At least one attempt by Warner Bros. to bring DC Comics' Justice League to the big screen has fallen apart, and the rumored addition of Ben Affleck to the project has ended up being denied by his people. Is it time to admit defeat on the idea of a JL movie?
It's not just that the project's past history - Remember George Miller's plans to have Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash? - has either illustrated the pitfalls of a project with quite so many moving parts or proven that the very idea of a Justice League movie is apparently cursed; the incredible success of Marvel's The Avengers has set the bar for this kind of superhero team movie so high in terms of both box office and, simply, quality of execution, that the idea of making a JL movie that isn't as good as Whedon's effort - or doesn't do as well financially, and let's be honest, how likely is that? - opens Warners up to all kinds of accusations of copycat behavior or trying to steal Marvel's thunder, neither or which the studio would want.
And, let's face it; DC is already having trouble with its movies. Yes, Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy did wonderfully and was well-loved, but Green Lantern has already turned into one of those films about which we at best smile politely and try to change the subject whenever it's mentioned, and we have no idea whether or not Zack Snyder will be able to pull off a Superman movie that will make a whole new generation believe a man could fly. It'd be nice to see DC Entertainment prove that it could successfully walk when it comes to making superhero movies in this day and age, before it tries to run… or fly, or use its power ring to get to whatever it's going, and so on.
So, should Warners just drop the idea of a Justice League movie altogether? Well… yes and no. I'd argue that making a movie called Justice League in the current climate would be a bad idea, to be brutally honest. It's so loaded a title (and so corny a title, too, let's be honest); it invites comparisons to Avengers, and raises expectations and speculation to a truly uncomfortable level just by its very existence - See the furore that surrounded the Ben Affleck story earlier this week - making it an astonishingly visible project at such an early stage. When you consider the importance of the movie to the studio as a franchise and tentpole of the entire DC Entertainment line, it seems too much like asking for trouble, to be honest, to announce that a Justice League movie is on its way.
Instead, I'd want to see Warner Bros. be smart, and sneak a Justice League movie into production. Instead of making an official JL movie, for example, imagine the studio manages to resuscitate the Green Lantern franchise and makes a Green Lantern 2 that expands the Sinestro-as-villain storyline, and sets up a third movie based on the Sinestro Corps War storyline from the comics… And then, the third movie centers around a bunch of aliens invading Earth… and just happens to introduce a group of new characters appearing with spectacular powers to fight them. You don't have to call them the Justice League, or even have them deciding to team up on an ongoing basis; merely introduce your future Leaguers in the background, show them working together as a team, and essentially make a stealth JL movie to see how the audience reacts.
(If the aliens invading thing is to close to the Avengers movie, then have the third movie skip directly to the Blackest Night storyline as the worldwide disaster that brings the other heroes out of hiding; there hasn't been a superhero zombie movie yet, right?)
The central idea of bringing the Justice League to the big screen isn't a bad one - I just worry that trying to do so in a movie called Justice League is proving to be so troublesome that just deciding to try it from another direction might really be the way to go.