Scripting Errors: Justice League: Mortal

Aquaman concept art, courtesy Den of Geek.

Welcome back to Scripting Errors, where we look at movies that might have been! In honor of SDCC and all the rumors swirling around November’s Justice League feature, we’re looking at the last attempt to make a JLA movie – the 2008 script known as Justice League: Mortal!

Who Wrote It?

Husband and wife duo Kieran and Michele Mulroney, for director George Miller. Their primary writing credit today is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (though Kieran will probably be forever remembered as the guy who yelled at George Costanza for double dipping a chip) while Miller has since attracted some notice for the fourth entry in his pet franchise.

Synopsis

Countermeasures developed by the ever-paranoid Batman have been stolen and turned against Earth’s superhuman heroes! Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern will have to band together (alongside a guilt-ridden Dark Knight) like never before to recover from these devastating sneak attacks and find the parties responsible. It’s the birth of…The Justice League!

Megan Gale as Wonder Woman costume test, courtesy Den of Geek.

Points of Interest

  • The movie is HEAVILY based on two different comic arcs – the bones of the story come from the Tower Of Babel arc, in which Batman’s countermeasures in anticipation of the JLA going rogue were stolen by Talia Al Ghul and put to use, while the details come from the then fairly recently OMAC Project. As such, Maxwell Lord and his army of OMAC cyborgs are the primary threat and Talia’s boss, not Ra’s Al Ghul & the League of Assassins.
  • Lord uses mind control to arrange a big fight between Superman and Wonder Woman, one that won’t end until Maxwell’s dead, just like in the OMAC Project story. Unlike that story, Wonder Woman can’t bring herself to kill him and it’s BATMAN of all people who snaps his neck. Whether or not this is an improvement is up to the reader.
  • The flick manages to pack Barry Allen’s classic heroic sacrifice from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wally West taking up his mantle into its running time, somehow without feeling too crowded.

    Martian Manhunter make-up concept, courtesy Den of Geek.

  • Aquaman sports his “solid water” magic prosthetic hand in the film, which is just such a snapshot of a then-contemporary-but-now-a-footnote era for the character. He might as well wear his blue and black “ocean camo” costume.

Takeaways

It’s amusing to read this script, written around the time Iron Man would have been in production, and see just how much Marvel Studios changed the game with their Cinematic Universe. Today, the lack of establishment for half its members is leveled as a pre-emptive criticism against Justice League, but back in 2008? Justice League: Mortal would have been utterly groundbreaking and pretty darn good. We, as a fandom, have been spoiled by the riches we have received since.

Come back next week for another installment of Strange Times & Places!

About Chris Walker

Chris Walker (@back2past) is affectionately referred to as Back to the Past’s social media lackey. He’s all over finding nuggets of pop culture news, wherever they may be hiding!

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