‘Avengers’ Animation Director Explains Why DC Needs Solo ‘Justice League’ Movies First

Published 3 years ago by

Avengers Justice League Solo Films Avengers Animation Director Explains Why DC Needs Solo Justice League Movies First

Following the success of The Avengers, which pulled in a monstrous Hulking $1.5 billion at the global box office, attention has turned to fellow comic book publisher-turned movie studio DC and their own superhero team-up film. As Marvel plots out phase two of their shared cinematic universe, DC is just now attempting to connect their upcoming film properties – in the interest of delivering an equally profitable (and hopefully satisfying) Justice League movie.

Studios are aware that, eventually, the superhero movie bubble could burst and with only Man of Steel in full-scale production, DC is left with basically two options: 1) green light a number of standalone hero films with a Justice League movie roughly four-to-five years out or 2) start with a mega-blockbuster team-up and then spin-off worthwhile solo films afterwards. While option one resulted in one of the most memorable superhero movies of all time for Marvel, insider reports out of Warner Bros. seem to indicate that the studio appears anxious to get Justice League into production ahead of further standalone projects.

Admittedly, in addition to Henry Caville’s Superman, other previously established DC movie characters could see a return in the Justice League. Regardless of the standalone film quality, Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern is a possibility – and, given the right script or a lot of money, DC could potentially pull a Batman out of Nolan’s trilogy franchise (even though all signs point to a Justice League reboot of the caped crusader). That said, even if a few familiar faces return, a good chunk of the ensemble will be unfamiliar to a lot of moviegoers. At the very least, viewers (especially casual filmgoers) wouldn’t outright know the intricacies of each character, even if they know the basic premise for each hero, which could lead to a convoluted Justice League experience.

Superman Man of Steel Henry Cavill Pressure Avengers Animation Director Explains Why DC Needs Solo Justice League Movies First

In our one-on-one interview Marc Chu, ILM Avengers Animation Director, asserted that Marvel’s approach to the superhero mash-up, introducing the characters in their own standalone films first, was essential in making the ensemble work – since the intricacies of each character had already been established before they “assembled.” Instead of bogging viewers down in exposition, The Avengers ensemble succeeded because each character ducked in and out of the overarching story and action set-pieces, providing audiences with a “nice little wine tasting,” as Chu describes it, of the diverse team of heroes:

It was like a nice little wine tasting of Iron Man. And it was like that for all the other characters. I think it was a good balance of how they introduced the characters [through individual films in the shared universe]. In that final battle, it was a balancing act when you have all these superheroes competing for screen time. I think Josh did a great job in making sure that they all had their voice and we weren’t missing them too much.

Following up on the challenges of an ensemble superhero movie, we asked Chu for his thoughts on DC’s shared universe approach – specifically the rumors that many characters in the proposed Justice League film would be introduced as part of the team only to receive standalone films after their appearance in the mash-up film.

Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t think it would have worked as well. I think the success of this movie is purely built on Marvel and Kevin’s vision to get to that goal. To introduce you to this group who has pulled together. You’ve seen the movie, they’re not one happy family right at the beginning they’re all fighting with each other, they all have issues with one another. So I think it was only fitting to have them be united by a common enemy – forcing them to deal with each other. I mean The Hulk punches Thor right? It’s like “Okay I hate you, you’re a good ally but I still hate you for what you did to me. So I don’t think it would’ve worked because you don’t have the back story of the characters, because they do function so independently and they all have their own worlds. If I just saw a movie that would start off with all of them I’ll be like, “So Thor is a God, but how did he get to earth and where’s he…” So you kind of need to tell those stories to tell how they got there. It’s like, “Okay So Captain America was created from a super soldier project in World War II, but how is he here in modern time? You can’t tell that without explaining the origin story.

Chu’s sentiments echo concerns voiced by comic book, and movie fans, regarding DC and Warner Bros. approach to a Justice League shared universe – which, on the surface, lacks the patience and investment that payed off big time for Marvel. It’s certainly possible, with the darker toned DC script and the right director at the helm, that DC could pull double-duty and deliver a quality Justice League film experience that also sets the stage for standalone spinoff films. Though, as Chu hinted with his “wine tasting” analogy, there’s also a tremendous risk for lesser-known characters to get lost in the shuffle – potentially spoiling the chance that they’ll ever see their own films outside of the ensemble.

Batman Reboot Justice League Movie Discussion Avengers Animation Director Explains Why DC Needs Solo Justice League Movies First

The relationship between Loki and Thor added a lot to The Avengers, as did Captain America’s “fish out of water” shtick. Most notably, the death of supporting player, Agent Coulson, is ultimately responsible for uniting the superhero team – a testament to just how important prior continuity and inter-connectivity was in Marvel’s efforts.

Of course Chu isn’t saying a good Justice League movie would be impossible without standalone films: there’s no written rule for superhero mash-ups and nothing that says DC needs to follow Marvel’s footsteps; however, time and time again, we’ve seen superhero movies crushed under the weight of two many competing character stories (Iron Man 2, Batman & Robin, etc.) – so it’s hard to argue with Chu’s logic. Most moviegoers are rooting for a DC shared universe and will likely line up for a Justice League film – even if the ultimate experience doesn’t hit Avengers quality. However, DC probably does need to be mindful of the longterm effects of whatever approach they take – as rushing a Justice League movie with only a few (possibly one) shared universe characters could hurt their chances of bigger box office money (and further movie experiences) down the line.

For more on ILM’s contributions to The Avengers be sure to check out The Avengers Blu-ray (read our review) and check back soon for more Avengers interviews.


Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future interviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

The Avengers is now available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD.

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  1. Im pretty sure Watchmen, the best comicbook adaptation ever, didnt have tie-in films.

    • @Sir Ignur Rant-A-Lot – Yes, but to be fair, “The Watchmen” didn’t start as single superhero stories either. The source material is what the movie was. Your point holds no water as the analogy you were attempting to make does not adhere to “The Watchmen”. Add to that FACT, that the only people who loved “The Watchmen” were comic book fans (including myself). As such, the movie is considered a flop by conservative standards. “The average movie goer” (the ppl who actually financially make or break a film) either didn’t GET the complex plot and in turn didn’t recommend it to others OR “The average movie goer” didn’t go see it at all. In any event, using a movie like “The Watchmen” to make a weak point that a team movie doesn’t need build up movies first is ill-advised.

      • The issue the article brought up was whether the each character would have significant back story development, which the Watchmen did.

        As for being finacially successful, the best step is to follow the Lord of the Rings formula. The first Justice League film should be a two (maybe three) part film, that introduces us to the DC universe, creates a truly menacing villain worthy of a team up, and gives us enough info about the characters for us to care about them.

        • ^^^ @Rick and @Mr Friday

        • That’s true, Watchmen did manage to have origins for some of the more enigmatic characters like Dr. Manhattan. Not all of the JL need a full blown origin either with some only requiring a minute or two (or virtually none at all like Supes and The Bat)

          • Agreed. It’s only a matter of writing a solid story and IMO it has to be a 2 part film minimally.

        • Thank you Sir Ignur Rant-A-Lot! I’ve been screaming to anyone who will listen that the trilogy route is the way to go. It gives opportunity to properly develop the characters and also avoids following the “Marvel plan” in creating the Justice League. I’m praying they’ll do this!

    • +1

      And each character had significant backstory.

    • Watchman was a good adaptation but a commercial flop if I recall. So it doen’t really help the sucess angle you or Especialy WB are going for. WB wants Avengers style bank but tbh you wont get that without Avengers style prep work, 7 years of base building is what the avengers is JL can not get that much publicity because theres no countdown or buildup for the average person,it does not exist yet for them.

      • Rated R and shown in a small number of cinemas. Plus in this case ppl rally didn’t know these characters but some went anyway in JL’s case it’s the opposite. People will recognize Supes and Batman right off the bat while they should have some idea of Flash and WW. Martian Manhunter could be the frodo of this series, the one who gets the team together.

        • Which is great for a Superman Batman movie but everyone else can not be made to care about Flash or Cyborg or Aquaman in 2 hours (I threw in Cyborg because he has The Iron man factor WB will want.) We have no grouding unless Manhunter pulls a Samuel Jackson and even if he did why? Who are these people? Why is Superman a prince? Where is Hal Jordans stake in this?
          It feels rushed and unplaned and it is,this is a reaction nothing else. I love DC but they are not ready. They need an in house studio under a good writer and a storyline that is a strong arc. Then maybe it could be done. But not now

          • @Mr Friday: With creative writing you don’t need something as cliché as pulling a “Nick Fury” to bring the Justice League together. Some characters can already know each other, while some are just meeting for the first time.. Good character dialogue does wonders.

          • I am sure most of the audience has zero idea who those characters in LOTR were but after the first movie they cared enough to come back in droves and see them through their journey. It all lies in the writing, judging from the looks of Gangster Squad though we can’t be sure yet it looks like Beal did a good job bringing those characters together.

        • I think you mean gandalf.

  2. Watchman was an awesome adaption however it worked mostly because they gave the characters enough focus and there was no main villain to say (depending on your view of what a villain is)

    The Justice league movie will flop because their are currently barely any lead-up to the movie. The Avengers has had Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man 2 all as lead-up. The reason is was such a success was because it attracted fans from all the different heroes one by one before showing all the heroes in the same movie.

    In fact Justice Leauge would probably only work if there was a Batman & Superman team-up beforehand. However seeing as Superman can pretty much rewind time and is virtually indestructable then you have to go back to the old plot of either Kryptonite, trapping him somewhere or just killing him off – all of which have been done before many many times.

    The Justice League is an interesting idea however mostly all the heroes are really overpowered if they have powers and really lacking if they dont. Batman has no powers so almost all continuities have him holding Kryptonite constantly along with introducing a new bat vehicle or bat weapon.

    Wonder woman, Superman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter are just some of those who are too overpowered to work on screen.

    Ideal line-up for a starting Justice League movie would be: Batman, Aquaman, The Flash and maybe Hawkwoman. Though seriously, the Justice league movie will not work without the suspension of disbelief.

    • It could be done though they just don’t have the chops for it this quickly

      • @Mr Friday A Justice League movie was casted, had a script and was in production but stopped because The Dark Knight was being released.

        @Scarllian- everything you said is just wrong lol. So mmywrong things I dont have time to address them all. In short, JL can follow the for,ula of Lord of the Rings and everyone will have sufficient character development time with a villain that is truly worthy of a superhero team up stretched over the course of 2 (or 3) films released year-to-year.

      • Justice League Mortal, strange how people all of a sudden forgot all about that. Had a cast and a solid director lined up but production issues and rumored clashes with Nolan over it so it was scrapped. Who knows this could be it’s spiritual successor.

        • @Merciful Rao

          lol plot convience

  3. I Gotta’ agree with the man.

  4. I am gonna do this movie, but there is a surprise ending… Here is the script.

    BOOM! Smash! “Who is gonna save us?” the title “Justice league” comes up while Linkin Park plays, KA POW!!! EXPLOSION! FIRE! “WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!!!”

    But here is the surprise ending…

    Super guy or whatever his name is, fails by not stopping the… thing that is headed for earth, and we all die!!!

    The earth goes BOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!! And that will be the biggest explosion in my career. Not sure if the producers would want me to blow it up though… :(

  5. I don’t think, in this case, The Avengers formula NEEDS to be followed. Avengers NEEDED the standalones, because the characters are both more thematically complex, and were less well-known outside comic book audiences. Meanwhile, the last two decades have basically been primer for a JL movie – Batman and Superman are about as well-known as any property. EVERYONE knows their story and their abilities. Wonder Woman less so, but is still a very recognizable character, and many know her. GL, for all the bad the movie was, is still known, ditto Flash and Aquaman – not hard to explain the basics of either. There was also the VERY popular and successful Justice League cartoons. Make Martian Manhunters origin part of the plot of the movie (invasion of the White Martians), and begin everyone else in media res – they already exist, have been “out” for a short while, but haven’t met and pooled resources. Cover origin “Spiderman 2″ style in the opening credit sequences, hopefully with art done by Alex Ross.

  6. Ive said this all along and Ill say it again. This JL film will be s***.

    Its a knee-jerk reaction to Marvel making a ton of money with one team up film. I dont care if people dont know as much about Green lantern,Wonder Woman,Flash and Aquaman…they still have enough great stories of their own to tell and unless this JL film is 4 hours long, then these characters will be pointless…as I can bet any money this film will be more a Superman/Batman film with what will probably be cameo roles for everyone else.

    Im all for a JL film, but unless you explain the characters this film will be so bad it will hurt.

  7. all they have to do is replace hal jordon and replace him with john steward and give batman a tv show instead of a rebooted movie change superman’s suit and put the man of steel superman in it and make a wonder woman and flash movie then for jla add martian manhunter and aquaman in it its not hard to make.

  8. As stoked as I will be for a shared universe movie from DC about their ensemble cast for their iconic superheroes in 2015, I am, however, quiet cautious about the Warner leadership unconventionally introducing these gestating figures through one explosive plot. Trying to introduce each of the separate characters through one movie is a dauntingly risky move, not only from a fiscal point of view but from a thematic one. What concerns us more is the latter one. Clearly, trying to write a story that will properly be able to encompass all the different background story arch of Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash and reboot Batman will convolute the overall story, thereby making it difficult for audiences to encapsulate the overall picture. Generally speaking, good movies are attuned to niche storylines. It would make sense to follow the marvel path by giving a fair amount of attention to all of our superheroes separately and then bringing them together into one JLA movie, even if it will mean postponing the date for a JLA movie for another three years. Remember, stalling the movie would be an infinitely better option than doing a horrible job of it and single handedly making it a colossal embarrassment as well as ruining potential sequels. However, if done well, this unconventional method could perhaps turn out to be a novelty strategy. Such would only be possible if the Warner Bros. entourage could somehow focus on as little characters as possible, thereby developing more effectively on a more restricted story arch, while leaving the climactic buildup as being open to the calling out for the need for other superheroes for protection from even greater threats in future movies. This, then, could be a more subtle approach to introducing Flash and other heroes alike. This would be akin to Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie, where Optimus Prime, at the end of the movie, steps up on top of a hill calling out to other surviving protagonists, asking them to unite for even greater evils to come. As a huge DC fan, I will want Warner Bros. to get their eggs in one basket (or separate ones!) and consider approaching this sensitive situation cautiously regardless of how they approach the JLA team. After all, this movie in 2015, or the lack thereof, will determine the future of the other JLA cast members and whether they will be able to compete with their Marvel counterparts.

  9. As a fan of The JLU and the DC universe, It is very clear that it would take to long to make standalone films. Though patients is required. We need DC’s darker tone to make this film a success.

    WB or DC must focus on the right characters.

    Tthe relationship between Bruce/batman and Clark/Superman has intruded me for ove 20 years. Just look at the DC animated universe staring with Batman Tas and superman Tas respectively leading to the justice league and justice leage unlimited. The stories here provided 15 years of stories and tie ins. Once these two met on the small screen the possibilities were endless. I feel the sam will be the case for this movie and every arc should have these two at the forefront of any JL push. Lets face they are the two who can drive any franchise done properly.

    The Martian And the amazon princess trying to observe or integrate in the world of man can resonate with moviegoers and be a good start of any story

    Green lantern – the movie may have been average, bottom line it set up GL for what he really is – glorified space cop nuff said.

    Hawkman or girl – needs a lot of thought. Marvel have the alien invasion Loki and thanos. So lex, darkseid and a thangarian invasion is a little copy cat like. Needs a lot of thought. I would scrap these characters in favour of a captain marvel billy Batson situation.

    The flash is in my eyes doesn’t need an origin story, he is a speedster.. A simple race with the man of steel can set up something of a visual master piece. and as usual provide a great outlet for comic relief.

    DC and WB just need to look at the success of their animated universe. The tone was always a little darker which made teens and adults a like stay I thrilled by the relationships these guys had formed. That’s the focus and of course some kick as action scenes to tie it all together. Now all you need is a great script good cast/director and a squill ian bucks

    I know it’s easier said then done.

  10. It’s and ironic situation. DC want’s to beat the super hero movie bubble burst and in the process they are probably going to be the ones who burst the bubble, at least for themselves. If DC succeeds with Man of Steel, than they should get Wonder Woman going. After Wonder Woman, Justice League becomes possible, but not before. They can use Cavill’s Superman and Batman doesn’t need an introduction. They can work in a Flash origin story and kill of Reynolds’ Hal Jordan in the beginning of the film and replace him with John Stewart. That’s your five-hero team. No Martian Manhunter and no Aqua-man. But a Wonder Woman solo film is necessary for a lot of reasons. First of all, no female super hero has ever really been done right. There always either too weak, or unrealistically and annoyingly strong. Wonder Woman needs to be a full-fledged super hero with character defects and a lesson to learn and a threat to overcome. That can’t be done in a team up movie. If done right, Wonder Woman can be DC’s Ironman and set the stage for a Justice League that makes The Avengers look like a kiddie movie.

  11. Here’s an idea for DC: Forget trying to do backstories of the superheroes first, everyone knows, they have been around a long time. Just make the caracters the way everyone likes them and give Superman back his full uniform and past that everyone knows.

  12. Zack snyder as directr of jl movie wil do it justice as he did man of steel