When something is broke, you try to fix it, and following the disastrous critical and fan reception to Batman V Superman, WB pulled out all the stops for a press junket bringing all the top movie scoopers and reporters to the set in London last week, and allowed them to run their stories today. Our own scandalously uninvited Kyle Pinion gave you a bare bones run down of the news, but for Kremlinologists, this will be a day long remembered by the Empire.
It’s nearly unheard of for set reports to run more than a year before a movie comes out. The secrecy surrounding most big bidget movies is testament to that. But obviously with the reaction to BvS going so horribly wrong, WB had to do something drastic and FAST, to start a new narrative about how audiences may find Justice League a pleasant movie going experience, and not a heroic ourney into the bowels of hell and back.
PLUS, and no diss on my fellows journalists, but once you’ve been treated nicely and welcomed and spoken to “candidly” it’s hard to be a total hater. BY inviting all the major nerd film site reporters, WB planted a seed of empathy in their bosoms which will soften the ongoing dissection of what’s wrong with WB.
Anyway, let’s get to the news shall we!
§ Zack Snyder isn’t jacked any more — but he was surprised by the non-positive reaction to BvS:
Vulture’s Kyle Buchanon, gets right to the chase, with a description of a less buff, more nerdly Snyder who admits maybe all that killing and glowering wasn’t as fun as it might have seemed at the time:
“When Batman v Superman came out, I was like, ‘Wow, okay, oof,’” admitted Snyder. At Comic-Con to promote the film last summer, he wore a tight black T-shirt pulled over his muscular frame, but on Justice League’s Leavesden, England, set, the now-slighter Snyder was dressed in a tweedy vest and tie, his reading glasses dangling from a lanyard. Since coming onboard to direct Man of Steel in 2011, Snyder has worked virtually nonstop on these DC Comics films, and he began production on Justice League a mere two weeks after Batman v Superman debuted to scathing reviews.
“It did catch me off guard,” he said of the response to BvS. “I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment. I do think that the tone of Justice League has changed because of what the fans have said.” That, ultimately, is why Warner Bros. summoned a crew of journalists and naysayers to report on a movie that has not yet released any official stills, is barely weeks into shooting, and won’t be out until next November. The message was clear, and the principals stuck closely to it: The creative team behind the DC Cinematic Universe has heard your complaints, and the grim fog that suffused Snyder’s last two superhero movies is about to lift.
§ But Deborah Snyder may not be too clear on what went wrong with BvS:
“What’s really great is that where we were going is kind of what the audience was wanting, which is a good thing. We just had to take the characters from somewhere [dark] to bring them up to where they are now.” When it came to touting the new film’s tone, Deborah was Justice League’s most upbeat, on-message pitchwoman; even more so than her husband, she did her damnedest to sell us on the notion of a three-film arc that hit its darkest point in the previous movie but was always meant to swing upward. Still, she hinted at some growing pains along the way.
“If every film is a learning experience,” I asked her, “then what did you learn from Batman v Superman?”
She paused, and let a rueful smile slip out. “The main thing we learned, I think: People don’t like to see their heroes deconstructed.”
Translation: “STUDIOS don’t like to see their heroes deconstructed and fail in the box office to Deadpool. ”
§ As he learns about this “fun” thing, Snyder is rediscovering a zest for life:
Albert Ching reports:
As further proof that “Justice League” appears to be aimed in a relatively brighter direction, the set visit culminated in “Man of Steel,” “BvS” and “Justice League” director Zack Snyder showing an early cut of a clip where Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) meet for the first time. The scene is witty, warm and contains genuine laughs, all things in deliberately short supply in previous DC Films productions. “When I saw the scene, I was like, ‘Oh, God, this is fun,'” Zack Snyder told reporters. “This is an interesting way of understanding how the movies have gone in a progression. By no means is this the whole movie. There are parts of the movie, of course, where they’re facing enemies and they have to get their stuff together. Look at the Batmobile, for God’s sake. You know, they’re going to be drawn into conflict. I’m a fan of ‘Magnificent Seven’ and team-making movies. So it’s fun for me to finally get to this point now in the progression of these three movies where we are building a team and making the Justice League.”
§ Jack Kirby is heavily referenced yet again with Darkseid and Motherboxes figuring prominently
Umberto Gonzalez of Heroic Hollywood has one of those annoying slideshow click throughs, but it’s jammed with transcripts and factoids that all Kreminlologists will want to study.
Last month, we reported Darkseid’s role in Justice League that occurs in the opening prologue. 30,000 years ago Ancient Man, the Amazonians, and the Atlanteans fought off Darkseid who left behind three motherboxes. We saw concept art in The War Room of Ancient Man, The Atlanteans, and The Amazonians. It looked pretty damn cool. We also saw the three motherboxes as props on a table – one Atlantean, one Amazonian, and one belonging to Ancient Man. One motherbox is oxblood red, another beige, and the other off white. We also saw concept artwork on how the Atlanteans protect their motherbox in an Atlantean structure along with artwork of an Amazonian structure which houses the Amazonian motherbox. The motherboxes kind of remind me of the Lament Configuration puzzle box from the Hellraiser series.
§ Ben Affleck is taking his time with the standalone Batman movie he’s directing because unless it has a good script, it’s not going to be a good movie. That’s why this guy is a multiple Oscar winner, folks:
The script is nowhere near ready yet says Affleck. I think they have a date for it. Although, I don’t know if I would necessarily be able to make that date because I don’t have a script that’s ready yet. So that’s my, my timetable is I’m not going to make a movie until there’s a script that I think is good because I’ve been on the end of the things when you make movies when you have a script that’s not good yet and it doesn’t pan out. [laughs]
§ People who go see Justice League will remember how to laugh and love again as they watch this film. But that was all in the plan:
Deborah Snyder again, via Collider:
“I think I’m obsessed with tone in the movies. 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 like, ‘Okay, there’s this again.’ I really wanted that, and I do believe that since Batman v Superman came out and we’ve 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 kind of put the screws to what we thought the tone would be and crushed it that little bit further.”
Wait, crushing it? Still doesn’t sound very living and loving.
§ Affleck is on board with the whole “DC is Hope” thing:
Could this be a…rebirth for DC movies?
There’s definitely room for more humor. It’s not going to be—DC movies, I think, by their nature are a little more mythic than some comic book movies are. But [Batman v Superman] was very dark and heavy because it was really rooted in The Dark Knight Returns, which is a heavy, dark book. And this is not that. This is a step in evolution to bring together all of these characters who have had their origins. It’s about multilateralism, and it’s about hope and about working together and the kind of conflicts of trying to work together with others. It’s a world where superheroes exist, so there’s comedy in that necessarily, trying to work with other people and people trying to accomplish goals together is the root of all great comedy in my view. So there’s definitely, hopefully some fun in it. But it’s not unrecognizably these characters or these stories. It’s not turning it upside down.”
§ Reporters were wooed over to want to like this movie! Steven “Frosty Weintraub was laughing and smiling like the people in the scene that was screened:
Trust me when I say everything about the scene I just described couldn’t have been included in Batman v Superman. The scene was shot in a brightly lit room. Barry Allen was being played with fun and youthful energy by Ezra Miller (who looks so great as Flash). And Bruce Wayne had none of the cynicism and darkness that he did in BvS. Affleck was playing him with hope and an inner fire and a clear desire to protect the people and planet from whatever might be coming by surrounding himself with powerful people. I loved everything about this scene and it was a smart move for Snyder to show it 17 months before release, because if this is the type of movie he’s making, fans are going to be very happy.
§ In keeping with the “fun” theme, The Flash will be a Marvel-esque quipster
Every report mentioned how funny and charming Ezra Miller was as Barry Allen and the scenes shown to the press heavily feature his humor.
Allen returns to his home. It’s a huge warehouse with graffiti all over the walls and a basketball rim over the door. He turns on the lights, revealing a huge cache of TVs, monitors, and Bruce Wayne sitting in a chair. Allen wants to know how he got there, but Wayne ignores him and hands Allen a photo of the surveillance video we saw in Batman v Superman. “That’s a person who looks exactly like me but is definitely not,” says Allen. “Hippie, long hair, very attractive Jewish boy. He drinks milk, I don’t drink milk.” he jokes as Wayne starts to walk over to a red suit standing in the apartment. “I know you have abilities, I just don’t know what they are,” says Wayne. “My special skills include viola, web design…” Allen rambles as Wayne examines the suit and notes it’s made of a very specific heat resistant material. “Yeah, I do competitive ice dancing,” Allen says. “This is the stuff the space shuttle uses to prevent from burning up on reentry.”
§ Yes, The Flash is Jewish.
§ The Wonder Woman solo film may not have been rescued in time for fun to make its presence known, via Vulture:
The sets we saw were still dark and rubble-strewn, and most of the costumes on display treated their comic-book counterparts’ bright colors as only a faint suggestion. Wonder Woman’s suit was a rare exception to both the muted aesthetic and the visit’s positive-skewing message: At one point, costume designer Michael Wilkinson told us that the red in Wonder Woman’s costume had been enriched for this film because “We always talk about it as almost like centuries of congealed blood from her victims on her breastplate.” At that remark, a journalist next to me muttered, “Wow.”
§ No one cares about Superman or Henry Cavill.
Yes Superman is dead so having him around on a set visit would have lessened his return but…like, no one cares about Superman.
§ The retro-serif style logo of Justice League fits in with the new retro DC logo and Rebirth logos, so it seems to be part of an overall rebranding for DC/WB. I like it.
§ Most important of all, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman will frequently appear shirtless.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.