The Justice League script drama started well before Joss Whedon took over as director, according to a new report. At this point it is no secret that Warner Bros. missed the mark when it came to Justice League. The film earned mixed reviews but still managed to gross over $650 million worldwide. While that total would be welcome for most films, a blockbuster of this size (and one intended to truly launch a cinematic universe) was looking to make more. But, the troubles with the movie started well before it hit theaters.
Justice League was a product of WB's reactionary approach to the reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even though production was already underway, they ordered massive rewrites and tonal changes in an attempt to appease BvS's critics. This did not fit with what Zack Snyder was building and gave Whedon the extra-difficult task of completing the film after Snyder stepped away due to a family tragedy. However, the Justice League script drama apparently started well before even that.
In a response to today's news that Geoff Johns is stepping down as DC's CCO, Vulture's Kyle Buchanan revealed that Johns was a key figure in the Justice League script drama early on. Apparently, it was Johns who spearheaded the script changes for Justice League as production continued - something that didn't set well with original writer Chris Terrio. Furthermore, WB allegedly set up a "footage summit" where they met with other writers about the film, Whedon included.
WB was allegedly so unsatisfied with how the Johns/Snyder version was shaping up that they convened a footage summit for *other* writers including Joss Whedon, Allan Heinberg, Seth Grahame-Smith, and Andrea Berloff to offer feedback. Then they hired Whedon.— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) June 11, 2018
It was already known that Whedon had begun work on Justice League prior Snyder's departure, but it appears he consulted much earlier on. This may also be how Whedon got his foot in DC's door and was originally set to direct Batgirl (a film he has since stepped away from as well). Whedon isn't the only notable name that was summoned though, regardless of when it happened. Seth Grahame-Smith was once set to direct The Flash solo movie for WB, before he stepped down over creative differences. Similarly, Heinberg cowrote Wonder Woman and Berloff wrote Straight Outta Compton (and an unused Wonder Woman script draft, according to Buchanan).
This report just reaffirms what was already pretty clear: Justice League was constantly being changed and receiving input from multiple creatives. The end result was a hybrid of a film that some find enjoyable, yet doesn't feel true to any one particular vision. Ultimately though, this is to be expected when so much meddling happens during a film's production. It didn't help that (reportedly) WB executives wouldn't delay the project either, in order to ensure that they still got their bonus checks.
As troubled as Justice League's production clearly was, it's difficult to say how things could've been handled differently. After Man of Steel and BvS were not received well critically, it's understandable that WB would be weary of continuing Snyder's original five DC film plan. But, if changes were as necessary as WB believed them to be, then they needed to bite the bullet and delay the movie to get it right. That could've saved everyone from Henry Cavill's CG upper lip, Steppenwolf's rough look, and other issues related to the film's tone and story. Hopefully, after that experience, the new DC regime will prevent something similar from happening again.
Source: Kyle Buchanan
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 2 (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019