel," "BvS" and "Justice League" director Zack Snyder showing an early cut of a clip where Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) meet for the first time. The scene is witty, warm and contains genuine laughs, all things in deliberately short supply in previous DC Films productions.
"When I saw the scene, I was like, 'Oh, God, this is fun,'" Zack Snyder told reporters. "This is an interesting way of understanding how the movies have gone in a progression. By no means is this the whole movie. There are parts of the movie, of course, where they're facing enemies and they have to get their stuff together. Look at the Batmobile, for God's sake. You know, they're going to be drawn into conflict. I'm a fan of 'Magnificent Seven' and team-making movies. So it's fun for me to finally get to this point now in the progression of these three movies where we are building a team and making the Justice League."
Miller himself appears to be a major driving force in the change of tone between films. The Flash, as a character, often represents the spirit of fun and adventure of classic DC Comics -- as seen both in print and the current "The Flash" TV series on The CW -- and based on limited time spent observing him in action on set, it looks like the 23-year-old Miller has captured that with a clear sense of youthful energy.
"'Justice League' is much more inclusive [than 'Batman v Superman,']" Deborah Snyder told reporters, differentiating the currently-in-production film from "BvS," which received an R-rating for its "Ultimate Edition" home release. "It's all about the characters, too. We have these two very young characters, Flash and Cyborg. And you know, they're definitely lighter. I think they're going to appeal to a younger audience."
This shift in attitude is represented outwardly in Affleck's Batman, who in "BvS" was portrayed as a hardened vigilante. As stated in the "Justice League" logline, he's had his "faith in humanity restored," prompting him to gather the titular team of superpowered heroes.
"This is now not a guy at the end of his rope but kind of a guy at the beginning," Affleck told reporters. "Starting over, reborn and believing. Finding hope. The thing that he's hopeful for, he's holding onto desperately. And he really believes in this idea of forming this group."
Though it appears certain "Justice League" will be a notably different film than "Batman v Superman," it's also evident that it won't simply be lighthearted fare -- as Zack Snyder himself pointed out, the film's Batmobile is even more heavily armed than in "BvS," as the team faces the otherworldly threat of Steppenwolf. Additionally, the filmmakers are quick to state that while the reaction to "Batman v Superman" did have an effect, this was the direction they were headed in already.
"I think it's all a creative process and you're always changing and evolving as you go," Deborah Snyder told CBR News. "We've been working on the script, we're aware of things. I know we wanted to always make this film to bring up these characters. So obviously I think it's affected the process in some way, but it was also kind of where we were headed."
"Where we were headed" appears to be a place closer to the comic book source material, something mentioned by both Deborah Snyder and Zack Snyder.
"This is a movie about coming together," Deborah Snyder said. "It's a movie about building them up. So this is really an arc that we started. We have to go somewhere. You have to start from somewhere to really get to that point. But I think we're gonna see all the heroes in a way that people know them from the comic books."
For Zack Snyder's part, he cited similar motivations specifically influencing the decision to kill Superman (Henry Cavill) in the climax of "BvS." Though it's hardly a secret that the character will return in "Justice League," it's currently unknown as to exactly how that will happen.
"I wanted to get to a Superman that had a reason to be Superman, a reason to feel the way he felt about humanity, that we all understand from the comic books," Zack Snyder told reporters. "As far as a moral compass goes, he's pretty much the thing. But I feel like he had to go through something to be that."
"Justice League" is scheduled for release on Nov. 17, 2017. Keep reading CBR for much more from the "Justice League" set visit.