I finally got around to watching the documentary The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? I know I'm late. The doc explored the failed 1998 Tim Burton film Superman Lives starring Nicholas Cage as Clark Kent. This was supposed to reboot the Superman franchise with a Tim Burton twist, unfortunately it got canned just weeks before production. Eight years later we got Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (2006). After watching the documentary I started thinking what DC's cinematic universe would have looked like if 2006's Superman Returns marked the beginning of their shared universe. Before I get into it I wanna get all you folks caught up, just a bit.
There has been a ton of news coming out as of late about WB’s DC cinematic universe, the DCEU from Deathstroke to Jim Gordon. The most recent was the unveiling of Superman's new look for the upcoming Justice League film, courtesy of Henry Cavil.
Outside of the much anticipated Justice League, DC has a number of projects on their schedule. According to cinemablend.com they have movies slated for the next four years, with Wonder Woman being the next film to hit theaters June 2, 2017.
Even though Ben Affleck's solo Batman movie doesn't have a release date, it hasn't stopped news from rolling in. With Wonder Woman and Justice League set to be released in the same year followed by The Flash and Aquaman in 2018, it looks like the DCEU is really getting the ball rolling. However, when inevitably compared to Marvel’s MCU, the DCEU is like that young unconventional QB trying to make a name for himself. He starts off slow, adjusting to the game, until one day it all clicks and everything just slows down. The aficionados and analyst question his style, but the fans and endorsers love it. Right now WB is getting a feel for the game, trying to be unique. Or maybe the game is beginning to slow down. The newcomers have done well financially despite the unfavorable critic reviews.
Did Marvel Get A Head Start?
The DCEU starter films: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad collectively surpassed $935m (domestic). Why is this important? Well compared to Marvel MCU's first three films: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2, DC has grossed over $100M more, with Disney films making upward of $765m (domestic). Still, DC has a ways to go. Marvel has become a money-making movie monster since their MCU launched five years before the DCEU, raking in a whopping $10b worldwide.
Clearly, from a financial and longevity perspective Marvel owns the cinematic universe. Could some of that success be attributed to the five-year head start? What if WB and DC began their universe building eight years earlier? What if the visions of George Miller, Chris Nolan, Bryan Singer, Martin Campbell, and David Goyer cultivated into one major DC cinematic universe or DCEU (stay with me)? What if Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns was the beginning of the DCEU? I’ll use hindsight and some creativity to answer these questions. Lets take a look at how George Miller’s Justice League of America roster would have looked like in a Chris Nolan world.
Clark Kent / Superman — Brandon Routh
2006’s Superman Returns would be the film that started it all for the DCEU. Brandon Routh — who's currently part of DC on CW’s Legends of Tomorrow as Ray Palmer — was underrated as Superman. The entire Superman Returns film was vastly underrated, and it's a shame that it didn't reap the benefits in the box office. Brandon Routh was excellent in his portrayal as the returning hero who left the world he loved so much in this continuation of Christopher Reeves's Man of Steel. Routh’s ability to play a similar yet different version of Christopher Reeve's Superman made the Man of Steel feel familiar and unique. He brought the same charm and quirkiness that made Reeves’s Clark Kent memorable, but he brought this sort of mysterious element that made him different.
How Could Superman Work In A Chris Nolan Universe?
A Superman sequel would have set the stage for the Justice League film with a Darkseid storyline. It would have been the perfect setup. According to moviephone.com, Bryan Singer had a sequel planned for 2009 titled Man of Steel, which may or may not have featured Darkseid as his enemy. Batman would cameo in this sequel by making his way to Metropolis after battling an unknown being what would later be revealed as a Parademon. Superman would have his hands full with a few of his own until Batman shows up and together they defeat them. Still unbeknownst to the heroes, Darkseid would be the one who sent them to earth.
Bruce Wayne / Batman — Christian Bale
Though Superman Returns would have got the ball rolling, it would be The Dark Knight film Batman Begins that would have sent the DCEU into overdrive. His portrayal of Batman was sensational in Chris Nolan’s adaptation. Christian Bale’s quiet, brooding portrayal of Bruce would make for very interesting and funny dialogue, with Brandon Routh’s bumbling charming good ol’ farm boy Clark Kent.
How Could The Dark Knight Trilogy Work In A Shared Universe?
Of course things wouldn’t be so simple with a few changes: Bale would have already had knowledge and a run-in with Superman. Bruce would be a seasoned vet, like the DCEU’s version. John Blake’s role (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt) would actually be changed to Barbara Gordon, giving way to the existence of Nightwing (Dick Grayson). Following the events of 2009’s Man of Steel Parademon dilemma, Batman would have the idea of teaming with other heroes (you’ll see what I mean with the next hero). Finally (and most importantly) Superman would have rescued Bruce from the exploding plane at the end of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises setting up for a Justice League movie.
Hal Jordan / Green Lantern — Ryan Reynolds
Like Christian Bale and Brandon Routh before him, he had already played the role. I don’t have to defend Reynolds, Deadpool says it all, plus he was really good as Hal Jordan. We can all agree that he’s a pretty dope actor and had the script been better, Green Lantern would have been money. Together with my Barry Allen "Flash" pick, I promise these two would have made for some epic funny moments.
How Would Mark Campbell’s Green Lantern Fit Into Bryan Singer And Chris Nolan’s Universe?
That better script I talked about would have had to adjust to a world that had Batman and Superman, but still made Hal Jordan a man of his own. Using hindsight, Mark Campbell would have collaborated with David Goyer, Chris Nolan along with his writers to adjust and rewrite the script. Imagine after Hal sent Parrallax to the sun and Batman approaching the galactic hero with a proposition. The end credits scene that saw Sinestro place the yellow ring on his finger would have Darkseid being the one who convinced him to do so. These events would easily link all three films together and set up for a Green Lantern sequel Green Lantern Corps.
How The Rest Of George Miller’s Justice League Should Have Looked
Barry Allen / Flash — Chris Pine
Adam Brody was considered for the role in the 2008 JL film, but he doesn’t quite fit the bill, especially considering his resume since then. This is about who would have made this role epic. I was so close to picking Patrick Wilson, but Chris Pine beat him out. Chris Pine was just blowing up in 2008 with a blockbuster mega hit Star Trek. It also helped that he was considered for the Green Lantern role before Ryan Reynolds got the ring. Pine has proven that he’s capable of being funny and charming. His solo movie would have introduced the world after the events of Justice League, much like they are doing now. Like Brandon Routh, he’d eventually join DC playing Steve Trevor, the love interest of Wonder Woman in the upcoming solo film of the same name.
The Flash Was Born To Run With The Justice League
With the success of its predecessors, you’d have to imagine that a Flash solo film would be in the works probably debuting after The Dark Knight Rises. So, 2013 would have been the year of The Flash; after his brief appearance on Arrow ,the thirst for the Scarlet Speedster would have been real. The movie version would have seen Flash taking on the meta-human version of The Rogues one year into his heroism. He’d tie into the Justice League film almost the same way Ezra Miller’s Flash does — with a visit from a hero. While Miller’s youthful eager somewhat desperate version gets a visit from Batman, Chris Pine would get a Hal Jordan visit.
Diana Prince / Wonder Woman — Lynn Collins
I was tempted to plug Adrianne Palicki who actually played Wonder Woman for a brief time. The George Miller choice Megan Gale also crossed my mind, but Lynn Collins was one of my personal favorites. There were some other names that I considered for this DCEU version — Jessica Biel and Angelina Jolie, even Gina Carano, who at the time had already shot Haywire and fit the bill from a looks perspective. Lynn Collins may not get the recognition she deserves as an actress, and unless you’ve seen William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice then you wouldn’t know how underrated she is. In 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine she played Silverfox, a mutant with the ability to hypnotize and persuade anyone. Since she died, she was free from a contract with Fox’s Marvel and perfect to play Princess Diana of Themyscira.
Wonder Woman Would Seamlessly Fit Into This Universe
George Miller’s Justice League movie would have actually started off with a bit of a flashback, seeing the Amazonian Princess and her Themyscira sisters taking on the "The God of Evil." After a somewhat successful battle that sends Darkseid back to Apokolips, the movie picks up in present time. Wonder Woman's battle with Darkseid makes her fierce, wise, and establishes her voice as one the other heroes would have to listen to. After the Justice League movie, she’d get her own solo film.
Arthur Curry / Aquaman — Henry Cavil
I guess I’m just a fan boy, but I think Henry Cavil’s Superman is unique and really good. DC had its eye on Cavil for a while; he was allegedly considered for Batman Returns and his friend Bryan Singer almost cast him as Superman for Superman Returns. In most cases "almost" doesn’t count, except for Cavil landing the role of Atlantis’s favorite son and King of the Seven Seas. Aquaman is a much more serious character a lot like his depiction of the Man of Steele.
The Underwater King Makes His Way To The Surface
Cavil’s Aquaman probably wouldn’t have received a solo movie until 2015ish, but there is one way he could have worked for a Justice League film. The idea is super simple: Use the story arch that has the Parademons attacking the Earth as well as the sea. Have the other JL members (Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern) fending off Darkseid’s hench-demons and Aquaman spring from the sea to help, since he’s been dealing with the same problem.
John Jones / Martian Manhunter — David Oyelowo
By the time this version of George Miller’s Justice League of America dropped, David would have imprinted himself in American cinema with prominent roles in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Lincoln, Jack Reacher, Nightingale and would have filmed Selma, which saw him play Dr. Martin Luther King. The latter two films would have made David Oyelowo an excellent candidate for J’onn J’onzz.
The Latent Hero Makes His Justice League Debut
Like Aquaman, J’onn J’onzz would be best used in the actual Justice League film. After countless acts of heroism that went undetected thanks to his ability to shape-shift, J’onn would have finally settled with an identity he was comfortable with as Detective John Jones. In the movie, his city would be invaded and after hearing about the rescue efforts of the other heroes he’d be forced to join the fight and reveal himself as the Martian Manhunter.
The Rest Of The DCEU Heroes And Future Justice League Members
Oliver Queen / Green Arrow — Armie Hammer
David Goyer’s cancelled Green Arrow movie Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max would have made for a pretty interesting hero flick and Armie Hammer would have been great. George Miller had him as his bookend Batman for his JL movie, and he was considered again for the role in Batman v. Superman. Since the role of Batman went to Christian Bale in this DCEU and JL movie, I figure why not have the Man From U.N.C.L.E. land the role of another dark hero. He would have made a decent Barry Allen, but with a strong voice and towering presence he makes for a better Oliver Queen. Hammer is still waiting for the comic book movie role Shazam, Green Arrow or Marvel’s Nova, just sayin'. The Emerald Archer wouldn’t have to be thrust into the Justice League just yet. A solo introduction film based off Green Arrow: Year One would work wonderfully.
John Stewart / Green Lantern — Idris Elba
With his US breakout role in The Wire in addition to films like Takers and Losers based of the comic of the same name, the Luther star was already primed to play the role of John Stewart. Fans have been clamoring for the Brit to squeeze into the green and black spandex for awhile and in this version of the Justice League and the DCEU he’d be absolutely perfect. He would have been a steal for DC before Marvel got to him to play Heimdall. Maybe DC can salvage this one since the Thor star was allegedly upset with Marvel.
Laural Lance / Black Canary — Charlize Theron
Charlize would have been big time for the role of Black Canary in this version of the Justice League. While I think she’d be a great Catwoman for Ben Affleck’s Batman, this role would have been perfect. Charlize is transformative as an actress, capable of many things and she proved how amazing she was in her Oscarwinning performance in Monster (2003). Aeon Flux proved Charlize’s ability to kick ass and look sexy while doing it. We saw he as a god-like super powered, stay-at-home mom in Hancock (2008). As the kick-ass love interest of Oliver Queen, Charlize would have done for Canary what Ms. Johansson did for Black Widow. DC, there is still time.
What's A Comic Book Movie Without Its Villains?
Darkseid — Hugh Keays-Byrne
Darkseid would have his Omega print on a number of different events in this DCEU that would eventually lead to him destroying Superman and taking on the Justice League in their first movie. Who better than Mad Max's Immortan Joe to lead the pseudo version Secret Society of supervillains? Hugh was George Miller’s pick for Martian Manhunter, but this role is so much more fitting. The man who will forever be known as a Mad Max villain would have done a phenomenal job at making Darkseid an enemy to fear as the brains behind the group of villains tormenting each member of the Justice League. The final reveal and final battle would have been memorable, one for the ages.
Brainiac — Hugh Laurie
With Bryan Singer being the brains behind House, and the captivating screen presence of Hugh Lauire, this was an easy pick. CGI or not, Hugh Laurie would have made a great Brainiac (still could). At 6’2" with a strong, convincing voice and great acting chops, Dr. Gregory House fits the bill. When it would finally be time for the alien from Colu to bond with Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), I can only imagine the dialogue and excellent chemistry these two would bring to the big screen. This fan art would make for a sick Lex/Brainiac combined being.
Cheetah — Kate Beckinsale
By the time this cinematic universe got their first Wonder Woman film in 2013 they would have needed a recognizable actress to help the film get its initial boost. The Underworld franchise made Kate a household name. She had just filmed Underworld: Awakening and Total Recall in 2011 for a 2012 release date where she played an excellent villain. Inserting Kate would have brought a relatively big name actress and fan base to the movie. Though Ares was Wonder Woman's tougher foe and probably been her first villain, the deserved urge for women empowerment in Hollywood would have made Cheetah a go-to villain for a cameo in movie one and the main in a sequel.
Joker — Adrien Brody
Since Heath Ledger passed I didn’t use him. So, since Brody was considered for the role once before I don’t see why he wouldn’t earn it the second time around. Brody’s resume is impressive and he’s proven just how great an actor he really is. If you’ve seen Adrien Brody in the Pianist, Splice, or The Experiment you’d know why the potential of him as the Joker is enticing. He’d bring a different Joker to the screen than Heath, but in this DCEU he’d be just as great. Honestly with the controversy surrounding the current Joker, Jared Leto, DC may need to take another look at Brody.
Lex Luthor — Kevin Spacey
Reprising the role that he played so well would have done wonders for the DCEU. An older Lex that looks down on Superman, despising his every being, wanting nothing more to control or destroy the Man of Steel. This “darker and bitter” version of Lex was excellent, and Spacey would have been great in a cameo in Green Arrow’s Escape from Super Max, and perfect as one of the masterminds behind a pseudo version the Secret Society of Supervillains.
Honorable Mention: Lobo — Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
Casting Lobo was just for the heck of it. DC was genius to cast The Rock as Black Adam — he’d make the Egyptian villain worth exploring even beyond a one-and-done Shazam film. This made casting The Rock as Lobo easy since he blew up in the mid-2000s and DC had already eyed him for the role. Lobo would have been great not just for Superman, but an intergalactic bounty hunter movie would have tapped into a different side of DC. Like Suicide Squad, a Lobo film would have given fans a different perspective on what DC had to offer.
There you have it a WB DC cinematic universe that never existed a Justice League team you will never see, fortunately Justice League will hit theaters November 17, 2017.