Last Friday we visited Warner Bros. Leavesden studios in southeast England to meet with Zack Snyder and the team behind Justice League. It was a last-minute trip and an unprecedented one at that given that we're allowed to discuss what we saw just a few short days later, long before outlets can report on what they may have seen on the sets of other DC movies releasing first (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman).
But the goal was clear. Snyder and DC Entertainment don't want to hide. They don't want Justice League to be as "corporate" as Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice, and the crew and producers want to make it clear that they saw the fan feedback and that they're doing something different. Only 31 days in on an 111-day shoot, and nearly a year and a half before Justice League opens in theaters, we saw quite a lot on our day trip and tour of the sets, but they did hold back on obvious plot spoilers, avoiding giving away details on the main story.
We'll have a detailed play-by-play report of our day on the set of Justice League later but in the meantime here's a list of many of the things we saw in learned from exploring the production's War Room (where concept art and props were on display), the costume department, multiple sets, a sequence being filmed, a complete scene we screened, and several interviews with the cast, crew, producers, and director Zack Snyder who made the push to make our visit happen.
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34Superman is in the Movie
Superman may have "died" in the climactic battle of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice but like most comic book character deaths, that means little. The final scene of BvS clearly shows the dirt above his coffin defying gravity and as producer Deborah Snyder put it best when we visited the War Room of the production for Justice League, "obviously Superman is part of the Justice League."
"And we know where we ended up with him," she continues. "And there wouldn't be a Justice League without Superman. But I think his way back to us we don't want to really spoil that. But he's here. He's back there," she finishes, pointing to a standee cardboard cutout of Henry Cavill suited up in the red and blue beside the other Justice League members.
Superman was entirely absent from the sets we visited, from the costume department, and mostly from the concept art as well for Justice League. According to producer Charles Roven and director Zack Snyder, Superman's return and role in the film is part of the story and not something they want to spoil a year and half out from release.
33Justice League is Co-Directed by Joss Whedon
Following the tragic death of Zack Snyder's daughter, the director stepped away from Justice League's production to focus on his family. In his place, Warner Bros. hired Joss Whedon to finish the movie - following the filmmaker's mega-successful work at rival comic book movie studio Marvel. Whedon was understandably humbled by the assignment - and the director looks prepared to enjoy further exploration of the DCEU (as Whedon will helm a Batgirl movie).
Exactly what changes Whedon will make to Justice League are yet to be confirmed; though Affleck recently stated that the superhero team-up movie was now an "interesting product of two directors." How exactly that "produce" will play on the big screen remains to be seen; though, regardless of how it turns out, fans will without question debate whether or not Whedon, as opposed to other filmmakers, was picked because he could help shift the DCEU toward a lighter tone.
32Justice League is a Very Different Movie Than BvS
We'll talk more about how the reactions to BvS may have affected Justice League and future plans for the DCEU later, but to make it clear up front, Justice League is a very different beast. It's tonally different, features more diverse characters, is less "dark," and is based on different source material.
We asked director Zack Snyder towards the end of our tour of the sets if he's intentionally making this movie different and if it's going to be more "fun."
Zack Snyder: Well, yes. I would say that to me it's like, again, this evolution -- Batman v Superman I think to me was inherently like, okay, even from conception, from the beginning, when we were first like, "Oh, let's get Batman in the movie!" -- and I've told you guys, we talked about why, how we got Batman in the movie, the whole story of "Who's he gonna fight?" You know, we fought Zod; that's pretty much an alien. Who does he fight next? What do you do? And we were in that -- I was with Chris Nolan, and we were just talking about this idea that, I think the first idea we had was like, "Oh, you know, we'll just show Kryptonite being delivered to Bruce Wayne's house at the end of the movie." I thought, "Oh, that's kinda cool. Huh..." And then I think from there we progressed on to this idea of like, "Oh, let's get --" like once we said in the room "Let's get Batman. What if he fought Batman?" then it's hard to go back. You can't take that away. You can't go, "Oh, you know who else is cool to fight? This guy." Once you say "Batman" out loud, it's gonna be Batman.
I mean, listen, if it's about putting more fun in the movie or embracing some of the more what I would call - because I think it's in all the characters inherently, sort of this larger-than-life, big, fun stuff, especially when you're dealing with the Justice League. You can't - and Flash and with Momoa, when you see, I've been out with Jason and the way that he's interacting with the group, even just in his Jason-ness, the contrast to Ben and to Gal is really interesting and fun. And just to finish my idea, what I was going to say about the "Batman versus Superman" concept, is that inherently also you've got to remember the whole thread of that was to draw those two into conflict. So I wanted to make sure that each of them was - and I felt like they were both evolving, in mind anyway. I think Superman was on his way toward something that I - I wanted to get to a Superman that had a reason to be Superman, like a reason to feel the way he felt about humanity, that we all understand from the comic books as far as he's pretty, as far as a moral compass goes, he's pretty much the thing. But I feel like he had to go through something to be that. And I'm not saying he shows up in this movie...
31The Justice League Roster Confirmed
Batman and Wonder Woman team-up and agree to start recruiting metahumans to face greater future threats in the conclusion to BvS and this is what the first Justice League is all about.
Their first recruit is Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash and later, Cyborg reluctantly joins them as well (we saw this scene being shot). These founding four are later joined by Aquaman who we presume - from what Ben Affleck hinted to us on set - may not see eye to eye with Bruce and/or Diana. We know the members don't all get along at all times and they may come pretty close to coming to blows with each other.
After Aquaman joins though - and we saw concept of him with the team planning a mission and on the Justice League team vehicle (more on that later!) - Superman will of course join as well for what we're guessing is the film's final battle.
For the purposes of the first Justice League movie the team is comprised of these six heroes shown in early concept art above. There have of course been rumors that a Green Lantern could appear, but those are just rumors at that point and there was zero evidence of Green Lantern Corps on our set visit.