Making a successful big screen adaption of DC Comics‘ premier superhero team, the Justice League, has proven to be a challenge. While animated endeavors have been a major success over the years, live action is another story. After a poorly received TV film in the ’90s and roughly a decade of false starts in the mid-2000s, the JLA finally made it to the theater. As many know, though, that film was a more legendary bomb than any supervillain’s diabolical scheme could concoct — and not even a double-length director’s cut could meaningfully sway public opinion. With all of that in mind, Warner Bros. seems to be eyeing yet another reboot for its characters, once again showing that reboots are about the only thing consistent with DC’s IP these days.
The previous ‘Justice League’ adaptations didn’t turn out too well
By now, most know the story of what went wrong with the 2017 Justice League film adaption. After a devastating family tragedy, franchise architect and the film’s director, Zack Snyder, left the film close to completion. In his stead, WB got Joss Whedon to take things home. As the man behind the smash hit The Avengers, it was obvious that he’d be able to jog across the finish line without any major incident. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, almost everything. In addition to costing a reported $25 million for reshoots, the finished film was a pacing, tonal, and story disaster. Many described it as a discordant clashing of Snyder and Whedon’s styles with virtually no middle ground. On top of all of that, some of the film’s stars (Cyborg’s actor Ray Fisher being one of them) accused Whedon and other members of the production staff of abusive behavior on set.
After a lot of fan complaints, WB finally gave in and let Snyder take another crack at it on his own, titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League. With more costly reshoots, the director’s cut turned out to be … a lot longer. Despite fixing many of the most glaring issues with the original release, Snyder’s vision was still plagued with many of the underlying structural issues as the original, now ballooned out to a four-hour runtime. In the end, it didn’t really connect with anyone who wasn’t already a die-hard fan of his style.
DC is eyeing the reboot button yet again
Based on reporting from We Got This Covered, sources inside WB say that a new film based on the Justice League might be in production. Rather than another Snyder film, though, this one is rumored to be a full reboot. Details beyond that are entirely nonexistent right now.
Rebooting things is a DC staple at this point. We’ve seen it with the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, which offered a fresh take on the character after the Tim Burton–initiated films went sour. We’ve also seen it when Snyder’s own Man of Steel put a grim and gritty spin on Superman following Superman Returns‘ poor performance that failed to revive Richard Donner’s series. Even in comics, DC has had some sort of reboot or continuity shakeup almost every decade since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, with the biggest one being 2011’s The New 52 initiative that restarted the entirety of DC’s multiverse.
Despite reboots being a common phenomenon for DC fans, this one is still a bit exhausting. While it’s impossible to argue that the previous two takes on Justice League were universally beloved, it is a shame that things turned out so poorly for Snyder. The monumental failure of the “Snyderverse” has affected almost every film made by DC since, to the point where no one watching is entirely sure what the continuity is between different movies shakes out to be now. Throwing another reboot on top of all of that is just more confusion, and another big gamble for Warner.
Despite this, DC’s films may have a bright future
Though the Snyderverse is taking on more water by the day, the proverbial life raft carrying the rest of DC’s films looks to be headed towards calmer waters. For the most part, the other movies produced by the company have turned out quite well, with most crediting their success to diverging from the Snyder mold.
Films like Shazam! and Aquaman cleaned up at the box office and are both getting sequels, with Birds of Prey receiving tons of good reviews for course-correcting Harley Quinn’s character. It’s even getting a spinoff focused on Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary, with Harley going on to star in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad — which cleaned up after the much maligned Suicide Squad from 2016. Even films totally divorced from the main film series but with a similarly dark tone, like Joker, have done well, with plenty of people eagerly awaiting Matt Reeve’s new take on The Batman.
It’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen to the Justice League characters or Snyder’s duties to them. Whatever happens, though, it’s a safe bet that more DC films will exist in some form.