As the DC Universe’s premiere superhero team, the Justice League regularly confronts apocalyptic threats. But here’s a challenge that might prove difficult even for a squad that consists of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg: righting moviegoer interest in the DC Cinematic Universe after the lukewarm reception that greeted Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Released in March, that massively budgeted blockbuster earned a tidy sum, but also endured withering reviews and mixed audience response.
Much of the blame for the movie’s less-than-triumphant run was laid at the feet of director Zack Snyder and his Dark Knight Returns-driven dark vision, leading some to speculate he’d be replaced at the helm of the DCU’s next phase, a two-part Justice League feature. But Snyder is still very much in the picture (although under the watchful eye of DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns), and Warner Bros. recently flew a group of journalists to Justice League’s London set to see what the director has been up to since filming started in April. Based on the reports that have filtered back across the pond, here’s a round-up of what you can expect — hint: more humor and less mass destruction — when the film opens on Nov. 17, 2017.
Justice League concept art (DC/Warner Bros.)
Dawn of Justice set a number of storylines in motion for future DC movies. But one key piece of Justice League intel was saved for a deleted scene that premiered on YouTube the Monday after the film’s record-setting opening weekend. In the short, but significant clip, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is seen communing with a giant alien before said extraterrestrial teleports away via the use of a device known as a Mother Box. That visitor is Steppenwolf, an otherworldly warrior affiliated with the galactic despot Darkseid.
Steppenwolf in deleted ‘Batman v Superman’ scene (DC/Warner Bros.)
And according to Birth.Movies.Death, his brief visit has major ramifications for the narrative arc of Justice League. As the site reports, we learn early on in the new film that there are three Mother Boxes currently located on Earth, which have the power to transport individuals to the farthest reaches of the galaxy by opening “Boom Tubes.” Presumably acting on Darkseid’s orders, Steppenwolf is seeking to recover this trio of Mother Boxes, one of which resides with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and her fellow Amazonians, another with the underwater residents of Atlantis and their champion, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the last with S.T.A.R. Labs, where the final new Justice Leaguer, Cyborg (Ray Fisher), is “born.” Thanks to his Apokoliptic dream, Batman (Ben Affleck) has a premonition of this coming threat and moves to “unite the seven”…or, for now, the three. Actually, make that four since, to the surprise of no one, Superman (Henry Cavill) is definitely coming back from the dead, although the exact manner of his resurrection has yet to be disclosed.
BMD goes on to say that Batman’s League-gathering technology includes a new jet called the Flying Fox, as well as the Nightcrawler, an all-terrain vehicle that replaces wheels with four spider-like legs. Wait a minute…a giant spider in a DC movie? Is Jon Peters a producer on Justice League or something?
Get Ready to Laugh…Seriously
Slashfilm was front and center watching a Justice League sequence being shot. The biggest surprise? Batman actually cracks a joke! In the sequence, the Dark Knight is in the middle of a rooftop confab with Gotham’s top cop, James Gordon (newly muscular J.K. Simmons), as well as Wonder Woman and the Flash (Ezra Miller). “How many of you are there,” Gordon asks. “Not enough,” Batman replies, with uncharacteristically dark wit. Later on in the same scene, the Caped Crusader drops a “flying monkeys” reference when describing the Parademons, the winged warriors he saw in his vision.
This lighter, though not necessarily gentler, Batman is indicative of Justice League’s overall warmer tone. Speaking with reporters, Snyder says that he made a conscious choice to move away from his “hardcore take” on DC’s superheroes for something a little more “larger-than-life, big [and] fun.”
We Need to Talk About Ezra
As I09 reports, a key ingredient of Justice League’s sense of fun will be Ezra Miller, the 23-year-old actor who will become the first actor to play DC’s Scarlet Speedster on the big screen. (Grant Gustin currently wears the Flash’s signature scarlet garb on The CW’s popular TV series.) After observing the filming of the aforementioned rooftop scene, journalists were shown a previously shot sequence where Bruce Wayne pays a visit to the Flash’s alter ego, Barry Allen. Their encounter sounds more than a little reminiscent of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) recruiting Peter Parker (Tom Holland) to fight on #TeamIronMan in Captain America: Civil War, with the younger hero acting all snarky in the face of a more experienced crimefighter.
Concept art of Ezra Miller’s Flash (DC/Warner Bros.)
“My special skills include viola, web design [and] I do competitive ice dancing” Miller’s Barry jokes to Bruce, forcing Wayne to get a real look at his powers by hurling one of his super-sharp bat-shaped throwing stars directly at him. “You’re the Batman?” Barry responds, suddenly impressed. I09 describes Miller as being “utterly charming” throughout the scene, and apparently his costume makes a big impression, too. Made to resemble shattered glass, the suit will generate digitally rendered electricity whenever Barry races off with light barrier-breaking speed.
You Can’t Spell Cyborg Without “CG”
The assembled journalists couldn’t help but note that while all of the other Justice Leaguers were dressed up in elaborate costumes, Ray Fisher was able to keep it casual, dressing in a pair of pajamas in order to play Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg. According to Collider’s comprehensive list of 60-plus things learned from the Justice League set, that’s because Cyborg will be a purely computer-generated character from the neck down.
Cyborg concept art (DC/Warner Bros.)
The exact look of his robot body has yet to be designed, but it will feature, among other things, a “gun arm” and a “battle mode” that can cause the suit to enlarge to combat various foes. Those elements are derived from the mysterious Mother Box technology, which his father, Silas (Joe Morton, who was briefly glimpsed in Dawn of Justice), used to repair his son’s body after a horrific accident.
Aquaman Isn’t a Great Team Player
Snyder had earlier described the film as akin to a superhero version of Akira Kurosawa’s classic The Seven Samurai, and Affleck told reporters that Batman will struggle to assemble his team. Aquaman is a particularly tough convert; as Affleck told reporters, per Mashable, that the King of Seven Seas is “a very strong character played by a very strong actor with a very strong personality.”
Concept art of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman (DC/Warner Bros.)
Speaking of the Atlantean monarch, Mashable also reports that Willem Dafoe, whose role had not been disclosed previously, will be playing Nuidis Vulko, one of the undersea kingdom’s greatest scientific minds and a key adviser to Aquaman.
Will the Justice League Reassemble?
When Warner Bros. originally announced its ambitious DCU slate, the lineup called for a two-part Justice League adventure with Part 1 opening in November 2017 and Part 2 in June 2019. But Vulture suggests that the currently shooting film might be a one-and-done affair. “We were only ever planning and we are only doing Justice League,” Deborah Snyder — Zach Snyder’s wife and producing partner — emphasized to the assembled journalists. “Just Justice League. One movie.” But in a follow-up tweet, Birth.Movies.Death reporter, Devin Faraci, cautioned against erasing Part 2 from the DCU timeline, pointing out that a second Justice League is still on the studio’s schedule. And Vulture’s report quotes Snyder himself as saying “I think we still have a release date,” in response to questions about a follow-up film.
Early design for the Justice League (DC/Warner Bros.)
Obviously, a lot can happen between now and 2019, but there are two potential explanations for the future (or lack thereof) of Justice League Part 2. The first is that DC is taking a page out of Marvel’s book by abandoning the whole Part 1/Part 2 numbering system in the wake of disappointments like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. In the run-up to Civil War’s release, the Russo brothers made it clear that the previously announced two-part Avengers: Infinity War extravaganza would be re-titled, so that each individual movie would stand on its own. The other possibility is that another director would be hired to oversee the Justice League’s sophomore adventure if Snyder’s vision fails to satisfy audiences again. Maybe the subtitle for Justice League should be Twilight of the Snyder?