There can be no doubt that 2012’s The Avengers was a massive win for Marvel: third place on the all-time world gross list and widespread critical acclaim made it one of last year’s must-sees. Plans are, of course, in motion for an as-yet untitled sequel set for release on May 15th 2015.
It comes as little surprise, then, that D.C would seek to maximise the potential of its own heroic line-up by releasing an equivalent ensemble movie. The only question is: can the Justice League of America stand up to the clout of Marvel’s avenging angels?
The JLA certainly has a rich history to mine; established in 1960 with a core line-up including Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, the original series ran for over 25 years. It spawned numerous spin-offs and a reboot, entitled simply JLA, was published in 1997. This run reintroduced the core line-up and took a more serious, pared-down approach to storytelling. In true comic book form, the Justice League remain popular with new issues still in print. The transition to Hollywood stardom will be the true test for D.C.
The Avengers truly felt like an event movie: Marvel’s careful planning meant that each hero had already become firmly established in current popular culture. By delivering high quality standalone movies centred on the main characters, the studio had ensured that people wanted more. People wanted to see Iron Man team up with Thor and the Hulk, to see Captain America taking on the bright new world that he had awoken in. They knew their characters and they were ready for them.
Whether the same will apply to JLA is debatable. It seems unlikely that the JLA movie will connect to Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy – the fantastical elements of the League’s world likely would not fit too well with our favourite gritty dark knight. D.C’s most recent attempt to set off a heroic franchise resulted in 2011’s Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds (a man whose superhero loyalties may be somewhat divided due to the lingering whispers of a solo Deadpool movie). While Green Lantern wasn’t a total flop, it also certainly wasn’t an instant classic – Rotten Tomatoes gives it only a 47% audience rating and critics at the time seemed rather dismissive of Hal Jordan’s big screen adventure.
Hope perhaps rests on this year’s Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill. Again, it seems to be unknown how connected Man of Steel and JLA will be but if the movie does well it could indeed be the saviour of the Justice League, piquing both fan and casual moviegoer interest.
Overall, optimism appears to reign supreme – and why not? Done well, JLA has a perfectly respectable roster of heroes and enough storylines to cherry-pick something impressive.
Just as long as they don’t go down the route of the Superfriends. Just, please. Not that.