Justice League is a 2017 American superhero film based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is 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, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg form a superhero team to honor Superman following his death, and to save the planet 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 announced as 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 in post. 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. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the action sequences and performances while criticizing the plot and villain. The film's tone was met with a polarized reception, with some praising it for being lighter than previous DCEU installments, while others noted it as inconsistent.
After the death of Superman, Bruce Wayne and his new found ally Diana Prince assemble a team of heroes and outcasts consisting of Barry Allen, Arthur Curry, and Victor Stone to face the incoming threat of Steppenwolf who leads an army of Parademons searching for the three ancient Mother Boxes scattered across Earth while the world reflects on how Superman saved the world.
Years ago, Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons attempt to conquer and remake Earth through the combined energies of the Mother Boxes before they are foiled by a unified army that included the Amazons, Atlantians and humans. After repelling Steppenwolf's army, the Mother Boxes are separated and hidden in locations around the world.
In the present, the world is in mourning following the death of Superman. Sensing humanity's fear, Steppenwolf and his Parademons return to Earth to resume their hunt for the Mother Boxes through kidnapping several employees of S.T.A.R. Labs, which is in possession of one box. Having investigated the kidnappings and encountered a Parademon himself, Bruce Wayne decides to move forward in recruiting his planned team of metahumans as he believes an invasion is coming.
Steppenwolf manages to retrieve the Mother Box from Themyscira, prompting Queen Hippolyta to warn her daughter Diana Prince. Diana joins Wayne's group and informs him about Steppenwolf and the Mother Boxes. The two of them fail to persuade Arthur Curry and Victor Stone, but manage to recruit Barry Allen into the team. Stone later joins the group after his father Silas is among those kidnapped, and Steppenwolf attacks Atlantis to retrieve the second Mother Box.
The team receives intel from Commissioner James Gordon that the Parademons are traveling underground, and conclude that Steppenwolf's army is based in an abandoned facility. Although the group manages to rescue the kidnapped employees, the facility is flooded during combat, which traps the team until Curry rescues them, having decided to join them after Steppenwolf's attack on Atlantis. Stone retrieves the last Mother Box from S.T.A.R. Labs for the group to analyze. Wayne decides to use the Mother Box to resurrect Superman not only to help them fight Steppenwolf's army, but also to restore hope in humanity. Diana and Curry are hesitant about the idea, but Wayne forms a secret contingency plan.
Clark Kent's body is exhumed and placed in the waters of the Kryptonian ship, and Allen provides a strong energy blast to activate the Box and resurrect Superman. Superman, however, possesses few memories, and he attacks the group after Stone accidentally launches a projectile at him. On the verge of being killed by Superman, Wayne enacts his contingency plan: Lois Lane. Superman calms down and leaves with Lois to his family home where he reflects and tries to recover his memories. With the last Mother Box unguarded, Steppenwolf retrieves it with ease.
Without Superman to aid them, the remaining five heroes travel to a village in Russia where Steppenwolf plans to unite the boxes once again and reshape the world for his nephew Darkseid. The team fight their way through the Parademons to reach Steppenwolf, although they are unable to distract him enough for Stone to separate the boxes. Superman arrives and assists Allen in evacuating the city, as well as Stone in separating the Mother Boxes. The united heroes manage to defeat Steppenwolf, who, overcome with fear, is attacked by his own Parademons, before they are all taken away by a Boom Tube.
In the aftermath of the battle, Wayne decides to rebuild Wayne Manor as a base of operations for the team and he and Diana agree that more heroes could join. Diana as Wonder Woman begins engaging more with the public. Allen manages to acquire a job in Central City's police department. Stone continues to explore and enhance his abilities with his father in S.T.A.R. Labs. Curry returns to Atlantis. Clark returns as a Daily Planet reporter and resumes his role as Superman.
In a mid-credits scene, Flash and Superman decide to race. In a post-credits scene, Lex Luthor has escaped from prison and recruits bounty hunter Slade Wilson to form "a league of their own."
In February 2007, it was announced that Warner Bros. 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 had been 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 hopes of filming to begin before the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike. Warner Bros. was less willing to proceed with development with a sequel to Superman Returns, having been disappointed with the box office return. 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 finished with 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," though he personally 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 were auditioning for the ensemble superhero roles, among them were Joseph Cross, Michael Angarano, Max Thieriot, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki and Scott Porter. Miller 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 the Wonder Woman role after being in 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 would 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 release 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 the 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 was commencing in 2011 with Man of Steel, produced by Nolan and written by Batman screenwriter David S. Goyer. Shortly after filming had finished for Man of Steel, 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 setting 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 and not connected 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 Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg in a minor role that will become more significant in leading up to the proposed Justice League film. The universe is separate from Nolan and Goyer's work on The Dark Knight trilogy, although Nolan is still involved as an executive producer for Batman v Superman. In April 2014, it was announced that Zack Snyder would also be directing 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 releasing on November 17, 2017, and Part Two on June 14, 2019. Snyder will 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 will 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 releasing two years after the first, Snyder announced in June 2016 that they would be two distinct, separate films and not one film split into two parts, both being stand-alone stories.
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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's script alongside The Batman.