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With Wonder Woman standing tall as summer’s reigning box office superhero, all eyes now turn to Justice League to keep the DC Extended Universe on a winning streak. Eight years ago, though, excitement circled a very different Justice League feature: Justice League: Mortal, a motion capture-enhanced would-be blockbuster from director George Miller, who had employed that process for sequences from his Oscar-winning 2006 hit, Happy Feet.
Among its cast was comic book superfan Jay Baruchel, who wishes we all could see what we missed when Miller’s Justice League was scrapped after an extensive pre-production process. “It was going to be something special,” the Canadian actor told Yahoo Movies while chatting about his latest film, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, the sequel to the 2011 hockey comedy he’s directed, which opens in theaters and on VOD on Sept. 1.
The script by husband-and-wife team Kieran and Michele Mulroney would have pitted the League against a self-aware robotic army created by Batman himself. (To be fair, the Dark Knight intended them to be good guys, in much the same way that Tony Stark had initially hoped that Ultron would take some of world-saving burden off the Avengers’ shoulders in Avengers: Age of Ultron.) Baruchel’s role was as flesh-and-blood bad guy Maxwell Lord, who would’ve been on the ‘bots side.
Baruchel gets excited describing Mortal‘s “unique” depiction of DC’s big two: the Caped Crusader (Armie Hammer) and the Man of Steel (D.J. Cotrona). “The Superman suit we were going to use is still my favorite that I’ve ever seen,” he raves. “From afar it looked normal, but if you got real close you saw that all of the blue [parts] were covered in super-small Kryptonian writing. It was just gorgeous.”
Hammer’s Batman, on the other hand, had seen better days. “It was a beat-up characterization,” Baruchel remembers. “You saw him bleed, get hurt and get his nose broken. There were pins sticking out of his knee! It was serious and brutal, and kind of what you think it would be with George Miller.”
Both Cotrona and Hammer endured brutal workouts to get into character, Baruchel recalls. “When I got down to [Australia, where the film was being shot], they had already been there for two months and were training like mad men every day,” he says. “They would do weight training one day, and fight training the next. They were going hard, hard, hard.”
Baruchel also added a few more details about Mortal‘s epic throwdown between Superman and Wonder Woman, which he teased during a recent appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. In the sequence, the Amazon warrior (Megan Gale) would have been trading blows with a brainwashed Big Blue Boy Scout. “There was going to be a bad-ass fight in a skyscraper in Metropolis [that spilled] out into the street where they’re throwing parked cars at each other,” Baruchel says with glee. He was equally jazzed about Common‘s version of Green Lantern, which he says might have pleased fans who were left lukewarm by the Emerald Knight Ryan Reynolds eventually played in the 2011 misfire. “It was a much cooler, much less of an a–hole take on Lantern,” Baruchel says.
Although Mortal‘s Wonder Woman/Superman fight was never shot, images of it likely exist as part of the voluminous amount of pre-visualizations and concept art sketched by Miller’s production team. And that material may yet see the light of day: Australian filmmaker Ryan Unicomb hopes to make a documentary about Mortal in the vein of Jodorowsky’s Dune or The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? “The world deserves to see the production design, costumes, and pre-viz,” Baruchel says. “In my 20-plus years of being in movies and TV, it’s still some of the best [concept] art I’ve ever seen.”
While Baruchel — who has written comic books himself and was recently named the COO of Canada’s largest comic publisher, Chapterhouse Publishing — enjoyed his brief time as the adversary of DC’s supreme super-team, the comics character closest to his heart remains Marvel’s gun-toting vigilante, The Punisher. As a fan, he says, he’s repeatedly been let down by attempts to bring Frank Castle to the big screen. “The Thomas Jane one is just ridiculous,” he says of Jonathan Hensleigh’s 2004 film. “I’ve never seen the Punisher in daylight so often!” There’s plenty of darkness, and violence, in Lexi Alexander’s 2008 reboot, Punisher: War Zone, but that film also fell short for Baruchel. “The violence in War Zone is good and close to the comic. But that’s the only thing the movie gets right.”
Because of those past disappointments, he’s taken his time checking out the current screen incarnation of the character, played by Jon Bernthal in Netflix‘s corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After making his well-received debut in the second season of Daredevil, Bernthal’s Punisher is getting his own solo series later this year.
“I haven’t seen Daredevil,” Baruchel admits. “Part of that is happenstance and part of it is that I’m a bit beaten up as a Punisher fan. But I should watch it, because I know the show’s coming. He means the world to me as a character, and I hear [Bernthal] is a good steward and vessel.”
Jay Baruchel on representing Canadian culture:
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