Warner Bros. has struggled for many years with bringing DC’s greatest super team to the big screen. After several attempts, it’s all finally coming together with Zack Snyder’s Justice League later this year, starring Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Comic book and DC Extended Universe fans are undoubtedly excited for the film, but the thing is, Warners and DC Entertainment almost got Justice League off the ground about ten years ago.
Legendary director George Miller, who’s known primarily for creating the Mad Max movie franchise and subsequently launching Mel Gibson’s Hollywood career, was hired by Warner Bros. in 2007 to direct Justice League: Mortal — their first live-action Justice League movie ever. The plan was to shoot the movie in Australia in 2008 and release it the following year, in 2009, alongside Snyder’s live-action Watchmen movie.
Unfortunately, things went horribly awry, and the studio ended up shelving the project indefinitely, despite having a fully-cast set of actors with a completed script and shooting location. It has since gone down as one of the biggest “what ifs” in Hollywood. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About George Miller’s Canceled Justice League Movie.
15. The cast
One of the biggest factors of success when it comes to a superhero movie is the cast. In Justice League: Mortal, the ensemble would have featured mostly unknowns, with only a handful of performers having already established themselves in the industry.
The cast was as follows: D.J. Cortona as Superman, Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Adam Brody as The Flash (Barry Allen), Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman, Hugh Keays-Byrne as Martian Manhunter, and Common as Green Lantern (John Stewart), with Zoe Kazan as Iris Allen, and Jay Baruchel and Teresa Palmer as the villains Maxwell Lord and Talia al Ghul, respectively.
Although Common didn’t get his chance to suit up as the Green Lantern, he did manage to appear in another DC Comics movie: David Ayer’s Suicide Squad — but that hasn’t stopped him from campaigning to play Stewart in the DCEU’s Green Lantern Corps.
14. The plot
The movie’s script emerged online some years ago, and many have read through it in an effort to compare it to the upcoming Justice League movie, similar to how many people compared Joss Whedon’s canceled Wonder Woman movie’s script to Patty Jenkins’ film. As previously mentioned, George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal would have featured Maxwell Lord and Talia al Ghul as the main villains, with Lord uncovering each hero’s weakness thanks to Batman (more on that later).
Upon discovering that Lord was behind an attack on Martian Manhunter and, subsequently, the rest of the super-powered Leaguers, the team confronts Lord, but are then attacked by the villain’s OMAC cyborgs. The League fought the robots while also attempting to protect nearby civilians. Meanwhile, Lord managed to psychically control Superman and forced the hero to turn on his friends. The League eventually rescues Superman and defeated Lord, though not without cost.
13. A Justice League member dies
The beginning movie opens up with a funeral scene for one of the Justice League members, though it’s not revealed who died until the end of the film — and for good reason. Interestingly, the tactic of showing the story’s conclusion first, and then telling the story as a flashback, is something that TV shows tend to do, but it’s rarely, if ever, seen in movies. The notion was that one of the main Leaguers had sacrificed themselves to save everyone else, and it turns out, that person was the Flash.
In the film’s final act, when the League has the villainous Maxwell Lord cornered, Lord reveals that, if he were to be killed, his doomsday device would detonate and kill all of them. To Barry Allen, the only way out of this predicament was to run so fast that he merged himself with the Speed Force (similar to what happened in Crisis on Infinite Earths) and take Lord with him into the void. Since the team was missing one member when all was said and done, young Wally West assumed the mantle of the Flash and joined the Justice League, setting him up as the Scarlet Speedster for the sequels.
12. The movie would have been told mostly from the Flash’s perspective
Although ample screentime is given to each Justice League member, the vast majority of the movie would have been shown through the Flash’s point of view. Having audiences experience most of the movie from the the speedster’s perspective, especially while he continuously jokes throughout the story (which would have been evocative of Wally West’s Flash from the Justice League animated series), helps alleviate tension and keeps the movie lighthearted.
It’s worth noting that Zack Snyder also seems to be using the fastest man alive to keep the tone somewhat lighter in his upcoming Justice League film. George Miller’s Flash, although an established hero himself, was always in awe of the other Leaguers in his movie, similar to how Ezra Miller’s take on the character seems to be constantly in awe of everyone around him. It’s very possibly that Snyder may have borrowed some elements for his upcoming film from Justice League: Mortal.
11. Comic book and TV show influences
Since Justice League: Mortal was a comic book movie, it only makes sense that the script borrows heavily from the source material. Whereas most Batman-starring DC Comics movies tend to borrow elements from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, as well as past movies and TV shows, the Justice League movie would have been primarily inspired by Mark Waid’s beloved 2000 comic series JLA: Tower of Babel.
In that well-received story arc, Batman kept concealed files on each superhero, identifying their primary weaknesses, so that if any of them were to go rogue, the Dark Knight would be equipped to handle the situation. Unfortunately, Ra’s al Ghul managed to steal the files and incapacitate the League. The same thing happens in the movie, except with the daughter of the Demon’s Head, Talia al Ghul, stealing the files.
10. It would have tied for being the most expensive movie ever made
Hollywood studios are finding themselves shelling out more and more money to make blockbuster films nowadays, at least compared to how things were a decade or two ago. In the 20th century, filmmakers wouldn’t dream of making a movie with a production budget that exceeds $150 million, and now, that same budget has been deemed the low-end for most superhero movies and major summer tentpoles. The turning point was James Cameron’s Titanic in 1997, which cost an estimated $200 million to produce.
Ten years later, Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End took things to the next level, costing Disney a whopping $300 million to make. It became the most expensive movie ever made, and if Justice League: Mortal would have released in 2009, the DC film would have tied Pirates 3 for the title, reportedly requiring an astounding $300 million to produce — though some reports have suggested that the final number might have been considerably lower.
9. It would have been something akin to Mad Max: Fury Road
Aside from the fact that comic book fans had to wait another ten years to see the Justice League of America come together on the big screen for the first time, people were disappointed that they didn’t get to see what legendary director George Miller could have done with the characters, and the superhero genre in general. In 2015, people started reflecting on what Justice League: Mortal would have been based off Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and that included the would-be Superman, D.J. Cotrona.
Cotrona had previously told /Film that all people had to do was watch Fury Road to see what Mortal would have looked like, and to see how “operatic” and “expansive” Miller’s thinking was. He compared their Justice League story to that of Greek Gods, and had said that the director planned on taking Batman and Superman, along with the rest of the Leaguers, to places the characters had never gone before.
8. Miller had the cast get into the mindset of the characters
Some of the actors involved with the project have stated over the years that the storyboards George Miller and the storyboard artists created for the film were unlike anything they had ever seen. They truly felt that the movie would have been magnificent, and part of its brilliance would have stemmed from the portrayals of each character. In an interview with AICN, Armie Hammer said that Miller wanted the actors and actresses to represent their characters in both body and mind.
Miller brought psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurosurgeons on-set to work with each actor, through each table read, helping them get into the mind frame of their heroes. For Hammer, that meant learning how to become as paranoid as Batman. For Adam Brody, that meant becoming twitchy, and for Santiago Cabrera, that meant acquainting himself with sea life by swimming with dolphins. The filmmaker wanted his cast to, essentially, become their characters.
7. Behind-the-scenes issues/setbacks
With a production like Justice League: Mortal‘s, studios can expect to run into numerous hurdles, but there were two major behind-the-scenes setbacks that threatened to end production altogether. Firstly, the film was originally scheduled to shoot and undergo post-production in Australia, Miller’s home country. The studio was supposed to receive a major rebate (40 percent of total in-country costs) for filming in the island nation, but complications arose, and Warners ended up having to move production to Canada at the last minute.
Secondly, award-winning costume designer Marit Allen was supposed to create the team’s suits — and everyone knows how important superhero costumes are for a superhero movie. Sadly, she passed away in November 2007, prior to her completing work on all the suits. Since the movie was scheduled to film in Australia, the studio hired New Zealand-based studio Weta Workshop to finish the costumes the following year, but things had already spiraled by that point.
6. Some of the costumes had been made
Warner Bros. hired Weta Workshop to design the Justice League: Mortal costumes in January 2008, two months after Marit Allen had passed away. Although concept art for some of the heroes’ designs has emerged online over the years, only one full-on costume fitting has actually seen the light of day: Megan Gale’s Wonder Woman costume, courtesy of Australian photographer Mark Rogers. Although the costume has similar features to that of the source material and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman duds, the actual design is noticeably different.
Armie Hammer’s Batman costume was never revealed, but he has previously stated that his Weta-created Batsuit was more of an exoskeleton, built out of carbon fiber and featured working pistons and gears that could fire Batarangs. Hammer has geeked out over his costume many times in the press; it’s just unfortunate that the public has never had the chance to see it for themselves.
5. The WGA Strike and its role in the movie’s cancellation
From November 2007 to February 2008, the 12,000 screen and teleplay writers from the Writers Guild of America had gone on strike, protesting low funds. The strike, although short, had major repercussions throughout the industry, of which networks like NBC bore the brunt of the disaster (hence the rise of reality television). Film studios were also affected, though, such as Warners.
The studio wanted to push Justice League: Mortal into production prior to the WGA strike commencing, though they didn’t end up making that date. Unfortunately, when Miller and the rest of the creative team realized that Kieran and Michele Mulroney’s script needed fine-tuning, there weren’t any writers around to do the job. Despite all other issues, in the end, it was the script’s quality and lack of ability to fix it that caused the studio to shelve the film.
4. Christian Bale didn’t think it was the right time for Justice League to release
Christian Bale’s portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy continues to be revered by comic book fans and casual moviegoers alike. Regardless of who people consider to be the best on-screen Batman, there’s no denying that Nolan’s films set an industry precedent — and having two people play Batman on the big screen, at the same time, just didn’t make sense.
The year before The Dark Knight released, Bale expressed disinterest in the team-up project, and he stated in several interviews that the studio shouldn’t release Justice League until after Nolan’s trilogy was completed, so that neither film would step on the toes of the other. Bale’s comments were logical, and many have since taken issue with there being one actor playing a superhero on the small screen and another on the big screen (e.g. Tom Welling/Brandon Routh as Superman and Grant Gustin/Ezra Miller as the Flash).
3. George Miller has said that it was good that the movie didn’t happen
Although Warner Bros. had been trying to get Justice League off the ground for many years, it wasn’t until George Miller boarded the project in 2007 that things finally started to move forward, and the Australian film director was as excited to tell the story as audiences were excited to see it. However, after spending the past decade reflecting on the project and being asked about it numerous times, he’s come to the conclusion that it’s actually good that Mortal didn’t happen.
In 2015, while promoting Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller revealed on the Word Balloon Podcast that Justice League: Mortal would have been very faithful to the comics at the time, though ultimately, he was glad the movie didn’t happen. He said that there were parts that people would have absolutely loved, yet there were also aspects that many people may have truly hated. Furthermore, he admitted that parts of the movie were primarily aimed at a young audience, which made sense, since Miller was coming off a streak of making kids’ movies like Happy Feet.
2. A video game was going to release alongside the movie
In the ’90s and ’00s, it was quite common for movie studios to commission video game tie-ins to release around the time that the movies hit theaters. The practice has fallen by the wayside in recent years, but Justice League: Mortal was going to release in 2009, a time in which Warner Bros. still wanted to make tie-in video games — and the Justice League movie was the perfect candidate.
It has been reported that Double Helix Games was responsible for the Justice League: Mortal video game, which would have been a 3D brawler (perhaps a precursor to Injustice: Gods Among Us?). After the film was canceled, the studio continued working on the game, though, unfortunately, it never went gold. A handful of images (not depicted above) of the game surfaced in 2012, thus confirming its existence, and then in 2015, actual footage had leaked online. Although they weren’t able to make the Justice League: Mortal game, Double Helix did go on to make Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, a tie-in for Martin Campbell’s 2011 Green Lantern film.
1. A documentary is (supposedly) being made about the movie
For the past decade, people have wondered exactly what went wrong with Justice League: Mortal, and just as with the documentary, The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?, which focused on Nicolas Cage’s canceled Superman film, George Miller’s canned Justice League movie is also going to be the subject of a documentary.
The documentary, which has been fittingly titled Justice League: Mortal, was first announced in May 2015, with Purryburry Productions and Caldwell Entertainment co-producing the project. Shortly after the documentary’s announcement, teaser posters for Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern surfaced online, and although the film is supposed to release in 2018, there hasn’t been any update on the project in quite some time. Unfortunately, the production companies may still be waiting on Warner Bros. for approval to move forward.
Would you have been first in line to see George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal, or are you glad that it never ended up getting made? Let us know in the comments.
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