At this point it may seem premature to discuss the Justice League movie - what with Batman V Superman still so far off from its 2016 release - but since BvS is in fact subtitled Dawn of Justice, we can pretty much rest assured that a Justice League movie is indeed happening.
As far back as the late '00s, when Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller almost got a Justice League film off the ground, fans have been eager to see just what threat brings DC's greatest superheroes together. The very same question still looms large over the Justice League movie that will exist in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice universe - but lately the answer has been less clear than many would've originally thought.
Here are our breakdowns of what villain(s) could appear in a Justice League movie - and why they would be worthy adversaries for The League. This is all pure speculation, so if you are the type who likes to wait for concrete info, this post is NOT for you.
Had you asked most DC Comics Fans who the villain of Justice League would be, most of them would've likely said Darkseid. Lord of the hellish planet Apokolips, Darkseid has had several origins - all of which revolve around an ambitious man seizing hold of a power called the Omega Force, which transformed him into a rock-like creature. As one of the New Gods, Darkseid is among the most powerful and dangerous foes in all of the DC Universe.
The New 52 relaunch of the Justice League comic featured an origin story about the League members coming together to repel Darkseid's invasion of earth; that same story was then adapted into the Justice League: War animated feature, so fans naturally assumed a Justice League movie would follow suit. According to Badass Digest, however, this is not the case:
...My sources tell me not to expect Darkseid in the DC movieverse until Justice League 2...
Say what?! That rumor is an upset to pretty much THE popular theory of what Justice League will be - but it's not without merit. Darkseid shares a lot in common with Marvel's Thanos (Thanos is actually a confirmed Darkseid knock-off); and as Thanos is to Marvel fans, Darkseid is the sort of "big bad" that many do NOT want to see wasted on a half-cooked movie portrayal. They want his appearance to be worthwhile when it does finally happen.
In a bit of irony, the DC New 52 Justice League comic - as well as the War animated adaptation - has been accused of cheapening Darkseid into a generic (mostly mute) powerhouse villain. If Badass is right, hopefully the cinematic universe makes better use of him, and develops Darkseid over time, in full respect of the character.
There should really be an asterisk in front of this one, as Lex Luthor being the "villain" in Justice League could mean any number of things. Lex could be a hands-off mastermind of some larger threat (Doomsday); he could suit up in armor (or use some chemical compound he designed) and be a physical threat himself; he could even be the controlling hand in a group of villains. When it comes to Luthor, all of those scenarios are possible... even at once.
The obvious downside to this theory is that Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) will already be in Batman V Superman, so using him again for a Justice League movie immediately thereafter could be overexposure. Then again; right now (at the time of writing this), we still don't know just how much Lex figures into Dawn of Justice; a majority of that film could very well be about the conflict between the two titular superheroes.
If Luthor is only a tangential or background player in Dawn of Justice, then Justice League could be the film where one of DC's most iconic archvillains finally takes center stage.
One would think that Braniac is a character best saved for something like Man of Steel 2 - but he doesn't have to be. The events of Man of Steel and Batman V Superman are ample enough time for Krypton's sentient artificial intelligence to have learned of Kal-El's existence on Earth, and like Zod, begun machinations in order to acquire him for collection.
Like so many Superman villains, Brainiac has been through revisions in both origin and design - but in the modern "New 52" continuity, he first makes contact with Superman by way of Lex Luthor and Luthor's henchman, Metallo. Metallo (aka John Corben) has long been floated as a possible henchman-style villain for Luthor in Dawn of Justice - so maybe a three-tiered system of villainy (Brainiac behind Lex who is behind Metallo) isn't so crazy to envision.
The other thing about Brainiac is that his A.I. identity and penchant for collection of organisms from across the cosmos makes him the kind of "Big Bad" who has many types of enemy forces at his disposal (machinery, alien soldiers, beasts, etc.). Brainiac's power struggles with Luthor have also provided good villain-on-villain drama throughout the years, and would add an interesting twist on the standard two villain super hero movie formula.
It would be stepping on Marvel's heels a bit (Age of Ultron much?), but all is fair in love and superhero movie making, and Brainiac is a piece that fits snug into the Justice League puzzle for a variety of reasons.
Continuing the question of "What Luthor and/or Brainiac Might Do," we arrive at a scenario that could play itself out any number of ways. With Lex Luthor comes evil genius and immoral skill in a laboratory, which could conceivably result in any number of metahuman creations that would threaten the world. For our purposes, we're discussing the two most popular characters fans have fit into this version of a Justice League movie: Doomsday and Bizarro.
The former was a monster responsible for the milestone "Death of Superman" event in the 1990s, while the latter has existed for over half a century as a backwards-talking demented Superman clone. In the most recent DC Universe reboot, Doomsday is an alien force that once plagued Krypton and is destined to battle its Last Son; Bizarro is a flawed Superman clone created by Lex Luthor out of Kryptonian and human DNA.
In short: Both Bizarro and Doomsday are super powered threats of a level that could require the Justice League - and both could be easily spun into being either creations or discoveries of LexCorp and/or Braniac. Sure, other characters like Metallo or Parasite might have the same origin - but they are less likely to offer a Justice League-level threat. For pure blockbuster action, Doomsday and/or Bizarro would deliver the goods.
The Injustice League
Building off the Lex Luthor theory; Justice League will presumably be the official introduction of WB's lineup of DC superheroes, who will later be spun off into their own solo (or selective combo) projects. One way to approach that goal would be to give fans a bigger taste of each hero's world - and what better, more succinct way to do that than by setting up their main villain rivalries early on?
For those who don't know, the Injustice League is pretty much what it sounds like - a villain version of the Justice League. The gang claims in its ranks a pretty wide spread of DC villains; however, the latest incarnation of The New 52 Injustice League was made up of Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Black Manta, Black Adam, Catwoman, Sinestro, Bizarro and Captain Cold - all viable antagonists for a team up film, without necessarily blowing the entire roster of supervillainy on the first time out (by say, cramming a new Joker in that mix).
The bottom line is this: Superhero movies have crammed in multiple villain stories and tripped over themselves in the process; nobody has tried to incorporate a supervillain team unit into the formula - definitely not in a film featuring a rival superhero team. Marvel Studios doesn't seem to have any plans like that on the horizon (and no, Sony's Sinister Six doesn't qualify... ). The Injustice League could be a good (and surprising) way for DC/WB to distinguish its universe, its Justice League movie, and each of the superheroes looking for a solo film future.
Not a choice you hear brought up very often - but an intriguing one. Vandal Savage is an immortal who has pretty much plagued the DC comic book universe since the beginning of recorded history on earth. His metahuman physique, immortality and unquenchable ambition have fashioned him into a master tactician, warrior, and all around supervillain psychopath. He's a great "Big Bad" in his own right, but is an even more interesting addition to a Justice League movie.
Batman V Superman will supposedly deal with longtime heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman's reacting to the new era of Superman. With the Man of Steel at the center, more heroes like Aquaman, Flash and Green Lantern are expected to emerge, basically transforming the DC Cinematic Universe into a place where metahumans are a new reality. Vandal Savage is a great villain to help put that all into perspective.
For an immortal like Savage, humanity will have become small, boring - but the dawn of superhumans would make things mighty interesting for Vandal again. What's great about Savage - as a character - is his viewpoint as an immortal and all the frightening immorality he draws from that perspective. Justice League would be a head trip as well as an action fest if the team was confronted with the temptation of taking a rightful place as leaders of the world - for the good of the world - as imagined by Vandal Savage. Would Superman and Wonder Woman feel the same as Green Lantern and Flash? Would Batman even be considered for the new world order?
Snyder and Co. have been surprising us left and right with their choices for building the DCU - going with a villain like Vandal Savage in Justice League would continue that trend. BONUS: As an immortal, Savage is a character who could be utilized to explain or bridge together any number of important historical points in the DCU - say, Superman's arrival, or the fates of ancient Atlantis and/or Themyscira?
Aquaman / Atlantis
Since the mid-2000s, DC comics has done a major overhaul on the Aquaman character and property, and comic fans already know that the King of Seas has been redeemed as a legit powerhouse, worthy of his Justice League membership. Aquaman has long been poised for a big jump into mainstream media, and will even be testing the waters with Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, an upcoming animated feature geared at introducing Aquaman to DC's shared animated universe.
With Aquaman on the rise (no pun), it's only logical that the character make his big debut on the movie screen - and all signs point to Game of Thrones star Jason Mamoa playing the role. Of course, DC and Warner Bros. aren't likely to jump into something as expensive and untested as an Aquaman solo film - after all, the spectacle of undersea adventure and high seas warfare is a top-dollar gamble. But folding that gamble into a team event film like Justice League could work just fine.
The "Throne of Atlantis" storyline involves Atlantis' war on the surface world, with the half-breed Aquaman stuck in the middle. There are already rumors that General Zod's world engine attack on the Indian Ocean in Man of Steel will be the catalyst for Aquaman's appearance on the surface, and if Mamoa is indeed playing him, it's a safe bet that we'll see the more militaristic (and beefy) version of the character, as recently featured in storylines like "Flashpoint Paradox".
Having a team-up film where the antagonist eventually becomes a trusted ally would certainly differentiate Justice League from Avengers; but the special effects requirements make it a long shot.
We've got to count this one because, well, you never know. Basically pick from the pantheon of DC Comics alien races and they could provide the legion of villains the Justice League need to defeat. The choices could be interesting and inspired (White Martians, Starro) or just a freaky-looking bunch of baddies that can be pummeled into submission.
The Justice League animated series started on such a note, using an invading army as a suitable showcase for each hero's power and prowess. The New 52 Justice League (and the animated adaptation) begin with the League forming to repel the invading alien forces of Darkseid and Apokolips, so the logic of approach is still being followed today.
An easy way to both connect Justice League to Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice - and stick with a proven and reliable approach - is to once again make the Earth the target of extraterrestrial invasion - especially if that connection involves Superman.
Then again, it's pretty safe to say that fans probably want something a little different than what they got in The Avengers (and countless other sci-fi invasion movies of the last few years), so this option is at the bottom of our list with good reason.
Those are our picks for the DC villains that could be used for the upcoming Justice League movie. Of course, DC Comics is full of great villains that aren't listed here - would any of them be YOUR pick for a Justice League antagonist? Let us know in the comments.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25, 2016. Justice League may be coming soon after that.