Revelations from the Set of Zack Snyder’s next.
Last Friday, a group of reporters traveled to Leavesden Studios outside of London for a look at the Justice League set. The biggest takeaway from their reporting is that DC is putting forth significant effort to shape the public dialogue about the film in the wake of massive critical backlash towards Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not only do the experiences of the group on set, but also the circumstances surrounding the setup of the trip itself support this idea.
Both Peter Sciretta of /Film and Devin Faraci of Birth. Movies. Death. were contacted with pitches from Zack Snyder’s publicist. This was particularly meaningful for Sciretta because, though he has been “invited to dozens of movie sets over the years,” this is the first time he had the filmmaker’s personal publicist reach out.
The personal touch carried over to their set visit. The group was told, as according to Sciretta’s article on the trip, that “Zack Snyder had read our reviews, our coverage, and picked this particular batch of bloggers because while we weren’t fans of BvS, we were fair in our assessments and thoughtfully explained our issues with that film.”
But the filmmaker’s openness to criticism did not stop there. As Steve Weintraub of Collider notes, “While I’m normally prevented from revealing what I saw and learned on set till a month or so before release, in an unusual move, Snyder and Warner Bros. are lifting our embargo only a few short days after arriving home! In my many years of running Collider, I can count on just a few fingers the amount of times an embargo has lifted so soon after a visit.” Warner Brothers, and more specifically, Zack Snyder, are making an active effort to change public perception of the film, and they want it to change fast.
These themes carried on in conversations on the set. Producer Debbie Snyder tried to ensure audiences that she was listening to criticism of BvS when planning the direction of the new film:
“Listen, I think every film is a learning experience. Right? And we hear what everyone has to say because we care what the fans say, at the same time, every story that we’re telling is a completely different story, and I think what’s really great is that where we were going is kind of what the audience is wanting. We just had to take the characters from somewhere to bring them up to where they are and that was kind of our journey.”
Ben Affleck, now an Executive Producer on the film, expanded upon her message, discussing the difference in subject matter between BvS and Justice League:
There’s definitely room for more humor. It’s not going to be ‐ DC movies, I think, by their nature are a little more mythic than some comic book movies are. But [Batman v Superman] was very dark and heavy because it was really rooted in The Dark Knight Returns, which is a heavy, dark book. And this is not that. This is a step in evolution to bring together all of these characters who have had their origins. It’s about multilateralism, and it’s about hope and about working together and the kind of conflicts of trying to work together with others. It’s a world where superheroes exist, so there’s comedy in that necessarily, trying to work with other people and people trying to accomplish goals together is the root of all great comedy in my view. So there’s definitely, hopefully some fun in it. But it’s not unrecognizably these characters or these stories. It’s not turning it upside down.”
The final blessing came from the director himself. Zack Snyder, a man known for his contrarian response to criticism of Man of Steel during production of BvS, expressed his intention to incorporate popular feedback into the tone of the new movie:
“I think I’m obsessed with tone in the movies. Tone has always been the main thing that I go after with a movie, and I really wanted the tone of the three movies to be different chapters and not be the same note that you strike like, ‘Okay, there’s this again.’ I really wanted that, and I do believe that since Batman v Superman came out and we’ve wrapped our heads around what Justice League would be, I do think that the tone has, because of what fans have said and how the movie was received by some, is that we have kind of put the screws to what we thought the tone would be and crushed it that little bit further.”
Moreover, the group of reporters left with details about the movie’s plot and costumes that seem to confirm the production’s commitment to making Justice League a more fun endeavor for audiences.
Germain Lussier provided insight into the movie’s plot in his article for io9. The first half of the film will focus on Affleck’s Batman as he rounds up the other members of the Justice League. His actions are motivated by, in addition to the events of the previous film, the emergence of Mother Boxes on Earth. These almost all-powerful supercomputers are the target of Steppenwolf, the yet uncast villain seen instructing Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in a deleted scene of BvS, and his minions the parademons.
Both Zack and Debbie Snyder guaranteed Lussier that Superman will play a major part in the movie, one that is shaped by his experiences at the end of the last film. However, Steve Weintraub of Collider did report that his experiences on set have led him to believe that “Superman isn’t in the first half of the film and might not be returning until close to the third act.”
Devin Faraci from Birth. Movies. Death published some relatively promising news about the costumes. As I expected, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck’s Batman have similar costumes to those from BvS, though the Batsuit undergoes a tactical upgrade towards the end of the film. Besides J.K. Simmons in classic Commissioner Gordon attire, the other exhilarating additions to the Batman canon are two vehicles: “The Flying Fox”, a jet large enough to carry the rest of the Justice League and some heavy artillery, and the Nightcrawler, a tank-like version of the Batmobile not unlike the one from The Dark Knight Rises.
Cyborg is CG from the neck down and has yet to be fully rendered, leaving Ray Fisher on the film’s set in pajamas. Faraci had some kind words for the designs the visitors did see, ones that I can agree with: “he can grow two extra arms for fist fighting. It’s kind of silly, but I’ll be honest ‐ I want kind of silly.” Aquaman’s outfit seems to be classic Snyder: desaturated gold scale mail and green-ish tights that emphasize Jason Momoa physique. Mera, the Queen of Atlantis played by Amber Heard, has a complementary costume, albeit one with a tad more color.
I’m most enthralled by the news about Ezra Miller and his Flash costume. Supposedly is costume is RED, like actually red, not the drab shade we’ve seen on Superman in Snyder’s previous films. There’s a lot of room for color correction in post, but I remain cautiously optimistic. They’re taking a unique approach to technology Barry Allen uses to shield himself, modeling it after the ceramic plating that protects space shuttles. I also cannot wait to buy up a mass-produced version of Miller’s red and gold Flash sneakers. Overall, the costume designs reflect the brighter nature of the new Justice League members.
The last, and quite possibly most indicative, pieces of evidence for a tonal shift were the scenes the reporters viewed while on the set. The first was a rooftop meetup between Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg. The second showed Bruce Wayne recruiting Barry Allen for the team, and revealing his secret identity. Without getting into too much detail or spoiling the scenes’ gags the jesting between Ezra Miller and Ben Affleck created genuine hilarity and demonstrated true chemistry. For more information on the scenes, check out the aforementioned article in Birth. Movies. Death. by Devin Faraci.
Taken individually, humble statements from producers or a bright red Flash costume would provide a glimmer of hope after the dour Batman v. Superman. Taken together, these details from the set confirm a substantial effort to make Justice League a film more fitting of the characters audiences love, and the effort seems to be succeeding.