The Justice League and the Injustice of it All

I don’t think I’m the only one to think this, but it appears that Warner Bros and the DCEU are planning to build toward an Injustice plotline, and the more I think about it, the deeper I go down the rabbit hole of how the hell it’s going to work. My previous post about Superman being so boring that he’s actually just part of the setting introduced the idea, but now I’m going to flesh it out. Be forewarned: this might be a long read, and might seem a little rambly at times. There’s a lot of shit to get through, so we might as well start shovelling.

First, what the hell is Injustice? Well, it’s a comic book series and also probably the best plot for a 1-on-1 fighting game ever. Before I get into spoilers for it, I highly recommend that you either read the comics or play through the game. It’s quite a good story, and it’s worth going through in more detail. But if you don’t give a shit and want the quick and dirty version, it’s spoiler time. The story begins when the Joker trick Superman into simultaneously killing a pregnant Lois Lane and blowing up the city of Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. How did that happen? Well, you’re going to have to go play the game/read the comics now. Should’ve listened the first time. Silly reader.

This series of events is understandably upsetting for Superman, but all things considered he still doesn’t really handle it well. He murders the Joker, and quite a few other people, and eventually establishes himself as the tyrant ruler over all of Earth. Oh, and most of the Justice League sides with him. Except for Batman and a few others who form a resistance movement. I’m skipping over a lot of detail here, but I will include important information as needed.

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This is a panel straight out of the comic. Yeah, it gets a little bit very fucking dark. Also, I would love for this to happen to Jared Leto’s Joker.

There’s a few questions that I’m going to try to answer here:

  • How does this story fit into the DCEU as it stands currently?
  • What are some problems or discrepancies that need to be addressed and overcome?
  • Why in the fuck do I even think this story might happen? Where is the evidence?

There are certainly going to have to be changes to the standard version of the story if it’s going to work in a cinematic universe. For one thing, the comic book series takes place over 5 years, and involves just about every character in the DC Universe in general. There are side plots starring Mr. Mxyzptlk and other magical beings, the Trickster, and the entirety  of the Green Lantern and Sinestro Corps. If it’s going to fit into a single movie, or even multiple movies, a lot of shit is going to have to get cut. There are too many characters, too many subplots, and not enough time to cover it in film format. That being said, it can still most certainly be done by focusing on characters that we already know of in the DCEU, and focusing on the main conflict of the series, which is Superman’s regime vs. Batman’s resistance.

 

Which brings me to the next major issue. One of the things that comes up whenever Superman and Batman actually meet up in this series, is that Superman broke Batman’s number one rule: no killing. If you watched Batman v Superman and saw Batman literally blow people up, you’ll quickly notice a problem. In the DCEU, Batman is more murder-y than usual – there are plenty of iterations of Batman where he hops on the murder train, but it’s kind of important that he not be on that train for this story. My friend and fellow writer for this website Peter is still convinced that this is too much to overcome, and any Injustice story with a Batman that kills people is doomed to fail. But I happen to enjoy trying to prove that Peter is a stupid idiot, so that’s what we’re going to do.

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“Oh boy, here I go killing again” – Batman, probably.

While the “Superman is a murderous dickbag, but Batman is just a regular dickbag” driving force won’t be there, it is not the core of the conflict in the series. That award goes to Superman’s corruption. My previous post talked about Superman as part of the setting for the rest of the DCEU (a second shameless but important plug), and that is a key point in making this plot work. Since Man of Steel, the world has been trying to figure out what to make of Superman. He and Zod got into a bit of a kerfuffle, and that kerfuffle killed, like, a lot of people. It might as well be uck that Superman happened to be fighting to prevent Zod from killing the rest of people. From the perspective of an average Joe, these two gods from another planet could’ve been fighting over their favourite kind of cheese – with that level of power and destruction, their motivations become pretty irrelevant. Superman’s sheer power requires that he be well-behaved just about all the time, and in the DCEU, there are two very important characters who understand that: Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor.

At that really stupid point in BvS where Batman finds out that Superman’s mother has been kidnapped, he realizes a few things. First, Superman’s mother’s name is Martha, and Batman’s name is Martha, and woah! What coincidence. Second, Superman is more human than Batman had given him credit for, and that he is inherently good. And finally, that Superman’s family is a weakness. Lex manipulated Superman into acting against his purely benevolent nature by extorting his family. If Superman can be manipulated through his family, then it falls to Batman to help protect them, which he immediately does by freeing Martha Kent from her kidnappers. I like to think that by doing this, Batman is indirectly saving the world, from Superman. This could definitely work as the basis for the conflict in DCEU Injustice, i.e. Batman feeling responsible for protecting the world from Superman.

Now, remember that weird dream sequence in BvS? Superman has one line in that scene, to Batman: “She was my world. And you took her from me.” It kind of sounds like Superman believes Batman is responsible for her death. After the Joker kills Lois and blows up Metropolis at the beginning of Injustice, Superman begins to blame Batman for not dealing with the Joker more… permanently. As Superman’s rule continues and he loses more and more of his old self, this blame extends to other characters that are killed in the conflict. This line in the dream sequence hints that this more personal aspect of the conflict would remain, which is definitely important for a universe often criticized for its lack of interesting characters.
At the end of that same dream sequence, the Flash appears at Bruce’s desk and gives him a warning, saying “You were right about him” and “Lois Lane is the key”. It’s not hard to read from this that Lois is dead and Superman has boarded the crazy train. And it’s also not hard to believe that an unhinged Superman has caused so much damage that the only option left is to send the Flash back in time to fix it. Time travel is a slippery slope in movies, but it’s kind of important to a lot of stories with the Flash, and can work if done very carefully.

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“Oh boy, here I go fucking up the timeline again” – The Flash, definitely.

The dream sequence is definitely a pretty big hint that an Injustice story might happen, but my favourite piece of evidence for this comes from Wonder Woman. And not just because it was a significantly better movie than the other DC films, but because it goes deeper into motivations for such a conflict. Once again, spoiler alert, since the movie was released not too long ago, and it would be better to find this shit out by watching the movie.

The story of Wonder Woman centres around the nature of humanity. Growing up isolated from mankind, Diana develops a naive understanding of human nature, thinking that they are inherently good creatures, but were corrupted by Ares to commit the atrocities that happen in war. After confronting Ares, she learns that Ares did nothing to corrupt mankind – he merely provided them with tools of destruction, and watched as they used them against each other. Ares’ original goal was to prove to the other gods that Zeus’ creation are capable of great evil. He tells all of this to Diana in an effort, not to destroy her, but to get her to join him in destroying Zeus’ corrupt creations.

Diana, however, has learned about the other side of human nature: the side capable of immense compassion and good. She comes to the conclusion that, yes, humans are capable of great evil, but they are also capable of immense good, and what matters the most is the ability to choose their own paths.

It is in this argument in favour of free will that we get a fantastic basis for the split in the Justice League. If and when Superman becomes unhinged and begins his crusade to make the entire world “safe”, he takes away more and more of the elements of mankind’s free will. No longer do people have the ability to choose their path; they must follow the path Superman sets for them. This is also where we might get a major departure from the previous Injustice stories, in that so far it looks like Wonder Woman would side against Superman. Mixing up the allegiances would be great for keeping things less predictable, and keeping the story more original and interesting.

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Put the Green Lantern against Superman, and this badass moment becomes a lot easier to sell. I admit this image has very little to do with Wonder Woman, but I needed to include it, because how fucking awesome would this be?

Even with all of this evidence to support this theory, there are still some key gaps. Lex Luthor in the Injustice series is actually Superman’s friend at the beginning, and acts as a double agent within Superman’s regime. This doesn’t fit at all with the Lex Luthor we got in BvS. And so far in the comic series (yes it’s still going), Superman has remained evil even after being imprisoned for his crimes. This is not technically a problem, but I think a lot of people would take issue with Superman being a villain for a prolonged period. And finally, Superman is finally stopped by bringing in a Superman from an alternate universe to fight him. I’m convinced this would be awesome, but it might be a tough pill to swallow for some of the more casual moviegoers, because it’s a very comic book-y thing to do. Finally, we already (basically) know that Darkseid is the big bad for the first Justice League movie, so Injustice would still be pretty far down the road. There are still a ton of questions to answer for this adaptation, but I remain optimistic that these are not insurmountable barriers.

I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers when it comes to the DCEU, but I think Injustice is a great road to go down, and the evidence seems to be there. In particular it fits pretty well with the darker tone of the DCEU, even if some fans hate that. It’s a new story for both Batman and Superman, the two comic book characters with the most movies under their respective utility belts. Most importantly, though, is that it’s a significant departure from what would be a “standard” superhero movie plot, which should go a long way to preventing fatigue from a genre that’s been incredibly popular for at least a decade. We’ve already seen movies that subvert the genre succeed (see: Deadpool, Logan. Wait, what the fuck is Fox up to?) and these departures from the norm are going to be important for the longevity of an extended universe. And if all of that isn’t enough, then maybe this will convince you: the choice is pretty much Injustice, or a series of Marvel clones.

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