Unsolicited Advice: ‘Justice League of America’

TO: Kiernan and Michele Mulroney
CC: Warner Bros.
FROM: Shawn Adler, MTV News
RE: JLA Flick

Congratulations. Word yesterday in “The Hollywood Reporter” is that you two just handed in the first draft for “Justice League of America,” which, according to the trade mag, has been met with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

So was the original “Fantastic Four,” if you catch our meaning.

See, comic books fans are a lot like Captain Marvel. Half the time we’re excitable children, the Billy Batsons of the world. We demand geeky entertainment, lots of whiz-bangs, ooohs and ahhhs. Say the magic word, though, and we turn into our alter-egos — big, fearsomely powerful adults. We crave gritty drama, realistic situations.

You? You’ll have to entertain both sides. It’s never to late to learn how.

Think “Dirty Dozen” Not “Fantastic Four”:

The Human Torch can be a wiseass because that’s what makes him great.
But if you think Justice League demands comic relief, your movie’s gonna stink worse than Soloman Grundy. It’s the proverbial banana peel in the path of the Flash, and it’ll have equally dire results. Your heroes should be gritty, tough, portrayed with the dignity they deserve. Think Martian Manhunter needs to be funny? Don’t include him. Look, just ’cause he talks to fish, that doesn’t mean there’s anything comical about Aquaman. (Alright, maybe there’s something a little funny about him. But still.)

Don’t Begin at the Beginning:

The ancients called it “in medias res,” which was just their fancy way of saying “in the middle of things.” And it’s where you should start your film. Origin stories are hard enough to pull off effectively with one character, let alone the gaggle of Super Friends you’ll be dealing with. So your hero crash landed in Kansas, was given a powerful ring, witnessed the murder of his parents. Look, we get it — they’re super. And don’t think by origin we’re not also including how the team got together. After all, these heroes aren’t your garden variety characters — they’re archetypes. Assume we have the cultural literacy to understand that, and approach the flick as if it was its own sequel. Freed from the constraints of origin, heroes have been better the second time around since, well, “The Odyssey.”

But Don’t Write Them at the Height of Their Powers:

Yeah, I know we just said not to start them off as beginners (and we mean it), but the problem with the Super Friends is that they’re all just too darn Super. The Man of Steel, of course, is the prime offender — trying to come up with a plausible villain for a hero set up to be near omnipotent has left more than a few writers looking ridiculous. (And let’s get this straight, isn’t kryptonite supposed to be remnants of his home planet? Just how much of that stuff is floating around the galaxy anyway?) We accept certain things in comics and animation, but throw in Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter, and crafting a foe that manages to be plausible without being laughably absurd is darn near impossible in a live action version. Want the tween market? Make them different ages and of differing abilities like in “X-Men.” Or why not be bold and take a page from Mark Waid’s “Kingdom Come,” a comic series which imagined the JLA twenty years in the future, in a time when Superman has retired and traditional heroes fight vigilante heroes for control of Earth? Now that’s a movie we’d pay ten bucks to see.

Do Stand-Alone. Don’t Mess With Established Film Continuity:

There’s another good reason to set your Justice League story in a time well after (or before) the present day — it wouldn’t require the services of either Christian Bale or Brandon Routh, your current Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, respectively. We could make sly jokes about your seeming pathological need to destroy the “Batman” franchise, but we’ll just put it as succinctly as we can: You’ve got a good thing going there. Don’t mess it up. To a somewhat lesser extent, you’ve got a good thing going with Superman too. It’s the characters we love, not the actors — that’s why we get so defensive and vitriolic about casting. Comic book fans have learned to love and appreciate different renderings of their favorite characters, and film fans can too. Make your story stand alone, with its own arc and continuity, and you’ll soon reap the benefits of three franchises instead of one.

Actually, Don’t Include Batman at All:

Remember when we mentioned “Kingdom Come,” that limited series which envisioned the DC world twenty years in the future? Take a look at it again. Writers like Waid and Frank Miller (in “The Dark Knight Returns”) show the heart of Bruce Wayne, and the heart of Bruce Wayne is cold and callous. Look, Batman hates Superman. I mean really, really f-ing loathes the guy. The Man of Tomorrow makes the man of today redundant. And he’s not alone. Seriously, what good is the Batmobile when The Green Lantern can literally move the Earth? And how, pray tell, is a Bat-a-rang supposed to compete with a supernatural lasso of truth? The more we think about it, the more we think it’s a bad idea to include the Caped Crusader in any capacity. He’s not a team player, and forcing him to be one with a bunch of near-deities is only going to make him look silly. Don’t make Batman look silly.

Don’t Include Sidekicks:

Speaking of silly, if Marvin, Wendy, Zan, Jayna, or Snapper Carr appear, we’re going to ask for our money back. And God have mercy on your souls if we see Gleek.

Do you have any helpful suggestions? Chime in below!