Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead for Batman v Superman
The long-awaited arrival of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has produced quite a thunderclap in the popular culture, unleashing a torrent of negative reviews and pitting the critics against droves of fans. But regardless of its controversy, the film is also elaborately setting up a future cinematic event that could rival – or, just possibly, surpass – what Marvel has managed to do with its Avengers films: namely, Justice League, Part I.
There is so much to look forward to regarding the history-in-the-making big-screen debut of comics’ most famous superhero team – and so many course corrections from the previous DC Extended Universe films to make – that attempting to boil everything down into the base essentials can be an overwhelming task, at best. But fear not, we’re here to help with our 10 Things We Want to See in Justice League.
By the time you’re done reading, whether you worshipped or loathed Dawn of Justice, we promise that you’ll be positively excited for the future.
10 More supervillains
A main thrust of Batman v Superman was its accumulation of meta-humans, even if most of these individuals ended up not being aware of the others’ existences or super-skillsets. The follow-up installment, Suicide Squad, inverts that origin equation and shows how all the major supervillains of the DC Extended Universe form their own team – a novel approach, given its thematic counterbalancing and the fact that it’ll be the first superhero film to focus squarely on the baddies.
Given the relative lack of archnemeses in Dawn of Justice – okay, yes, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Doomsday (Robin Atkin Downes) both do count, but they’re only two in a whole huge roster – here’s to hoping that DC’s big villainous guns get some kind of utilization in Justice League. It seems obvious that Darkseid will (eventually) be the ultimate big baddie, but what about Anti-Monitor, Hellrazer, Nick Necro, or Peraxxus? Or how about other Batman-specific rogues (he does have so many), like the Riddler, Clayface, or Red Hood? Or – hey – how about some type of appearance of the Suicide Squad itself? Any or all of these could well put the two-part film over the top.
9 More superheroes
The teasing glimpses of such characters as the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) were a small but important part of Batman v Superman, given that it promised an even bigger cinematic world than just Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Justice League will doubtlessly follow a similar tack, if only to foreshadow the inevitable expansion of the team (or its replacement of phased-out members, as The Avengers: Age of Ultron did to Marvel’s titular lineup).
That means we’re due for what will probably prove to be a whole slew of new characters, whether they prove to be Easter egg mentions (like Darkseid in BvS), cameo appearances (Aquaman), or full-fledged League members (Wonder Woman). Given talk of just how interested Warner Bros. is in the Birds of Prey property – and given previous rumors of Black Canary being written into either of the JL outings – it seems likely that either Batgirl and/or Canary will be included at some point. And other shoe-ins just may be some of the classic (or founding) League members, such as Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, or the Atom, who is the DC equivalent of Marvel’s Ant-Man – a character which has seen some success of his own on the big screen recently.
Speaking of classic characters…
8 Include Green Lantern
Debuting just one year after Batman, Green Lantern has been an important mainstay in the DC Universe practically ever since, proving to be the cornerstone of an entire (intergalactic) section of the company’s massive continuity. A sprawling police force prowling the farthest reaches of the cosmos, the 7,202-member Green Lantern Corps is some three billion years old and has more than enough material to generate its own series of films – precisely what Warner plans on kicking off in 2020.
Given the future cinematic importance of the character, and given the fact that Hal Jordan is the only one of the original seven founding Justice League members to not be introduced in Dawn of Justice (yes, Cyborg replaces Martian Manhunter, for all you obsessive-compulsive types at home), we fully expect the character to play a substantial role in Justice League Part I, whether it be ancillary or dominant in terms of screen time. And this, indeed, is what rumors have been pointing to for the past few years, making Green Lantern’s inclusion all but guaranteed.
7 Classic comic storylines
There are smatterings of key comic book storylines in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, ranging from Superman: Birthright’s scene of Clark’s first flight to, of course, BvS’s heavy reliance on The Dark Knight Returns (from its ominous tone to its sadistic Batman to the iconic fight between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel). We’re going out on a limb here and assuming that both parts of Justice League won’t be any different – but, if so, which classic JL storylines should be lifted?
Perhaps the first to come to mind is Tower of Babel, which reveals that Batman has been keeping secret files on each of his teammates, most pertinently listing each of their weaknesses and how best to defeat them in battle, should any of them turn to the dark side. When Ra’s al Ghul gets his immortal hands on this intel, he’s able to attack the League to devastating effect (but perhaps not as devastating as the consequences that Bruce Wayne must face once the dust settles). Identity Crisis reveals that certain members of the Justice League have been secretly mind-wiping certain villains (to prevent them from discovering all of their secret identities, for example) – and each other (to cover up the cover-ups). And, finally, given the dark, dismal tone of the first two DCEU films, the apocalyptic alternate-reality story Kingdom Come will perhaps get its time in the cinematic sun, showing how the final showdown between all of DC’s hundreds of meta-humans affects the destiny of the entire human civilization.
6 More cohesive team battles
Whether one hated or loved Dawn of Justice, one of the most visually arresting sections of the film was when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were forced to work together to confront the monstrosity that is Doomsday. Not only was it the very first time that all three legendary characters appeared on the screen at the same time, it also paved the way for what team battles could look like in the DC Extended Universe.
Given the presence (and amplifying superpowers) of the four remaining members of the Justice League, this last point is a crucially important one: when Darkseid finally arrives and Aquaman, Superman, the Flash, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and Batman all need to work together, how will their strategies be formed and their tactics play out? And, perhaps even more importantly, how should their teamwork not work? For although Superman’s strength and heroism and Wonder Woman’s grit and combat prowess were amply on display in Batman v Superman’s climactic third act, Batman’s role as the master strategist left much to be desired. Let’s hope director Zack Snyder and his crew improve in this department in Justice League, when it really counts.
5 More narrative context
There is something to be said for submerging a viewer into a given situation or with a specific character cold, with no preamble or explanation, and allowing the story to play out from there (this is, after all, how George Lucas originally started his Star Wars series back in the ‘70s). But there’s also a major case to be made for offering a full explanation for each narrative beat as it comes about, ensuring that the audience is able to put everything into its proper context from the very beginning. This, of course, is the Marvel Cinematic Universe model – each character tends to have his own origin movie or television series first, and then proceeds to team up with the others later on down the road.
Although it’s understandable that Snyder didn’t get into Wonder Woman’s history or backstory at all, given that her standalone film is scheduled to arrive next summer, it still served to confound a goodly swath of the audience, given that the average viewer has no clue about Warners’ future on the big screen. Given both this and the fact that the other solo films won’t arrive until much later on (The Flash won’t arrive until March of 2018, for instance, and Green Lantern Corps doesn’t bow until June 2020), it might behoove the filmmakers to provide more of an explanation for each of the Justice League members in Part I.
4 Back to the future
One of the most intriguing moments of Dawn of Justice was easily the appearance of an older Flash jumping backwards in time to warn Bruce Wayne of – well, something revolving around Lois Lane (Amy Adams). While it seems most likely to involve the so-called Knightmare vision that Bats had literally seconds before Barry Allen arrives to deliver his future-dependent message – that is to say, that pesky Darkseid has arrived on Earth and somehow made Superman into one of his world-dominating lieutenants, probably through Lois’s death – there are still, obviously, a whole host of questions to dig down into.
While it seems obvious that the Justice League two-parter will get to providing answers, what we’re hoping for is something a little more specific: seeing the other time-traveling shoe dropping. Showing how (and why!) the Flash must travel back in time in order to warn the younger Batman – and, therefore, potentially change the course of the entire DC Extended Universe timeline – would not only be the perfect payoff to BvS’s somewhat out-of-left-field scene, it would also tighten the DCEU’s overarching narrative and employ a storytelling technique that other shared universes, most notably Marvel’s, would or could never do.
3 Struggling to activate the Justice League
Zack Snyder has said that one of the chief motivating factors in killing off the Man of Steel at the end of Dawn of Justice was in making the formation of the Justice League an actual struggle for Bruce Wayne:
“I wanted Bruce Wayne to build the Justice League. I felt like with Superman around, it’s a different conversation when you create the Justice League, right? It’s like, ‘Me and Superman, we want to make a Justice League.’ [Other heroes would be] like, ‘Okay, yeah – I’ll join!’ I just feel like Bruce Wayne having to go out and find these seven samurai by himself, that’s a lot more interesting of a premise.”
If that’s the impetus behind the film’s ending, then, by all means, let’s see how much of a struggle the formation of the team is. Let’s see some of these metahumans not want to publicly out themselves, even under the guise of a costume, or not want to work as a team with the others, or be afraid of the big bad aliens that are now inexorably (and, perhaps, inexplicably) heading towards Earth.
And, conversely, let’s see how well it all pays off once they finally do click as a team, and they’ve learned how to complement one another’s personalities and power sets. This way, when Superman returns, it can be to a fully-formed, fully-functioning team that can be perfected by a leader instead of being completed by a savior.
2 Batman’s character arc
Let’s admit it: Batman v Superman is rather brutal to the character of Batman, choosing to adapt a hyper-violent interpretation of the vigilante in order to both differentiate this particular big-screen iteration from all the others before it and to provide something of a nemesis in the titular bout between the Man of Steel and the Bat of Gotham.
There also seems to be another impetus behind the move, however, one that we’ve speculated about even before the film came out: by starting Bruce Wayne out at rock bottom – as a hardened, callous extremist who doesn’t give much pause to taking another individual’s life (especially if he’s an alien that could burn the whole place down) – it provides the filmmakers behind the DCEU a chance to chart his character arc in an upward, and ultimately more uplifting, manner. Audiences already get the chance to see this in action at Clark Kent’s funeral, where Bruce commits to being a better man for Superman and starting up a team of superheroes in order to fill the void that he’s left behind.
If this is, indeed, the course that Snyder and company have committed to, then it’s absolutely imperative to see Batman continue to become a more committed and compassionate individual, the ideal placeholder leader of the team until Kal-El can rejuvenate enough to return to the land of the living. We also need to see him be the world’s greatest detective and master strategist, since, if he’s not, he literally has no place on a team populated by gods and kings.
1 Variations on the (character) theme
Superman, in Man of Steel, is a repressed drifter, living in the constant fear of being discovered as an extraterrestrial but unable to change the heroic impulses inside of him. Batman, of course, is the darkest and most demented version of the character movie or television audiences have ever seen, willing to go to nearly any length in order to attain whatever utilitarian goal he thinks is necessary to achieve. And although Wonder Woman is left largely as a blank in Batman v Superman, she is also a figure dedicated to remaining in the shadows and not having her own meta-human identity be revealed.
Given how grim and dour nearly everyone and everything is in the DC Extended Universe to date, it’s absolutely imperative to have the other personalities that comprise the Justice League be variations on the characterization theme. What if, say, the Flash is a fun-loving superpowered youth that has yet to have his soul be crushed by the dreariness of the world? And while Aquaman already has proven to place a similar premium on his privacy (why else would he be smashing camera-equipped submarines?), what if he still has a boisterous, larger-than-life personality?
If the DCEU is to prove that it’s more than just a two-note wonder, such expansiveness is, arguably, the most critical challenge it’ll face in Justice League, Part I.
Agree with our rankings? Have a few points of your own to add to the list? Be sure to let the world know in the comments.