“Justice League” could have turned out very differently: In a 2011 draft of the film obtained by TheWrap, Batman and Wonder Woman have a son, Aquaman is nowhere in sight, Darkseid enslaves Superman, and Hawkman and Green Lantern team up in space.
The script, by “Gangster Squad” screenwriter Will Beall, nails the art of fan service. After a quick introduction on Darkseid’s hellish planet, Apokolips, we’re plunged into a stunning set piece between Batman, Superman, KGBeast, Killer Croc and Lex Luthor that includes a shark tank shattering on the upper floors of Lexcorp Tower in Metropolis. And it just gets more packed with heroes and villains from there.
Many fans have expressed disappointed in the version of “Justice League” that Joss Whedon had to rush into theaters last month after original director Zack Snyder had to bow out amidst family tragedy. (Here is the inside account of how it happened.)
Beall’s draft predated the current DC cinematic universe, which began with 2013’s “Man of Steel.” In fact, Beall wrote it a year before Christopher Nolan completed his Batman trilogy with “The Dark Knight Rises,” and before Disney’s Marvel released “The Avengers.” Its many Easter eggs, and world-spanning scope, feel in line with both “The Avengers” and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Here are a few highlights from the script:
- Though Steppenwolf is the lead villain in this year’s “Justice League,” Beall’s draft would have made his boss, Darkseid, the master of evil. That opening shark-tank battle ends with Desaad, one of Darkseid’s minions, killing Killer Croc and stealing Kryptonite that Luthor has just tried to buy from KGBeast, aka Anatoli Knyazev. At one point, Croc bites a shark.
- While 2016’s “Batman v Superman” would pit the heroes against each other, the 2011 script imagined them as allies who know each others’ identities and have coffee at Metropolis Diner, where they chat about other DC superheroes like Diana (Wonder Woman), Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Aquaman. They soon travel to Central City to recruit Barry Allen, aka The Flash.
- Amanda Waller and King Faraday run the Department of Metahuman Affairs and seize Killer Croc’s body. We also meet Abel Terrant (Tattooed Man), Copperhead, Barbara Minerva (Cheetah) and Solomon Grundy. Waller and Croc eventually met in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”
- In deep space, Green Lantern John Stewart and Thanagarian Katar Hol, aka Hawkman, engage in a cool action sequence inside a space-station nightclub as they try to stop Kanjar Ro from helping Dessad weaponize the Kryptonite. The first act ends with Superman kidnapped by Steppenwolf and the Parademons and taken back to Apokolips.
- By the start of the second act, Batman goes to Themyscira to recruit Diana, with whom he has a romantic history.
- Barry Allen, Green Lantern John Stewart and Diana have a meeting with Wayne inside the Batcave, which has several generations of Batmobiles and Batsuits, as well as Mr. Freeze’s Cyro-Gun, the Scarecrow’s Mask, and The Penguin’s Umbrella.
- John Stewart returns to OA (Green Lantern headquarters) and finds the dead bodies of his fellow Lanterns: Katma Tui, Kilowag, Guy Gardner, Salakk, and Tomar-Re. The entire Lantern Corps has been massacred by Darkseid.
- With the Lantern Corps out of the way, Darkseid invades earth at the midpoint of the script — with help from a brainwashed Superman. As he does in Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman v Superman,” Wayne dons special armor to fight the Man of Steel. Diana manages to release Superman from Dessad’s mind control and Superman rejoins the League in the fight against Darkseid.
- Superman goes through a Boom Tube and travels eleven years into the future to find that Darkseid has wiped out 80 percent of the Earth’s population. Diana leads the last of the human resistance with an aged and grey-haired Bruce Wayne as her second-in-command. They have a son named Clark Wayne, and one surprising member of the resistance is Lex Luthor.
- The Future Batman leads a dozen fighters known as Batman’s Berzerkers. They include Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) George Harkness (Captain Boomerang), Helena Bertinelli (Huntress) and Barbera Minerva (Cheetah). Comics fans might also recognize this team as the members of Suicide Squad — though not exactly the Suicide Squad of last year’s film. The last of the resistance is headquartered inside Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
- Future Lex Luthor figures out a way to send Barry Allen back eleven years in time, partly using Darkseid’s Boom Tube. Future Flash goes back in time to before Darkseid’s invasion, and dies in younger self’s arms — after warning of the terrible future.
- Diana, Bruce, Barry and Green Lantern travel to Apokolips and rescue Superman before Desaad can take over his mind, and the reunited Justice League battle Darkseid and his forces on Apokolips to stop the invasion of Earth. The entire Lantern Corps, along with the Amazons from Themyscira, join in the battle.
- The script ends with Mercy Graves planning a presidential campaign for Lex Luthor and Luthor receiving a message from Future Luthor telling him of Superman’s secret identity: Clark Kent.
Warners has been accused of reacting to Marvel in the past, but had Beall’s script gone forward, Darkseid would have made his theatrical debut before Marvel’s somewhat similar Thanos, the villain of next year’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Beall’s script earned him a two-picture deal, and Variety reported that Ben Affleck considered directing it even before he signed on to play Batman for Zack Snyder.
In 2013, Bad Ass Digest cited sources who called the script “terrible,” an assessment with which we disagree. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. preferred Zack and Deborah Snyder’s version of the DC Universe, which led to the Justice League we have today.