Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Zack Snyder|
|Based on||Justice League
by Gardner Fox
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$654.4 million|
Justice League is a 2017 American superhero film based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), the film is directed by Zack Snyder with a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, from a story by Terrio and Snyder. It features an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, and J. K. Simmons. In Justice League, the superhero team, consisting of Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg forms to honor the memory of Superman and to save earth from the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.
The film was announced in October 2014, with Snyder on board to direct and Terrio attached to write the script. Initially titled Justice League Part One, with a second part to follow in 2019, the second film was indefinitely delayed to accommodate a standalone Batman film with Affleck. Principal photography commenced in April 2016 and ended in October 2016. Snyder then hired Joss Whedon to write scenes that would be filmed during reshoots; however, Snyder left the project in May 2017 following the death of his daughter. Whedon was hired to oversee the remainder of post-production, including directing additional scenes written by himself. Snyder received sole director credit for the film, with Whedon receiving a screenplay credit.
With an estimated production budget of $300 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made. Justice League premiered in Beijing on October 26, 2017, and was released in the United States in 2D, 3D and IMAX on November 17, 2017. The film performed below expectations at the box office, having grossed $654 million worldwide and $227 million in North America, both the lowest of the DCEU, against a break-even point of around $750 million. It received mixed reviews from critics; the action sequences and performances (particularly Gadot and Miller) were praised, while the plot, villain and overuse of CGI were criticized. The film's tone met with a polarized reception; while some found the tone lighter than previous DC installments, others found it inconsistent.
Thousands of years ago, Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons attempt to conquer Earth through the combined energies of three Mother Boxes. They are foiled by a unified army that included the Olympian Gods, Amazons, Atlanteans, mankind, and the Green Lantern Corps. After repelling Steppenwolf's army, the Mother Boxes are separated and hidden in locations around the planet. In the present, the world is in mourning over Superman, whose death triggers the Mother Boxes to reactivate and Steppenwolf's return to Earth in an effort to regain favor with his master, Darkseid. Steppenwolf aims to gather the artifacts to form "The Unity", which will destroy Earth's ecology and terraform it in the image of Steppenwolf's homeworld.
Steppenwolf manages to retrieve the Mother Box from Themyscira, prompting Queen Hippolyta to warn her daughter Diana of Steppenwolf's return by lighting the invasion fire. Diana joins Bruce Wayne in his attempt to unite other metahumans to their cause, with Wayne going after Arthur Curry and Barry Allen, while Diana tries to locate Victor Stone. Wayne fails to persuade Curry, but manages to recruit an enthusiastic Allen onto the team. Although Diana fails to convince Stone to join, he agrees to help them locate the threat if he discovers their location. Stone later joins the team after his father Silas, along with several other S.T.A.R. Labs employees, are kidnapped by Steppenwolf seeking to acquire the Mother Box from mankind.
Steppenwolf attacks Atlantis to retrieve the next Mother Box, forcing Curry into action. The team receives intel from Commissioner James Gordon leading them to Steppenwolf's army, based in an abandoned facility under Gotham Harbor. Although the group manages to rescue the kidnapped employees, the facility is flooded during combat, which traps the team until Curry helps delay the flood so they can escape. Stone retrieves the last Mother Box, which he had hidden, for the group to analyze. Stone reveals that his father used the Mother Box to rebuild Stone's body after an accident almost cost him his life. Wayne decides to use the Mother Box to resurrect Superman, not only to help them fight off Steppenwolf's army, but also to restore hope to mankind. Diana and Curry are hesitant about the idea, but Wayne forms a secret contingency plan in case Superman returns as a nemesis.
Clark Kent's body is exhumed and placed in the incubation waters of the Kryptonian ship alongside the Mother Box, which in turn activates and successfully resurrects Superman. However, Superman's memories have not returned, and he attacks the group after Stone accidentally launches a projectile at him. On the verge of being killed by Superman, Batman enacts his contingency plan: Lois Lane. Superman calms down and leaves with Lane to his family home in Smallville, where he reflects and tries to recover his memories. With the final Mother Box unguarded, Steppenwolf retrieves it with ease. Without Superman to aid them, the five heroes travel to a village in Russia where Steppenwolf aims to unite the Mother boxes once again and remake Earth. The team fights their way through the Parademons to reach Steppenwolf, although they are unable to distract him enough for Stone to separate the Mother boxes. Superman arrives and assists Allen in evacuating the city, as well as Stone in separating the Mother Boxes. The team defeats Steppenwolf, who, overcome with fear, is attacked by his own Parademons before they all teleport away.
In the aftermath of the battle, Bruce and Diana agree to setup a base of operations for the team, with room for more members. Diana steps back into the public spotlight as a hero; Barry acquires a job in Central City's police department, impressing his father; Victor continues to explore and enhance his abilities with his father in S.T.A.R. Labs; Arthur returns to Atlantis; and Superman resumes his life as reporter Clark Kent. In a post-credits scene, Lex Luthor escapes from Arkham Asylum and recruits Slade Wilson to form their own league.
The Olympian Old Gods Zeus, Ares and Artemis are portrayed by fitness model Sergi Constance, stuntman Nick McKinless, and MMA fighter Aurore Lauzeral, respectively. All three were required to reach a specific degree of physicality, with Snyder instructing McKinless to sport "veins like worms and paper thin skin". In the finished film, McKinless' face was replaced with David Thewlis's face, and Thewlis received credit as Ares. Robin Wright reprises her role as Antiope during a flashback sequence. Julian Lewis Jones appears as King Atlan, the ancient king of Atlantis, while Amber Heard portrays the Atlantean Mera. Joe Morton reprises his role as Silas Stone, Victor Stone's father and a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, while Billy Crudup appears as Henry Allen, Barry Allen's father. Joe Manganiello and Jesse Eisenberg appear uncredited in a post-credits scene as Slade Wilson / Deathstroke and Lex Luthor, respectively. Willem Dafoe and Kiersey Clemons filmed scenes as Nuidis Vulko and Iris West, respectively, although their roles were cut from the final film. Both actors are signed for multiple films and will appear in future installments of the franchise, Aquaman and Flashpoint, respectively. Michael McElhatton appears as a bank robber who clashes with Wonder Woman early in the film, while Holt McCallany makes an uncredited appearance as a burglar. Marc McClure, who portrayed Jimmy Olsen in the Christopher Reeve Superman film series, has a cameo as a police officer. An unidentified Green Lantern appears at the beginning of the film, created by use of CGI and embodied by an uncredited actor. Early in production, a deleted scene, which was filmed as another post-credits easter egg, depicts Kilowog and Tomar-Re visiting Bruce Wayne / Batman, further teasing Green Lantern Corps; but the scene was scrapped.
In February 2007, it was announced that Warner Bros. had hired husband and wife duo Michele and Kieran Mulroney to write a script for a Justice League film. The news came around the same time that Joss Whedon's long-developed Wonder Woman film was cancelled, as well as The Flash, written and directed by David S. Goyer. Reportedly titled Justice League: Mortal, Michele and Kiernan Mulroney submitted their script to Warner Bros. in June 2007, receiving positive feedback, which prompted the studio to immediately fast track production in the hope of beginning filming before the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike. Warner Bros. was less willing to proceed with development of a sequel to Superman Returns, having been disappointed with its box office. Brandon Routh was not approached to reprise the role of Superman in Justice League: Mortal, nor was Christian Bale from Batman Begins. Warner Bros. intended for Justice League: Mortal to be the start of a new film franchise, and to branch out into separate sequels and spin-offs. Shortly after filming The Dark Knight, Bale stated in an interview that "It'd be better if it doesn't tread on the toes of what our Batman series is doing," and felt it would make more sense for Warner Bros. to release the film after The Dark Knight Rises. Jason Reitman was the original choice to direct Justice League, but he turned it down, as he considers himself an independent filmmaker and prefers to stay out of big budget superhero films. George Miller signed to direct in September 2007, with Barrie Osbourne producing on a projected $220 million budget.
The following month, roughly 40 actors and actresses auditioned for the ensemble superhero roles, among them Joseph Cross, Michael Angarano, Max Thieriot, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki and Scott Porter. Miller had intended to cast younger actors, as he wanted them to "grow" into their roles over the course of several films. D. J. Cotrona was cast as Superman, along with Armie Hammer as Batman. Jessica Biel reportedly declined to play Wonder Woman role after negotiations. The character was also linked to actresses Teresa Palmer and Shannyn Sossamon, along with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who confirmed that she had auditioned. Ultimately, Megan Gale was cast as Wonder Woman, while Palmer was cast as Talia al Ghul, whom Miller had in mind to act with a Russian accent. The script for Justice League: Mortal would have featured John Stewart as Green Lantern, a role originally offered to Columbus Short. Hip hop recording artist and rapper Common was cast, with Adam Brody as Barry Allen / Flash, and Jay Baruchel as the lead villain, Maxwell Lord. Longtime Miller collaborator Hugh Keays-Byrne had been cast in an unnamed role, rumored to be Martian Manhunter. Aquaman had yet to be cast. Marit Allen was hired as the original costume designer before her untimely death in November 2007, and the responsibilities were assumed by Weta Workshop.
However, the writers strike began that same month and placed the film on hold. Warner Bros. had to let the options lapse for the cast, but development was fast tracked once more in February 2008 when the strike ended. Warner Bros. and Miller wanted to start filming immediately, but production was pushed back three months. Originally, the majority of Justice League: Mortal was to be shot at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, with other locations scouted nearby at local colleges, and Sydney Heads doubling for Happy Harbor. The Australian Film Commission had a say with casting choices, giving way for George Miller to cast Gale, Palmer and Keays-Bryne, all Australian natives. The production crew was composed entirely of Australians, but the Australian government denied Warner Bros. a 40 percent tax rebate as they felt they had not hired enough Australian actors. Miller was frustrated, stating that "A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Australian film industry is being frittered away because of very lazy thinking. They're throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that the rest of the world is competing for and, much more significantly, highly skilled creative jobs." Production offices were then moved to Vancouver Film Studios in Canada. Filming was pushed back to July 2008, while Warner Bros was still confident they could produce the film for a summer 2009 release.
With production delays continuing, and the success of The Dark Knight in July 2008, Warner Bros. decided to focus on the development of individual films featuring the main heroes, allowing director Christopher Nolan to separately complete his Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Gregory Noveck, senior vice president of creative affairs for DC Entertainment, stated, "we're going to make a Justice League movie, whether it's now or 10 years from now. But we're not going to do it and Warners is not going to do it until we know it's right." Actor Adam Brody joked "They [Warner Brothers] just didn't want to cross their streams with a whole bunch of Batmans in the universe." Warner Bros. relaunched development for a solo Green Lantern film, released in 2011 as a critical and financial disappointment. Meanwhile, film adaptations for The Flash and Wonder Woman continued to languish in development, while filming for a Superman reboot commenced in 2011 with Man of Steel, produced by Nolan and written by Batman screenwriter David S. Goyer. Shortly after filming on Man of Steel was complete, Warner Bros hired Will Beall to write the script for a new Justice League film. Warner Bros. president Jeff Robinov explained that Man of Steel would be "setting the tone for what the movies are going to be like going forward. In that, it's definitely a first step." The film included references to the existence of other superheroes in the DC Universe, and set the tone for a shared fictional universe of DC Comics characters on film. Goyer stated that should Green Lantern appear in a future installment, it would be a rebooted version of the character, unconnected to the 2011 film.
With the release of Man of Steel in June 2013, Goyer was hired to write a sequel, as well as a new Justice League, with the Beall draft being scrapped. The sequel was later revealed to be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a team-up film featuring Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg, the latter three in minor roles that became more significant in the Justice League film. The universe is separate from Nolan and Goyer's work on The Dark Knight trilogy, although Nolan was still involved as an executive producer for Batman v Superman. In April 2014, it was announced that Zack Snyder would also direct Goyer's Justice League script. Warner Bros. was reportedly courting Chris Terrio to rewrite Justice League the following July, after having been impressed with his rewrite of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. On October 15, 2014, Warner Bros. announced the film would be released in two parts, with Part One on November 17, 2017, and Part Two on June 14, 2019. Snyder was set to direct both films. In early July 2015, EW revealed that the script for Justice League Part One had been completed by Terrio. Zack Snyder stated that the film would be inspired by the New Gods comic series by Jack Kirby. Although Justice League was initially announced as a two-part film, with the second part set for release two years after the first, Snyder stated in June 2016 that they would be two distinct, separate films and not one film split into two parts, both being stand-alone stories.
In April 2014, Ray Fisher was cast as Victor Stone / Cyborg. He first cameod in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, followed by a larger role in Justice League. Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane and Amy Adams also reprised their roles from Batman v Superman. In October 2014, Jason Momoa was cast as Arthur Curry / Aquaman and debuted as the character in Dawn of Justice. On October 20, 2014, Momoa told ComicBook.com that the Justice League film would be released first, and that is what they were preparing for. He thought the solo Aquaman film may be Aquaman's origin story. On January 13, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Amber Heard was in negotiations to appear in the film as Aquaman's love interest Mera. In March 2016, producer Charles Roven said that Green Lantern would not appear in any film before Justice League Part Two, and stated that they "could put Green Lantern in some introduction in Justice League 2, or barring that, a movie after." Also in March, The Hollywood Reporter announced that J. K. Simmons had been cast as Commissioner James Gordon, and Heard was confirmed to join the cast as Mera. Adams also confirmed that she would reprise her role as Lois Lane in both Justice League films. By April 2016, Willem Dafoe had been cast in an undisclosed role, later revealed to be Nuidis Vulko, while Cavill confirmed that he would return for both Justice League films. In May 2016, Jeremy Irons confirmed he would appear as Alfred Pennyworth. That same month, Jesse Eisenberg stated that he would reprise his role as Lex Luthor, and in June 2016, confirmed his return in an interview with Shortlist magazine. In July 2016, Julian Lewis Jones was cast in an undisclosed role, later revealed to be Atlan, the king of Atlantis. Laurence Fishburne, who portrays Perry White in the DCEU, said he declined to reprise his role in the film due to scheduling conflicts. In April 2017, Michael McElhatton revealed that he had a role in Justice League, which was later revealed to be a bank robber who faces off against Wonder Woman.
Principal photography commenced on April 11, 2016, with shooting taking place at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, as well as various locations around London and Scotland. Additional filming took place in Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, and Djúpavík, in the Westfjords of Iceland. The old herring factory in Djúpavík was one Iceland filming location (Ben Affleck appeared to be standing near the herring oil tanks in the "Heroes" trailer). Snyder's longtime cinematographer Larry Fong was replaced by Fabian Wagner due to scheduling conflicts. Affleck also served as executive producer. In May 2016, it was revealed that Geoff Johns and Jon Berg would produce the Justice League films, and would also be in charge of the DC Extended Universe, after the largely negative critical reception of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The same month, Irons stated that the Justice League storyline would be more linear and simple, compared to the theatrical version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Johns confirmed on June 3, 2016 that the title of the film is Justice League, and later stated that the film would be "hopeful and optimistic" in comparison to previous DCEU films. Filming wrapped in October 2016.
In May 2017, Snyder stepped down during post-production of the film to properly deal with the death of his daughter. Joss Whedon, whom Snyder had previously brought on to rewrite some additional scenes, took over to handle post-production duties in Snyder's place. In July 2017, it was announced the film was undergoing two months of reshoots in London and Los Angeles, with Warner Bros. putting about $25 million into them (more than the typical $6–10 million additional filming costs). The reshoots coincided with Cavill's schedule for Mission: Impossible 6, for which he had grown a moustache which he was contracted to keep while filming, so Justice League's VFX team used special effects to digitally remove the moustache in post-production. Warner Bros. later announced that Whedon would receive a screenwriting credit on the film alongside Chris Terrio.
In March 2016, Hans Zimmer, who co-composed the score for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, stated that he had officially retired from the "superhero business". Junkie XL, who wrote and composed the soundtrack of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with Zimmer, was originally scoring the film. In June 2017, Danny Elfman was announced to have replaced Junkie XL. Elfman had previously composed the films Batman and Batman Returns, and the theme music for Batman: The Animated Series. Elfman confirmed that he would use the Batman theme music from the 1989 film for Batman in the film, and would also briefly use John Williams' Superman theme during "a dark, twisted moment" in the film. Gary Clark Jr. and The White Stripes were also featured in the Justice League album. The film features a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" performed by Sigrid, "Icky Thump" performed by the White Stripes, and a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together" performed by Gary Clark Jr. and Junkie XL.
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As of January 10, 2018[update], Justice League has grossed $227.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $427.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $654.4 million, against a production budget of $300 million. It had a worldwide opening of $278.8 million, the 24th biggest of all-time. The estimated gross worldwide for the film to break even is around $750 million.
In the United States and Canada, industry tracking initially forecast the film debuting to $110–120 million from 4,051 theaters (including 400 IMAX screens). It made $13 million from Thursday night previews, up from the $11 million made by Wonder Woman the previous June. However, after making $38.8 million on its first day (including Thursday previews), weekend projections were lowered to $95 million. It ended up debuting to $93.8 million, down 45% from Batman v Superman's opening of $166 million, and being the first film of the DCEU to open under $100 million. Deadline.com attributed the low figure to lukewarm audience reaction to the film and most of its predecessors, as well as poor critical reception, and Warner-owned film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes not posting their aggregated score until the day before release, causing speculation and doubt from filmgoers. In its second weekend, the film dropped 56% to $41.1 million, finishing second at the box office, behind newcomer Coco. It was the second-best second weekend hold of the DCEU, behind Wonder Woman's 43%, but the lowest overall gross. In its third week it again finished second behind Coco, grossing $16.7 million.
Internationally, the film was projected to debut to $215–235 million for a worldwide opening of $325–355 million. It made $8.5 million on its first day from nine countries, including South Korea, France and Brazil. It ended up having a $185 million international debut from 65 countries, including $57.1 million from China, $9.8 million from the United Kingdom, $9.6 million from Mexico and $8.8 million from South Korea. The film broke a record in the Philippines with a debut of $1.12M (PHP 57.3M), making it the biggest industry opening day for a film there in 2017. In Brazil, the film opened to $14.2 million, the biggest opening in the country's history.
Justice League received mixed reviews, with critics praising the action sequences and solid performances (primarily Gadot and Miller) while criticizing the writing, pacing, and CGI, as well as the plot as thin, and the villain as underdeveloped. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 40%, based on 298 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Justice League leaps over a number of DC movies, but its single bound isn't enough to shed the murky aesthetic, thin characters, and chaotic action that continue to dog the franchise." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 45 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, whereas PostTrak surveyed audiences scored the film 4 out of 5.
Richard Roeper of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising the cast, especially Gadot, and saying "It's a putting-the-band-together origins movie, executed with great fun and energy." Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave the film a positive review and wrote, "Justice League... has been conceived, in each and every frame, to correct the sins of Batman v Superman. It's not just a sequel—it's an act of franchise penance. The movie... is never messy or bombastic. It's light and clean and simple (at times almost too simple), with razory repartee and combat duels that make a point of not going on for too long."
Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, praising the cast but criticizing the action sequences and writing, saying: "The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble." Conversely, Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter, while praising Gadot and Miller, called the film visually ugly and boring, saying, "Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he'd rather be almost anywhere else but here."
The film's poster was nominated for "Best Action Poster" by the Golden Trailer Awards in June 2017. In December 2017, Ezra Miller was nominated for "Best Comedic Performance" for his role as Barry Allen by the San Diego Film Critics Society.
A sequel was scheduled to be released in June 2019, but has since been delayed to accommodate the release for a standalone Batman film. By March 2017, producer Charles Roven announced that Zack Snyder would return as director. In October 2017, J. K. Simmons stated that the studio is working on a sequel script, alongside The Batman. Shortly after the release of Justice League, Henry Cavill stated that he is under contract with Warner Bros. to play Superman for one more film.
In December 2017, it was reported that there were 'no immediate plans' for Zack Snyder to direct a Justice League sequel, or any other DC films, with Snyder instead being relegated to an executive producer position. This comes after a reshuffling of film production staff at Warner Bros. due to the film's lackluster performance.
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