The Justice League of America
Head-Start - The Avengers
The execs at Marvel, Disney/Paramount spent a decade preparing a summer audience for the debut of "The Avengers" - an amazingly successful grouping of Nick Fury, Hawkeye, The Black Widow, Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor -- all lined up to do battle against that consummate evil-doer, Loki. Placing many of these characters in their separate films helped prepare the audience for what a collaboration might look like. However, in my opinion, this stringing-out of individual hero origins was not really necessary. Many people who have gone to see "The Avengers" never saw any of the previous single-character action films, yet walked away feeling enormously satisfied.
The Justice League of America
I believe that Warner Bros. in conjunction with DC could produce a "Justice League of America" major feature without having to travel the same, timely route taken by Marvel.
The DC characters are more intrinsically known by the general population. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Green Arrow, The Flash, and Green Lantern have been in circulation for such a long time that only people living in caves would not be aware of their individual abilities and capabilities.
The Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and The Green Arrow got a little boost by appearing on the series "Smallville." Hawkman and the Atom are less well known and could be saved for a sequel. The core line-up of super-heroes have all received various degrees of exposure: Superman has been depicted in over half a dozen movies, Batman about the same. The Green Lantern received his lukewarm debut last summer in a solo film. Wonder Woman and The Flash each had their own TV series. The Martian Manhunter has been a prominent figure in several WB animated films.
Even if a mainstream audience does not fully understand the capabilities of The Martian Manhunter -- it would take about five minutes of film time to fill in the gap.
I knew nothing of "The Watchmen" when I observed the film, but caught on quickly to the various powers possessed by each member. Audiences are not actually as dumb as the studios would assume. We can fill in the blanks much better than the no-knowthing studio executives might imagine. In fact, filling in the blanks is a rather titillating exercise.
Superman: The Man of Steel
This idea of introducing a JLA in the raw has been suggested by fans for years. It doesn't have to interfere with any ongoing solo projects -- such as the re-tooled "Superman: Man of Steel."
My vision is collecting an entirely separate cast of young actors to play the JLA -- young enough to hang on for a possible trilogy. There would be no back stories (except for The Martian Manhunter). If anyone doesn't know about Kal-El's origin at this point, we might as well just cut them loose, as they aren't going to see the movie anyway. I envision brief flash-backs for some texture of the characters -- none of which has to be lengthy.
DC comics didn't re-explain the origins of each of its JLA superheroes in every issue, so why should a movie? My guess is that the audience would not be "overwhelmed" with new characters and information.
If an animated picture of the JLA can be absorbed by a ten-year-old, I think the mainstream audience should be able to do the same. Naturally, the studio would need a fantastic script and director -- without this the whole thing would implode. But, the main point is that WB/DC -- coming from way behind -- could produce a multi-million dollar success, but taking the exact opposite approach to the one promoted by Marvel. Many fans (myself included) would enjoy the studio simply skipping all of the hero origin BS, and just plunging into an epic story. For me, origin stories tend to be dull. I am an old comic book fan, so I know most of their origins -- even with a fading memory. Origin stories are not necessarily the best tales to tell. Studios think that we NEED the origins in order to understand a character. For me, this is utter nonsense. A clever writer/director can do a complete origin of a character within five or six minutes. If the writer/director cannot work within these limits, they should consult old geeks like myself. I'll draw them a story board of how the background should be handled, and I'd do it just for a screen credit.
I'm not really concerned about the bottom line for WB/DC, I just think that since they hold property rights to these characters, they ought to use them, and use them in the best way possible. Unlike Marvel, which has a huge head-start, I would back-engineer the DC catalog of heroes starting from a JLA movie then making separate pictures about the lesser known characters, and continuing plans for a JLA 2 and JLA 3.
Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
I've read that WB/DC worry about confusing the audience with having separate Batman or Superman releases while a totally different set of actors portray them in a JLA movie. This is fairly mindless. Think of how many iterations of DC characters have appeared in animated DVDs. Some were obviously built for children, and some were built for a teenage and even adult audience. No one is complaining about a lack of comprehension. While the plot, the animation, the voices may all be free territory for criticism, I haven't read a single comment saying that the viewer was confused because he/she didn't understand any of the characters' origins. So, WB/DC, this excuse is really a non-starter.
The real problem is that WB doesn't want to lose millions of dollars on a risk. Well, okay, but your studio (retaining the rights to some of the most impressive super-hero characters in the pantheon) -- in not rolling the dice is going to be eclipsed into irrelevancy.