WARNING: The following article contains SPOILERS about Warner Bros.’ Justice League and Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok, both in theaters now.
After-credits scenes have become a sort of staple of the comic book film. Ever since Marvel Studios began using them in order to build the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the tags have become recognized by fans everywhere as a reason to stick around in the theater once the credits begin to roll. Starting with 2008’s Iron Man, every one of Marvel’s movies has featured at least one after-credits scene (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had five!). Early on, back when Marvel was building phase one of the MCU, these scenes were exciting and vital teases for future developments, but of late, they’ve begun to feel less and less enticing, and more of an obligatory addition.
Enter DC’s Justice League, the fifth film in the DC Extended Universe of movies. Of the previous DCEU films, only Suicide Squad featured an after-credits scene, one that actually set the stage for Justice League. Now, not only has the latest DC film give us two tags worth sticking around for, it also managed to deliver a pair of truly compelling scenes that left us hopeful about the future of the DCEU, scenes that left us excited in a way Marvel hasn’t managed to in the last few years.
During the MCU’s first two phases of movies, Marvel gave us scenes that were truly worthy of excitement. They introduced new characters like Nick Fury, the Maximoff twins, Thor (via a first look at his hammer Mjolnir), and furthered the narrative of the universe by introducing things like the Cosmic Cube and the Infinity Stones. But in the last few years, as more and more MCU movies have been released, the after-credits scenes have begun to feel less compelling, and more like a simple beat the films are obligated to hit.
These scenes have simply become humorous bits that add nothing to the movie’s story, or by-the-numbers set-ups for sequels. Many after-credits tags are simply there to deliver a laugh, be it Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s Drax getting hit by an arrow, Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Captain America service announcement, or Thor: Ragnarok‘s Grandmaster emerging through a hateful crowd. And if the MCU isn’t trying to make us laugh, it also gives us scenes that were borrowed from other productions, like Ant-Man‘s first look at a Captain America: Civil War scene, or Doctor Strange‘s tease at the Sorcerer Supreme’s meeting with the God of Thunder.
Justice League, on the other hand, gave us something that was unexpected and satisfying, something to get everyone in the audience talking as they walk out of the theatre. The first scene, which brought the classic comic book trope of The Flash and Superman racing each other to the big screen, was a crowd-pleasing moment, for comic book fans and moviegoers alike, who can now wonder, along with their friends which of the two superheroes is actually the fastest.
The small scene between Superman and The Flash also worked to strengthen the bond between the two superheroes, but that wasn’t enough. We also got a scene that showed us the start of a different kind of alliance between Jesse Eisnberg’s Lex Luthor and fan-favorite mercenary Deathstroke. Those who weren’t expecting to see the introduction of such a big DC villain were truly dealt a stunning surprise, and Luthor’s promising words of forming a villainous league of their own was as exciting as any of MArvel’s classic after-credits teases.
This is the type of scene fans deserve, small stories that bring classic comic book homages to life or introduce surprise characters to leave us shell-shocked. It’s what the MCU started doing a long time ago, but something it appears to have forgotten as it builds from one big event to the next. Sure, seeing Thanos put on his glove or a massive ship hover over the Asgardian survivors might work into furthering the narrative of the MCU, but they didn’t leave us in anticipation of another movie in the way the Injustice League tease did.
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