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The following feature contains massive spoilers for Zack Snyder's Justice League movie. Do not read any further if you do not want to know specifics about the film.
The film set, constructed roughly an hour outside of central London, is made to look like the rooftop of the Gotham Police Department. It's pouring rain -- a typical forecast for this dreary city -- and Commissioner Gordon (J.K. Simmons) has activated the Bat Signal. The Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) arrives... only, he's not alone. Batman's flanked on either side by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and The Flash (Ezra Miller), while Cyborg (Ray Fisher) waits in the wings.
"How many of you are there?" Gordon asks Batman
"Not enough," the Caped Crusader replies.
And with that, Zack Snyder's Justice League is under way. Snyder's superhero blockbuster Batman v Superman was subtitled Dawn of Justice for a reason. It was always the studio's intention to film solo movies with DC Comics' top characters -- from Wonder Woman and Flash to Cyborg and Shazam. But much like Marvel's The Avengers, DC would bring their heroes together for a Justice League movie every few years, the first of which is set to land on November 17, 2017.
Last week, CinemaBlend was part of a select group of journalists invited to London to watch Zack Snyder film Justice League. We spoke with the director, with co-producers Charles Roven and Deb Snyder, with Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller (The Flash), Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher (Cyborg) and more. We learned a ton about what Snyder and DC have planned for Justice League, in the wake of Batman v Superman, and the future of the DCEU.
"Basically, this story is about finding the group, and bringing them all together," Deb Snyder told us. "It's a lot of fun because we get to go on that journey, and we get to see the different personalities of all the different members of the Justice League. And that's generally what it's about."
We also have an official summary:
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes---Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash---it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
And a lot of this process revolves around this guy:
At the end of Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) watched the alien he'd deeply distrusted, Kal-El (Henry Cavill), sacrifice himself in order to stop Doomsday and save humanity. Bruce tells Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) that he doesn't plan on failing Superman in death the way that he failed him in life. He senses that something much larger, and far more dangerous, is coming. (Remember his Knightmare? The one with all of those Parademons?) And in order to prepare for it, Bruce is going to recruit his own team of powerful, gifted metahumans.
The way Ben Affleck described it to us on the set, he's approaching Batman differently this time, because the hero -- through the events of Batman v Superman -- sees the world through a changed perspective. In Batman v Superman, the Dark Knight had reached the end of his rope after decades of fighting to worst possible crime in Gotham. He was facing a foreign threat in Superman, and he felt that he needed to go to dark places to combat this foe (who ended up being a friend). In Justice League, Batman's different. He's more hopeful. He's learning to trust people again. He is starting to restore his faith in humanity. Affleck tells us:
This is not the guy at the end of his rope. This is a guy who's back at the beginning again. He's starting over. He's believing, and finding hope. The thing that he was hopeful for, what he was holding on to... he really believes in this idea of forming this group. That starts him off, and that's his core mission here. Obviously, that's something different. That's not a guy who's at the end, [who] has given up.
So, Batman will be the hero recruiting the members of the Justice League, and together with Alfred (Jeremy Irons), he's going to be upgrading his vehicles and weaponry along the way. We saw designs for Batman's new Nightcrawler, an armored tank with mechanical, spider-like legs that allow him to travel through tunnels and climb through tight spaces. (It even has a flamethrower, which looks like it may come in handy if Parademons attack). And when the whole team needs to travel, Batman has a massive troop carrier called The Flying Fox, which looks like a mobile headquarters large enough to carry every member of the Justice League, as well as Batman's Batmobile and other weaponry.
By all accounts, Batman is the leader of this new team, but he's far from the only member. What else did we learn on the Justice League set?
The one character noticeably absent from everything that we saw on the Justice League set was Superman, and it was here that producer Deb Snyder and her husband, director Zack Snyder, played coy. As you all remember, Batman v Superman ended with the world mourning the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). But Snyder consciously ended his movie with a few pieces of dirt levitating off of Superman's coffin, indicating that the hero wouldn't stay dead for too long.
But for all of the storyboards we saw for Justice League, the bulk of the movie seemed to involve Batman and Wonder Woman recruiting three additional members of the team -- Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) -- and preparing for the arrival of a new threat. Superman wasn't part of any of these scenes, from what we were shown, though the team made it clear that he's absolutely part of the Justice League that they were forming.
When I specifically pressed Snyder on the mystery stance that they were taking regarding Superman, he explained:
I wanted to get to a Superman [in Dawn of Justice] who has a reason to be Superman. A reason to feel the way he felt about humanity, or feel the way that we all understand about him from the comic books. He's pretty -- as far as a moral compass goes, he's pretty [much] the thing. But I feel like he had to go through something to be that. And I'm not saying he shows up in this movie... [Laughs] There's a process, clearly, that would have to go on in the... I feel like the idea is to -- that's part of the story. If he does appear, I think that would be a big part of the story, right? Like, how you bring him back.
But Snyder wasn't willing to talk beyond that about Henry Cavill's role in the movie. They really wanted to keep the HOW of Superman coming back a mystery. So all I can confirm is that Superman's still "dead," and his sacrifice at the end of _Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice _will be the huge catalyst for Bruce Wayne moving forward in _Justice League_. It's the reason that he wants to form the new team, and it's the action that resets Batman's focus, and restores his faith and hope. But Bruce isn't the only character inspired by Kal-El's actions.
Justice League arrives in a unique location, in that it follows up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it also comes months after audiences will be able to spend an additional two hours with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in her solo Wonder Woman movie (opening in June 2017). But the way that Gadot explained it to us, she's definitely building on where the character was at the end of Dawn of Justice, and letting the Wonder Woman movie handle the origin threads of this character.
That doesn't mean, however, that we won't learn more about the Amazonians in Justice League. In fact, the movie plans to show us a few moments in an ancient time, when an event prompts the Amazonians to take possession of one of three Motherboxes, powerful cubes that are being sought after by the movie's main villain, Steppenwolf. More on that in our other articles from the set.
From what we were able to see, Diana is very much a part of Batman's recruitment pitch to the other Justice League members. She's a co-pilot in the Nightcrawler, and could be seen battling Parademons with her sword in a massive battle scene set in a Parademon nest. By the looks of it, 2017 is going to be a very big year for DC's Amazonian warrior princess.
Justice League isn't the first time we are getting to see DC's new silver-screen Flash -- Ezra Miller played him in a brief but tantalizingly mind-bending time-travel cameo in Dawn of Justice, and also showed up in security footage on Lex Luthor's computer systems -- but this is where we are going to learn a LOT more about Barry Allen.
Naturally, Barry has the ability to run very, very fast. While touring the set of Batman's new Wayne Hangar -- where he parks the Flying Fox -- I noticed on Bruce's computer monitors that he had Barry Allen's Central City University student I.D., though I don't know if it is old, or if Barry's a college student during this story.
By the time that we meet him in Justice League, however, I can confirm that he'll already have built a prototype Flash suit, which -- when we were able to inspect it in the Costume Department -- was VERY beaten up and scratched. We're told that this is because Barry has been using the suit to continuously test how much protection he needs when he's running at top speeds, and some of this tests work very well... but others do not.
The suit that we saw looked very much like the suit Flash wears in the Injustice video game, plated with armor but thin and streamlined. It appears aerodynamic, with very subtle blades (like the wings of airplanes) on the shoulders, arms and legs. There are no wings on the side of Flash's head piece, just gold bars. He has custom-designed shoes that have his Flash symbol on the sides, on the soles, and even inside the sneaker. And one of Flash's powers will be an ability to generate intense amounts of energy because he'll act like a human-sized electrical coil, as wires crisscross his entire costume. Basically, Flash's costume looks INCREDIBLE. It was easily my favorite suit we were shown on the trip. It was suggested that Barry might have used his speed to infiltrate NASA and borrow some of the tech used on rockets as they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. Which makes him very smart -- and also willing to bend the rules a little bit.
But Flash's true purpose in Justice League is to lighten the tone and produce some levity to what has, so far, been a dour Cinematic Universe. From that perspective, the character (and the actor) arrives in the nick of time. We watched Barry jokingly play off of Bruce Wayne in a pivotal _Justice League _scene. In between takes, we were able to see how jokey and close Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher have become. They're a comedic duo, and will be a welcome form of entertainment in _Justice League_. Speaking of Ray Fisher...
The sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where Wonder Woman views Lex Luthor's metahuman files covered a lot of ground, and fairly rapidly, in the origin of Cyborg, so when we meet him in Justice League, I believe he'll already be the part-human/predominantly-metallic superhero shown above.
Scanning the Justice League storyboards that we were shown, there will be scenes set in S.T.A.R. Labs -- the place where Cyborg's father, Silas, conducted controversial experiments on his son, Victor, in an effort to save his life. And if you recall, in the video Wonder Woman watches, Silas uses what looks like a Motherbox cube to transform Cyborg, so we are told that the bulk of the hero's body will be alien tech from Apokaliptic technologies.
I wonder how that will work if and when Cyborg faces off against enemies like Steppenwolf or Darkseid?
The costume department confirms that Cyborg's costume will mostly be done with visual effects. And yes, when we watched Ray Fisher film a scene in character as Cyborg, he was lucky enough to wear a form-fitting but comfortable leotard that looked like Cyborg's suit, but that would clearly be covered over by computer graphics during the film's post-production. He did wear a glowing red light over his eye, and on his chest, though, so that was cool. In the designs we saw of Cyborg's costume, only 3/4 of the actor's face was showing. The rest of Cyborg was metallic weaponry, similar to the Robocop reboot (but much, much better). And yes, he had a gun for a right arm, which looked sick.
The second Justice League member who was physically absent from the set (after Superman) was Jason Momoa's Aquaman, but that doesn't mean we didn't learn a great deal about his character, or how he'll fit into the larger story.
As we mentioned before, the Amazonians took possession of a Motherbox after a catastrophic event that took place centuries ago. Well, they weren't the only one who stepped up to protect a Motherbox. A second box was given to the Atlanteans, and that likely will be our passage into Aquaman's underwater world. At some point, Batman and his team will need to retrieve these Motherboxes to keep them out of Steppenwolf's hands, and I believe they will travel to Atlantis to convince Aquaman to turn it over. Or to warn him that someone else is coming to claim it.
Out of all the other Justice League members, Aquaman is the one who seems like he'll have more of his backstory explored in Justice League. In addition to Momoa, the film has cast Amber Heard as Atlantis' queen, Mera, and we were able to see designs for costumes given to several different Atlantean guards. Justice League appears to have multiple scenes set in the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, both in ancient times and in contemporary days.
And then, there's Aquaman's suit. We saw full-body armor that Momoa would wear, which had tight-knit gold-and-black scales on the sleeves and green-gold pants that looked awesome. We held one of this trident -- a five-pronged weapon that he's actually holding in the above picture -- and saw photographs of his single-tipped spear. But there also were storyboards of Momoa in The Flying Fox alongside his Justice League colleagues, so expect the undersea ruler to leave his oceanic kingdom and join in the fight against Steppenwolf and his Parademons when the movie opens next year.
This is something I found interesting. DC and Warner Bros., obviously, are working hand in hand to construct this massive cinematic universe (not unlike the one being built across town by Marvel), and they'll have an additional, important step landing in theaters prior to the release of Justice League in November 2017. I'm talking about Suicide Squad, which hits in August and has some connections to Batman v Superman. We know that Ben Affleck filmed scenes as Batman for the movie, but will the Squad show face, in any way, in the Justice League film?
In short, no, but Deb Snyder did explain a little further where Suicide Squad rests next to Justice League in the world that DC is building, saying that all of the DC Films (for now) take place on the same timeline, and they're populated by characters who all share the same universe. To that end, in the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman, we're hearing that Batman (Ben Affleck) sends Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to Arkham, meaning he'd be able to interact with any members of the Suicide Squad... and even Jared Leto's Joker.
But Deb Snyder confirmed that there are only trace connections and thin threads spread around Justice League that will prove it exists in the same universe as David Ayer's Suicide Squad, but no concrete, hard-and-fast connections. Unless there are, and they just wanted to keep them under wraps until next November, when Justice League opens in theaters worldwide.