By now a lot of fans have probably heard about the negative critical reception to Justice League. The film has its flaws, but while it’s not quite the epic some of us expected it to be, it does have its memorable moments. Is it enough to save the DCEU? Of that, no one can be sure, but there’s always reason to be optimistic. A change of creative direction, a little more lighting here and there, and you might have something as exciting and fun as the beloved source material the films are trying to adapt.
Justice League is a mixed bag, mostly because we’re not sure if it gives us hope for the DC Extended Universe or if it’s the bringer of the end times for the film universe. We’re going to take a look at all the great elements and all the abysmal flaws, to see if we should await future films with eager anticipation or if we should dread their arrival,. After all, you just know you’ll be too curious to resist seeing the film debut of your favorite DC superheroes, regardless of how awful they look in the trailers.
15. DOOM: GRITTY ATMOSPHERE
The DCEU is infamous for how dark they all seem to be. Darkness and destruction makes sense when it comes to villains like Zod but does our man of steel have to be as brooding as Batman? The problem with that kind of atmosphere is that it shows how these films take themselves too seriously. It’s fine to comment on deeper things like the flaws of human nature and the paradoxes of faith, but these are still superhero films we’re supposed to be watching and the DCEU seems to forget that at times.
Superman needs to lighten up and Batman needs to… well, all things considered, he can probably keep brooding, just as long as he doesn’t do it on camera as often as he did in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s much better in Justice League, but that’s for another reason entirely, one we’ll get to soon enough.
14. HOPE: LIGHTER TONE
If there’s one thing to note about Justice League, it’s that the film is much more lighthearted than most of the films that came before it, clearly taking notes from Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. There’s a lot more humor in it, running alongside all the typical brooding and destruction. That makes the film a lot more balanced, which is great, considering how difficult it was to swallow the aesthetically (and tonally) tenebrous, Dawn of Justice.
It’s clear that the filmmakers have learned their lesson: that Snyder’s penchant for all things dark and destructive isn’t always the way to go with these films. Wonder Woman and Justice League give us hope that future films will follow suit and give us something relatively happier than the DCEU’s murky beginnings.
13. DOOM: HUMOR ISN’T THEIR THING
We loved the Flash as the comic relief in Justice League. He’s fun, fast and he provides a welcome levity to the film on a level we’re used to, it’s just too bad that with him and with the other characters, a lot of it seems out of place at times and doesn’t mesh well with the overall atmosphere. We can appreciate the film’s attempts at introducing a larger amount of humor to the franchise, they just need to keep practising.
It’s no wonder, however, since Joss Whedon took control of the film after Snyder’s departure, that there would be some sort of imbalance here. Then again, Suicide Squad (directed by David Ayer) also suffered from a slew of jokes and bits that were complete misses. It’s probably best not to expect a lot of great humor from future films.
12. HOPE: SUPERMAN’S CHARACTER
Oddly enough, after Man of Steel, there wasn’t a lot of hope for Superman as a character in the DCEU. Many dreaded his dispiriting personality in the films to follow and it was something that stuck with him until his death in Dawn of Justice. The filmmakers gave us assurances that when Superman returned in Justice League, he’d be the symbol of hope we all wanted him to be. By god, they were right.
Clark Kent is resurrected in Justice League but his sombre tone stays dead and buried. He cracks jokes, he smiles more and he seems to be just a little more fun, like when he rescues way more people than The Flash or races him in the mid-credits. That’s the Superman we all recognize and it gives us reason to hope that future appearances will be more faithful to the hopeful, compassionate Superman that many of us grew up with.
11. DOOM: LACKLUSTER VILLAINS
There’s a saying that a film or hero is only as good as its villain and the DCEU has had a plethora of lackluster villains. The most recent of these is Steppenwolf, who appears in Justice League and pretty much goes off doing typical villainous things: unleashing an army, destroying the world, all that jazz. Before that, there was Enchantress, who seemed mysterious at first but then almost immediately turned into your typical world-ending goddess.
That’s all fine if a film wants to focus on its heroes, but for the most part, it seems like a waste. Steppenwolf was supposed to be the finer point of a grander design, but he mentions Darkseid and the New Gods once in passing under the guise of your average evil monologue, then never returns to expand on the subject. The DCEU must learn from other comic book film villains and offer a little more depth.
10. HOPE: INTRODUCTION OF BETTER VILLAINS
We know that there are plans to introduce some fantastic villains to the DCEU. Aside from Darkseid, there’s the promise of Black Adam, who will be played by Dwayne Johnson. If you know who Black Adam is, you’ll know that he’s more noble than traditional heroes though still far from being good. Both of these villains already sound better than all the baddies we’ve seen so far, and with such rich backstories, it’ll be difficult for the DCEU to get these wrong-doers, well, wrong.
If that’s not enough, those who stayed until the end of Justice League would have seen the introduction of Deathstroke (played by Joe Manganiello), who reportedly will star in his own film as part of the DCEU. That may just be enough to make up for the villains this film universe got horribly wrong.
9. DOOM: CLASSIC VILLAINS DONE WRONG
Zod was a bit dull in Man of Steel but then, so was most of Man of Steel. The film did pretty much adapt the essential points of Zod. He was a megalomaniac who survived the destruction of Krypton because he’d been exiled to the Phantom Zone, as per his classic origins. All things considered, this was a villain they got right. So how is it that they got so many other villains so wrong?
The Lex Luthor we got was far more eccentric than the character from which it was adapted and the Joker we got in Suicide Squad was nothing short of divisive, in both design and execution. Many fans felt that DC got these villains so wrong and it burdened their respective films. If the DCEU continues to warp classic villains so badly, it might be a sign that the future of this film universe is bleak.
8. HOPE: BEN AFFLECK’S BATMAN
Aside from the murderous rampages he went on in Dawn of Justice, this adaptation of Batman is the best we’ve ever had on film. Keeping in mind that this version of Bruce Wayne has been the Dark Knight for 20 years and has had to endure the likes of the Joker, Penguin and a city that refuses to stop coughing up psychotic criminals, it makes sense that he’d be this cynical and brooding. Note that we said it makes sense, not that it makes for a great film hero.
That’s what Justice League tweaks just a bit. You might have noticed that Batman isn’t as violent as he was and that the more he works with others, the more hopeful he seems. That’s a great sign for the DCEU and for Batman’s growth, as it shows us that working with Wonder Woman or Superman might make him lighten up just enough for us to recognize him as the hero many of us grew up with, the one with that famous one rule.
7. DOOM: UNRELATABLE CHARACTERS
One of the most glaring problems with the DCEU is that none of its characters are relatable. While other superhero films you see feature heroes trying to cope with their powers and internal demons, most of the DCEU’s superheroes are basically godlike beings coming to terms with humanity. That’s not really something we mere mortals can relate to or really understand.
It makes it that much harder for us to connect with the characters, so while it’s all still awesome to watch when they’re in battle, it’s difficult to really empathize with them in defeat, which is what we’re able to do for other, more critically successful superhero films. It keeps the characters from being compelling and the films from being more than what they could be. It would be fine if the action scenes were exciting enough, but unfortunately… they just aren’t.
6. HOPE: WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman is the one character who has been executed on screen perfectly. Wonder Woman might have single-handedly saved the DCEU. We can already see how the well-received tone and humor of the film influenced Justice League and how fantastically portrayed her character was, ensuring that the character remains popular, in spite of the rest of the DCEU.
Her presence almost guarantees a very human warmth and brighter tone in future films, which might be enough to inspire hope in fans again, especially if other characters begin to follow her lead. Characters such as Superman who, in the comics, is known for being an inspiring hero based on his compassion and small-town values, could learn wonders from her. Wonder Woman proves that not everything in that universe has to keep being dark and gritty.
5. DOOM: RELIANCE ON MESSY CGI BATTLES
In Man of Steel, half of Metropolis was completely flattened along with two other areas across the globe. In Dawn of Justice, Batman leads Doomsday back to a conveniently abandoned port where almost everything seems ready to explode. Even Wonder Woman features a messy CGI battle between Diana and Ares. They’re all dark, gloomy and fast-paced, making them almost exhausting to watch, especially since you can barely tell what’s what in all the murkiness.
This is by no means a problem exclusive to the DCEU, its tone just makes it all worse. It doesn’t help that these battles have a tendency to last much longer than they need to, so when you think back to what you just watched, it tends to be just one long blur of rubble, fire, explosions and punches that are difficult to keep track of at times. Was that Doomsday you just saw or a bit of rubble? Who knows? With so many flaws already riddling the DCEU films, the prospect of sitting through yet another messy CGI battle may be too much for some of us to bear.
4. HOPE: INTRODUCTION OF IMPROVED HEROES
If nothing else, the superheroes of the DCEU have style. Lots of it. Certain characters such as Superman and Wonder Woman have depth going for them too, which is why we’re still looking forward to the DCEU’s inevitable introduction of Green Lantern to the film universe. We’re certain he’s going to look great and convey just a little more complexity than last time.
What do we mean by “last time?” The last adaptation of Green Lantern was poorly received, to say the least. That’s part of the reason why it was so exciting to see the existence of the Green Lantern Corps in Justice League. Where filmmakers of Green Lantern seemed to be reckless with the characters, fans can rest assured that the DCEU will take Green Lantern a little more seriously since seriousness seems to be what it’s excessively good at.
3. DOOM: POOR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
Every single superhero in the DCEU pretty much starts out with powers and their films never spend any time exploring those powers or how their heroes feel about having them. The closest it has come to doing that was in Man of Steel, which was effectively compelled to do so only by the nature of Clark Kent as a character. The audience is left unable to explore the psyche of characters such as Bruce Wayne, Harley Quinn, Deadshot and others because their respective films seem more focused on the cool things they can do.
It disconnects the characters from the audience and acts as little more than evidence that the minds behind the DCEU seem to think comic fans just love seeing superheroes fly off and hit things without ever getting to know the why and how of it. If that doesn’t change, then the DCEU is well and truly doomed.
2. HOPE: OVERARCHING STORY
There is an obvious plan here. The intent is to unite all these heroes and pit them against Darkseid. We’ve known that since Batman had a vision featuring a gigantic omega symbol, carved into the ground in front of the ruins of a city back in Dawn of Justice. That’s exciting stuff for any DC fan.
The DCEU has a clear purpose and it helps these films connect. It makes things like Steppenwolf’s invasion in Justice League feel a little less like a video game boss fight waiting to happen and more like a small thread in a grander design, which in turn makes all his flaws as a film character a little more forgivable. In fact, the promise of a grander threat like Darkseid makes it that much more tempting to see this all through to the end specifically because all these heroes and villains might serve a larger purpose. That’s enough to give us hope that the culmination of it all will be worth it.
1. DOOM: RUSHED UNIVERSE CONSTRUCTION
The DCEU might know where it’s going, but it seems to be rushing through it at an amazing pace. Unfortunately, it’s not going especially well. A large array of characters and concepts are shown in the universe with only a brief introduction as to what they are and what they do. Their importance is assumed rather than properly informed.
Just take the motherboxes, for example. In the comics, motherboxes are sentient supercomputers used by the New Gods for a wide variety of things. Justice League quickly introduces motherboxes but depicts them as vague sources of extremely nebulous power. Then there’s Batman’s vision in Dawn of Justice. Maybe the intent behind them was to keep audiences wondering and suspecting Superman, but after that messy sequence is over, the DCEU never returns to it. If that vision had any effect on Batman at all, it’s never shown. The film seemed to rush through any kind of character building scenes to get to action sequences, which is what the entirety of the DCEU seems to be doing in its journey toward Darkseid. That rush will most certainly be its downfall.
Do you think there is still hope for the DCEU or do you think the franchise is doomed? Let us know in the comments!
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