For months, DC comic book fans and superhero movie lovers have been speculating about Warner Bros.' planned Justice League movie - even though the studio has not offered a single official piece of information. Rumors and "reports" from insider sources regularly contradict one another - making it hard to know whether Warner Bros. is quietly lining up pieces for one of the biggest movie productions in history (produced by Christopher Nolan, directed by Zach Snyder, and starring Christian Bale as well as Henry Cavill) or simply sitting on their hands (waiting on Man of Steel returns and a possible Batman reboot).
Either way, no matter which reports are more plausible at the moment, fans should be cautious before counting their potential Justice League members - since this isn't even the first time that Warner Bros. has attempted a JLA film. Long before The Avengers made shared-universe superhero team-ups the next big thing in Hollywood, George Miller was attached to direct a live-action Justice League movie, lining-up a tentative cast and starting pre-production design work with Weta Workshop, before the project was canceled.
The cancelation came as a major blow to DC faithfuls who had been eagerly following the production but no one was more disappointed than Miller's choice for Superman, D.J. Cotrona. Last year, during a group interview on the set of Cotrona's next film, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the actor discussed the ups and downs of his short-lived Justice League experience - asserting that Miller's film would have been "incredible" and delivered "Lord of the Rings scale."
That was a long slog. We were playing with that for about a year. That was during the writer's strike time and it started and it stopped. That was a big bummer. I was really, really excited to work with George Miller and the script was really, really good. The stuff that Weta was doing was amazing. It's just a shame that we didn't get to finish that because it was going to be really, really cool [...] It was a damn shame that we didn't get to finish that. I promise you that it would have been amazing. It would have been incredible. The scale of this was fantastical. It was a Lord of the Rings scale. It would have been really cool.
In addition to Cotrona, Miller's Justice League movie was expected to include Armie Hammer as Batman, Adam Brody (The O.C.) as the Barry Allen version of The Flash, Common (Hell on Wheels) as the John Stewart Green Lantern, Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max: Fury Road) as The Martian Manhunter, model Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, and Santiago Cabrera (Merlin) as Aquaman.
Understandably, as anyone who follows pre-production casting reports knows, reaction to the choices was polarized - moviegoers celebrated or derided the entire team of potential talent while other fans supported certain cast members and condemned others. The back and forth threw the young actors into a very critical and public spotlight - only to see their superhero costumes unceremoniously yanked away.
Cotrona remains humbled by the experience - though it's clear that he still laments not having a shot at playing one of the most iconic heroes in pop culture history:
Everybody in this business has seen that. For every project they have that goes, they have like five skeletons in their closet. Or a bloody corpse of something that never happened. I'm just excited -- there's so many elements that go into making a big film and so many elements that can go wrong along the way. I've learned that intimately. I'm just happy to get this one [G.I. Joe: Retaliation] to the finish line. I do now have this kneejerk reaction where, until I see it, I'm not believing anything. I'm just kind of halfway expecting the plug to be pulled every day. But yeah, it's been great. I did the Justice League thing the wrong way. I read too much on the internet. You can't do that. The internet is the devil. Or the internet is not the devil, the comment boards are the devil. Believe me, I've been on the opposite side on there, too saying, "You can't let that guy be that character!" But really [in the case of Justice League] it was Weta, Weta, Weta, Weta, Weta. They are amazing and they can make anybody look like anything.
Weta Workshop's involvement in Miller's Justice League attempt remains one of the most interesting and talked-about elements of the project. The prop house has been responsible for imaginative (and iconic) costumes and physical creations in numerous fan-favotire productions, including: Avatar, District 9, as well as the Lord of the Rings series. As indicated by Cotrona, the pre-production Justice League costume designs were reportedly pretty impressive and could have translated into captivating onscreen action - especially if Weta Digital, responsible for creating CG creatures Gollum (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Caesar (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), among countless others, delivered the film's visual effects.
Of course, a great effects team, and grand Lord of the Rings scale, doesn't necessarily translate into a worthwhile film experience - and it's unclear exactly what caused Warner Bros. to lose faith in Miller's Justice League film. No doubt, there was enormous pressure on the project from the outset, and the WGA Writer's Strike stalled some of the movie's momentum but 2008 also saw the launch of the Marvel cinematic shared universe - with the release of both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Maybe the studio decided that they weren't ready to place the future potential of their headlining superhero stable in the hands of one director in a single film - especially a film that was reportedly set to cost $300 million?
Regardless, hopefully the decision to pull-back was in service of a better JLA experience in the future (aided by DC's New 52 reboot) but, even if the next Justice League project is actually filmed and delivers on all expectations, there's no doubt that some viewers will still be morbidly curious about what Miller and Weta had up their sleeves.
We'll be posting a full interview with D.J. Cotrona in the coming days - where he discusses his role as Flint in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. However, in the meantime, check out our full Retaliation set-visit report and check out our Justice League news archive for the latest DC superhero team-up rumors.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation releases on March 28, 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Justice League and G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.