Damon Lindelof Addresses ‘The ‘Justice League’ Problem’

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 10:00 pm,

Marvel’s wild success with their Cinematic Universe has their competitors scrambling to catch up, and as their Phase 2 kickoff, Iron Man 3, continues to dominate the box office, attention keeps turning to main rival DC/Warner Bros. and their continually-fluctuating attempt at their own Superhero All-Star Jam with a Justice League movie.

We have covered much of this ground before: will Zack Snyder step in to direct? Or will DC’s go-to story architect David S. Goyer take the reins? What “concrete” news there is about this project points toward the most level-headed approach possible by the studio: wait and see what happens with Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel, despite strong hints that Man of Steel will somehow acknowledge the larger DC Universe and Superman’s place within it.

In a recent in-depth interview with THR, Damon Lindelof covers a wide array of topics from Lost and Star Wars  and Star Trek, to his involvement with World War ZLindelof also touches – albeit briefly – on an interesting topic: the ‘problem’ with Justice League. There’s a pretty direct attempt to pull out some information about where the project stands, but Lindelof answers indirectly:

Lindelof: The Justice League problem? I think a lot of that depends on Man of Steel. The Justice League problem is not a problem of, who is the bad guy that Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, Superman, whoever you decide to pit them against. The problem is: What’s the tone of that movie? They’ve been struggling with launching their own tone. The tone of Green Lantern is very different from the tone of The Dark Knight. They clearly inhabit two entirely different worlds. You want to feel like someone is establishing a world where the Justice League can exist, maybe Man of Steel is that movie. If Man of Steel works, and it’s great, I think it starts to make sense where Paradise Island is in that world. Because that’s an entirely different world than the one Christopher Nolan introduced.

This is a relevant discussion when it comes to this attempt to launch DC’s version of cinematic universe. As we’ve noted, Marvel and DC have taken a disparate approach to their comic book films, and they’ve both proven to be very successful. Marvel’s approach – as satisfyingly balanced as the first Iron Man movie was -  has never shied away from the more fantastic elements of their comic book universe. The tone of Green Lantern was so wildly different from Nolan’s Dark Knight universe – and evidently the more ‘realistic’ approach of Man of Steel - that just reconciling the change in tone could arguably take a whole movie just in itself.

Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Hospital Set Damon Lindelof Addresses The Justice League Problem

As critically, commercially and artistically successful as the grounded, ‘dark and gritty’ Batman reboot has been, this is still a comic book movie we’re talking about. A clash of tones can cause problems in a movie like, say, Judd Apatow’s Funny People, which melded comedy and personal drama in a hit-or-miss way. Though The Dark Knight is a reality-based film, it’s still set in a fantasy universe, and a stark clashing of tones – such as a mash-up of left-field characters like Lobo and The Flash with the current, more literal-minded  incarnation of Batman – could be very interesting. It may prove too experimental for what could be an incredibly expensive project, however, so smoothing out the differing tones of these characters’ worlds would likely be the first course of action.

We’ll likely find out what DC/Warner Bros. has in mind once the box office receipts for Man of Steel have been tallied.


Man of Steel will be in theaters on June 14, 2013. Beyond that…

Source: THR

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  1. I shudder at the thought of a JL movie. It may as well be Batman and Friends, or Superman and all his Super Pals. How can these stories retain and dignity or believability when merged? May as well throw in James Bond while we’re at it. Batman doesn’t live a world of aliens and magical defenders. He lives in a mortal world; he lives in OUR world, and there aren’t any super powers to be found. Let Superman stories cover the magical stuff, and don’t water them down with lesser heroes like Aquaman and Wonder Woman. That kind of story is for kids and their toys. Outside of The Avengers or team-oriented characters like tha Xmen, throwing all your action figures into the same epic brawl is for make believe play time, not the guiding direction of all that is DC. Avengers was fun enough to warrant its absurdity, but loss of realism and credibility is a steep price to pay. The fact that DC has managed to separately build respective worlds over the years is a differentiating element that I have no desire to ruin in some sad attempt to outdo the Avengers gimmickry.

    An exception I can imagine is The Dark Knight Returns story, or something similar, that brings Batman and Superman together, preferably at odds, for a one-off event movie that doesn’t dictate the next several films’ plot lines and cast. Don’t emulate Marvel! Maintain your own strengths and dignity, which cannot survive marketing stunts and stories that don’t serve the characters.

    • So much hate in one post! I regret to inform you, that the dark knight films you are so obviously a fan of, are not the end all standard that these films should adhere to. I also regret to inform you that Batsy is NOT from our world like you claim, he’s from the DC universe so you know what that means. Supes and plenty of his super pals were part of that universe before bats was. Just because your favorite character doesn’t have any magic powers, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be mixed with those who do. He’s not from a “believable” world, no matter how much you want him to be. Bumblebee Tuna.

      • Please explain why not a single superhero managed to confront Joke or Bane?

        Please explain why Batman has never confronted a single mutant? Surely a crime fighter with his vast resources would know and be prepared to deal with super-powered individuals. But nothing.

        • … what? I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you asking why there were no other super heros in the dark knight films? Cus that’s pretty obvious.. Or are you actually saying batman doesn’t fight mutants in the comics? Cus that’s not true… So confused as to what you’re saying/asking.

        • Do you know anything about Batman before Nolans films?
          I mean… Ra’s al ghul is an inmortal being, there is an actual Human Bat mutant foe, clatface is a shape shifting pile of mud, killer Croc which appears in “Batman: Gotham Knight” and its tied to the Nolans universe actually, Solomon Grundy is a Zombie!!

        • The Joker is Batman’s personal opponent. Batman is the reason The Joker exists (the unfortunate incident at Ace Chemicals with pre-Joker Red Hood) so they fight it out against each other. Joker will not be involved with something without Batman, who is more than capable of stopping him.

          Bane is an-

          Oh, Nolan’s world? Yeah I got nothing

        • Umm because it was treated as stand-alone.
          Umm because WB/DC decided not to have other heroes in a Batman movie.
          Umm because there is no shared DC-Universe at this point.
          Umm maybe because the same reason no other hero investigated who the terrorist called the Mandarin was in Iron Man 3.
          Umm because the same reason no other hero fought alongside the X-Men when facing Magneto, or Spider-Man versus his nemesis, or the Fantastic Four.

          It is all because a hero can have his own story without the need of other heroes. More realistically, the films in the Nolan Trilogy is truly in a little bubble of reality. No other heroes exist in that reality because no one made it so. If a DC universe were ever to be created Batman will be there fighting alongside other heroes in his own way or whatever.

          Have you never seen Justice League? Young Justice? The direct to DVD films? The Super Friends?

        • If you’re referring to super-powered individuals, Batman has quite a few in his rogues gallery. Poison Ivy? Clayface? Killer Croc? Ra’s al Ghul? Man-Bat? Solomon Grundy (admittedly, initially a Green Lantern villain)? Batman has plenty of super-foes. You’re complaining about incorporating the atmosphere of the Dark Knight Trilogy into a Justice League film, but that’s the entire point of making it – getting all the pieces to fit together. What part of “shared universe” don’t you understand? Of course all the JLA’s separate ties e different, but a Justice League film won’t concern any one hero’s issues. There are threats in the universe which no one superhero can defeat alone. That’s why the JLA exists. and BTW, Batman broods plenty in the League.

          • You misunderstand – the comment was saying that there aren’t any mutants/superheroes in the Dark Knight films because they didn’t fit the tone, so it doesn’t seem to mesh well with aliens, Greek warriors, space cops etc. A rebooted Batman that allows for the more ridiculous (as in, ‘seen as a bit ridiculous in-universe’ and not just the audience going, “WTF?!”) would open the doors to his vast rogues gallery and allow us to see Poison Ivy and Mr Freeze done *properly* – DC can let Arrow keep up with its somewhat po-faced semi-realism if people are more into keeping things ‘grounded.’

  2. Why does everyone suggest having John Stewart as the Green Lantern in Justice League? Surely, if you need a character to save the Green Lanterns (in our hearts and in the movie universe) then the only answer is Kyle Rayner. I wonder how busy Garrett Hedlund is…

    A rebooted Batman shouldn’t go over his origin story again. Make references to it, but don’t show it. The Amazing Spider-Man was a bit meh because we knew all of the twists and turns from the Raimi films – spider bite, Uncle Ben is killed – and they weren’t massively different. Just assume that we *know* that Batman’s parents died. Maybe set it just after first Robin Dick Grayson ‘graduates,’ becomes his own hero and moves to Blüdhaven so it sets up a number of potential stories.

    There was a rumour (on this very site, if I’m not mistaken) about a Wonder Woman cameo in Man of Steel… it’s a long shot, but the final scene could have Superman doing the classic fly-off-into-space, the credits roll and after them, the scene continues as Superman sees some kind of island paradise in the middle of the ocean.

    • Well John Stewart is a popular choice since he was in the Justice League Cartoon, I mean more people who don’t read the comics will probably recognize John more than Kyle or Guy. “Isn’t Green Lantern Black?” was even the most asked question on IMDB for a while on the Green Lantern’s movie page.

  3. Man of Steel will be epic, I have no doubt about that, and will probably blow The Dark Knight away, This will be the universe that DC/WB will build upon, They kind of snookered themselves with Nolans Batman, I cant see them doing that again, Superman will be the start of it all, I can see them introducing the other heros as the trilogy progresses, setting it all up for the Justice league..

    • It will not come close to the dark knight’s awesomeness. Different kind of movies.

      A better comparison would be Starship troopers.

      • I hated all three of Nolan’s Batman movies. Bad acting, poor sound editing, plot holes galore, and cheesy dialog. I pray Snyder’s Man of Steel demonstrates that it learned from the *mistakes* of Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

        • Heath Ledger and bad acting?? um…his oscar says hello.

          • I liked Heath Ledger as The Joker.

            I hated Nolan’s version of The Joker.

            If that makes sense.

  4. How about a pilot fighting zod gets his plane shot down. He’s rescued by wonder woman (who’s amazon island tribe is being controlled by an overlord). The pilot helps Dianna liberate her people, then she returns the favour… she returns to help humanity, first seeking out superman as an ally after hearing about him from the pilot.

    alot like the animated ww movie but it may fit into Man of steel’s story.

  5. I’ve written some of my own ideas for a Justice League movie, hell even some scripts. They all flesh out perfectly and do justice to all characters involved, but tone isn’t the problem in this case.

    When it comes to Hollywood, it isn’t about what the tone is going to be; it’s about what the studio WANTS it to be.

    Why are the animated films so successful? They don’t have an executive on their back telling them what to do, it’s pure freedom with teamwork. The animation and story doesn’t model entirely after the works of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, but they made a big enough impact to show people what DC can and should do without sticking to the same tone every time.

    Right now, everyone feels it HAS to be in the tone of Nolan in order to succeed and I disagree. But I’m not an executive so my thoughts are kept amongst myself.

    • I don’t know if people think it “HAS” to be the same Nolan tone, but it has been very successful spawning 2 billion dollar movies and potentially a third. Because they are character driven these movies are more accessible to a general audience in my opinion and for that reason a wider audience would enjoy these movies.

      • You can be character accessible and still add that type of fantasy driven comic book feeling.

        I’m not saying go all out on comic book source material, but at least let it be a major inspiration for what goes on in that world. I don’t need a grounded Joker or Bane, it’s their written backgrounds and characteristics from comics that make them interesting.

        • But in a two hour movie that relies on people unfamiliar with some of the characters, you can’t really go deeply into the separate backgrounds of (at most) more than two characters. For example in The Dark Knight Rises with the introduction Catwoman, Bane, Talia, and to some extent John Blake it makes more sense to change the background and compact their stories so that several stories can be told at once since it is part of a larger cohesive one. So while it is a departure from the comics, at least it allowed several Batman villains and allies to participate in the film versus sticking to the written comics and having MAYBE only one or two who could have been appropriately addressed in the movie. The reality and dynamics of the medium dictate that.

  6. Personally, I’m someone without a foot in either camp. I’m not totally on the side of the films which make mistakes in character development and plot all the time (see IM3) but I have not read enough comics to be classified as a comic fan boy either. I simply enjoy superheroes and their stories when well done. So, I really don’t get this whole tone argument being the downfall of DC’s universe. If you want to reboot Lantern, that’s their business. But to say Nolan’s Batman doesn’t fit in is dumb. Yes, he tried to keep his world as realistic as you could considering you have a rich man with fancy toys dressing up as a bat. But why does that preclude the possibility of more fantastic things happening outside of Gotham? Lantern was using alien technology in the form of his power ring. Why does that mean that because Batman doesn’t have villains in the Dark Knight films with crazy weapons that they don’t exist? Even if you look at Man of Steel and the Dark Knight world, how do we know that the timelines match up. Man of Steel is obviously set in present day, so perhaps Kal-El does not reveal himself to be Superman to the world until after the Joker when Wayne retires or after Bane when whoever JGL’s character is takes over. Whether it’s a true representation of the comics, I don’t know, but the Justice League tv show does a good job at melding all these different characters. Superman is still semi-corny and all about justice and Batman doesn’t trust anyone completely and tech savy and the Flash still cracks his jokes. It doesn’t take away from the tone of the story. I don’t want to see a Flash that’s super serious like Batman. They’re different characters! I think finding the right director and writer for such a huge undertaking is much more important to find the right way to put these larger than life characters together than establishing a tone. So Batman is realistic. We live in a realistic world now. Things would sure as hell change if some galactic invader like Darkseid came through our atmosphere. The same can be said of Nolan’s Batman universe.

    • This. Exactly what I was thinking, albeit not as well worded. I think it’s a narrow view that tries to keep all of these characters in their “own” world. It’s like saying there’s no snow anywhere else just because I live in the desert.

      Incidentally I do live in a desert.

    • Good point but then also remember Nolan’s film are more than likely not going to be set in the DC universe, Nolan wanted his films to be concluded anyway and plus would we want a Justice League movie without Bruce Wayne.

  7. As long as the villains are not JUST ACTORS!!…anything is fine!

  8. I cannot wait to see The Justice League com out and it should mention The Man of Steel, and The Hall of Justice taken down the Legion of Doom.

    Does that ring a bell ?

  9. I think a justice league movie would be made better set in the Nolan universe. Because their should be something ground breaking about a man flying. That’s why he’s “super” so of course he’s the first “mutant” for lack of a better term.

    The best example I can use is Batman begins. When Bruce dawns the cowl its to fight mere Mobsters. He wears at bat costume to scare human beings. Then at the end of the movie Commissioner Gordon tells him that he’s started an arms race and that he’s inspired a new super villain Joker. Joker is written as the first Super Villain.

    So basically we can say that The DK timeline predates MOS. Basically Clark Kent hasn’t found the Fortress of Solitude, and is still a teenager in Smallville. He still doesn’t know how to fly, he still doesn’t know how to control his heightened senses and he still hasn’t stood up against the military….

    In the trailer his Pa Kent basically implied that he should have let a school bus full of kids drown while he floated safely in the water unscathed for the sake of his own safety. Why then cant we presume that Ma and Pa Kent wouldn’t allow a teenage Clark to walk(doesn’t know he can fly yet) all the way to Gotham to take on a terrorist organization and a nuclear bomb.

    The only thing that makes the shared universe impossible is Christian Bale’s asking price and cinematic ambitions, and Green Lantern’s fail of a movie.

    There’s no reason The Flash can’t make wise cracks throughout the movie and the only hard part about Wonder Woman is modernizing a WWII character. but there are a definite allegories to be made of the first female Super human. Were in a very important time for women. There as free as they’ve ever been and control the economy more then ever yet their are definite sexists undertones that still exist. That can be explored by a modern wonder woman

  10. Finally!. I read that someone gets it.