On June 17, a cadre of superhero reporters descended on the London set of Justice League, DC Comics’ follow-up to Batman v Superman slated for release in November 2017. As Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta explains it, director Zack Snyder invited a group of bloggers who generally disliked Batman v Superman but who offered thoughtful criticism of the film. As Sciretta writes, “It seems like Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. know they have something to prove, and are willing to open the curtain to try to change the perception of their big franchise series.”
Given the context, it’s bears disclaiming that the visit was likely curated down to the thermostat setting, so any takeaways may be exactly what the studio wants them to be—the most notable being that the film’s tone appears to differ strikingly from that of the critically derided Batman v Superman, which TIME’s critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote is “so topheavy with false portent that it buckles under its own weight.” That said, here are the most noteworthy observations from last week’s set visit:
Justice League appears to be more lighthearted than Batman v Superman. Sciretta writes that Justice League “feels like a much different film from Man of Steel or Batman v Superman. There are moments of humor, humanity, personality and color.” He adds that it appears the filmmakers took something away from the criticism their last movie received and are consciously moving in a new direction. He goes so far as to liken the one scene reporters were shown to the tone of Marvel’s movies, which are widely considered to be more fun. Collider’s Steve “Frosty” Weintraub agrees: “We watched scenes that showed Bruce Wayne can smile, and Flash is going to be played with a lot of fun and youthful energy… It’s a big change and something that should excite the fans.”
Speaking of the Flash, he may be Justice League’s most anticipated character. Multiple bloggers noted that Ezra Miller’s performance of the Flash, from what they could see, is fresh and energetic, a bit like Spider-man’s appearance in the latest Captain America movie, notes Sciretta, only less expected. Indiewire’s Sam Adams writes that Miller “brings an infectious energy to the proceedings,” and Mashable’s Sam Haysom noted his “upbeat, jokey energy.” In short: lots of energy is to be expected from the Flash, which is fitting, considering that his superpower trades in kinetic energy.
The basic plot revolves around Batman and Wonder Woman uniting a team of superheroes to fight Steppenwolf. The first half of the movie sees Batman as the captain of the most powerful dodgeball team ever assembled; the one scene Snyder showed the reporters depicts Bruce Wayne recruiting Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, with the latter initially attempting to conceal his identity (he says his flashy costume is for competitive ice dancing) before enthusiastically accepting Wayne’s offer. The superheroes are joining forces to protect the planet from villain Steppenwolf and an army of Parademons who plan to invade Earth in short order. Though Snyder was 31 days into filming at the time of the set visit, it sounds as though the villain’s casting may not be entirely buttoned up yet. It’s also possible, though filmmakers won’t confirm, that the supervillain Darkseid could make an appearance.
Superman was conspicuously absent from the set. Henry Cavill was not spotted, and the Man of Steel was absent from concept art displayed on set. This may not surprise those who took the ending of Batman v Superman literally (and assumed those specks of dirt that levitated over the superhero’s coffin were elevated by some inexplicable gravitational force). But producer Deborah Snyder (who is married to Zack Snyder) confirmed that he will return—”Obviously Superman is part of the Justice League,” she said—but remained tight-lipped about how and when he will return. “There wouldn’t be a Justice League without Superman, but I think his way back to us .. we don’t want to really spoil that,” she teased.
Ben Affleck’s not quite ready to pin down a timeline for his solo Batman movie. Affleck is writing, and plans to direct, a solo Batman movie, but he won’t offer up a date until he has a script he’s proud of. He answered questions about the project while in full costume: “My timetable is I’m not going to make a movie until there’s a script I think is good. I’ve been on the end of things when you make movies with a script that’s not good and it doesn’t pan out,” he said. “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 – which has to have the highest standard.”