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In case that Wachowskis rumor isn’t enough to pacify DC Comics fans anxious for news about Warner Bros.’ long-delayed Justice League movie, this morning brings another potential development: that the ensemble film will serve as an introduction to the studio’s rebooted Batman franchise.
The nugget comes from fansite Batman On Film, which cites an industry source as indicating that the move would ensure that the new take on the Caped Crusader is part of a “DC Cinematic Universe,” one patterned after Marvel’s wildly successful approach to connecting all of its superhero films.
It certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise, as Warner Bros. has long indicated a desire to pursue a path that’s essentially the reverse of Marvel’s: Instead of introducing characters in solo films and then bringing them together in one ensemble blockbuster, the studio views Justice League as a stage on which to trot out superheroes like The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, who would then spin off into their separate projects.
What’s more, Warner Bros. is reportedly targeting Justice League for a 2015 release, putting it in theaters ahead of whatever comes after director Christopher Nolan’s exit from the Batman franchise with this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises. That means the studio essentially has two choices when it comes to the character: Use Justice League to unveil the new actor in the cape and cowl (even if the story doesn’t directly relate to the reboot), or use different actors in each film, undercutting the concept of a “cinematic universe” and creating a split between the “real” Batman and the “other” Batman in the minds of audiences.
Mind you, as awkward and unappealing as the latter seems, it’s the tactic Warner Bros. was taking before it shelved director George Miller’s Justice League in 2008 — his version was to star D.J. Cotrona instead of Brandon Routh as Superman, and Armie Hammer instead of Christian Bale as Batman. Of course, Routh and Bale already had contracts, and it’s difficult to imagine Nolan’s vision for the Dark Knight existing alongside characters with super-speed, super-strength and magic rings.
But even if Justice League is our first exposure to the new Batman, we’re left wondering about Superman (and possibly Green Lantern). Just last year, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder indicated that any ensemble film would exist separately from his upcoming reboot, saying, “what they’ll do with Justice League will be its own thing with its own Batman and own Superman. We’ll be over here with our movie and they’ll kinda get to do it twice, which is kinda cool.”
Cool, maybe, but definitely problematic to any hopes for a cohesive big-screen universe.