“The (Social) Justice League” – DC sets its sights on beating Marvel to win Best Picture
March 31, 2015
Its no secret that DC Entertainment and Warner Bros have been looking for an opportunity to compete with Marvel Studios. Marvel has consistently produced one blockbuster after another and most have been well received by critics and fans alike. With Avengers 2 this May and a Civil War film in the near future, things are looking dark for DC’s iconic Super Friends. Despite Marvel’s success, however, there is one category they haven’t performed well in: the awards.
Looking to get some recognition, DC sets their sights on the Oscars and wants to beat Marvel to a Best Picture win. Here’s an interview with Chris Terrio, writer for the upcoming Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
I: …The superhero genre is mocked at these awards shows, not celebrated. What makes you and Zack [Snyder] think you’ve got a shot at the Oscars?
Terrio: (laughs) I’ll admit, its ambitious. A lot of people see superheroes as nothing more than your typical popcorn, blockbuster movie. That’s why we did a lot of research before we wrote the script. We looked at current events. We studied films like Silver Linings Playbook, 12 Years a Slave, and a number of other dramas that did really well. Then we asked ourselves “what is it in these films that people are responding to? How can we tailor our superheroes around that?”
Terrio: We found that the Justice League could stand for a lot more than fighting bad guys. They could also speak into modern issues that people struggle with every day. They could stand for justice on more levels than just one. If you look hard enough, its already there in the characters.
I: How are you changing the Justice League characters to do that?
“Superman is the privileged white American male who has a crisis when he realizes that traditional American values won’t solve today’s problems.”
Terrio: We’re not changing them,we’re looking at the root of the character and seeing it fulfilled in the 21st century. Take Superman, for example. Superman is the privileged white american male who has a crisis when he realizes that traditional American values won’t solve today’s problems.
I: Wait, what?
Terrio: Think about it. Superman is the big blue boyscout, right? The small town, farmboy, conservative values… all that stuff. When we get to the Justice League movie, he has to face the real world now. Its complicated. His idealistic ideals of black and white, right and wrong, just won’t cut it today. We already saw that character arc begin in Man of Steel. Superman has this psuedo-pacifist code of “no-killing,” but he had to break that code in order to stop Zod. Superman’s coming to terms with the real world is at the heart of these films.
“Batman is living out a little boys’ fantasy of creating a world where no child’s parents have to be murdered. He’s completely OCD…”
I: If that’s Superman, what about Batman?
Terrio: Bruce Wayne is an orphan who never recovered from the trauma of seeing his parents murdered. He’s still a spoiled little rich kid in a lot of ways. By becoming Batman, he’s living out a little boys’ fantasy of creating a world where no child’s parents have to be murdered. And that’s why he’s so obsessive. This guy has a contingency plan for everything, I mean everything. He’s completely OCD.
I: So your plan is to give the Dark Knight an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Terrio: (laughs) Maybe not so specifically. Mental illness is a big topic that people are interested in connecting with. When we took a look at the Justice League, we definitely see Batman in that same boat.
“Wonder Woman is a lesbian who brings an ancient Greek message of acceptance and tolerance to the judgmental, fundamentalist America.”
I: Interesting. What are you doing with the other characters?
Terrio: Wonder Woman has always stood for freedom, particularly women’s rights. We looked at our culture today and I think Wonder Woman is relevant now more than ever. She’s a lesbian who brings an ancient Greek message of acceptance and tolerance to the judgmental, fundamentalist America. She stands for the oppressed, especially women’s rights and LGBT rights. Her opening scene is stabbing the entire Instagram board of executives.
I: Um, how is stabbing innocent people “tolerant”?
Terrio: Innocent? I’d hardly call the rich white men who maintain the oppressive regime of social media “innocent.”
I: Well, I guess so… But stabbing them? Are you really going to trade villains like Brainiac and Darkseid for some corporate executives?
Terrio: Its not about stabbing, its about being relevant to modern issues.
“Green Lantern is a space-cop who has become disenchanted with a harsh and oppressive police state.”
Terrio: …Take the enforcer, Green Lantern. In our film, John Stewart is a space-cop who has become disenchanted with a harsh and oppressive police state. The Guardians and their Green Lanterns have become tyrannical, militant, unjust, and racist. Green Lantern comes to a place where he can’t wear the uniform because it doesn’t stand for “serve and protect” anymore.
I: It sounds like you’re drawing some influence from Ferguson.
Terrio: Absolutely. People are questioning the justice system, and what better way to have that conversation than with Green Lantern?
I: What about Captain America? Winter Soldier addressed a lot of those same themes.
Terrio: Well… Yeah. But our movie will be better because our hero will be played by Chiwetelu Ejiofor. I’m looking forward to the scene where he uses his Power Ring to smash Mall of America.
I: What else should we expect from the new Justice League? Is Aquaman gay?
Terrio: What? No… He’s obviously a Buddhist environmentalist who is concerned about the oceans and global warming. Why would he be gay?
I: You know… The skin-tight water suits? The constant beach boy, model look? The fish-scales speedo? The years of fan-fiction?
Terrio: Those things don’t make someone gay.
I: Well, sure, but it seems like you’re looking for any reason to make a connection to social justice issues…
Terrio: I find that really offensive.
I: Okay, sorry, um… What about Flash?
“Flash is addicted to the “fast-pace” modern world… He’s going to be a social media and technology addict.”
Terrio: Flash is my favorite. We looked at what’s trending, and how to fit Flash’s “fast-pace” into the modern world. He’s going to be a social media and technology addict.
I: Like… Facebook?
Terrio: Not just Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, Clash of Clans, everything. He’s so fast that he tries to keep up with everything that’s being posted to the internet. He’s running like crazy from one thing to the next, just like people today. Flash is punching out badguys with one hand and checking his notifications with the other. Addiction is a hot topic at the Oscars, and we’re excited to be the first to tackle social media addiction.
I: It sounds like you have a contingency plan for everything. Well, except for maybe the Holocaust.
Terrio: Oh, we’re covering that, too.
I: Wait, seriously?
Terrio: Absolutely. The Holocaust always wins big at the Oscars. Its pretty much a guaranteed win.
I: How are you going to get to the Holocaust in a Justice League movie?
“Martian Manhunter will have flashbacks that compare the Holocaust to the persecution people experience today.”
Terrio: Martian Manhunter. Although, we’re not going to use that name. It’ll be simply, “J’onn” or “the Martian.” J’onn is an alien who came here from Mars in the early 20th century. He wound up in Germany, was arrested and taken to a concentration camp. There will be flashbacks that compare the prejudice of the Nazi’s to the persecution people experience today.
I: I love that idea. Are you going to talk about the innocent people being executed by ISIS?
Terrio: No, that’s the wrong kind of controversy for the Academy Awards. We’re going to talk about American laws that discriminate against certain groups. The Martian comes from a genderless society. Everyone is a shape-shifter, so they can appear as male, female, or anything they want to be. He’s not a cis male like in the comics. In fact, the labels “male and female” aren’t even in the Martian vocabulary.
I: It seems like you’re saying that the real villain is society itself. That evil is only a result of oppression, and not something every person struggles with.
Terrio: Yes. If something such as evil exists, it is the result of systemic oppression. If we get rid of oppression, we get rid of evil.
I: But doesn’t that defeat the entire point of superheroes? The inner struggle of good vs. evil? Our heroes make good choices even when it means sacrifice, that’s why they are heroes. And then the villains do the opposite, choosing to use their powers for selfish gain. It has nothing to do with society. What makes superheroes timeless is the struggle of good and evil in the human heart, not tailoring them to hot-button topics of the day.
Terrio: Zack and I really don’t see it that way. And that’s why we picked the villain that we did.
“Vandal Savage is the ultimate oppressor… He has both Lex Luthor’s wealth and brilliance, and Ra’s Ah Ghul’s historical conspiracy factor.”
I: So, who is the villain for this film?
Terrio: I’m really excited about the villain we picked, Vandal Savage. He’s the ultimate oppressor. He’s got both Lex Luthor’s wealth and brilliance, and Ra’s Ah Ghul’s historical conspiracy factor. Savage is a power-hungry immortal who has been around since the beginnings of the human race. He’s the one working behind the scenes of history to cause tyranny and social inequality. The opening scene is of Savage talking with the first humans and tricking them into creating an oppressive and selfish society. Evil begins with him.
I: Interesting. So you’re saying that the question, “what’s wrong with the human race” can be traced back to an initial deception by an evil character? That sounds like a Christian allegory.
Terrio: Does it? Hmm… I never thought of it that way. Do you think that hurts or helps our chance at winning Best Picture?
I: It hurts it. Definitely.