Justice League Set Visit Review: They're Listening

Cyborg, The Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman stand on a rainy Gotham City rooftop talking to [...]

(Photo: Warner Bros.)

Cyborg, The Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman stand on a rainy Gotham City rooftop talking to Commissioner Gordon about kidnapped scientists and Parademons... DC Comics are literally coming to life right before my eyes. However, it's not the amazing new costumes or seeing J.K. Simmons in his first day on set as the new head of Gotham City's Police Department that is the most exciting aspect of the day. Instead, it's the energy and enthusiasm the cast and crew are exhibiting. Justice League and DC Films seem to be completely rejuvenated following the harsh and easily disheartening responses to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Whether it's Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller dancing together between takes, Gal Gadot laughing with Ben Affleck despite cameras rolling, or Zack and Deborah Snyder looking like some weight has been lifted from their shoulders, the Justice League set's atmosphere offers an overwhelmingly positive vibe. No, that weight is not completely lifted just yet, and the pressure to make a film that satisfies critics and fans certainly still exists but one thing was made clear when Warner Brothers invited a large number of reporters to their gigantic set: they are listening.

It's no secret people didn't like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In fact, hating the movie became the popular thing to do by several media outlets and though some fans will defend it to their death, others choose to bash it in comment sections with every chance they get. The biggest criticism of the film? Its lack of fun. That's changing. The DC Films projects seem to be flipped upside down starting with Justice League if the scenes shown off by Warner Brothers represent the whole of the film.

It's easy to overlook the gigantic green walls surrounding the set as the four heroes speak to Gordon, debating a plan of action beneath a lightning storm in Gotham. Nine scientists have been kidnapped (possibly by the movie's confirmed and yet-to-be cast villain, Steppenwolf, who is hunting Mother Boxes), including S.T.A.R. Labs' Silas Stone and the priority is finding them. The scene concludes with exactly what the film needs from an actor who appears to be breathing new life into the franchise's universe, Ezra Miller.

Gordon turns around for a moment in thought and upon looking back at the heroes has an experience similar to those of the Dark Knight trilogy's Commissioner Gordon as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg have all disappeared. The Flash, still standing in place, delivers a witty and fun line to Gordon and calls the others rude for disappearing before zooming off himself. Yes, the costumes look great, especially Miller's Flash suit which looks to be largely inspired by the Injustice games, but it was the laughs from even the toughest members of the press that were the most memorable parts of the day (which also says a lot for a day you get to high-five Wonder Woman).

Between takes, Ben Affleck took an impressive amount of time to field questions from reporters while wearing his new Batsuit. The suit has a touch of blue added to it along with some armor plates added inside of its shoulders, arms, and legs.

"There's definitely room for more humor," Affleck says of the upcoming film. "DC movies are, I think, by their nature still a little bit more Gothic or more mythic rather than some comic book movies are, but [Batman v Superman] was a heavy, dark movie."

The actor, and soon to be director of a standalone Batman film, has a revived enthusiasm for his character and the DC Films. "This is a step in evolution from [BvS], about bringing together all these characters, ones who had their origins and it's about multilateralism and it's about hope," Affleck says. "It's about working together and the kind of conflicts that you have trying to work together with others. It's a world with all these other superheroes that exist."

Without the actors on them, the other Justice League sets were equally impressive as the Gotham City Police Department's rooftop. One in particular spanned across an entire stage. A piece of Stryker's Island had been brought to life for what production designer Patrick Tatopoulos described as a massive action sequence in a ventilation tower. Concept art showed the setting being host to a nest of Parademons, which the first four members of the Justice League will rush to in an effort to take them out. Getting in there, they'll need to use one of Batman's jaw dropping new vehicles which he calls the Crawler. Seating three, we can only assume The Flash will run alongside as flamethrowers and different gun turrets mow down the army of enemies until the squad gets inside for some hand to hand combat. The Crawler won't be built in its entirety but only in cockpit form. The rest of the four-legged machine will be added in with visual effects.

A broken bridge extending from the main building, soaring about 30 feet from the ground, was shown off in the War Room loaded with concept art, having Wonder Woman standing at its edge. Nearby was a look at the Crawler drowning as the heroes stood on top of it. Perhaps this is where Aquaman comes into the film (or maybe its his Atlantean's Mother Box which queues his introduction).

On the topic of concept art, DC Comics fans might just explode when they see some of the ideas the filmmakers are working on with Justice League. The Justice League Troopcarrier, which will be built by Wayne Tech and called the Flying Fox, pulls from other sci-fi films for an epic looking jet with wings forming an X at its tail that sizes up with a B-52 but still handles like a Thunderbird. Not only is there room for the entire team on board, but the Batmobile can even pile into the aircraft's lower level.

After seeing every Justice League hero's costume, a handful of sets, loads of concept art & props and hearing from the actors themselves, Zack Snyder was ready to introduce a clip to a room full of press in what felt like a private Hall H event. The clip, which Snyder assured was not a final cut, was a load of fun and should bolster enthusiasm for Justice League to all new heights despite how simple it was. Miller's Barry Allen is introduced to Affleck's Bruce Wayne when he finds him sitting in his "second favorite chair." Bruce is recruiting metahumans because, as Affleck put it, he's thinking, "I need some help with this shit!" The scene is a lot of fun as Miller embodies Barry Allen in a manner that comic book fans will surely adore, and those worried about differentiating it from Grant Gustin's portrayal can also rest easily with.

Let's not skip the costumes, though. They look great. Aquaman's outfit looks like true Atlantean royalty with the touch of grit the DC Films universe loves to have. Amber Heard's Mera looks to be inspired by themes of sea weed and fish and the Atlantean soldiers don't look like anyone to be messed with as their golden helmets and touches of algae accompany them to the big screen. The Flash's suit, which contains 148 pieces, seems inspired by the Injustice video game look with Flash stamped all over it - right down to the custom made lightning bolt shoes - and will likely see some evolution considering costume designer Michael Wilkinson dubbed it a "prototype" suit.

Two new Batsuits are also debuting. One is a variation of the BvS suit with a touch of blue and, the other, a tactical suit with heavy armor on it; nothing to the extent of "armored Batman" we saw earlier this year, though. Undergoing the least changes was Wonder Woman as her suit has remained mostly the same for "5,000 years," but has some slightly richer and more vibrant colors.

Perhaps the biggest "reveal" of the visit was Willem Dafoe's role in Justice League and the greater DC Films universe. The acclaimed actor will be stepping in as the Aquaman supporting character, Vulko. Also an interesting thought is the possibility of Game of Thrones star Christofer Hivju portraying an Ancient Atlantean King. There was no talk or confirmation of the casting just yet but concept art showed Hivju in the role.

To end the day was a Q&A with Zack Snyder. It was clear there was some heavy tension in the room as Snyder prepared to field questions from reporters he knew disapproved of his previous effort but the director bravely acknowledged the criticisms and looked ahead to his current efforts.

"It did catch me off guard," Snyder said of the reactions to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. "I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment. Maybe it is my hardcore take on the characters as far as I love them and I love the material and I do, I take it really deep. I think that the nice thing about now working on Justice League is that it is an opportunity to really blow the doors off of the scale and the bad guys and team building and all the stuff that I could justify as big, modern, comic book movie, if that makes any sense."

Justice League looks like it will be just that. The team building is present. The fun is amplified. It is a big, modern, comic book movie by the looks of everything Warner Brothers was ready to show off. The reveals certainly shake up the rankings for most anticipated films on the overloaded slate of upcoming comic book movies. Going into the week with little to no buzz about the film, Justice League appears to be shaping up as a movie which can recapture the magic of super hero films. It has a genuine feeling of something new and fun that, for me, was last provided by Guardians of the Galaxy.