Friday, October 4, 2013

Fan-Casting DC's JUSTICE LEAGUE: Part 19

Back in August, I began what should have been a simple post with pictures of DC superheroes next to the actors I would like to see play them in a movie.  It turned into twenty-or-so posts and a treatment for  the first part in a trilogy chronicling the origin of the Justice League.

Given how much more time went into outlining Justice League: The World's Finest than I expected, and how surprising some of the plot points felt even to me as I wrote them, I wanted to take the time out to really make sure I knew what would happen in the sequel before I continued.  After all, the second chapter is where things get really complicated.  This is where our lead heroes, Batman and Superman, first encounter the rest of the legends who will form the team.

This story draws heavy inspiration from different comics and cartoons published by DC, particularly The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke.


You think this looks crowded, try cramming these guys into one two-hour movie!
After Batman and Superman united to stop the Martian woman Bel Juz from destroying Metropolis with rogue battle drones, there are still a number of continuing threads and lingering threats from the first movie.

  • Hundreds of people were injured or killed in Metropolis.
  • LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises are crucified in the media for their involvement in the drone attacks.
  • Bel Juz escaped capture.
  • Bel Juz knows Batman's alter-ego is Bruce Wayne.
  • The heroic Martian J'Onn J'Onzz lies in a coma in the Batcave after nearly dying in a fire to save Lois Lane and stop Commander Blanx.
  • Hundreds or more tiny starfish creatures known as starros have spread across the globe, attaching to and possessing human hosts.
  • A dozen or so people infected by starros have been taken to the hospital for recovery.
That brings us as up to speed as we need to be.  Like the previous round of fan-casting/outlining posts, I will update my casting decisions as the characters are introduced.

Prologue: Secret Origins

The World's Finest introduced us to Batman and Superman.  The Brave and the Bold will introduce us to The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman (and later Aquaman) in a series of prologue sequences.  These are quick, meant to suggest the origin of these three heroes, not replace an origin story or movie.  Ideally, the first adventures of these heroes would be fleshed out in their own movies.  I'm writing this as if Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman have been operating for at least a year.

As with the first movie, this one opens with a shot of the Earth from space.  Soon, the burning wreckage of a space station comes into the shot from above.  This is the space station that crashed in the first movie.  We see the escape pods jettisoned, but this time we follow one of them all the way down as it burns through the atmosphere and lands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Inside the escape pod, a metallic cylindrical cache opens up, revealing a starro much larger than the others we've seen before.  Almost instantly, it begins to grow even more.  This is the lead starro, the controller, and will be known throughout this story as Starro (capital s) or Starro Prime.  It's massive eye/mouth/thing opens and a torch-like laser begins burning through the hull of the pod.  Starro slips out of the hole in the bottom of the pod and swims out into the water.  He continues to grow larger, and larger.  And more, tiny starros separate from his body, fanning out in different directions.

As this is happening, we hear the voice of Bel Juz (Sanaa Lathan) in talking over the scene.  She speaks to her unseen/unheard "Master", describing the events from the last movie.  She refers to Starro, calling it their servant, and says she can feel his agents on the planet.  Soon they will feel everyone…

As she mentions this, and as the starros have spread out from Starro Prime, we cut to multiple quick shots of different people around the world getting taken over by starros.

We also see Bel Juz in an undisclosed location.  She appears to be meditating, though she is speaking telepathically to her Master.  She concedes that Earth's champions are surprisingly resourceful, and at this we get shots of Batman and Superman.  As powerful as they are, however, they are simply too few to halt the coming invasion…

Cut to: Central City.

We see the city skyline during a fierce electrical storm.  The sky could be vaguely reddish.  Lightning crashes down.  We get an establishing shot of Central City Metro Police Station.  Inside, we see a door labeled CRIME LAB.

Barry Allen enters the storage room of the crime lab, carrying a box full of beakers, jars, and assorted equipment.  The far wall of the storage room is shelves upon shelves of chemicals and solutions and whatnot.  There's a large window nearby.  Barry looks like a nerdy lab tech; he's wearing a bow tie.

The Flash/Barry Allen (Neil Patrick Harris)

Neil Patrick Harris was the first actor I thought of for the Flash, possibly because he has voiced the character in animated movies before.  He's grown up since that awful/wonderful "Doogie Howser" phase, but he still retains a lot of those sensibilities in other roles he plays.  He's smart and often either coldly analytical or hyperactive.  His productivity on Broadway testifies to his physical athleticism as much as any action movie star, and his collaborations with Joss Whedon attest to his geek credentials and ability to transcend into the superhero genre.

Barry is putting beakers and chemicals back on the shelf, arranging them slowly, carefully.  Outside we see a huge lighting bolt rip downward from the clouds.  Inside the storage room, the lighting bursts through the window, smashes like like a rampaging animal into the shelf of chemicals, and zig backwards into Barry!

As Barry stands there, electrocuted, the jars and containers of liquids on the shelf shatter, spraying chemicals down on him.  As this happens, the current of lightning flows through him, over him, around him.

Time stops.  Chemicals spray.  Electricity dances over the droplets of liquid and onto Barry.  We get a crazy, rotating Matrix-style 360 degree shot around Barry as the electrical current goes around and through him, with a flickering effect showing his insides, his skeleton, like a negative image.

Time starts again, and Barry goes down.  The shelves/cabinet starts on fire.  So does Barry.

Other lab technicians and police rush into the storage room.  They smother the fire on the cabinet/shelf and on Barry.  This could be in slow motion, very muted sound effects; people call Barry's name, sounding far away.  The voices are deafened by the sound of a heartbeat.  It beats faster, faster, impossibly fast, faster until--

Cut To: The California Desert

--we see feet running.  We slowly pan up and away, revealing more of the runner and the background.  It's night in the desert.  The runner wears olive colored coveralls, a mechanic or pilot's jumpsuit.  As he runs, we see fiery debris in the background, the wreckage of some kind of explosion… or crash!

The runner gets to the top of sand dune, and as he crests the hill, from over his shoulder we see the still flaming remains of a downed spaceship.  The runner, Hal Jordan, stands for just a moment to take in the scene before rushing toward the ship.

Green Lantern/Hal Jordan (James Marsden)

When fan-casting this movie trilogy and the wider DC Universe, I tried to think of people who weren't associated with superhero or fantasy genre films already.  Obviously, that wasn't the case with James Marsden, who has appeared in two other comic-based film properties.  He was criminally underused in both.

In the X-Men movies, he played Cyclops, whose character amounted to nothing other than being not Wolverine, and in Superman Returns, he played the love interest of Lois Lane who didn't have incredible powers.  In both movies, he played the safe, responsible choice of boyfriend/husband, while the women pined for the antisocial, super-powered outsider.  Yeah, his track record in this genre is for playing the boring "also ran" male foil, even though his actions in Superman Returns were a lot more noble and heroic than the title character's.  The problem is Marsden can play the other type of hero so well.  He can play the arrogant, cocksure, lead-with-your-face role, and his comic abilities feel a lot more natural than Ryan Reynolds'.

Hal fearlessly runs through the wreckage, past balls of flame toward the ship, shouting for anyone who can hear him.  He stops when he reaches the hull.  There's a green light emanating from somewhere inside.  Hal seems almost entranced by it.  He enters the ship through a hole in the fuselage and makes his way toward the light, which happens to be in the direction of the cockpit.

The cockpit is a mess--partially caved in ceiling, controls in pieces, support beams protruding every which way…  The green light flickers from a strange object on the ground; it looks almost like a lantern.  Hal reaches down to pick it up… and an alien hand grasps him around the wrist.

Abin Sur (Michael Berryman)

Do I really have to explain this decision?

The alien Green Lantern known as Abin Sur (Michael Berryman) looks at Hal with dying eyes and holds out his fist.  Green light emits from his ring and appears to scan Hal.  Wheezing, coughing up blood, Abin Sur says, "Hal Jordan of Earth… You have been chosen…"

The ring glides off of Abin's hand, floats through the air and slides onto Hal Jordan's middle finger.  Green energy builds from the ring and the lantern on the floor.  It glows, growing brighter and brighter until it whites out the screen and--

Cut To: Themyscira

--the while dissolves into foggy clouds.  We move forward, piercing the clouds to reveal an island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Hippolyta (Lucy Lawless)

This didn't take a lot of thought, although I did consider Peta Wilson for a couple seconds.  Ultimately, there was never anyone to play the Queen of the Amazons other than Xena herself, Lucy Lawless.

Over the next series of shots, we hear the voice of Queen Hippolyta narrating:

"For the first time in thousands of years, a man has landed on the shores of our island."  Establishing shot of the island's capital.  The buildings all evoke classical Greco-Roman architecture, with statues of ancient goddesses and female warriors all around the common.

"Colonel Steve Trevor, from the nation of America, is on a mission to prevent a war that would cost countless innocent lives."  We see Steve Trevor brought to the palace, a grand temple to Hera (or Athena) by Amazon soldiers in ancient Greek-style battle armor.

Steve Trevor (Daniel Sunjata)

Colonel Steve Trevor of U.S. Air Force Intelligence is the first man Wonder Woman ever sees.  That's a big deal.  He becomes her handler, her tutor, her first love.  He's a military man, a spy, who gets stranded on an island of beautiful warrior women, most of whom have never seen a man before.  For Steve Trevor, you need an actor who can play alpha male, badass action hero.  But you also need an actor who won't steal the show or eclipse your female star, because his role is always subservient to Wonder Woman's.

I've been a fan of Daniel Sunjata since the first episode of Rescue Me.  If Denis Leary left the show, I would have watched it for Sunjata's character, Franco.  I like his ethnicity, and he nails all the right chords for a Steve Trevor character, but he's also not an A-list Hollywood star.  You don't think of him as a leading man, but he could and should play backup to the Amazon Princess.  As a bonus, he's already played a military man in a DC movie for, like, three minutes.

Hippolyta's narration continues: "He must be returned to his homeland… one of us must journey to Man's World."  As this line is spoken, we see the end of the Contest wherein the queen's daughter, Diana, wins the honor of taking Trevor away from Paradise Island.

Wonder Woman/Diana (Bridget Regan)

Wonder Woman is objectively difficult for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is she is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world.  In my fantasy world, Wonder Woman is so beautiful that it almost hurts to look at her.  Only one actress I know has that kind of beauty and that's Monica Bellucci.    She was my first choice years ago.  But that was years ago.  More than a couple years ago.

As beautiful as Monica Bellucci still is, alas, I think she is at least ten years too told for the part of Wonder Woman.  But a couple years ago, the wife introduced me to this show Legend of the Seeker.  The quality of the show varied: sometimes really good, sometimes, er, not, but the cast was great and fun to watch.  The women, in particular, were good.

Bridget Regan played the female lead, and without going into detail, her character was beautiful, powerful, resourceful, compassionate, loving, tragic, unmatched in combat, and a bit mythical in nature.    As I watched her on the show, I realized I was watching a prototype for Wonder Woman.

We see Hippolyta equipping Diana with the weapons and armor bequeathed by the gods and goddesses--shots of the lasso, the lariat, and Diana's armor/breastplate.  Hippolyta and Diana bid farewell to each other.  Hippolyta sends her off with love… and a foreboding prediction: Diana must help Steve bring peace to the world of men.  This mission will consumer her.  Diana might never be able to return to Themyscira.

Diana in full Wonder Woman costume walks away with Steve Trevor.  Hippolyta watches them from her palace, fighting back a tear of pride/love/fear/doubt as she says goodbye to her daughter.

At this we get a hard cut, or a black out, maybe the main title card, but it should be clear at this point that we've transitioned out of these introductory vignettes and are now in our full story.

To Be Continued…


  1. Ive found this casting post of yours really fascinating and should've replied to many of it but due to work I haven't found the time in length to do it, but promise I will at some point.
    Incidentally this months issue of Injustice;Gods Amongst Us issue 9 has a couple of cute BoP related panels, most specifically where Canary, Huntress and Batwoman are riding motorcycles.

  2. Thank you very much! I know this is more than probably most people would read and digest, but thanks!
    And I know exactly what panels from INJUSTICE you're talking about. I actually have a folder of Black Canary images from that series that I was going to get around to posting, but it kept getting pushed back for other things. As an alternative to her classic outfit, I really, really prefer Dinah's Injustice costume to her New 52 look.