Why There Will Be No Justice League Movie Any Time Soon

In the wake of the success of The Avengers, some comic fans wonder when there will be a Justice League movie. The Justice League would seem a natural. Generations of kids have seen this team together in cartoons including the Super Friends, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. 

Yet fans of the DC Universe have a long wait. I’m not quite ready to say, “Not in my lifetime.” but if it happens in the next ten years, I’d be very surprised. D.C. Comics has two big problems that prevent the making of a Justice League film.

Lack of Vision :If Marvel showed us anything about doing this thing right, it requires a strong vision.The Avengersjust didn’t happen. It was the cumulation of five movies over five years that led up to it. Beginning this process, Marvel really was at a disadvantage. Outside of comicbook fandom, their heroes were lesser known, particularly Iron Man and Thor. Yet, by the time it was done, they’d created a movie we all wanted to see.

Unfortunately, outside of the Christopher Nolan Batman series, DC has rarely had a clue as to what they’re doing with any of these movies. The Superman series of the 1970s and 80s and the Batman Series from 1989-90s went nowhere with no overarching plot other than a plot to make more sequels and more money.

Poor Quality Films: The way The Avengers became the megahit film it was is that it was preceded by five movies that were well-made and well-received by fans and critics a like DC Comics movies (again with the exception of the Christopher Nolan Batman films) have been far less successful on that account. Take the Green Lantern, a DC franchise that’s been around for 70 years. It was rate a 5.9 out of 10 on IMDB with a 27 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

D.C. Can’t Go Old School: Marvel made a mint on their Avengers Trilogy and their Spider-man film series.  The Avengers Films have been old school in terms of the overall values that the films push as well as the characters themselves.

Captain America acted very much like an American from the 1940s in both his own film and the Avengers. Tony Stark in Iron Man and Thor underwent remarkable personal transformations and grew as characters. The movies were very consciously playing into our desire for old time values.  As Nick Fury said in the movie, the very idea of The Avengers was “an old fashioned notion.” The Avengers films showcase sacrafice, courage, morality, and some good old fashioned American patriotism.

As such, these succeed for Summer Popcorn movies, as families can go and see the films if they don’t have a problem with the level of violence.

The problem with many DC films is that the sexuality has been amped up, so you’re not going to get that same level of family viewing. In addition, DC seems unwilling to call on those old school ideas.

The indications about the new Superman movie are that it’s more modern, darker, and a complete opposite from the approach that made the Avengers a multi-billion dollar franchise. Good luck with that. True enough, it’s Superman, so it’ll make money. As Brandon Routh showed us, even a bad Superman movie can make $200 million, but it won’t start a franchise of films.

Superman Returns got into hot water with many viewers when instead of “Truth, justice, and the American way.” Perry White suggested that Superman stands for, “Truth, justice, and all that stuff.” Superman superfans were quick to point out that in the original 1940s radio series, Superman stood for merely “truth and justice” and the American Way wasn’t added until World War II. This was true enough and other Superman vehicles didn’t use “the American way” such as the 1993 ABC series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. However, 1) many programs since World War II did use “the American way” after World War II and after McCarthyism including the 1988 Ruby-Keeler Superman cartoons and it became a standard with Superman and 2) by substituting “all that stuff,” it really came off as a slight to “the American way” rather than a focus on the original values of truth and justice. You don’t make a successful movie by alienating the people you need to go to the theaters.

Many modern comic books have adjusted to the tastes of Gen X readers with darker and more cynical story lines and heroes. The problem that DC faces is that these sort of viewers are not enough to make a successful film franchise, particularly not something as  big as the Justice League. That requires more than these core comic book fans, it requires a large audience and to do that, DC has to reach a broader audience. It has to go old school and its shown neither the appetite, aptitude, or ability to do that.

For this reason, the odds of a Justice League movie any time soon are slim.