A few weeks ago, I got a huge response (some of it negative) from my detailed criticism of Zach Snyder's Man of Steel. Detractors seemed to fall in the cultish "Marvel vs. DC" camp in which no DC property can be subjected to constructive criticism. I was accused of being completely ignorant of Superman's various comic book iterations and simply nostalgic for Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent. Although the negative comments only came from a few individuals and the positive response was immense, I want to clarify that I LOVE DC Comics and I can't wait to see these characters on the big screen.
And for the record, I watched the Donner cut of Superman II last week and found it silly and boring overall. Superman II was easily one of my favorite movies growing up, but so were The Road Warrior, Blade Runner and The Empire Strikes Back. I don't mind if my movies are dark or silly, if they have a good story. Superman II hasn't aged well (or maybe I've simply seen it too many times), which did not bode well for the uneven Superman Returns, which unwisely emulated it. One thing Man of Steel did well was wipe the slate clean, and DC fans are all the better for it.
Going forward, DC/Warner movies will adapt from the solid foundation of another on-screen franchise: Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, developed by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, including iconic, epic storylines from the likes of the late-great Dwayne McDuffie, and the unmatched voice acting of Kevin Conroy (Batman), Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Dana Delany (Lois Lane), Powers Booth (Gorilla Grodd), George Newbern (Superman), Phil LaMarr (Green Lantern) and, of course, Michael Ironside as Darkseid and Mark Hamill as every villain from Joker to Solomon Grundy! Wow, what a show!
Here are five clues as to what to expect:
1. No Origins
Most comic book fans are probably like me, suffering from "origin fatigue." If the Spiderman reboot offers yet another origin story, I'm skipping it. Flash and Daredevil demonstrate how a television series works well for realistic character development and Man of Steel is a good example of how difficult it is to develop a character slowly over the course of multiple movies.
The leap to Justice League properties in the MoS sequel is similar to how the "Secret Origins" miniseries launched the animated Justice League show: a Big Bad shows up and powered beings slowly gather (at the request of Martian Manhunter) to form a team. This team began with Batman's investigation and Superman's unwillingness to let him work alone. These two had already been firmly established in their own animated shows (thus the Batman v. Superman movie to bring them together before the rest of the League), where other powered beings also made their first appearances (as they will in BvS). As a result, the first Justice League movie will hit the ground running, its characters already firmly established. And as Josh Wilding recently noted, the Justice League members are "iconic", well-known and need no introduction (in large part due to the success of the animated series). The route BvS is going, according to the trailer, is epic: superheroes are gods among us and the world is forever changed by their appearance. This is a theme well-trodden in the animated series and made for compelling storytelling.
2. Lex Luthor will be President (but sadly, not Clancy Brown)
The "Secret Origins" miniseries begins with Superman being called by the UN to dismantle the earth's nuclear weapons, a secret ploy by the invading aliens to leave humanity defenseless. From what we know about BvS, Luthor sends Superman to take out Batman, a plot we know ultimately will backfire. Luthor's ploy is likely to have Superman kill the elusive Batman and then he (Luthor) has an additional plan to take out the winded Man of Steel.
What previous movies have gotten wrong about Luthor is that he not a public menace. The last few decades, he has been portrayed in comics and the animated products as a powerful, intelligent, successful and manipulative businessman and scientist, an untouchable, Machiavellian egoist. He will not go to prison at the end of BvS (despite probably bringing out the exo-suit to fight Superman). Instead, he will ignite the ire of Superman like no individual before or after, exacerbated by the impotence the Man of Steel will feel when he realizes no one can touch him. He's simply too smart to make a mistake. To make it worse, Lex will run for President and Batman will constantly have to calm his friend before he does something stupid (that would only play into Lex's hands).
3. The Flash will be Cisco
In the animated series, Martian Manhunter generally served as the moral compass of the team, but the Flash was its heart. Although an intelligent scientist, his behavior was often childish, shouting "catch me if you can" and sticking his tongue out at villains. In an alternate universe, Superman ended up killing President Luthor because Flash's death had pushed him over the edge.
In The Flash television series, the showrunners tested some risky comic prospects onscreen to see how they would fly. Can we give a guy super powers and put him in a silly suit? Check. Can we send campy bad guys for him to face off against, like Captain Boomerang and a talking gorilla? Check. Can a character get away with childish antics like virginal swooning and cartoonish code names? Check.
Except that last one was Cisco, a potential throw-away character who proved endearing, especially when we thought he had been killed. That was a test for the "real" Flash, starring Ezra Miller. Grant Gustin is amazing in his role (and fans were justified in their anger that he would not make it to the big screen), but, as some of my friends have pointed out, his portrayal is more Peter Parker than Barry Allen...because Cisco is Barry Allen. Ezra Miller will be hyper, childish, dorky, silly and full of heart. And he'll be the only Leaguer who openly admits he's afraid of Batman.
4. Project Cadmus
It was recently revealed that, in the new Suicide Squad movie, Batman will.....*SPOILER*...which is EVERYTHING we fans of the animated JL series Batman would want from an on-screen version, in a nutshell. This sets up a complex relationship between Lex, Amanda Waller and Batman, as well as the larger, looming relationship between secret government ops, big business and the Justice League. Which means Cadmus, the greatest story in the animated universe, is on the horizon. YES!!!
5. The Justice Leaguers will not fight among themselves
This isn't 100% true, obviously, given the title of the next movie, but it's far more true than can be said about the Avengers. I loved the first Avengers movie, but about halfway through The Age of Ultron, I was sick of the heroes fighting one another. So much so that I don't care if I see it again (whereas I've watched Avengers a dozen times or more, gleefully), and I'm not excited about Civil War.
In the animated Justice League, the heroes meet and have a rocky start becoming a team. Once this begins to be a problem, Superman authoritatively demands: "Let's not fight amongst ourselves." They fall in line and learn to cooperate pretty quickly. (Because if this doesn't work, Superman will slap his hands together, sonic booming them into submission).
There are moments when Leaguers fight, of course, but they have HEAVY consequences. Convinced Luthor has planted a bomb in the city, he and Shazam destroy a new housing project over their competing ideologies, all part of Luthor's plan to demonize Superman in the public eye.
And called from Justice League membership back into active duty as part of Project Cadmus, Captain Atom fights Superman to prevent Huntress from helping the Question escape...yet when Superman beats Atom, he shouts down the military, pointing out that Captain Atom is a hero and a member of the Justice League and they're not allowed to touch him. He takes Atom back to the Watchtower for medical treatment.
These were powerful scenes because Leaguers fighting one another was a serious problem. Sure, they disagreed and argued a lot. They even broke up the team from time to time. But punching an ally had consequences. I'm not saying they won't fight one another, but certainly there won't be a civil war!
So: are these predictions, rumors or spoilers? What do I look like, Latino Review? No, I'm just a fan and this is what I understand to be the case from the details provided so far.
If I were speculating, I'd say that "Do you bleed? You will" line came from Metallo, sent by Luthor to kill Superman after he was supposed to have killed Batman. This would give Batman the opportunity to save Superman, a la Public Enemies. After all, Batman's armored suit doesn't cover his mouth and there's no evidence to suggest his voice should be augmented electronically...but I could be wrong.
If I were spreading rumors, I'd say it was Luthor who said it, threatening Superman with his exo-suit.
Finally, shameless self-promotion: Jamie A. Duncan is author of the under-development fantasy fiction series Fire of Norea. Please check it out!