As was rumored for a while, director and producer J.J. Abrams has just signed a multi-million dollar deal with Warner Media for his company Bad Robot, it was revealed via Deadline. The deal encompasses new films, television and games content for Warners. Although this could mean many things, what fans are most interested in knowing is whether Abrams will be brought in to repair any of Warners’ DC properties. Many years ago before Man of Steel, Abrams came very close to directing his own reboot of the Superman franchise with Superman: Flyby. So we know the guy already has a certain amount of interest in the DC Comics IP.
Although Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam! have create a turnaround in the DC films narrative, there is still much work to be done for the DCEU. And WB probably shelled out the millions not just for his original ideas (although that is also a big component) but for J.J.’s expertise in fixing some of their most valuable broken toys. And no toy needs fixing more than the Justice League. Here, I lay out just why the creator of Alias and so much more should be the one who redeems the big screen reputation of the world’s greatest superhero team.
Why the Justice League Deserves a Do-Over
Justice League should have been DC Films’ crown jewel upon its release in 2017. Featuring most of their major heroes together (except poor Green Lantern, who got benched), the film as released was a major box office disappointment. And creatively speaking, it was a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster. Begun by Zack Snyder and then finished by Joss Whedon, the final cut was more of a mish-mashed sequel to Batman V Superman than a proper Justice League movie.
Ultimately, no one ended up very happy with the final product. And the super expensive production lost money for Warner Bros. But if the critically loathed Suicide Squad can get another shot, then Justice League almost certainly deserves another chance at bat. After all, these are all of DC’s most beloved icons together fighting the forces of evil. If this property doesn’t get another attempt, then what qualifies? And over the past decade, J.J. Abrams has proven that he’s the most well suited for the task at hand.
J.J. Abrams, Franchise Fixer
J.J. Abrams might not like his reputation as a “fixer,” but it is well earned nevertheless. His résumé speaks for itself: Mission Impossible II was critically derided upon release, leaving its series seemingly dead in the water. But with his big screen directorial effort Mission Impossible III, Abrams injected some of his Alias “super spy team” storytelling structure into the brand. And thus, the modern MI series was born. He performed the same magic tricks with both the Star Trek and Star Wars series, to spectacular financial success. He might wish he were better known for his original ideas like Super 8, but there’s no denying how he’s perceived, or where his greatest talents lie.
Most importantly, Abrams came into each franchise without deleting what came before. MI:III didn’t pretend that the previous two installments didn’t happen, and certainly the current Star Wars films are built around the legacy of the previous movies. Even his 2009 big screen Star Trek, which comes the closest to a classic style reboot, still utilized Leonard Nimoy’s Spock as a way of maintaining classic continuity, all while still forging ahead and doing its own thing.
Abrams is also has proven to have the Midas touch with ensemble casts. Whereas the Mission Impossible series was all about Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt before, Abrams created a real team dynamic by adding in Simon Pegg and beefing up Ving Rhames’ part.
In Star Trek, he made sure to not just make it the Kirk/Spock show, giving moments of importance to the plot for each member of the Enterprise crew. The Force Awakens had a rather large cast too, and he had to balance the needs of the classic heroes like Han and Leia with those of new heroes like Rey and Finn. Finding things for all the main heroes to do is what’s needed for a JLA movie, and it’s a skill Abrams is an expert at.
And this is exactly what the Justice League needs. A full on “let’s start from scratch” reboot doesn’t make sense when both Wonder Woman and Aquaman are huge characters for the studio now. Say what you want about the 2017 Justice League film, it got the team’s origin story out of the way. Leaving it clear for Abrams to just tell a classic Justice League tale with a team already in place, and not bogged down by a previous film’s unsolved storylines. And given his talent with ensemble casts, if many of the roles (Batman and Superman, for starters) need to be recast, you can count on Abrams to deliver. He just never fails with casting.
He’d Bring in the Fun
This is maybe the most important reason why J.J. should tackle the League. What Abrams does better than any other director is channel the Spielberg/Lucas ’80s vibe of fun popcorn adventure movies. With perhaps a little more lens flare. That’s the tone the Justice League desperately needs. FUN should always be the operative word in a movie that focuses on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and other DC icons fighting to save the universe.
And there is no shortage of material like this for Abrams to draw from. He should look to some of the best examples of Justice League in other media for inspiration. The Grant Morrison JLA comics of the ’90s elevated the team to the status of modern Olympian Gods, and he created mind-bending stories that are still the best Justice League tales ever told. Writer Scott Snyder is currently doing the same thing with his run on Justice League, which is introducing big cosmic concepts but never forgetting that any JLA story still needs to be entertaining.
Warner Bros Animation
But maybe the best example of how to use the Justice League is Bruce Timm’s Justice League Unlimited animated series. There are 91 episodes of this show which showcase exactly how the team should be handled on any screen, and in live-action. Show us the world’s greatest heroes in their orbiting Watchtower. Focus on the seven core members, or maybe expand to eight or nine. But show how the League is now an army of superheroes protecting the world. Just imagine the cameos!
J.J. Abrams has said in the past that he’s done rebooting other people’s franchises. But he also said he’d only direct only one Star Wars movie, and we know how that went. And given the amount of money Warner Brothers is shelling out for him to come on board, we think that they are going to want to hand him some of that DC Comics IP. I just hope they aim high, and give Abrams the keys to the biggest superhero team there is. The world is ready for the J.J.L.A.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm / DC Comics