Back in 2015, Zack Snyder promised that his Justice League movie would “Unite the Seven”. Now that it’s finally arriving in cinemas, the numbers feel a little light. What happened to the DCEU’s original marketing slogan?
The film’s League is made up of Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, united by Bruce Wayne to take on the impending threat of Steppenwolf. That’s five heroes, and a sixth will emerge from his Kansas grave in what is possibly the worst kept secret in movie marketing history. Right here, comic fans will already notice some deviation. Cyborg was only introduced as a key member in 2011 (he wasn’t created until 1980), although bigger is that the Justice League traditionally had seven members. The makeup varied a lot over the years, but the original group was Bats, Diana, Flash, Aquaman and Supes as in the film, along with Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.
That does appear to have been the plan for the DCEU, at least to begin with. In February 2015, Snyder tweeted out the first image of Jason Momoa’s new-age Aquaman, which came plastered with the text “UNITE THE SEVEN”. This was the laying down of the gauntlet; Justice League would feature a whopping seven founding members. Except it doesn’t. What happened?
Why Did DC Drop “Unite the Seven”?
To understand why things changed, we need to refresh what state Justice League was when Snyder proclaimed he was going to “Unite the Seven” in the first place. Attempts at making a movie about JLA had been on Warner Bros. mind throughout the 2000s, with a George Miller version only not happening due to the Writer’s Strike and, later, various franchise-boosting hopes pinned on The Dark Knight Trilogy and Green Lantern. The version we’re getting was finally put in motion in 2013, when Man of Steel made way for a shared universe expansion, with David S. Goyer hired to write both direct sequel Batman v Superman and the resulting team-up.
By early 2015, Batman v Superman had become Dawn of Justice, introducing not just the titular heroes and Wonder Woman, but also seeding Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg. Having wrapped both principal photography and its reshoots, when Snyder tweeted out the offending Aquaman photo and tagline, the film was in the edit, and the script for Justice League (now expanded to be a two-parter) seriously coming together care of Chris Terrio.
Of course, as we all know, the plans for Justice League have changed a lot since these early development days; it went from two films to one in the wake of Batman v Superman‘s critical drubbing and obviously more recently underwent substantial rewrites and reshoots under Joss Whedon. But while these are major talking points, when it comes to “Unite the Seven” the adjustment come much earlier; by the time of the first proper trailer in March 2017 and the phrasing shift to “Unite the League”, we’d not had the “Seven” vernacular used in two years.
It seems evident that at some point in the early development of Justice League, there were going to be seven heroes, but this was undone well before Batman v Superman hit; due to the tightness of production turnaround (actors were straight on the team-up pretty much after press for Dawn of Justice was over) anything further would require the casting and subsequent dropping an actor. What it is, then, is a sign of franchise hubris; announcing plans (in this case specific character ones) so far in advance that there’s an inevitable change.
The whole thing may be to do with Superman. As it became apparent his return would dominate the movie, it may have been deemed overstretching to bring in another character, especially one who, going by the missing heroes, would have been somewhat similar in type to the Kryptonian. We know from the marketing that Warner Bros. changed their mind regarding Superman once (they started off with Superman front-and-center then pivoted to try and hide him), why not twice?
With the reasoning explained, though, it’s time to look at who that seventh could have been.
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