JLA: The Unfilmable Project

A few months back, my wife bought me a t-shirt from Target featuring the Justice League of America. It’s cheezy retro fun, and features just about every main character that’s ever been in the roster over the years. Specifically, I think it’s from a period of just before my time in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Though I caught on to DC and Marvel when introduced to it by friends in what must have been the early part of grade school, I never really bothered to seek out what came before my time.

But following that point, I’ve been an on again off again addict. I once had a pretty big collection of Superman, Justice League, and X-Men comics stashed away in my old bedroom, which years later now only exists as a handful of Superman comics in one of my office shelves. I think that as the years progressed my fascination with the subject material at hand remained, only via outlets such as Justice League Unlimited and more grandeur fare such as the well received, yet still vastly underrated Batman Begins. In no way am I a comic purist that would insist that the form can only exist in the native format. Instead, I’m prone to enjoy narratives about my favorite characters through any means which does it well.

My enjoyment of Batman Begins has increased throughout much of the same way that my favorite Star Wars film slowly migrated from the original to Empire. As I aged and began to understand the intracity of film and plot crafting, my appreciation for the more complex middle chapter rose significantly. While New Hope remained a fun romp, my realization fully came to be aware that, in fact, The Empire Strikes Back is indeed the most perfect film ever crafted by the hand of mortal men. Similarities exist to Batman Begins in this regard. It’s a film, that while featuring a Saturday Morning-esque charecter, is an adult one with complex sensibility and a real world portrayal. Honestly, when Scarecrow exists as only a crazy guy with a bag on his head, you realize that this is in no way anything definable as “camp”. The film was a true progression into maturity, moving away from film franchises such as Raimi’s Spider-man.

But now we have, what is undoubtedly, a cash in project on our hands. It appears that, in anticipation of a Writer’s Guild strike, the studio powers that be see fit to supply us with a film version of the almost sacred Justice League. Indeed a nervous prospect. We’ve seen what this narrative structure can be within the wrong hands, and also within the right ones. Given the chance and free will of Cartoon Network housing, Timm did a remarkable job with the source material that finally gave the JLA the mainstream respect deserved. Something that a hastily written and produced feature is nary to give us.

  The visual cue is probably one that should give an idea of what lunacy could arrive as a result of this prospect, though I’d be lying if I were to say that the idea of Space Ghost in the film didn’t tickle me pink.  Sure, it probably could work as a not-fully-serious film with a bit of intentional comedy thrown in for variety.  (Not the groan inducing unintentional type as often seen when sourced from the elderly material.)  For example, what do our heroes do with each other, given the free time?  An interesting idea.  But, as is often ignored in Hollywood, just because you can do it doesn’t give you the license to actually do it.  And that itself is the problem, and why this is unfilmable.  There are simply too many story lines, too many characters, too many everythings to make this workable as it should be.  While I stated that I am a fan of these stories in any medium, I’m also fully aware that not every medium is appropriate.  An animated series is perfect.  It gives you the chance to develop episodes central to one or two characters and gives chance to create story arcs spanning multiple episodes.  Something a two hour movie simply can not and should not do.  Oh, you can do a film project with this scope.  The only guy to do it so far had to fight numerous studios in order to get an insanely popular trilogy of heavily descriptive books made into a trilogy of films as it needed to be.  And let us not even venture into the horrible topic of casting for this behemoth.

That all said, I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong if the project actually does produce an enjoyable and adult film.  Often times when conversing these type of things, us innerweb nerds are prone to use the phrase “if done right”.  Which ultimately is translatable as “if done the way I want it to be done.”  Meaning, there’s surely someone to be displeased.

Tread carefully, Hollywood.  You enter a realm which may make you doubt your decision.


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