The inaugural assembly of the Justice League at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater Monday night represented a triumph for the makers of DC’s latest film, which endured family tragedy, extensive reshoots, and heightened expectations by coming on the heels of “Wonder Woman,” this past summer’s massive hit from the studio.
Veteran producer Chuck Roven, however, said despite all the challenges, the film came together well. He said early response to the film has been encouraging.
“A lot of the movie – a huge, huge portion of the movie was dictated before (director) Zack (Snyder) had to leave the film for his personal family tragedy,” Roven said on the red carpet. “The DNA of the movie was already set.”
“Justice League,” first conceived about a decade ago, faced a long road, including several years in development, before arriving to its premiere. Snyder stepped away during post-production in May to deal with the death of his daughter. To finish reshoots, Joss Whedon came on as writer and director of the movie’s additional photography. Reshoots, complicated by the schedules of the various actors – and Henry Cavill’s mustache, worn for a different film — lasted roughly two months, spanned London and Los Angeles, and cost $25 million.
“Joss is his own creative entity so he’s going to put some of his DNA into it also, but the vast majority of it was already set,” Snyder said.
“Justice League” picks up where “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” left off. Superman is dead and a new villain, Steppenwolf, has emerged to destroy Earth. Bruce Wayne/Batman, feeling guilty about Superman’s death, takes an unlikely turn as he builds a team of metahumans to face the new threat. Batman, played by Ben Affleck, enlists the help of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to recruit Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the Flash (Ezra Miller). Together, the League battles Steppenwolf.
The latest DC installment will have a different tone than “Batman v Superman,” Roven said. “When you’re dealing with a long view of how these characters are going to evolve, you need to get them to a creative place, for example, like in ‘Batman v Superman.’ You need to have a pretty dark film in order to make sure these two superheroes that we revere… so we would believe that they’d go against each other. It’s tough to have a lot of humor and comedy out of that,” Roven said.
Batman has been motivated by Superman’s selfless act, Roven said. “Now that Ben as Batman has realized who Superman was, he can then be inspired by him and do something that he characteristically as Batman would never do, which is become a recruiter and a cheerleader. That in there inheres a lot of humor.”
Connie Nielsen, who reprises her role as Wonder Woman’s mother, Queen Hippolyta, says the genre will be forever changed by the contributions of Patty Jenkins on “Wonder Woman.” What Jenkins found was an audience eager for fresh content.
“Patty’s insistence on serving underserved audiences has been really important,” Nielsen said. “I think so many guys discovered that they are just as willing to go and see a female superhero as they are a male. I really hope everybody pays attention: Make a good movie and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a male or a female. The audience will come see it.”
Fisher, cast as Cyborg, said he was intent on bringing a level of depth to his character that would make him relatable to other outcasts and outsiders.
“With these characters, we owe a responsibility to the audience, we owe a responsibility to the people coming up in this very complicated time, to make sure that the superhero at least reflects where we are socially in the world,” Fisher said. “There has to be some depth or complication to these things because these are stories that people look up to, these are stories that help people get through the circumstances of life. And if you’re not seeing what you’re going through represented in a relatable shape or form, it just won’t connect.”
Joe Morton, who plays Cyborg’s father, Silas Stone, said the trend of increased racial and gender diversity in the superhero genre in general is inspiring to a generation growing up on these films.
“When I was growing up all these superheroes were white,” Morton said. “On some level, you put that out of your mind… but as you get older, you realize it’s a very one-sided affair. So I’m very glad to see that these movies are becoming more diversified.”
The premiere, which was presented by Mercedes-Benz, also gathered co-stars Diane Lane and J.K. Simmons. Amy Adams and Jeremy Irons appear in the film as well. Screenplay is by Chris Terrio and Whedon. The film’s producers are Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg, and Geoff Johns, with executive producers Jim Rowe, Affleck, Wesley Coller, Curtis Kanemoto, Daniel S. Kaminsky, and Terrio.
“Justice League” bows Nov. 17.