It took until 2017 but we finally have both an Avengers and a Justice League movie. Both movies revolved around an exiled villain who tried to conquer the world with one or more infinitely powerful cubes and an evil alien army, which could only be stopped by uniting the world’s greatest superheroes. Even if the movies hadn’t shared so many common elements, we’d still be nitpicking every detail of the MCU and the DCEU’s team-up movies to decide which is better in a every way. That’s what Marvel and DC fans do, even if the reviews and the box office totals are obviously swinging to one side.
While we may have a definite winner (depending on who you talk to), neither movie completely dominated in every single aspect, which is yet another reason why we’ll still probably be fighting about it for a while. One had better use of characters, the other has better dynamics within their superhero team. One had a better villain, and the other had a better evil army. To fan the flames of the fan fighting, we’ve put together a list eight of things that Justice League did better than The Avengers, and seven things it did worse.
15. BETTER: REASON FOR INVASION
If we’re looking purely at the reason why the earth was attacked, Justice League certainly comes out on top. In Justice League, earth is the only world ever to repel Steppenwolf’s attack. After suffering a humiliating defeat, the villain vows to return and cause devastation when the time is right. So the invasion we’re seeing is 1000+ years in the making and couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
Switch over to The Avengers, and while Loki wanted to invade the earth to rule it, his real motivation is to get back at Thor. Now the real power behind the invasion is Thanos, but he isn’t interested in the world — he wants the Infinity Stone. Take the Tesseract somewhere else (the moon, Asgard, doesn’t really matter) and the only reason you have to conquer earth is an Asgardian grudge match.
14. WORSE: VILLAIN
Steppenwolf might have had a better reason for attacking earth, but he doesn’t come anywhere close to matching Loki as a villian. Sure Steppenwolf was evil, and he was powerful enough to beat up the Justice League before Superman showed up. At the same time, he came across as a generic and overly GCI bad guy that we never learned much about, apart from why he hated earth.
Compare that to the Loki, the villain who managed to steal everyone’s heart. We had a previous movie to get acquainted with him, and we loved what saw. He was devious and ready to kill at the drop of a hat, but we loved him in spite of it. He was a charming, complicated character who failed to conquer the world, but managed to fail with style. He also caught an arrow, which apparently is more impressive than catching a missile.
13. BETTER: TEAM DYNAMICS/FIGHTS
As far as striking that balance between conflict and camaraderie, Justice League had the best approach by far. They weren’t all happy to be there in the beginning, but they still tried to be a team. They made fun of each other, but they also supported each other. Their disagreements were about important issues (like resurrecting people), the fighting was justified (Pet Sematary Superman) and most group tension was natural (right after defeat).
Flash over to The Avengers, and basically no one wants to be there. They verbally and physically fight with each other so much you wonder if they’ll save anything for that half hour fight scene. Any hint of camaraderie is isolated in pairs. By time the Avengers are even a semblance of a team, there are like two scenes left, so we only see how they fight as a team, not how they act.
12. WORSE: BACKSTORIES
Justice League and The Avengers took two very different routes when it came to setting up characters. All six Avengers had appeared in an MCU movie before 2012, so we had a good idea of who these heroes were. By the end of the movie, the only character who hadn’t had a proper introduction was Hawkeye, but what we did know about him was straightforward and made sense.
Over in the DCEU, Justice League introduced three new heroes. This isn’t automatically a problem, but there wasn’t enough time to introduce these characters, and some of the hasty introductions were confusing. While we may have learned a enough about the Flash and Aquaman to be content until their solo movies come out, Cyborg’s story was half-baked and had a discombobulated presentation. Justice League didn’t necessarily need more movies to set up their characters, but more screen-time and clarity would help.
11. BETTER: FLASHBACK SCENE
What’s a superhero movie without a flashback scene? In The Avengers, we see flashbacks of Captain America crashing his plane, and then a few seconds of when he was thawing out. It was short and we’d seen most it before in Captain America: The First Avenger, but it filled in a few gaps and gave us an idea a what Cap was trying to deal with.
In Justice League, the flashback of Steppenwolf’s first attack is arguably the best scene in the entire movie. The full scale battle is complete with a red sky, Amazons, Atlantans, Green Lanterns, and even some of the Old Gods. The scene is informative and visually stunning, and also gave an amazing introduction to the Green Lanterns. There’s nothing really bad about the flashback in The Avengers, but it doesn’t come close to the Justice League flashback, either.
10. WORSE: INTRODUCTION OF GROUP
Did anyone else notice that a movie called Justice League never actually mentioned the Justice League? The closest we came to it was a post credit scene where Lex Luthor mentions Superman is setting up “some sort of league.” Do they actually have a name? Does anybody know they exist? Their major battle was in a nearly deserted area of Russia, so it might take more than an article from Lois Lane to get the word out.
Despite being called a “super secret boy band,” the Avengers were in the public eye almost immediately. They had already adopted their name before their first battle and by time they finished saving New York (and the world), everyone knew who the Avengers were. That should be the plan if you’re supposed to be a symbol of protection and hope, so…how’s the Justice League planning on going public?
9. BETTER: EVIL ARMY
Both movies went the mindless evil army route, although one was a bit more impressive than the other. In The Avengers, the Chitauri soldiers are not that formidable. Sure, their flying ship creatures were hard to destroy, but the actual foot soldiers fall very easily, even for the heroes with no superpowers or armor.
The Parademons appear to be much stronger than the Chitauri. Batman in his super suit has a hard time wrestling with just one, and two of the creatures easily rip off parts of the Batmobile. They can fly, and can smell if someone’s been in proximity to a Mother Box. They feed on fear (which backfired, but it was still cool), and you can also make more of them from the people they had already killed. In a fight between the two armies, the Parademons would have won.
8. WORSE: GOVERNMENT/SECRET ORGANIZATIONS
When Justice League begins, Superman is dead, and Parademons have already appeared on earth. Sightings of aliens typically cue some sort of government investigation, but instead, we get reporters making light of the situation and the local authorities wondering if Batman is now a kidnapper. Where is the government? Where is Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad? Where is any authority or group who normally monitors the world for this kind of activity?
The Justice League didn’t have an ever-present organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. working to form their team, and perhaps that’s why they didn’t fight as much as the Avengers did. At the same time, it’s absolutely ridiculous to think that every military, espionage, and other government agency didn’t detect a threat or decided not to take action. The Avengers clearly wins on this front.
7. BETTER: OVERALL VISUAL APPEAL
There are a couple of reasons why Justice League is more fun to look at than The Avengers. The first is an unfair advantage, as it was made much later and its visual effects (although a bit overused) are more sophisticated (for example, Flash’s Speed Force was pretty impressive). The Justice League costumes are on point, while in The Avengers, Hawkeye doesn’t look anything like he should and Tony Stark is making fun of the way Captain America looks.
Both movies had varied locations, but the Justice League locations were more distinct (apocalyptic, underwater, etc.). And can we forget the army of yellow Taxi cabs that went flying during The Avengers biggest fight scene? Justice League should get bonus points just for having a normal assortment of cars.
6. WORSE: BALANCED TONE
As far as tone, Justice League was a tad imbalanced. They tried so hard to give it that fun, humorous air that MCU movies are famous for, but that wasn’t what we ended up with. Justice League may have had enough light moments to make us wonder if it actually was part of the DCEU, but these moments didn’t always gel well with the overall tone of sadness, fear, and chaos brought about by Superman’s death.
In classic Marvel style, the humor in The Avengers fit right in with the rest of the movie, despite the death and impending danger. It’s not surprising that DC tried to take a page out of Marvel’s book and mimic this, but the DCEU still has a long way to go.
5. BETTER: BRAINWASHED/CONFUSED TEAM MEMBER
In both Justice League and The Avengers, one team member isn’t part of the initial assembling and ends up fighting one or more of the other heroes before he come to his senses (literally). In The Avengers, it’s the brainwashed Hawkeye, who spends most of the movie working for Loki. In Justice League, it’s the newly resurrected “Pet Sematary” Superman, who goes head-to-head with the rest of the Justice League.
While brainwashed Hawkeye serves a purpose, it also keeps him from the screen-time and character development the least developed Avenger could have used. In Superman’s case, the initial confusion after coming back from the dead made perfect sense, and as he was already an established character, it was alright if he didn’t get as much screen-time as some of the newer heroes.
4. WORSE: STORY PACE/PROGRESSION
Justice League is just a little less than two hours long, The Avengers is just a little more than two hours, and the paces of the two movies are drastically different. The Avengers is pretty well paced, while things are moving way too fast in Justice League.
The DC movie had three new heroes and a villain to introduce in under two hours, and while we don’t want a plot to lag, we don’t want to feel like things are choppy and rushed or that the main characters haven’t had time to be adequately introduced. It’s not surprising that fans have been clamoring for a director’s cut, as Justice League needed more time to tell its story well.
3. BETTER: FIGHT SCENE LENGTH/NECESSITY
While we expect epic fight scenes in a superhero movie, there also comes a point where the fighting gets a little redundant. The Avengers comes pretty close to this point, with its final fight scene nearly half an hour long. The two movies have a similar number of fight scenes consisting of a few skirmishes, one longer attack that doesn’t end well, and a ridiculously long final battle. If you watch these movie back to back though, you’ll find the Justice League fights don’t seem nearly as long or redundant.
It might be because the movie is shorter, but most of the fight scenes aren’t what you could call casual, either. We aren’t watching Thor and Iron Man clash to see who’d win, or Cap and Loki banter back and forth while Loki plans on losing, we’re seeing Atlanteans and Amazons die guarding the Mother Box and Batman hunting aliens.
2. WORSE: USEFULNESS OF HEROES
While the Justice League fight scenes have a little less drag, they also beg the question of whether or not we need a Justice League. The team is never successful until Superman joins the fight, and then everything is over in a flash. Superman saves all but four of the civilians, and while Aquaman and Wonder Woman deal most of the blows, Superman beats Steppenwolf up and freezes him before they really do any damage.
In contrast, the Battle of New York wouldn’t gone as smoothly without all six Avengers. You take out one Avenger, and civilians die, too many Chitauri come out of the portal, the portal doesn’t get closed, or a nuke wipes out New York. The Avengers had some heavy hitters, but they still needed the rest of their team to be successful, which is kind of the point of a team movie.
1. BETTER: EXPANSION OF CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
While The Avengers was unquestionably better set up than Justice League, it didn’t expand the MCU the way Justice League expanded the DCEU. By the end of The Avengers, the only new players were the Chitauri and Thanos. While Thanos and the implied set up for the Infinity War was an amazing expansion of the MCU, what we saw in Justice League grew the DCEU exponentially.
We’ve moved from a world that had only interacted with Themyscira and Krypton to one that has seen Atlanteans, New Gods, Parademons, and Green Lanterns. It set up an introduction for Darkseid, and the formation of the Injustice League. Justice League certainly had its flaws, but it gave the DCEU has so many opportunities and possible directions to move in.
Do you agree or disagree with us? Let us know in the comments!
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