More than half a century has passed since DC Comics' most famous superhero team was created, and next year audiences will see the Justice League in live action on the big screen for the very first time, in director Zack Snyder's third entry in Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe. Since Superman (Henry Cavill) is (temporarily) out of the picture, it falls to Gotham's protector Batman (Ben Affleck) to become the keystone of the metahuman alliance, bringing together Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to defend the Earth and its people.
By the time audiences met the character in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne was already pretty battle-scarred and disillusioned, viewing the arrest of a human trafficker and the freeing of his victims as an unproductive night, and embarking on a mission to kill Superman based purely on the possibility that he might one day turn against humanity. Yet the events of that film changed Batman even further, in ways that will become apparent in Justice League.
Screen Rant visited the set of Justice League in London last week to get an early look at what's on the way in next DCEU milestone release. During the visit, producer Deborah Snyder explained that "[Superman's] death really impacted Batman in a profound way," and as a result Bruce "starts to regain his faith in humanity." His decision to reach out to other metahumans is a significant one, considering his lonely lifestyle in Batman V Superman, and the implication that things ended very badly for his last partner in crime-fighting. "He was so solitary for so long and really in the shadows," says Snyder. "He's learning to trust people. You know, that's a big thing."
Learning to trust people is such a big step for Batman that the character will probably have to achieve it in smaller steps - with a few stumbles along the way. Affleck notes that his character isn't exactly known for his winning personality, and is pretty underqualified for the task he's set himself.
"The interesting thing about this Batman is that on the one hand, he’s sort of the ultimate loner, but on the other hand, he’s tasked with putting together a group. So is the guy who basically broods in a cave all day really the best person to put together a team of superheroes? And he doesn’t have huge success initially. He rubs some people the wrong way or they rub him the wrong way, he’s got to figure out how to play well with others. He barely knows how to play well with Alfred."
It seems that what will allow Batman to overcome this handicap is his newfound conviction. He might be physically a few months older, but the way that Affleck describes Justice League's Batman suggests that he has found the spirit of a younger and more idealistic version of himself.
"This is now not a guy at the end of his rope but kind of a guy at the beginning. Starting over, reborn and believing. Finding hope. The thing that he’s hopeful for he’s holding onto desperately. And he really believes in this idea of forming this group. I can definitely say that. That starts him off and that’s his core mission here. Obviously that’s something different because that’s a guy who’s not nihilistic, he hasn’t given up. He deeply believes that this is something that needs to happen and he’s in the awkward position of being kind of out there with a cup in his hand like, you know, 'believe in this, this is a good idea.'"
Affleck's first outing as Batman was controversial to say the least. Though his performance was generally praised by both critics and fans, there was heated debate over the fact that Batman killed several goons while on the warpath, tortured and branded criminals (effectively sentencing them to death in prison), and made it his mission to kill Superman as well. Fortunately for those who prefer their superheroes to act a bit more heroic, Affleck says that Bruce is "no longer extreme in that way":
"In the last movie, Batman definitely went to a very dark place that was rooted in trauma that occurred to people that he loved and worked with and what he saw... From the experiences of the last movie, he’s sort of learned and now... he’s wanting to redeem himself and wanting mankind to be redeemed and he’s wanting to make the world better, having learned lessons that were important in the last movie."
While Batman's attitude makeover will be essential in the fight against the Justice League's enemies, it doesn't hurt to have a well-stocked arsenal as well. Among the new toys that fans can look forward to seeing in Justice League are a massive tank vehicle called the "Crawler" and a state-of-the-art airborne vehicle called the "Flying Fox," which will serve as the Justice League's main mode of transportation. The Batmobile has also been repaired and improved since its ill-fated encounter with Superman, with several new weapons including a roof-mounted cannon.
Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.