Some filmmakers, stars and studios do deliver on their promises — or so the new “Justice League” trailer would seem to indicate.
Director Zack Snyder pledged last summer that the film wouldn’t be as dark as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” while Batman actor Ben Affleck more recently characterized it as a “rebirth” of the fledgling DC Extended Universe. Fans got a big, sardonic snapshot of just that on Saturday morning from Warner Bros.
While still saturated in Snyder’s signature cyan-filter cinematographic vision, the two and a half minutes of footage hints at a strong shift in direction for the DC Comics stable of films. It’s not about how it looks, but instead how it feels — and it feels like the creative team listened to audiences and critics, and took a page from the more lighthearted yet aggressive stories of competitor Marvel Studios. More so, it appears that Snyder and company have found the light with this new tonic, striking a balance with their own dark, gritty style of superhero filmmaking.
We see Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, off the cuff, rescuing a fisherman (or is that Bruce Wayne?) and then dropping him into bar, before letting the bartender know that the bottle of alcohol he’s taking “is on him.” We then get Cyborg poking fun at the comic-book movie trope of bystanders freezing in place as debris falls their way. “You should probably move,” he says, delivering a line that wouldn’t feel out of place if uttered by Chris Evans’ Captain America.
Later, Barry Allen asks Bruce Wayne what his superpowers are. “I’m rich,” Bruce deadpans in a shot seemed directed at those comics fans who insist Batman is merely a guy with fancy gadgets. There was a pinch of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in that scene, with Ben Affleck as cheeky as ever, throwing back to his awkward first encounter with Ezra Miller’s character in last year’s Comic-Con International sizzle reel. An older Bruce and a young Barry may just turn out to be the DC Extended Universe’s answer to the Tony Stark/Peter Parker relationship in “Captain America: Civil War” and the upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
We already saw Bruce’s levity in that previous footage when he spoke with Diana (Gal Gadot) about how to assemble the team, and tries to recruit Barry and Aquaman (whom he jokes about talking to fish), and in the scene where Cyborg questions whether Batman is real. “I’m real when it’s useful,” he responds. Some initially thought the humor displayed in that reel might simply be Snyder’s attempt to pacify critics before he went all “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” on them again, unleashing mass destruction. (Remember how inspiring and hopeful the initial “Man of Steel” teaser was?) However, this first full-length trailer proves it may not be a ruse, and that the filmmaker is truer to this word than first believed, and in doing so is making the biggest statement he can with Batman.
The tempo is indeed lighter, and a lot of that is owing — somewhat surprisingly — to the Dark Knight, which is something we haven’t seen much on film. “It’s my turn,” he says as he he takes aim at a rampaging Parademon foot soldier in one of his assault vehicles, signaling that “Justice League” (mercifully) isn’t taking itself too seriously, and is indeed responding the audience. DC may even be adopting a meta approach, a la “Logan,” with such a direct attitude. We also get a look at J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, who teases Batman about “playing well with others again” when he sees the League meeting. Aquaman then comments on Batman’s costume with “I dig it!” before the Caped Crusader retorts to Gordon, “May be temporary.” That sums up how immense the tonal shift is, especially given that Affleck’s character was so intense, rage-driven and vindictive in “Batman v Superman.”
It must be noted that while there’s an Iron Man-meets-Nick Fury feel to this Batman, this trailer’s tone tends more to James Gunn’s “Galaxy of the Guardians” in terms of vibe. You can see Snyder is intent on balancing blockbuster spectacle with humor on an even larger scale, as we watch the details of the invasion by Apokolips come into focus.
Of course, it simply wouldn’t be a Snyder movie without grandeur, and that box does get ticked off here: Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman demonstrate the scope of their superpowers. This heavy emotive weight is repeated in other scenes, as seen with Barry visiting his father in jail, our first glimpse at Mera, and Vic’s father experiencing the power of a Mother Box. Even the Amazons and Atlanteans get their time in the limelight to remind us that DC movies will go to war differently than those from Marvel Studios. The previous two “Captain America” movies and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” definitely shifted the tone away from their Marvel’s signature lighthearted approach, and now it appears “Justice League” is occupying that same artistic space when it comes to mood.
This new aesthetic will surely please DC’s comic fans, as the team’s chemistry does come off like something Geoff Johns wrote. Aquaman riding on the Batmobile like a cowboy, with Batman’s nod of approval sending him leaping to take out Parademons, is another prime example. The story and overall essence of this new peek feels adjusted yet inclusive, and constructing as opposed to deconstructing. The narrative, like any good comic book event, finally feels like one that’s having fun; it’s a refreshing breath of air. The hard-rock cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together” couldn’t be a more perfect track to emphasize this.
Snyder told us that there would be more than a laugh or two ringing out when the League finally united. Well, now we’re true believers.
Arriving Nov. 17, “Justice League” stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen Queen Hippolyta and J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.