Last week I got the fanboy call of a lifetime. I was asked if I would like to participate with other journos and visit the set of Justice League currently shooting in England. I not only said yes, I leaped at the opportunity and said HELL YES! You see, I have never crossed the Atlantic ocean in my life, let alone visit the UK.
I also recognized the significance of getting asked to visit the set of Justice League after launching Heroic Hollywood a year ago this month. It’s the site’s first official set visit.
Back in 1986 as a 12 year old fanboy growing up in Flushing, New York I practically lived inside Mike’s Comic Hut. That spring Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was released and changed comic books forever. Thirty years later, I’m on a plane to London to meet Batman and the rest of the Justice League. Surreal to say the least.
Myself and other journos left the States on Wednesday, we arrived in London on Thursday, and got on the bus Friday morning to visit Warner Brothers Leavesden Studios in Southeastern England where Justice League is shooting. Our set visit occurred on day 31 of 111 of the production schedule.
The gist of the set visit went down like this – we entered ‘The War Room’ where they showed us all sorts or cool concept art and props, then the costume department where costume designer Michael Wilkinson showed us updated costumes for Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg. We then saw multiple sets including Batman’s new hangar, we witnessed the filming on set of a rooftop scene in Gotham City, then we went back to the War Room where director Zack Snyder showed us a really cool scene from the film.
There is a lot of ground to cover so let’s get cracking. Heroic Hollywood readers want the scoop and that is exactly what my mission was – to get it for you guys.
1) Justice League Official Synopsis
The official synopsis for Justice League was released to accompany our set visit pieces and is as follows….
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Directed by Zack Snyder, this marks the big screen debut of the Justice League, featuring an all-star lineup: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher.
2) Opening Prologue Confirmed
Last month, we reported Darkseid’s role in Justice League that occurs in the opening prologue. 30,000 years ago Ancient Man, the Amazonians, and the Atlanteans fought off Darkseid who left behind three motherboxes. We saw concept art in The War Room of Ancient Man, The Atlanteans, and The Amazonians. It looked pretty damn cool. We also saw the three motherboxes as props on a table – one Atlantean, one Amazonian, and one belonging to Ancient Man. One motherbox is oxblood red, another beige, and the other off white. We also saw concept artwork on how the Atlanteans protect their motherbox in an Atlantean structure along with artwork of an Amazonian structure which houses the Amazonian motherbox. The motherboxes kind of remind me of the Lament Configuration puzzle box from the Hellraiser series.
3) Steppenwolf Is Indeed The Villain Of Justice League
Inside the War Room we saw a darkened outline of what Steppenwolf will look like in the film which is still being finalized. Steppenwolf will sport a totally different look than what was previously seen from the deleted Communion scene above from Batman v Superman. Having seen the motherboxes in person, they don’t look anything like the Communion scene either.
4) Willem Dafoe is playing Atlantean Vulko
It’s now official, actor Willem Dafoe is playing Atlantean Vulko. We saw concept art of what Dafoe will look like in character as Vulko. For those not familiar with Vulko, according to Comics Vine
Nuidis Vulko was the the royal advisor to Aquaman. He was one of the leaders of Atlantis’ scientific community, and several times ruled Atlantis in Aquaman’s absence. When Aquaman left the throne to live among the surface dweller’s, it was Vulko that was left to deal with the backlash of Arthur’s attempts to bring the Atlanteans out of isolation from the surface world.
5) Batman Will Have More Than One Batsuit In Justice League
Batman in Justice League will sport his classic Batsuit. However, Bruce Wayne is constantly tweaking the batsuit with new tech and making it better. The suit will feature new armor plates under mesh and new Waynetech gauntlets. However, we also learned that Bruce Wayne is also working on a tactical Batsuit which will feature a new cowl, new tech, new goggles, and a new cape. We saw a really cool Justice League group picture of Batman in his tactical suit in the War Room. Since Batman’s foes are out of this world, it is only fitting he gears up to battle Steppenwolf’s minions – mainly the Parademons. Speaking of Parademons, we saw concept art in the War Room of two different Parademons.
6) Ben Affleck Finally Confirms He Is Directing The Standalone Batman Movie
In between setups of the Gotham rooftop scene, Ben Affleck came up to the group of journos and answered a few questions and for the first time mentioned he is directing the Batman film.
Q: This time around, you’re an executive producer on this. How does that change you and your role, like ownership on Batman?
AFFLECK: Why I’m an executive producer is that I’m directing one of the movies. So there’s sort of this cross pollination of story and characters and I don’t want to give any of that stuff away, but it basically means that there are some things that might happen in my Batman that are affected by I mean, here we are in the police station in Gotham city. There’s a potential that something like this might exist in that story. So it’s a creative way that DC came up with of kind of being a filmmaker-driven company and entity and also making sure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and so that there’s collaboration and supervision. So that somebody doesn’t go sailing off, causing problems for your movie with their movie. You know, in a way, it’ also a kind of a courtesy. You know what they’re doing, one hand knows what the other is doing, and I get to weigh in on stuff that impacts the Batman stuff.
Q: Is Batman doing the detective work as kind of his part in this movie, or is he working with a team of detectives?
AFFLECK: It’s definitely, the world’s greatest detective aspect of Batman is more present in this story than it was in the last one, and will probably be expanded upon further in a Batman movie that I would do. I think all the great Batman stories are, at their heart, detective stories. That’s why they feel like noir movies in a way. Somehow feels like it could be The Maltese Falcon. But at their heart good Batman stories are, like I said, detective stories. And with detective stories, there’s a “what’s happening” element, but there’s also a, “how do I find these people and bring them together? How are we going to work together successfully?” Sort of a multilateralist –
Q: A lot of people are looking forward to your perspective in a solo Batman movie, do you have a timeframe as to when you might want to see it in theaters?
AFFLECK: I think they have a date for it. Although, I don’t know if I would necessarily be able to make that date because I don’t have a script that’s ready yet. So that’s my, my timetable is I’m not going to make a movie until there’s a script that I think is good because I’ve been on the end of the things when you make movies when you have a script that’s not good yet and it doesn’t pan out. [laughs]
Q: Can I ask where you are in the scripting process? Do you have a draft that you’re really happy with or a story that you’re really happy with but you just need to flesh it out further?
AFFLECK: I have a script, we’re still working on it, and I’m not happy enough with it yet to actually go out there and make a Batman movie, for which I have the highest of standards, I would say. That’s something that would have to pass a very high bar for me. It’s not just like, “yeah, that might be fun, let’s go try this out.”
7) Justice League Is A Story About Redemption
Ben Affleck also addressed some of Batman’s darker aspects from Batman v Superman.
Q; Is there any conflict in this one regarding Batman’s tactics? Because one of the conflicts of the last movie was that Batman was, I wouldn’t want to say sadistic, but he was very violent and he killed if he had to.
AFFLECK: Yeah, in the last movie, Batman definitely went to a very dark place that was rooted in trauma that occurred to people that he loved and worked with and what he saw. This movie is not about that issue for him so much anymore, he’s no longer sort of extreme in that way. From the experiences of the last movie, he’s sort of learned and now he’s sort of – I’m trying to say it without giving away any spoilers – but he’s wanting to redeem himself and wanting mankind to be redeemed and he’s wanting to make the world better. Having learned lessons that were important in the last movie.
8) The Batmobile Gets an Upgrade & Weaponized
The above picture of the Batmobile is from the Justice League set. It’s still the same car, however it is becoming more and more like a tank, same vehicle, more weaponry, more choreography.
9) Batman Works Out Of A Massive Hangar
Although the above picture is not what the actual hangar looks like in Justice League, it’s sort of close. In the previous picture of the Batmobile, it was taken from the hangar so you can get an idea of what it will look like. Batman keeps his tools, computers and Batmobile there. It’s also a place where he works on his new Bat tech which brings us to…
10) New Bat Tech – The KnightCrawler & Flying Fox
One of the coolest things from the War Room is seeing concept art for the Knightcrawler and Flying Fox. Created by Wayne for the military a long time ago, the Knightcrawler can crawl on the ground like a tank and then transform into a spider crawl. The Flying Fox is how Batman transports the other Justice League team members around. The Flying Fox can also fit a vehicle in it so Batman can bring the Batmobile onto the Flying Fox. On one of the sets, they built the cockpit practically of the Flying Fox and we took a peak inside of it. Really Cool.
11) The Flash Suit Gets An Upgrade From WayneTech
Barry Allen’s (played by Ezra Miller) Flash suit is getting an upgrade and contains 148 pieces! There are 70 pieces in the headpiece alone. The suit looks really cool and wait till you guys get a peak at his Flash sneakers! Definitely copping a pair if they ever mass produce them.
12) Ezra Miller Brings Much Needed Comic Relief To Justice League
One of the biggest surprises of the set visit was seeing Ezra Miller in action as The Flash. He’s both hilarious and charming as Barry Allen. We see him in action on the rooftop scene in Gotham with Batman, Wonder Woman, Commissioner Gordon, and he makes a comedic exit in that particular scene. Later on, when director Zack Snyder shows us a scene from Barry Allen’s apartment, Ezra is pure comedic gold. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ezra is the standout in Justice League.
13) The Flash & Cyborg Have A Good Camaraderie In Justice League
If the rumors I’m hearing are true that the standalone Flash movie will feature Cyborg, then these two will be off to a solid start in Justice League. In between setups, Ray Fisher spoke with us about how he got the part of Cyborg before being interrupted by Ezra Miller. Here is how it went down.
Q: So, can you tell us a little bit about how you won the role of Cyborg?
FISHER: I can, yeah. I was doing a play off Broadway back in 2013 –
Flash shows up.
EZRA MILLER: Hi, how you doing?
FISHER: I was regaling them of how I came to be.
MILLER: No, no no don’t do that. You’re doing origin stories? You’re not supposed to give them origin stories!
FISHER: No, an origin story of how I, as a person, came to be. [laughs]
MILLER: Get outta here, man.
FISHER: You guys know Ezra, right? I was in a play off Broadway playing Muhammad Ali at the New York Theatre Workshop three years ago now. And around the time, Ang Lee, one of his upcoming projects was a 3D boxing movie about Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and he came and saw the show at that time. And I hadn’t had an agent or a manager up until that point, but once people caught word of that, they started coming to the show to see who’s this guy that people are coming to look at and from there I signed up and went out to California for a visit and met up with Lord Kennedy and Kristy Carlson from Warner Brothers and they said, “we have something that may be right for you, but we can’t tell you what it is. It’s just in the real of the Batman/Superman universe.” And I was like, “I’m done, I’m done. Sign me up. I’ll play a tree.”
MILLER: And now he’s playing a tree. [laughs]
FISHER: And now I’m playing a tree, they’re just going to CGI it around.
MILLER: You have to be really careful what you say in those meetings. [laughs]
FISHER: But yeah and from there, I just put something on tape for Zack while I was in New York. And we went out to Detroit and tested and it just sort of fell into place very quickly and I’m extremely grateful that it did. Coming up in the theatre and grinding for ten years, trying to make the ends meet. It was a pretty sweet payoff.
Q: The last movie, Batman and Superman didn’t really get along that well. But it appears that Cyborg and Flash are hitting it off. Is that only behind the scenes?
MILLER: We cannot confirm or deny anything regarding any people named silly names like the ones you just – I don’t even know, what did you say? [laughs]
FISHER: I don’t even know who these characters are, I’ve never heard of them.
MILLER: I need to run this scene with you.
FISHER: Which one?
MILLER: The one we’re doing.
FISHER: The dance solo? The tap dance number?
MILLER: We need to run our routine.
FISHER: Okay, sweet.
MILLER: Forgive us, guys. We need to run our routine.
FISHER: Which routine are we running?
MILLER: The dance routine.
ASSISTANT: The one on the rooftop.
FISHER: Oh, we’re actually running the routine.
FISHER: I’ll be back then, I guess. Thank you guys. Did they send you over for me?
MILLER: Yeah, yeah yeah.
FISHER: You sort of pinched me on the butt.
MILLER: No, because I told them, “we can do it by ourselves!” And they were like fine, Ezra, go get ready.
FISHER: “We don’t need the Cyborg!”
MILLER: Bring him whatever drink he wants and then get him to set.
FISHER: Just put a cardboard cutout and CG it.
14) Cyborg’s Look In Justice League
Cyborg’s Suit is Apokoliptic in its technology and will feature a gun arm. The suit will also feature a civilian mode where he is covered up in a track suit and hoodie for getting around civilians.
15) Junkie XL Returns To Score Justice League
One of my favorite things from Batman v Superman was the soundtrack, especially the track, “Is She with you?” We learned on the set visit that Junkie XL will return to score Justice League.
16) The Wonder Woman Standalone Film Is A Coming Of Age Story
In between setups, Gal Gadot came to speak to us briefly and had this to say about the evolution of her character in the films.
Q: How different is this Wonder Woman from Batman v. Superman vs. the Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman?
GADOT: [laughs] She’s kind of bipolar. No – the Wonder Woman we see in the Justice League is similar to the Wonder Woman that we saw on BvS. The Wonder Woman that you will see on the solo movie, she’s different. It’s the coming of age story, it’s about her become an adult, really. From a child to an adult. And understanding the complexities of life.
17) Aquaman Wears Jeans Above Surface & Has A Strong Personality
Back in the War Room, we saw concept art of Aquaman when he is above water on the surface. He sports a pair of slim fit dark denim wash jeans with no shirt on. I’m sure the ladies are going to dig that one. Executive Producer Ben Affleck had the following to say about Jason Momoa’s Aquaman.
Q: Well, Batman is sort of the leader of the group, is there any kind of challenge from the other members to his leadership? I mean, Aquaman’s a king, I can’t imagine him taking orders from another character would go over very well.
AFFLECK: You know, Aquaman’s a very strong character, played by a very strong actor with a very strong personality, so I don’t think he’s the sort of guy who at any point in his life takes orders from people. Jason Momoa, he’s got a very strong, stubborn, independent, powerful energy. So it’s not like any of these characters show up and immediately go like, “yes sir, what should I do, Mr. Wayne?” It’s about like trying to get a lot of disparate people who are used to being very powerful and independent to try to work together. And it’s about how hard it is for them to all get along. And there are some characters who really hit it off with each other, some that don’t hit it off with each other, almost come to blows, and it’s about trying to contain that. So it’s not an easy ride trying to get this group to come together.
18) An Abandoned Tunnel Connects Gotham to Metropolis
One of the big set pieces of the movie is an abandoned tunnel that connects Gotham City and Metropolis and is supposedly being used as a nest by the Parademons.
19) Gotham Rooftop Scene
During the set visit, we witnessed the filming of J.K. Simmons Commissioner Gordon’s first day on set. Simmons looks amazing as Gordon. In the scene, Gordon uses the Bat Signal to call Batman. Batman arrives with Wonder Woman and The Flash. Gordon hands Batman what seems like a newspaper. Apparently scientists are being kidnapped by Parademons in both Gotham City and Metropolis. Here is a preview:
Gordon: How many of you are there?
Batman: Not enough.
Gordon: Dozens of witnesses all over Gotham. Descriptions matches suspects in the Metropolis abductions.
Batman: Bad guys. Flying Monkeys.
Cyborg enters the scene…Wonder Woman smiles at Cyborg. An acknowledgement.
Cyborg: The Head Of Star Labs was taken tonight.
There is a cool line that follows which we won’t spoil but Batman, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman exit the scene. The Flash says something funny to Gordon before leaving.
20) Barry Allen’s Apartment Scene
At the end of the set visit, we returned to the War Room where we were shown an unfinished scene by Zack Snyder on the monitor. In the scene, Barry Allen returns to his apartment to discover Bruce Wayne already waiting. Bruce has a printout from the convenience store scene seen previously in Batman v Superman. Barry in a funny way denies that it is him and then Bruce throws a batarang past Barry. Barry then slows down time and watches the batarang fly past him in slow motion. Barry catches the batarang and is shocked that the Batman is standing before him. Bruce tells Barry that he is putting a team together and Barry willingly joins because he needs friends. The scene shows Ezra Miller’s comedic range as Barry.
Hope. Optimism. Redemption. That is what I saw on Heroic Hollywood’s first ever set visit to the set of Justice League in England. It was an incredible experience. I can truly say I’m excited for what is in store not only for Justice League but the rest of the upcoming DC slate. The other journos on the trip feel the same way so be sure to check out their set visit reports as well. Warner Brothers is doing the right thing by getting the right people creatively behind the DC Films slate. Everybody deserves a second chance so even if you’re not a fan of Batman v Superman, you should give Justice League a shot when it gets released next year on November 17, 2017 because I think people are going to be genuinely surprised by the direction the film is headed in. I want to also thank ID PR’s Bebe Lerner and Warner Brothers’ Anne Chun for being inclusive of our outlet and accommodating us on the set visit.