Hot on the heels of their legal victory to retain unencumbered use of the Superman property, Warner Bros. has become even more steadfast in its resolve to release Justice League in the summer of 2015. This new movie would be their bid for the superhero ensemble box office and would actually be going up against Avengers 2, which Marvel has also scheduled to release that year. And while the Marvel methodology has been to set up the individual character movies before building up to the ensemble, Warner Bros. will take the opposite approach and branch out after the fact. The open questions here are whether this Justice League’s Superman will have any connection to the Henry Cavill Man of Steel movie coming out in 2013, and if the Batman of this team will be in any way the precursor to the new Batman reboot after The Dark Knight Rises concluded Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy. Unfortunately, there’s still quite an uphill climb before developing their DC universe to a level anywhere matching Marvel’s. Green Lantern was a wild misfire, while characters like Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman have yet to even tap into the mainstream film goer’s consciousness, and that’s not even all of them.
Technical difficulties aside, the Warner Bros. game plan will see a larger obstacle in preserving any kind of continuity and shared universe. The individual character films for the Marvel superheroes were allowed to exist as they were – having been written and directed to be tonally and thematically their own. It was relatively easy to write in lines or scenes to link and foreshadow a greater story to come. To go the other way will be much more difficult because the character films of the DC superheroes will be largely beholden to their team movie by it coming first. The first pass vision and idea for these characters will be decided on by those who will helm Justice League and will be the first impressions likely to be cemented in viewers’ minds. To then spawn the individuals will require at least a somewhat abiding take on each character as established in the team film. Either that or a conscious decision to break from that foundation to pursue different creative angles. And regardless of which route Warner Bros. takes, it opens the floodgates to a film universe with multiple iterations of a character, a marginalized creative process, or at worst a divided fan base.
Winning the legal battle to retain Superman was definitely a huge stride forward in terms of galvanizing studio intent towards making Justice League. Developing this flagship superhero vehicle may now be priority alpha one, but what’s clear is that there still remains a long road ahead before anything worthy of the name materializes.