Justice League: Mortal (2007 script) part 1

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Aquaman, Batman, DC, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League, Superman, Wonder Woman
The League’s core, circa 2006.

Back in 2007 DC had absolutely no idea what they were doing with their film properties. Nearly all of their characters were stuck in development hell and they had a serious lack of overall vision for any of their franchises. The sole exception was Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. So, with no idea how to sell any of their singular characters, DC decided to start at the top and work down in creating their cinematic universe. They’d start with the Justice League property and then spin-off individual films based on the heroes from there. All things considered, it’s not a terrible approach. They would know what worked and what didn’t before hundreds of millions were spent on a character that no one cared about (just think, they could have avoided Green Lantern had they taken this path). So, in 2007 they commissioned a script, hired George Miller as a director and assembled a cast for Justice League: Mortal, the film that almost was. This will be an in-depth, two-part look at the plot, cast, characters and circumstances around this film’s inception and destruction. Also, I feel I need to add a spoiler warning…I guess. I dunno? Do you need spoiler warnings for unproduced screenplays?

Max Lord.
Master schemer.

If you’d like to read this on your own, you can find it on file sharing networks. I downloaded a copy a year or so ago from comicbookmovie.com but it’s since been taken down. If you’re at all interested in the JLA, I’d recommend finding it. Written by Michele and Kiernan Mulroney, it’s a pretty entertaining read. It’s also cool to see how many situations within the script are taken straight from DC’s canon…well, pre-New 52 canon at least.

Brother Eye, as seen in the comics.

The plot introduces the league (mostly a loose collection of heroes, some of which having very strained relationships) one by one as they are being targeted by Brother Eye, a mysterious computer program that attacks each of their individual weaknesses. For example, Martian Manhunter (who has a fear/weakness towards fire) is coated in a flammable substance that burns him on a cellular level, while Aquaman’s biological need of water is used against him by giving him hydrophobia, etc. At the same time, the story brings in Maxwell Lord, billionaire owner of the Planet Krypton chain of restaurants and establishes him as a business rival of Bruce Wayne. As the League regroups, they discover the source of their assault and take the fight to their newly revealed enemy. In the process they come into conflict with a powerful new weapon (OMAC) that can harness each League members power against the rest of the team. The plot covers a lot of ground but stays focused and is in no way an origin story. That’s one aspect that I find interesting. At this time, most of these characters had no presence on movie screens. Yet the script just accepts that they are individuals that have been around and have no need to explain where they came from. It makes sense, but doesn’t quite work perfectly.

“How about a little fire, scarecrow?”

I mentioned above that I enjoyed the focus of the story, but I feel that there were times when some backstory was needed. Namely, lesser known characters need some form explanation. Who is Martian Manhunter? Who is John Stewart? However, this could also be a monumentally easy fix. All you need is a credit sequence that gives 30 second clips of each characters origins. That way you don’t need expository explanations eating up running time and it makes narrative sense to give that info in the beginning. Hell, for all I know, that’s what George Miller was planning all along.

Making Damian
OMAC Attack!

The story borrows elements from a variety of comic-based stories. The clearest influence is definitely The OMAC Project, a mini-series from 2005 that was a lead-in into the company wide Infinite Crisis crossover. I was a huge fan of this entire storyline when it initially ran and have a certain nostalgic fondness for it (as well as it’s follow-up maxi-series, 52) as it marks the last time I closely followed the DC Universe as a whole. The plot borrows some story beats from well-regarded stories like JLA: Tower of Babel, Crisis on Infinite Earths and Kingdom Come as well. It also delves into Batman’s backstory, namely his romance with Talia Al Ghul, a plot point which had recently been mined in the comics when the script was written with the introduction of their son, Damian.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this screenplay is the character Barry Allen and his relationships within the story. His characterization is spot-on (as I’ve mentioned before, this is an important character to get right). His heroic spirit and general likeability really shine, which is saying a lot considering that this film features both Superman and Batman. It’s also important to note that he’s the only major player in the story who gets a well-rounded supporting cast. His wife, Iris, is featured prominently as is his nephew and fellow speedster Wally West. That does a lot to humanize him.

30-year-old spoiler!

I was very surprised to see Wally in the story. For those who don’t know, Wally was once a sidekick called Kid Flash. However, after Barry’s death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, he took over the mantle as The Flash. Super hero legacy is a trait that is almost uniquely DC’s. There are other legacy heroes in other publishers, but DC has entire teams full of them. Thus, it’s cool to me that it’s played up here. To think that this film could have opened up DC’s cinematic world to the idea of legacy characters is something that I didn’t know about and is possibly the most interesting and “special” part of the story to me. Plus Wally’s always been “my” Flash, so I enjoy when he makes it into expanded media. For the past decade and a half, DC has been thinning the ranks of their legacy characters, preferring instead to focus on the most popular version (typically requiring their resurrection, an ancient comic book trope) which means that characters like Wally are often left out or relegated to sidekick roles in adaptations.

For now, I’ll leave it at that. My next column on Justice League: Mortal will include looks at the cast, their take on each character they portrayed, specifics of the story and the circumstances behind its cancellation. I’ve tried to avoid most spoilers in this section in order to give you time to read the script, if you’re so inclined, by the time part two is posted. I’d highly recommend downloading it and giving it a read. It’s fast-paced and pretty entertaining. After seeing what stops DC currently has on its film road map, I do believe that I would have preferred this road that was not taken. Give the script a look and let me know if you agree or disagree!

Check out Part 2 HERE!
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