Last Friday marked day 31 out of 111 days of shooting on the set of Justice League in London. J.K. Simmons was in the midst of his first day of filming as Commissioner Gordon—his insanely buff arms were sadly covered by a trench coat. He joined costumed costars Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Ezra Miller (The Flash), Ray Fisher (Cyborg), and Ben Affleck (Batman) on the green screen-surrounded rooftop set of the Gotham City police station. Gordon had flipped on the Bat-Signal, and Batman and his friends answered. In between takes, Miller gave Fisher a hard time and started a short dance party with his fellow cast members—his antics caused Gadot to give into a fit of giggles before she pulled it together to focus on the scene and her dialogue. Though behind the scenes actions don’t necessarily relate to what’s being filmed, in this case, the lighter tone is what it’s all about.
Nerdist was among a small group of journalists that visited the set of Justice League, and tone was a topic that came up again and again. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s (BvS) darker overlay was widely criticized. With negative reaction hanging in the air, it was natural to wonder whether Warner Bros. and DC Comics would change their approach to Justice League. The answer is yes: feedback for BvS did affect Justice League, but it didn’t trigger a complete overhaul.
During a short break from filming, Affleck answered questions, dark makeup still around his eyes. (In case you were wondering, it took three people to remove the cowl from his Batman suit.) He spoke about the differences between BvS and Justice League. “There’s definitely room for more humor. It’s not going to be—DC movies are by their nature still a little more mythic than some comic book movies are, but that movie was a heavy dark movie really rooted in Dark Knight Returns, which is a heavy dark book. This is not that,” he said. “This a step from that with bringing together all these characters. It’s about hope and working together, so there’s comedy that goes with that. People trying to accomplish goals together is the root of all great comedy in my view, so there’s hopefully some fun in it, but it’s still recognizably these characters and these stories. It’s not turning it upside down.”
A little of Batman’s humor was on display in the scene as he referred to Parademons as the bad guys’ “flying monkeys.” Affleck confirmed Bruce does show more of that side. “He has a little more sardonic humor, a little more irony… more of that Bruce Wayne wry, ironic, gallows humor stuff comes out.”
Perhaps that sort of adjustment is what director Zack Snyder had in mind when he discussed how fan reaction to BvS influenced Justice League. “Tone has always been the main thing that I go after with a movie, and I really wanted the tone of the three movies to be different chapters and not be the same note that you strike and like, ‘Okay, there’s this again,'” Synder said. “I really wanted that, and I do believe that since Batman v Superman came out and we’ve really wrapped our heads around what Justice League would be, I do think that the tone has–because of what fans have said and how the movie was received by some is that we have put the screws to what we thought the tone would be.” He admitted the backlash to BvS caught him off guard.
Snyder explained, essentially, that there had to be darkness before they could get to any kind of light. “My point is only that as far as the idea of drawing Superman and Batman into conflict meant that you really had to dig down on the darker parts of them to make them fight each other,” Snyder said. “I really do believe that with Justice League, they both have been freed of the shackles of that–the responsibility to be in a place where they would fight each other. I think that that is liberating for us in some ways in making the movie because, really, now we have a single enemy with a single objective. It’s really about uniting the team, and that to me is a fun activity.”
He added that just the contrast between the team members makes for entertaining interactions. Zack shared a short, unfinished clip from the film showing Bruce visiting Barry Allen to recruit him for the League. Like Affleck said, “What does Batman do around a guy who’s really excited and positive all the time? It’s not his natural state of being.” The differences between Bruce and Barry were on display in the clip. Miller displayed quirkiness and humor in the role. His take on Flash didn’t have quite the same adorkable qualities as Grant Gustin’s version in The Flash, but there were similarities that go against Snyder’s earlier comments about the tone of The Flash TV show not having a place the cinematic world. Based on what was shown, it seems as though Miller’s Flash could be the comedic wellspring of the group in the film.
Justice League producer Debbie Snyder acknowledged BvS criticism had an effect, but a lighter tone is also where they were already headed. “Every film is a learning experience,” she explained. “We hear what everyone has to say because we care what the fans say. At the same time, each story that we’re telling is a completely different story. I think what’s really great is that where we were going is what the audience is wanting.”
If Justice League would have been made in a vacuum, would it be the same movie as it is now? Maybe. “It’s all a creative process, and you’re always changing and evolving as you go,” Debbie Snyder said. “We work on the script, we change things, we’re aware of things. I don’t know if we’re making those decisions… I know we wanted to always make this film to bring up these characters. Obviously, I think [the reaction to BvS] affected the process in some way.”
The more serious flavor of BvS was inspired by The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman, which are heavier, darker comics—a point made by Debbie, Zack, and Affleck. No one would name specific comic book influences for Justice League in order to prevent spoilers, but it is a more hopeful setting—one that should be welcoming to kids as well as adults. “Justice League is much more inclusive,” Debbie Snyder explained. “It’s all about the characters too, and you have these two very young Flash and Cyborg characters and they’re definitely lighter. I think they’re going to appeal to a younger audience.”
With Batman and Superman’s conflict in the past and Batman looking ahead and trying to make the world a better place by forming the Justice League, the story is naturally brighter. “The darkest is where we’ve [already] been,” Debbie Snyder said.
What do you hope to see from Justice League? Let us know in the comments below.
Images: Warner Bros.
Editor’s note: Nerdist’s time on the Justice League set was courtesy of Warner Bros.
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