Saturday, October 20, 2007

Five reasons why the JLA film will probably suck.

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Strange how when I reported the possibility of an eminent Justice Leage of America (or JLA) film, I was very excited. I mean, who wouldn't be? First and foremost, it meant we would get an opportunity to see Batman and Superman sharing the screen in all their live-action glory. I was also excited about seeing the other Justice League members as well - some of whom have never even had a shot at a live-action film.

But as more and more news continues to trickle from pre-production, the movie is starting to look like an annoyingly hyper, un-neutered dog, just waiting to hump the leg of anyone hoping for a good movie. So without further adieu, here are the five biggest reasons I believe the JLA film will suck:

1) The Writer's Strike - Mark my words, even if the impending WGA strike is averted before it kicks in next month, I'm afraid that the casualty will be a slew of awful films, all rushed to production to beat the picket deadline. Sure, Necessity is the mother of invention, but Desperation, Necessity's slutty twin sister, likes to smoke and drink hard liquor while she's pregnant, thus resulting in underweight babies with gimpy arms and legs. It would be a real tragedy if JLA was the kind of film that only its neglectful, hard-living mother could love - when she's not preoccupied by yet another abusive boyfriend, that is.

2) The Casting - This is most important. When I first read about JLA moving to production, I immediately thought, Sweet! Christian Bale as Batman and Brandan Routh as Superman -- IN THE SAME MOVIE! Then we find out that Christian Bale won't be playing Batman. And if that wasn't bad enough, we found out Brandon Routh won't be playing Superman. Adding insult to injury, The Hollywood Reporter writes that all of the characters will most likely be replaced or cast with young TV actors.

I haven't met a single person who didn't think Christian Bale was awesome as Batman. Apparently, some people thought Routh's Superman was a tad bit effete, but he could have been much worse. Considering it was his first big movie, I think Routh did a helluva job - way better than Nicolas Cage would have if WB stuck with the casting decision made for the abandoned Superman Lives! project. On top of of this, both Bale and Routh have been established in their roles. This would make JLA a sequel for the most part (i.e.$$$). Since there are so many characters in JLA, that would make for two less characters who would need to be established. With a supposed running time of 90 minutes, the filmmakers are already strapped for time as it is. If keeping Bale and Routh means paying both actors a hefty fee, and then turning their characters into babysitters for an adolescent superhero team, so be it.

3) The Director - Speaking of filmmakers, George Miller is a bad choice to direct this film. What's funny is, I actually like almost all of Miller's films, including Lorenzo's Oil. However, when it comes to super-powered ensemble films, I think he's out of his element. Whether it's the Mad Max trilogy, Happy Feet, or the second Babe film, most of Miller's films have been about individualistic loners. Simply put, he has yet to work his way up to the massive narrative juggling act that JLA will require in terms of character.

Another thing which sparks mistrust in Miller's JLA directing capabilities is the following line from The Hollywood Reporter article: "If the names [of the actors auditioning for parts] feel young, it's because Miller is looking for actors to grow into their roles over the course of several movies."

So let's get this straight, Miller wants these characters to GROW into their roles over the course of several movies? That doesn't sound like JLA at all. What it sounds like is the younger portion of the X-Men, or as co-host Mike more accurately-described, Teen Titans. The Justice League of America doesn't need to grow into their roles. They are the greatest, most powerful superhero team ever created at the top of their game. The point of having the Justice League is to assemble the best of the best - meaning these guys should no longer be considered 'heroes in training.' Both the JLA and The Avengers films should be the superhero/action sci-fi equivalent of The Dirty Dozen or Oceans Eleven. Meaning, an earth-threatening challenge arrives, thus leading to the world's greatest heroes are assembled by the government to take it down; and while they might struggle to coordinate their activities at first, in the end they work together to kick butt and save the planet. Roll credits. Include some witty banter and insults between the good guys, and that should be that.

4) The Mo-Cap CGI - I've got no problem with the CGI films. Pixar has made some of the best movies of the last 20 years. However, I simply cannot stand by this photo-real Motion Capture CGI crap that Miller and company are planning to use in JLA. The technology is still very much in its infancy right now, with it's two films Beowulf and The Polar Express looking like they are theatre troupe performances by a hospital burn unit. The characters' skin looks waxen, and even worse, the eyes appear soulless. I was able to enjoy The Polar Express in 3-D, but would never watch it again on video - something I hope will not be true for a JLA film.

5) The Overall Lack of Established Characters - If there's one thing you can say about Marvel Films, it's that they at least seem interested in doing their groundwork. The Avengers is one of the five projects Marvel plans to self-produce under its current deal with Paramount. But before we see 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' assemble on the big screen, the folks at Marvel had the good sense to realize they need to establish most of their major characters in solo films first. So far we got an Iron Man film that is loaded with cameos by potential Avengers (i.e. Sam Jackson as Nick Fury and Hilary Swank as Black Widow), followed by a The Incredible Hulk reboot, with Thor and Captain America on the way. Sure there's the risk one or two of the solo films could seriously bomb - thus derailing an Avengers movie altogether. But if the solo films do pan out, that will mean the forthcoming Avengers movie won't be loaded with tedious origin stories for most of its characters.

JLA on the other hand has a major problem. The only characters they have established in film are Batman and Superman. That means the movie would be forced to introduce and explain Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and The Martian Manhunter. While I am sure you probably couldn't get a Martian Manhunter film off the ground, the rest of them would totally be able to rock in their own adventures, Wonder Woman especially.

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In the end, I want the same thing out of JLA that I do out of any movie - an enjoyable film that represents the collective hearts or minds of the people who created it. I know that's a tall order, but if they do it right, Warner Bros. could have a multi billion-dollar franchise on their hands. A movie about the best superheroes requires the best of actors working with the best of filmmakers under the best of situations. WB needs to pay Christian Bale and Brandon Routh the big checks they will no doubt ask for, and most importantly, they need to wait until the time is right. This isn't a puberty romance, so what's the rush?

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