Okay, for a moment, let's presume that the rumors about Chris Nolan taking over the DC Comics film universe is true. And let's also presume that, as has been reported, the rumors about Christian Bale returning to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman is not true. Well, my issues with how it would screw with the seemingly stand-alone Dark Knight trilogy aside, they have an entire continuity built on Nolan's Bat-trilogy. If they want Joseph Gordon Levitt to don the cape and cowl in Justice League, they merely have to ask "not Tim Drake" to do so. Sure the iconic Bruce Wayne vs. Clark Kent relationship will be lost, but frankly I'd wager that most general moviegoers wouldn't give a flying crap about that. The idea of actually seeing Levitt don the Batsuit will arguably be a marketing tool in-and-of-itself. Warner Bros. has what is allegedly a very successful Superman film on the horizon, so you've got your two biggies taken care of. Frankly, even if they didn't have Man Of Steel, they still had a viable Superman in Brandon Routh. Superman Returns earned more money, in 2006 and in 2D, than Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor domestically (and more worldwide even than Thor when inflation is factored in), and what complaints people had with the movie had nothing to do with the central performance, but I digress.
And you've got Martin Campbell's Green Lantern. But everybody hated Green Lantern and it lost a ton of money, right? Well, yes, but you still have that film, which already establishes the origins and general playbook of the Green Lantern corps. You've already got your Hal Jordan in the form of Ryan Reynolds, which means you're actually as well-off as Marvel was prior to The Avengers. Marvel had prior films centered around Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America before The Avengers dropped. Since they basically ignored The Incredible Hulk (where the only explicit continuity reference involved a deleted scene), you basically had two Iron Man films, a Thor picture, and a Captain America origin story. Comparatively, DC Comics will have three Batman films, a Superman picture, and a Green Lantern film. And in terms of peripheral characters, The Avengers was basically 'three characters who appeared in Iron Man plus two supporting characters from Thor'. DC Comics already has the same pool of characters to pick from. You've got Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth from the Batman films, whomever they want to use from Man of Steel (think Lois Lane or Dr. Hamilton, played by Richard Schiff) and the likes of the entire Green Lantern corps (think a cameo from Sinestro still on the side of light) and/and Dr. Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett) from Green Lantern.
Or better yet, use Hal Jordan as one of those side characters in order to introduce a new Green Lantern like Jon Stewart (played by, I dunno, David Oyelowo?) who exists in the same world as the previous Green Lantern film. That allows you to keep the continuity of the previous film without being saddled with a Green Lantern that wasn't very popular with audiences. So you've got your previously established films which could conceivably be a unified universe, complete with established superheroes and a viable supporting cast to pick and choose from to help create an interlocked world. So how do you make Justice League different from The Avengers? Before I get to that, DC Comics and Warner Bros. has to just go and make a Flash movie. Make it a street-level, blue-collar superhero adventure centered around Wally West, use two of the "Rogues" as your baddies (like Mirror Master and Boomerang) while casting big stars in those comparatively small roles, keep the budget under $120 million, and just do it between now and whenever Justice League comes out. Just take that David Goyer script that allegedly is ready to roll and get to it. Now you'll have four pre-established superhero mythologies that can be alleged to take place in the same world. So now you've got your Justice League. But now here's the secret:
Tell it from Wonder Woman's point of view. Cast Lynn Collins (great pick, Aaron) and make her the audience's surrogate ala Wolverine and Rogue in the first X-Men film. That's the one thing Marvel hasn't done yet and that's the one thing that will make it different and unique among the big-ticket superhero films. Make it a Justice League movie not centered around Batman or Superman, but around Wonder Woman, a (gasp) female superhero, as your entry-character. She'll be the newbie arriving to Earth to help save it from whatever hell has been unleashed. And since it's a crowded movie that must run under 2.5 hours, you can get away with doing whatever origin story must be told in a brief 2-5 minute flashback and worry about the details in a stand-alone Wonder Woman film. Doing it this way allows Warner Bros. to have its cake and eat it too. They don't have to worry about the alleged lack of commercial appeal of a Wonder Woman movie, since she'll be supported by Batman and the gang. You can get all the free press from crafting the first mega-budget superhero movie centered around a female without taking the (again, alleged) commercial risks that come with that. Justice League can establish Wonder Woman in a character worthy of her own franchise, just as The Avengers was able to do with Bruce Banner after two somewhat unsuccessful attempts. This also allows you to take the best parts of the superb 2009 DCAU animated movie (the large-scale action sequences and the moments of angry feminism) without basically remaking the film as your first Wonder Woman picture.
You also have the option, if you use Jon Stewart, of having Ryan Reynolds cameo as the retired Lantern who quickly explains the Lantern mythology and who may or may not show up in the final battle and who may or may not perish in the big fight. You get your big character death without marring the future franchise possibilities. A Justice League movie centered not around Batman and Superman but around Wonder Woman and/or Jon Stewart's Green Lantern would indeed be somewhat of a social ground-breaker and would indeed qualify as something different from The Avengers on the basis of its character focus alone. It would beat Marvel Studios to the punch in two areas, both in having a major African American superhero on the big screen (Blade was produced by New Line, natch) and by having a major superhero adventure centered around a female protagonist. Point being, to paraphrase the wonderful Wizard of Oz, DC and Warner Bros. have had a Justice League movie inside them all along. They already did the ground work without realizing it and now they just have to stick the landing by knowing how best to cook the ingredients they have already accumulated. Tell the story from Jon Stewart's POV and/or from Princess Diana's. Use the world of Chris Nolan's Batman films to bring audiences in even if Bale decides to opt out (or hell, have him cameo as Bruce Wayne to announce that he'll be secretly funding the team's exploits from here-on-out). Use the supporting characters from The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, and Green Lantern (plus whatever Flash movie gets made) to establish an interconnected universe.
Warner Bros. already has the material to make a Justice League movie that can justify itself amid the sea of comic book adventures. The question is whether they can make the smart choices. So what do you think? Does any of this have a shot in hell of happening? Is it better to completely start over with Batman or merely acknowledge the Nolan trilogy as a way of establishing past tense and possibly your new-found Batman? How should DC/Warner Bros. deal with Martin Campbell's already established Green Lantern mythology? Sound off below.