Justice League comes out next week and, well, fan reception hasn’t been all that positive going into it. Maybe it’s a bit of the exhaustion movie audiences have for the relentlessly dour outlook of these films. Maybe it’s the aggressively bad previous films in the series. Maybe it’s just the overall bland look to what should be the biggest superhero film of all time. Whatever the case, audiences just aren’t getting excited for the film. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg teaming up to fight armies of alien monsters should be the most exciting movie of the year. Instead, it just comes across as a bland exercise in futility.
But recent trailers and shifts in the film have given people hope that maybe this movie will be able to ride the wave started by Wonder Woman and actually turn out to be a solid experience for audiences. So, sure, while some hope might be there, there are just as many (if not more) fears that it’ll be the trash can of a film that it looks like. Look, no one wants to see a large-scale and cool movie about Batman, Flash, and everyone teaming up to save the day more than I do. But that doesn’t make any of the faults look any less unappealing. It just doesn’t look like it’s going to be all that great – but there is some hope. Here are seven reasons Justice League might be great, and eight reasons it’ll turn out to be the worst of the lot.
15. Bad: Most Of The Previous Films Were Awful (Except For Wonder Woman)
Just because people liked Wonder Woman doesn’t make up for the earlier sins of this franchise. Man of Steel, while it has some interesting ideas and takes on the Superman mythos, is still a well-shot mess of a movie that tries way too hard to make Superman into Space-Jesus. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was the definition of a narrative train wreck, where the emotional climax of Batman’s arc is resolved because two women have the same name.
Also, the less said about the frankly gross Joker/Harley dysfunctional relationship that called itself Suicide Squad, the better. And for all of Wonder Woman’s better aspects (the easy chemistry between Diana and Steve, the representation of the Amazons, that trench scene), that movie was still sloppy in terms of story and pacing, and straight-up unbelievable in the climax when Wonder Woman basically becomes super magic for some reason. There has yet to be an all-around solid DC movie from this batch of films, and that’s not encouraging. And, look, you just don’t bet on the fighter who’s gone 0-4.
14. Good: The Cast Is Definitely Incredible (Especially Gal Gadot)
One of the biggest strengths of Justice League (and the general DC cinematic universe) is definitely Gal Gadot. She’s warm but strong in the role of Wonder Woman, and manages the almost impossible feat of being relatable but also inspiring. And unlike BvS, she isn’t the only one there trying to draw in the viewers as opposed to just playing off the weird and cynical outlook that Superman gets and the black wall of nothingness that is Affleck’s Batman. Ezra Miller playing the Flash as a rookie who’s geeking out over fighting with the big boys has been nothing but fun in the previews for the film. And Jason Momoa as Aquaman? There are two kinds of people in this world: people who are excited to see the surfer bro King of Atlantis fist-fighting space monsters, and the people who are wrong. Plus JK Simmons as Jim Gordon? That’s worth the ticket price alone.
13. Bad: The Film Might Be Going Too Big, Too Fast
Here’s the problem with escalation. Once you’ve saved the entire universe, where do you go? It’s a problem that’s especially haunted the Marvel cinematic universe, with the heroes having saved all of creation, multiple times. So, what threat do they deal with next? What could be more exciting than that? It usually requires a complete shift in tone (Thor going silly for Ragnaork, or Civil War being about the character’s personal conflicts) or just introduce new characters to replace the ones who can’t really do anything bigger now (like Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, and Black Panther).
And DC is basically starting out Justice League by having them fight one of the biggest possible threats in their continuity: Apokolips. We’re talking a planet of space gods, led by the physical embodiment of hate and considered the god of evil, Darkseid. Thanos – the guy Marvel has built up for over ten movies as the overarching villain of the franchise who will be the villain in a two-part Avengers climax – is a rip-off of Darkseid, and DC is using him so early! It’s a waste. It’s way too much happening way too fast. It risks alienating people who don’t care about the character, annoys fans for shoehorning concepts into the movies, and effectively wastes a meta-plot and entire series of sequels on your first baddie. How do you escalate from space gods? Even if it is just Steppenwolf (which it won’t be), Lex Luthor having an Iron Man suit isn’t going to be all that intimidating, you know?
12. Good: It Seems To Have A Good Sense Of Humor
One of the many, many criticisms of the modern DC films are about the films’ overall tone. Marvel films may be accused of being too goofy and refusing to take anything seriously, but that range of emotion lightens the mood somewhat and helps make the darker, bleaker moments stand out more as a result. Wonder Woman was able to use Gadot and co-star Chris Pine’s silly skills to good use, giving the two a sweet banter that helped keep the more plot-heavy moments from feeling too stuffy. It is refreshing to see a Flash who is geeking out over getting to be a superhero, an Aquaman who’s just excited to kill monsters, and a Batman who is making jokes again. It’s a step in the right direction, for sure.
11. Bad: The Many Reshoots They Had To Do Aren’t A Good Sign
There were a number of reasons for the reshoots that Justice League had earlier this year. A tragic loss in Zack Snyder’s family, coupled with internal disputes over the direction of the DC films and the arrival of Avenger’s director Joss Whedon at WB saw Snyder step away from the film and let Whedon finish off the project. And those are completely understandable, reasonable things to occur during the production of a movie. But, here’s the thing. The reshoots (a typical part of filmmaking in which the cast and crew reunite to get new footage and change the movie) ended up being severe enough to cost $25 million dollars. For comparisons sake, four horror movies this past year (namely Split, Get Out, The Belko Experiment, and Happy Death Day) had a cumulative cost of less than $25 million dollars. That’s not a good sign. When a movie that far into production needs that much work to even try to make it a good film, it’s a sign of some inherent flaws.
10. Good: The Amazons Vs. Parademons Scene Seems Like It Will Be Really Cool
Okay, this is where the fan service is best served by these comic book films: by finding big new ways to play with all the toys they have on screen. A number of the trailers show off the invading hordes of Parademons (the bug space commandos), and they look like the kind of force our heroes are going to have real trouble dealing with. And then some clips and trailers show off the Amazonian armies riding into war against them. And alright, that seems cool enough that it might make up for the Parademons appearing in a dream that was inside a dream that Bruce Wayne was having in BvS. It’s an admittedly cool visual, and something that only superhero films could attempt with any form of sincerity. Sometimes, all you need is a good ol’ fashioned battle scene.
9. Bad: The Overall Aesthetic Is So Blah And Ugly
These movies, at their creative highs and lows, have managed to meld together a thematic look between them. It’s just unfortunate that the look is so gritty and ugly. The films as a whole just feel bulkier and blockier than they need to be. For an example, look no further than Flash. For some reason, he’s wearing this weird disjointed armor that doesn’t look like it would do a great job at protecting one’s body. Everything is like that: needlessly complicated and busy. Cyborg, Batman, and even Aquaman have poorly-designed costumes that just look too busy, and it just adds to the overlaying greyness of this universe and its general look. The films just don’t look appealing at all, and that’s a real shame. These characters are bright and shiny! Embrace it.
8. Good: It Is Expanding The Universe
To be honest, it’s just been exciting to see new incarnations of the DC films that don’t happen to star Batman. Sure, almost all of them require Batman to show up even for a little bit, because that’s just how DC works. But it’s fun to see different superheroes appear in the film, and showcase a new look and feeling than the usual kind of DC films we’ve gotten so far. And with hints that we’re also going to get to see characters like the Green Lanterns, Martian Manhunter, Shazam, and Zatanna, it’s exciting to see what other kind of pieces of the greater DC universe we’ll get to find out more about during Justice League, and to set up future movies in the franchise. The movie might be expanding the universe enough so that it might even have a chance of competing against the MCU.
7. Bad: Ben Affleck’s Batman Is Just Awful And Mean
No matter how bad the Henry Cavil Superman has become over the course of the DCEU films, it’s not really his fault that things got so bad. He’s struggling to throw some fun into the character, but the events of the movie are just so overwhelmingly dire and depressing that the character is pulled through the mud just because of the plot. It’s hard to have fun despite all that. But with Ben Affleck, a lot of the problems come straight from the acting and depiction of Bruce Wayne. He’s a mean superhero, willing to kill people at the drop of a hat and use a gun (the one thing Batman is never supposed to do!) to fight bad guys. He’s an overwhelmingly mean rendition of the character, a Batman who jumps to the worst conclusion too fast. And it’s just not an exciting character to see.
6. Good: Surfer Bro Aquaman Is The Superhero We Never Knew We Needed
Seriously, this might the one thing this movie really has going for it. Aquaman has been a laughing stock within and outside of the comics for years, especially in regards to his portrayal as the most useless member of the Superfriends. He’s been a joke character for years, but this take on Aquaman might be able to break that record. Portrayed by Jason Momoa as something of a guardian in the North Sea, the movie full-on embraces his overall look as a “dudebro,” and it’s fantastic. He’s super excited to fight aliens, just wants to drink while protecting people, and is the best soldier in Atlantis. I mean, come on! That has all the makings for a fantastic fantasy action film, all set underwater and about fighting sharks.
5. Bad: We Will Have To See More Of The Stupid Death Of Superman Storyline
Look, one of the biggest comic storylines of all time was Death of Superman. It centered around the, well, death of Superman. Superman went head to head with Doomsday, and the two ended up beating each other to literal death in the middle of the city. Elements of the book were adapted for BvS, notably the final fight coming down to Doomsday vs. Superman. And now, elements of the follow-up storyline Reign of Superman will be adapted for Justice League. This is definitely not good. There was already enough Jesus Superman symbolism in the last few movies, without audiences being forced to deal with a ham-fisted resurrection story beat. It’s just a frustrating direction for the character, and seeing that stupid black suit might be reason enough to not see it.
4. Good: This Film Might Have A Welcome Change Of Tone
The DC movies up to this point have been just overall ugly films. And not just visually; the core of the movies of themselves is utterly bleak. But it feels like Justice League is meant as a rebuke to that trend. Little things, such as the better sense of humor and willingness to have optimistic characters, really help push the series towards that. Even in just the presentation of the big battle sequences, Justice League moves with a much lighter touch than any of the other movies. It’s indicative of a more entertaining movie, and a definite plus for the film. These are movies with Batman in them. They shouldn’t just be about premeditated murder attempts against space Jesus, but be willing to have fun with the fact that this is a movie with Batman in it.
3. Bad: Man, The CGI Is Ugly
You can’t deny it; it just is. The effects overall have looked incredibly sloppy and obviously fake to the maximum. Even the moments that do look cool (like the aforementioned Amazons vs. Parademons bit) looked just as much of a cut-scene from an Xbox One title as it looked like a scene from a blockbuster DC superhero movie. But it’s nothing compared to Cyborg, who just looks odd. And while an odd design for Cyborg is an important element of the character, it’s just too jarring here (mashing half his face with bright CGI robotics) to ever feel natural in pictures. It looks like a bad Photoshop job, especially when he’s called into action during the climax. When he grabs Aquaman out of the air, it just looks badly done. It doesn’t help that his entire design feels like a copy of Iron Man. But where Iron Man had a simplified and streamlined design to help simplify some of those effects problems, Cyborg has just too much going on. All it does is really remind the viewer how fake it all is.
2. Good: We Might Have A Movie That Inspires Real Hope
The DC movies have been batting so poorly lately, that it’s actively heartbreaking. These stories mean so much to so many readers (including this writer), that it’s genuinely sad to watch the characters we know and love not get their just due in cinematic form. So any glimmer of hope is promising for a DC fan. And because of the shifts in tone, the new characters and their lighter overall touch, there are real hints of hope for the franchise. The best is probably coming with just that sentiment. The heroes embracing good emotions and working together to save the world is what DC should have been doing from the start, but late is better than never, in the long run. If we get just one DC movie about hope, everything will feel a little better.
1. Bad: It Just Doesn’t Look Good
That’s the most depressing thing about this whole article, and this film as a whole. It’s just a bummer, but it’s the truth. The movie looks disjointed from the get-go, especially if major changes have been made to the film during production. The designs and story still don’t look appealing. And for a franchise that’s only technically on its fifth movie, it feels more exhausted and played out than the Marvel cinematic universe has ever felt over the course of 17 films. This should be the biggest event of the year, but rumors of the film’s quality have apparently gotten Warner Bros. pretty worried about the turnout for this one. Even the things that work or look appealing come with caveats. It just doesn’t look all that good.
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