We’re just a little more than a week out from the planned release date of a second Justice League movie - having only had Aquaman appear in his own standalone movie in the DCEU since the last outing of the supergroup. The comparison between DC and Marvel’s movies are an easy one to make. The war between the two brands continues today as much as it ever has done, except now it’s mostly done on the big screen rather than just on print pages. And in that war, Marvel has well and truly won.
One of the worst things about the first Justice League movie was that it opened up a lot of potential storylines, gave audiences half-baked character development and hinted at lots of what’s to come. But nothing felt resolved by the end of the movie; it was difficult to care about any of the characters and their motivations. But we have to ask - what would a second Justice League movie have looked like? With that in mind, here are ten questions that a sequel could have answered, if it ever made it into production.
10 Where did The Flash come back in time from?
The whole ‘It’s Lois’ sequence from Batman vs Superman was an odd one and it’s not really explained in Justice League. We see Barry Allen appear to Bruce Wayne in a weird time portal to tell him that Lois is the key and that he needs to find ‘us’. We have to assume that, by this, he means the rest of the Justice League.
But there’s no explanation as to where he’s coming back from, who he speaks to when he tells someone else "I’m too early" and why he looks so different with a beard. It could be that it was just a misjudged cameo before hair and makeup knew what Barry would look like in Justice League - or it was hinting at something much more elaborate. Maybe we’ll never know.
9 Were the old gods going to become important?
There's a lot of setup in the backstory that revolves around the old gods, where we see the Amazonians, the Atlanteans and even a Green Lantern fighting.
This leads audiences down the route that these so-called ‘Old Gods’ might have a part to play later on in the DCEU or even in the final sequences of Justice League. But then it's kind of just shrugged off and not mentioned again, even though it’s a pretty important part of two of the League’s characters.
8 What does a Justice League movie look like with a real director's vision?
This isn't to say either Snyder or Whedon aren't real directors, they absolutely are. But who wants to come in and mop up someone else's spilled milk, when many think they probably could have done a much better job in their own right?
We saw the same issue with the handover between Lord & Miller and Ron Howard in Solo. Admittedly, the movie didn't set the world alight, but at least it was coherent. A Justice League sequel would only gain audience confidence if it had a singular creative director with a real vision for the movie. It needs someone who can write these characters properly, direct them and edit together a visually interesting movie instead of whatever the first movie was.
7 What was Lex Luthor up to?
Justice League's post credits scene centers around Lex Luthor and the potential set-up of an anti-Justice League led by Superman's arch nemesis.
This is representative of one of the DCEU's major flaws. There's so much expectation that these movies are going to operate as part of a wider movie universe and those plans are talked about a lot, overshadowing the main driver for any one standalone film. If you look at the early stages of the MCU, while there have been plans in the works, these weren't fed into the movies until later on and each movie stood on its own.
6 Where was The Green Lantern?
While I’m sure Warner Bros probably want Ryan Reynolds' outing as the Green Lantern in 2011 forgotten, that doesn't mean its a character that can't exist. In the Justice League comics, Hal Jordan or Alan Scott are a huge part of the supergroup and the Green Lantern Corps are a key part of many storylines.
While DC may still be smarting from the mockery it receives about the movie, a Justice League sequel could have featured a Green Lantern because as far as many comic book fans are concerned, it's not the Justice League without one.
5 What was up with cyborg's malfunctions?
Of the things that are set up and then wholly ignored, the way Cyborg’s mechanics respond to the motherbox is one of the most infuriating. As this happens, you think this must be the reason why Cyborg is part of this Justice League line-up instead of a more popular character like the Martian Manhunter or Green Lantern.
But then it's thrown away without any more attention drawn to it. Suddenly it’s forgotten, Cyborg has complete control of his mechanics and the audience is none to wiser as to what he brings to the table.
4 Where Do Suicide Squad and the rest fit in?
The DCEU has had a tough time of it, there's no two ways about it. None tougher than the backlash to Suicide Squad in 2016.
We see a glimpse of Jared Leto in Batman vs. Superman so we know that his Joker belongs to Ben Afflecks' Batman. But other than that, there's no substantial link between the two movies. More than that, it’s hard to see any conceivable way that the over-stylised world of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad could come into contact with the bleak, dreary aesthetic of Snyder's Justice League.
3 What's so special about the Justice League?
The comic books depict the Justice League as a band of uber-powerful beings who mostly enjoy working together (and are much more of a united force than the seemingly miserable bunch of superpeople shown in the 2017 movie).
There's a special feeling about these characters that could be explored in a really interesting way in a big screen adaption, but we certainly didn't see that in their first outing. While DC obviously need to differentiate their films from the brighter, lighter and much more comical movies of Marvel, that doesn't mean the characters have to live in the darkness.
2 Who are these characters?
If you’re not a person who immerses yourself in comic book movies, then it’s probably easy to think that they're one-dimensional and the characters just run around punching each other against walls and making funny quips.
And in all fairness, the DCEU hadn't done much to shift that idea, but Marvel has. The MCU has done an outstanding job of plotting out pretty substantial character development in its movies. A Justice League sequel would need to address this and give these heroes some decent story arcs that really allow them to develop.
1 Where do we go now?
Things that are setting up future DCEU movies are peppered throughout Justice League’s excessive running time and Warner Brothers have talked a lot about how the wider universe will look. But the trouble is you need a solid foundation on which to build a cinematic universe. The DCEU was built on Man of Steel, the first Henry Cavil Superman film, which, in its own right, is pretty mediocre.
It's arguable that Wonder Woman is the only well-made DCEU movie, with Aquaman pretty close behind. But the ensemble pieces like Justice League and Suicide Squad haven’t worked at all. So, to see where we’re going from here, the DCEU needs to get a few more good single character-led movies under its belt before a Justice League sequel could establish something of a better form to move the universe onwards.