In 2017, Warner Bros. Pictures released Justice League – a big budget ensemble movie packed with classic DC Comics characters. The film – which picked up shortly after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – saw Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman, join forces to take on an extra-terrestrial threat.
Justice League was touted as the connecting piece in an ongoing cinematic universe, called the DC Extended Universe. If was followed by movies which included Aquaman (2018) and Shazam! (2019) amongst others.
But since its release, there has been very little talk of a Justice League sequel. In fact, no one is talking about Justice League 2 or further team-up pictures in the DCEU.
So, will there be a sequel to Justice League? And if not, why not?
The problems with Justice League
When Justice League was originally conceived, the movie was set to be the first entry in a two-part story. Zack Snyder was to direct both Justice League pictures, with the films picking up story threads set up in Batman v Superman (Superman’s death, Apokolips, Darkseid etc).
Shortly after the release of Batman v Superman, Snyder announced that the two Justice League films would be separate entities. Instead of one narrative divided into two parts, Justice League would tell one story, and Justice League 2 would tell another.
Principal photography began on Justice League in April 2016, but it proved to be a problematic shoot. Warner Bros. Pictures was unhappy with the critical reaction to Batman v Superman, and was concerned about the direction Justice League was taking.
The studio viewed test footage, and the concerns did not subside. As a result, the movie underwent a number of rewrites, with The Avengers (2012) director, Joss Whedon brought on board to help with the script.
Then in May 2017, Zack Snyder stepped down from the project, following the tragic death of his daughter – leaving Justice League temporarily director-less. With the majority of the film already shot, Warner Bros. wanted the project to remain on track to meet its intended release date and hired Joss Whedon to oversee post-production.
Unable to deliver the film in its existing form, Whedon wanted to make changes and Warner Bros. agreed, allowing for a series of reshoots to take place over a two-month period. The cost of these reshoots was reportedly $25 million – a significant increase to the film’s already large budget.
Some of the new material was shot to lighten the tone of the picture, and focused on the addition of new scenes featuring Superman. While these scenes would benefit the story, they also proved problematic.
The reshoots overlapped with the shooing schedule of Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) – a Paramount Pictures film which included Henry Cavill amongst its cast. While Cavill was able to balance the two projects, in order to shoot the new Superman scenes, he was unable to shave his facial hair – something required for his role in Mission: Impossible. As such, all of his new scenes had to be digitally altered to remove traces of his moustache.
All of these behind the scenes issues (the rewrites, the reshoots, the digital alterations) were picked up by the media and were reported on throughout the production phase. By the time Justice League was due in cinemas, fans had got wind of the troubles and anticipation for the picture was not quite as high as the studio would have liked.
Did Justice League flop at the box office?
In November 2017, Justice League opened in cinemas, where it was met with mixed reviews. Its domestic opening was $93,842,239.
By the time Justice League had finished its theatrical run it had taken $229,024,295 at the North American box office and $428,900,000 internationally, for a combined total of $657,924,295. This was far below the studio’s expectations for the project.
With the additional cost of the reshoots, Justice League’s budget had risen to $300 million. The picture didn’t clear this figure domestically, something the studio hoped it would have done with ease.
Is Justice League 2 cancelled?
Prior to Justice League’s release, there was talk of a sequel, but following the film’s release, talk of the sequel subsided. The film underperformed and the response to the movie was underwhelming.
While many commented that it was tonally a step in the right direction, the film missed the mark. It needed to make more money and it didn’t.
When Justice League was in production, both Aquaman and Wonder Woman were scheduled for solo pictures, and both of these projects went ahead (2018’s Aquaman and 2020’s Wonder Woman 84). However, Justice League 2 was originally scheduled for a June 2019 release but the film did not go into production.
But it wasn’t just Justice League 2 that didn’t pan out, Ben Affleck’s turn as the Caped Crusader never reached its full potential either. The actor decided to step down from the role of Batman, leaving a considerable hole in the team.
While all this took place, Warner Bros. continued to develop the DCEU with films such as Shazam! (2019) and Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020). But the studio has also started to focus on non-DCEU films too, first with Joker (2019) and then with The Batman (2021).
Will we ever see Justice League 2?
With Justice League underperforming, both critically and financially, the likelihood is that Justice League 2 will not happen and certainly not as a continuation of the first movie. Even if it were to go ahead, Ben Affleck will not reprise the role of Batman, and Zack Snyder’s original plans for the sequel will not be realised, as he is unlikely to return to the director’s chair.
It has been widely reported the studio opted to put a hold on Justice League 2 to focus on individual projects, rather than push for further team-up adventures. Of course, Justice League 2 could still come to fruition at a later point in time, with revisions to the cast (swapping out Batman for a different character), but this will not tie up all the loose threads.
While Justice League told a fairly self-contained story, there is still at least one plot point left over from Batman v Superman that will not be addressed. This involved a nightmarish dream sequence that was set up in Batman v Superman, to be explored in the Justice League films.
When Justice League underwent rewrites and reshoots, this dream sequence was effectively ignored. If a sequel took place, it is unlikely the story would revisit this plot point.
Do audiences want to see a Justice League 2?
Justice League currently holds an IMDb rating of 6.4/10, which is not a particularly high score amongst critics.
On Rotten Tomatoes Justice League has a Tomatometer rating of 40%, but an Audience Score of 72%. The Audience Score is more encouraging, but the general response to Justice League was split, with some fans liking it and others not – not something that is looked upon favourably by a studio.
There is an appetite for Justice League 2, but it may not be enough of one to make the project financially viable. If a project can’t recoup costs, then it will not happen.
What do you think? Would you like to see a Justice League sequel? And if so, what would you want the film to be about? Sound off in the comments section and let me know your thoughts.
And if you wish to read more posts about the Batman movie series, take a look around I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or check out one of the recommended reads below.