Warning: SPOILERS for Justice League!
We finally have a Justice League movie, but this wasn’t Warner Bros’ first attempt at bringing DC’s greatest heroes together – and the DCEU’s version has some similarities to George Miller’s failed Justice League: Mortal. Director Zack Snyder (with a big assist from Joss Whedon) has brought the World’s Greatest Superheroes to the big screen in an adventure to save the world. It’s important to note, however, that a Justice League film almost happened back in the late-2000s, when director George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) came close to rolling cameras on Justice League: Mortal.
How similar is Zack Snyder’s Justice League to Miller’s abandoned vision? What aspects of Justice League: Mortal may have been lifted for the movie that was eventually made? Could any part of Miller’s film actually have been an improvement compared to the film now in theaters? And why didn’t Mortal ever see the light of day? Let’s take a look at the Justice League movie that could have been:
WHAT WAS JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL?
Long before there was a DC Extended Universe, George Miller planned to tell the ultimate Justice League story in his ambitious film. Written by Kieran and Michele Mulroney, Mortal was based upon the wildly popular Justice League: Unlimited animated series, with its story an adaptation of Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel storyline, in which Batman’s strategies on how to defeat the League if they ever turned on Mankind were unearthed by a villain and used against the heroes.
The cast Miller assembled consisted of Armie Hammer as Batman, D.J. Cotrona as Superman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Adam Brody as The Flash (Barry Allen), Common as Green Lantern John Stewart, Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman, Hugh Keays-Byrne as the Martian Manhunter, Zoe Kazan as Iris West, Jay Baruchel as Maxwell Lord, and Teresa Palmer as Talia al Ghul.
Production on Mortal would have begun in Miller’s native Australia in February 2008 but Warner Bros. placed the production on hold citing issues with the huge budget, which was upwards of $200 million, and issues with the script (which were exacerbated when the Writers Guild of America strike in early 2008 then made rewrites impossible). Warner Bros. also decided that production would be moved to Canada, in spite of Miller’s insistence for the film to be shot at FOX Studios in his homeland. Another issue was director Christopher Nolan, who was in the midst of post-production on The Dark Knight, expressing his displeasure at another version of Batman appearing on the big screen. With Miller, the budget, the screenplay and the studio all at loggerheads, the options for the cast were allowed to expire and Justice League: Mortal‘s production was ultimately abandoned.
JUSTICE LEAGUE Vs. JL: MORTAL – SIMILARITIES
In terms of makeup, both films feature a similar, comic-rooted League, with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman all at the core. Alongside them, though, Mortal would have included Green Lantern (who was teased in Justice League) and the Martian Manhunter instead of Cyborg (Ray Fisher), mainly because Victor Stone was only made a founding member of the League in place of the Manhunter during DC Comics’ The New 52 reboot in 2011.
Both films would have charted the formation of the League, with the heroes choosing to band together and formally becoming the JLA by the end. However, in Mortal, the supers were generally more experienced and famous than they are in Snyder’s film, which began with Superman deceased and the majority of the team unknowns. In Miller’s vision, most of the superheroes already knew each other at least by reputation before Maxwell Lord’s villainy brought them together.
Mortal‘s POV character was The Flash, who like the 2017 film is also the Barry Allen version and the most exuberant of the heroes, providing much of the comic relief. However, as Mortal was conceived before Geoff Johns’ The Flash: Rebirth comics reworked Barry Allen’s origin, there was no backstory involving Barry’s father Henry Allen in prison for the murder of his mother. Further, Barry is already married to Iris West, with her little brother Wally established as Kid Flash.
The Justice League fighting Superman also seems to be written into the DNA of both Justice League films. Unlike the brief battle in Snyder’s film following Superman’s resurrection, however, in Mortal, the Man of Steel is mind-controlled by Maxwell Lord and forced to fight his fellow heroes, though it’s primarily Wonder Woman who goes to toe to toe with Superman in a pitched and brutal battle on Earth and in outer space. One other, semi-superficial change was Aquaman no longer being a blonde Caucasian as in the comic books, in this case with was also eschewed in Mortal with the Chilean-British Santiago Cabrera in the role.
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