ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Legion of Super-Heroes director Jeff Wamester about the upcoming animated DC film. The director discussed having Supergirl as a main character and his dream movie. Legion of Super-Heroes arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digital on February 7, 2023.
“Welcome to the 31st century and the Legion Academy, where a new generation hones their powers with hopes of joining the Legion of Super-Heroes,” reads the film’s synopsis. “Devastated by tragedy, Supergirl struggles to adjust to her new life on Earth. Taking her cousin Superman’s advice, Supergirl leaves their space-time to attend the Academy. There, she quickly makes new friends, as well as a new enemy with old ties: Brainiac 5. But a nefarious plot lurks in the shadows — the mysterious group known as the Dark Circle seeks a powerful weapon held in the Academy’s vault.”
Spencer Legacy: You’ve directed three different DC movies in the last three years, each one based on totally different characters. How have those experiences differed?
Jeff Wamester: I think each of their damages and their traumas and the challenges that they need to go through are different. As a filmmaker, that’s always something you want to do. You want to have that new challenge of what’s this particular character’s challenges that they have to do and how do they get through it and did they or didn’t they change?
The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of the lesser-known teams to general audiences. What really drew you to the idea of working on a project about them?
In this case, I came to it because me and Butch [Lukic, supervising producer] have been working on a series of movies. Part of it is that I kind of fell into it, but also at the same time, for me, always doing interpretations of characters that we don’t see that much or haven’t seen on screen … one of the more fun parts of doing this is saying, “How do we interpret that on screen? How do we make them interesting? How do we treat them? How do they move? How do they think? What are the pieces that put them together? What would you be like if you had this particular power or that particular problem?”
So it always is fun because the Legion is like a whole different setting, a whole different world, and also a whole different set of characters that we don’t see in the main world of DC characters.
Were there any specific comic runs or cartoon episodes involving the Legion that you looked to when making the movie?
No. Usually, when we do these movies, they’re standalone. We might pull pieces that are from different ones, but it’s usually a very standalone interpretation. So we’re always firstly looking for what’s the throughline on the story before we start going, “Oh, we want to grab something from that and grab something from that.” You have to tell a story first. If we can squeeze little homages to pieces, we try to put those in there.
How did you choose which members of the team to feature and highlight from their roster for this movie?
I didn’t pick them particularly, but the main reason we picked characters, a lot of times for something like filmmaking, is we want to be able to show the powers without having to go into exposition. So we don’t want to sit there like, “Oh, this character can do this because of that.” We want to be able to show right away what they can do. And the great choices we have in there, like Triplicate Girl, it’s easy, boom, boom, boom. You have three versions of her, you. Bouncing Boys — he bounces, you know? Arms Fall Off Boy — his arms fall off. It’s very easy without having to explain direct exposition, which you always want to try and avoid in the story if you can. Not always you can, but you’re trying to make it so that … it’s a visual medium, you want to show people.
What made Supergirl stand out as an ideal main protagonist for this story?
It’s kind of a Superman story but from a different point of view. Superman kind of got lucky. He fell into a great set of parents. Supergirl did not. That story is,” what would happen if you didn’t have that guidance? You lost your parents, you lost everything, you even watched it, unfortunately. You bonded with them.” Superman lost his parents when he was a baby, so he had no memory of that time. Supergirl does. Supergirl is much more attached to the people that she left. So I think the damage, when we talk about her, is really interesting. So that’s why I think she’s a great main character for something like this.
Brainiac 5 also proves to be a really likable co-protagonist with a lot of depth. So what difficulties came with pairing him with Supergirl given their different personalities and beliefs?
I think that’s where a lot of conflict developed. It actually wasn’t difficult. It was actually the opposite. It made it really interesting. They’re such opposites, right? She’s powerful and impulsive, right? So she’s powerful and impulsive, and he’s overanalyzing and very reserved. So when those two come together, the interest is pretty automatic. It’s a great dichotomy between the two and it creates a lot of excitement
Was there a character from the movie that you hope really sticks with new fans who might not know a lot about the Legion?
Supergirl herself. Yeah, we’ve seen her in The CW show and stuff like that, but the relationship between her and Brainiac 5 … there aren’t many times where we’ve seen a Supergirl movie where we really get to see her have a relationship and then also deal with the trauma that she’s dealt with in her life. I think that’s the thrust of the movie that makes it really interesting.
Before she goes to the future, Superman and Batman and The Flash appear and they all feel very established and close to their comic selves, even though they’re only there briefly. How important was it for you to give audiences a taste of the Justice League before showing them the Legion?
I don’t know if we were thinking that way when we were going, but it’s a really good contrast. I mean, the whole point is that the Legion is a different place. It’s something that we can experience, that we can say, “Oh, this is a different place versus what we’re used to.” We’re used to that as fans, right? But when we go to this other place in the future, it’s like we become Supergirl in that strange world in a new place. We can have something in common with her, which I think is really important. We need to be empathizing and feel like we’re in that same position.
Did you have a particular favorite scene from the movie?
The whole thing was Brainiac at the end. I don’t know if I want to give anything away, but between her and talking to her mom and stuff like that, I thought came out really good.
If budget wasn’t an issue and you could direct a film about any DC character, who would you really like to make a movie about?
Man, this is going to become by pitch! I would love to do an Aquaman animated movie. I think that’d be really fun.