A major trend that’s been evolving in theaters over the past decade is the division of singular stories, no matter their source, into multiple parts. Warner Bros.’s fateful decision to cleave Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows into two cinematic outings back in 2010 has had major consequences for the rest of the industry, producing aftershocks that seem to be only growing and getting stronger. In addition to Potter, the final installments of the Twilight, Hunger Games, and Divergent series have all been bifurcated, and The Hobbit was even trifurcated (hitting a new high – or low, depending upon one’s tastes).
On the one hand, it’s easy to see why such a move is quickly becoming so popular: studios get to rake in even more money than what was originally scheduled, and fans get to have a fuller, more faithful adaptation of their favorite novels or comics (as well as getting the inevitable post-finale depression delayed, if only temporarily). On the other hand, however, this practice is quickly threatening to bleed over from the specific domain of adaptations to affect the general movie marketplace altogether, with Warner Bros. again leading the charge, announcing in October 2014 that its much-touted Justice League would be cut in two. Not to be outdone, Marvel Studios wasted no time in revealing that its third Avengers entry, Infinity War, would likewise be halved.
All of which raises one simple, unavoidable question: Should Justice League Really Be a Two-Parter?
Yes: the more, the merrier
Here’s the first caveat we have to work with when chewing on this subject: we have absolutely no idea what the two films’ premises are (though we certainly have our fair share of rumors on the subject). This is an important piece of the puzzle, obviously, since it justifies the presence of the extra 90 or 120 minutes of screen time.
Even without such solid information, however, and even with Man of Steel being the singular release in the DC Extended Universe thus far, we can start to draw some pretty informed conclusions. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a very packed movie, containing a plethora of characters, adversaries, storylines, and, of course, expositional setup – and that’s just what’s been gleaned from the various trailers and interviews with the cast and crew; director Zack Snyder (who, it just so happens, is coming back to helm both of the Justice Leagues) has repeatedly claimed that there’s still much more than meets the eye with the finished product.
Given that Batman v Superman only focuses on half of the Justice League – Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) – it’s not that much of a stretch to see how all seven of the legendary superheroes would necessitate a second installment, particularly if Snyder and his writer, Chris Terrio, can use the extra runtime to provide a bevy of smaller, quieter, character-focused moments, and not just pad it out with yet more big action set-pieces filled with even more explosions and alien invasions.
Speaking of involved narratives that are allowed more time to breath, there’s another item at work here that could be influencing both Warners’ and Snyder’s decision-making on this front. While Marvel might have been the first to introduce the modern model of a shared cinematic universe, it’s going to be the DC brand that can potentially weave all of its various storylines through a wide number of its various properties. By the time the June 14, 2019 release date of Justice League Part II arrives, at least three additional DCEU films will have already hit since the November 17, 2017 opening of Part I, starting with The Flash and moving on to Aquaman and Shazam.
While it’s entirely possible these movies will be non-linear, much like the Wonder Woman standalone picture is, there’s also the possibility that they’ll somehow spinoff from the events of the first Justice League, carrying on the narrative torch until Part II can definitively (well, “definitively”) resolve it all – much like how the comic book universes have already been operating for the past several decades.
Rather than being a now-obligatory extending of a franchise, the multi-part Justice League might actually be blazing new filmic ground.