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How Warner Brothers Can Make A Justice League Movie… And Make It Work

Warner Brothers has said that not only are they developing a Justice League movie, they’re working on several other superhero movies, too – including a post-Nolan reboot of Batman. However, other than Batman, the WB has a, quite frankly, awful track record with making comic book movies. If they make it to screen, they’re not so well liked (Superman Returns, Green Lantern), and most of ‘em don’t even make it to screen (Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman, which I heard was a superb script, and now probably feels like a sore thumb what with the Avengers success).

Plus, add in the fact that whatever Warner Brothers and DC do will get compared to Avengers, and the Marvel movie model in general, and you have a problem. If they keep releasing non-linked movies, the reaction will be, “Why? Marvel did it well, and everybody loved that.” If they release linked movies, the reaction will be, “Marvel already did that.”

Add in the risky gamble of trying to launch several franchises with a Justice League movie first – if that tanks, you’re kind of screwed and have to reboot all of them anyway – and Warner Brothers is caught in a Catch-22.

That is, unless they follow my foolproof plan to make a Justice League movie. And there’s a few things they’re going to need to do first:

1) Set aside One Billion Dollars.

2) Check with the fan community, see who their ideal casting are for all members of the Justice League, and lock those actors down.

3) Hire a writing staff made up of comic book writers, a healthy dose of DC Animated writers, and a few top-notch movie writers.

4) Lock in three excellent directors who work well together, have a similar style, and don’t mind giving up a few years of their lives.

And then, release seven movies in one year, culminating in a Justice League movie released in time for Christmas.

So, here’s how it works, and the reason why it’ll work:

Like I said before, if WB even attempts to copy the Marvel model, it’ll carry the stink of “been there, done that.” Instead, they have to go whole hog insane, and that’s going to cost money. That’s where the billion dollars comes in… And lets be honest: Warner Brothers can afford a billion dollars. Not only can they afford it right now, without even spending millions on Hollywood cost checkers, I can tell you box office alone, plus a year long blitz of action figure and video game sales will more than pay this investment back and moreso.

The billion dollars also breaks down to approximately $100 million each for the first six movies, and then $400 million for the final movie, with funds moving back and forth in order to work on development and effects on each.

To further explain that part, essentially what WB would be doing, including hiring a staff of writers, actors, and directors, is planning a movie series like a TV show, and then “broadcasting” The Justice League for a season… Except with a greater budget, and with slightly less connectivity between the movies than episodes of a serialized show. With a TV show, each episode has its own budget, but cost of sets built for one episode help offset costs in another episode, and so on. We’re applying the same theory here: if the Hall of Justice (or JLA Satellite [or whatever]) is built for one movie, you don’t need to rebuild it for the next one.

So that’s the general approach, but what about the movies? We’re going to build our model on Grant Morrison’s “Big 7” approach, because frankly it’s the right one, and go from there. So you start development on seven Justice League movies at the same time… But the first six are all focused on individual characters. Those are (not in order yet): Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman.

Each of these movies are individual adventures of these characters, but they’re not really individual movies. Each is subtitled “Countdown To Justice League, Part X” and contains seeds to the final movie, which, in case you can’t guess, is called, “Justice League.” Each movie finds our heroes getting introduced in some way, dealing with some threat, but that threat seems to indicate and even larger threat on the horizon. And in “Justice League?” That threat hits, and everybody needs to team up to take it down.

In case it isn’t immediately obvious, you’re taking a comic book approach to making movies, as well as a TV approach. Each stands alone as a single issue, but you can’t read them alone. You HAVE to read all seven in order to get the full story… And that’s what makes this intrinsically different than Marvel’s approach, which technically allows you to watch each movie without viewing the others. Here, we take a collectors mentality. Even if you like the Batman movie, and hated the Superman movie, you HAVE to watch Aquaman in order to understand Justice League. And we’re all going to see a Justice League movie, right, alive human beings?

The other part of this is releasing all of these movies in one year: the Year of Justice League. There, that’s your branding, right? Every month and a half, as the box office starts to slide for the previous movie, there’s a new Justice League movie on the horizon getting fans in the theaters. For one full year, it never stops, until Justice League hits as the biggest frickin’ Christmas present ever put into a movie theater.

Again, this works on the idea that even if a movie is okay or bad, it barely matters because the next one is on the horizon, giving us hope. For one solid year, the only thing the Internet will talk about, the only thing being chatted about on talk shows, and the only cover or any magazine will be the cast of Justice League.

Now, there’s one other important crucial detail to throw into the mix, and that’s, “What’s Justice League about? What’s the big threat?” Any self respecting comic book fan would immediately say, “Darkseid!” Except, there’s a problem with that, and that’s the approach Marvel took with The Avengers.

Darkseid – spoilers for Avengers – is basically Thanos. Thanos’ army? Parademons. The portal opened over New York, and how the Asgardian’s travel? Boom tubes. The Tessaract? A Mother Box. And heck, the approach they took with Asgard (the mix of science and tech) is essentially turning them into the New Gods. I’m not trying to downplay what Marvel did at all, but if DC/WB attempts to tell a Darkseid story, it’s going to come off as also-ran.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with what would be big enough to blow that out of the water, and finally, I figured it out: Justice League needs to be a loose adaptation of “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

The reason being – and this is why this movie will need $400 million to be made – is that a threat to all existence, and multiple universes is big enough to overshadow pretty much any movie ever (which Justice League needs to do, honestly, or it will make fans wonder why WB even bothered). Not only that, but it introduces several things that will pave the way for the future:

– Multiple universes, allowing the WB to maybe sneak in the idea that every previous TV and movie iteration of the League and DC characters has been leading up to this – you could even have a quick shot of every previous Superman fighting… Something, doesn’t matter, through cracks in the universe at the finale, and fans would go nuts. Not only that, but if you say this was the plan all along, you look like brilliant masterminds. AND, you allow an easy excuse for recasting later on: “Oh, this takes place on Earth-5.”

– It also allows you to add in a final battle which recruits nearly every actor in Hollywood for a frame or two, battling the Anti-Monitor, dressed in costume, which allows you to introduce dozens of other superheroes and villains to seed further movies and TV shows for, well, ever.

The idea of all of this is, rather than couching your bets, you go all in, for one year, and present the biggest cinematic event of all time. You dominate the conversation for an entire year, and then sell Blu-ray box sets of these movies, and all the different cuts, and products, and ancillary material… Forever. This is, I think, the only real way of making Justice League and have fans over the moon excited, rather than nervously negative and snarky the way they are right now.

Seven movies. One year. The Year of Justice League. Your move, Warner Brothers.

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