With the release of DC and Warner Brothers’ Justice League, many fans are wary. Aside from Wonder Woman, the DCEU has been critically panned, and Justice League has had its own share of production troubles. Who’s to say how the film will turn out, but if it flops, it wouldn’t be the first time Warner Brothers has messed up the Justice League. There are quite a few examples of Justice League media produced by Warner Brothers being critically panned. Even the ones that are somewhat well received still managed to change just a bit too much about the superhero team, sometimes veering from what makes them heroes.
From straight-to-DVD animated movies to weird TV appearances, the Justice League has had an up and down career with Warner Brothers. We all love Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, but they are just two entries in a long list of Warner Brothers Justice League productions. JL and JLU are amazing shows, and they deserve the praise they receive, but other Justice League productions aren’t so lucky. We here at CBR decided to log through every Warner Brothers Justice League production and find the flops. Here are the 15 times Warner Brothers got the Justice League Wrong.
15. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (1997 PILOT)
The Justice League roster has varied in the comics over time, with a few core members acting as mainstays. In other words, as long as you have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, then you’re already on the right track to getting the Justice League right. However, it seems the 1997 Justice League of America pilot didn’t get this memo, since the lineup consisted of Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, The Atom, the Flash and Martian Manhunter.
Now, to be fair, it’s not like you need to have some sort of “traditional” Justice League lineup to be good, and theses heroes might have been chosen because their powers would be cheaper to create for TV. However, the lineup wasn’t the only problem of the pilot, which was so bad it was aired as a TV movie with no intentions of a full series getting picked up.
Smallville can kind of be summed up as “watered down DC,” meaning characters and events that were beloved in the comics became unrecognizable and cheap under the show’s weird format. Don’t get us wrong, Smallville had its charm, especially in the early seasons, but as time went on, everything that happened just felt like the poor-man’s DC universe. This method of “almost superhero” TV storytelling is something that would eventually be explored on Gotham and the Arrowverse.
One of the most watered down parts of the show was the Justice League. In Season 6, the heroes that we had been introduced to over the course of the series finally came together in “Justice,” and it wasn’t pretty. The costumes looked horrible (and leathery), the episode was underwhelming and it marked a major low point for the show.
13. MORTAL KOMBAT VS. DC UNIVERSE
Oh man, how did this one even come about? Seriously, think about how different the two worlds are; Mortal Kombat is violent, bloody and dark, and DC is a world where anything can happen, one that’s mostly optimistic. How did the “family friendly” world of DC superheroes get mixed with fatalities?! Regardless of how, Mortal Kombat VS. DC Universe happened, and it got the Justice League completely wrong.
For one thing, the game hit all the old cliches of crossovers, the two world fighting when they should be teaming up, something the Justice League probably wouldn’t do, especially to enemies they could decimate easily. The most obvious divergence from the usual Justice League MO was the violence of the game. Sure, it wasn’t rated mature like other Mortal Kombat games, but it was still pretty brutal.
12. SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES
Not a lot of people remember Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and for good reason. The straight-to-DVD animated film diverged from other DC animated movies, incorporating a somewhat anime-inspired style that didn’t work too well in its favor. The film follows Batman and Superman as they become enemies of the state after Lex Luthor is elected president, which is based on the first arc of the Superman/Batman comic.
Luthor sends a version of the Justice league after the two heroes to capture them, which is what the story gets wrong about the Justice League. The heroes sent after Batman and Superman aren’t actually referred to as the Justice League, but they’re all characters that have been members, and portraying them as dogs of the government kind of sullies their name as superheroes. Sure, the movie was based on a comic book, but the Justice League is still pretty poorly represented.
11. YOUNG JUSTICE
What? How could this be? We don’t like Young Justice?! No no, it’s not that at all, Young Justice is a fantastic show and we’re just as excited for the third season revival as you are. However, as great as the show was, the Justice League was sort of, shall we say different than past iterations. And by “different” we mean they were kind of jerks.
Let’s start with Superman who, for no reason, just completely dismisses Superboy, giving him “daddy issues.” And let’s not forget that the Justice League, an organization of supposedly rational, responsible adults, constantly puts the team in danger with life-threatening secret missions, danger that the young heroes aren’t always aware of. If all that wasn’t bad enough, the League also seems to be a pretty entitled, exclusive club, complete with secret meetings and rules.
10. THE ARROWVERSE
The Justice League hasn’t ever actually made an appearance on any of the Arrowverse TV shows, but that’s sort of the problem. Shows like Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, similar to Smallville, are kind of watered down versions of our favorite superheroes. Don’t get us wrong, The Arrowverse has its merits, some of the shows are pretty consistently good, but the world feels rather sparse when it comes adapting DC comics, especially the Justice League.
Let’s look at which League members have shown up in the Arrowverse, there’s Green Arrow, The Flash, The Atom, the Hawks, Supergirl, Firestorm and Vixen just to name a few. Again, the name “Justice League” has never been thrown around, but the members of the League that have managed to show up in the CW universe are pretty watered down versions of the heroes, and the team ups don’t really help matters.
9. INJUSTICE GAMES
Perhaps the strangest thing about Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe is that it paved the way for the Injustice Games, an even stranger divergence for the Justice League. Though a DC universe fighting game makes sense, the story mode ends up veering a bit too far from Justice League norms. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of experimentation, and the concept of an alternate, evil Justice League universe is nothing new, but there’s something about a fighting game that just feels off.
Now, we’re not so nit-picky that we’d get mad that allies are fighting in a fighting game, since thats how those work usually, but the overly violent, overly dark story and setting don’t feel at home with the Justice League. The kind of darkness in the Injustice Games is the very same dark storytelling and visuals that are making fans wary of the upcoming Justice League movie.
8. JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR
Justice League: War marked the end of the pre-reboot DC animated movies, standing as the first adaption of the New 52. War adapts the first story arc of Geoff Johns’ New 52 Justice League comic, and it’s not great. The biggest disappointment of the film has to be the visual style, which is stiff and stylized in unappealing ways. The art style of War is similar to that of Young Justice, but modified a bit too much.
Aside from the visuals, War’s writing is rather monotonous and stale, the elements not coming together as nicely as one might like. To make things worse, this movie launched a whole slew of other less-than-stellar New 52 Justice League films, each one darker and bleaker than the last.
7. JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS
Perhaps the strangest part of Justice League War is that Aquaman in the comics was switched out for Shazam in the movie. To make it even weirder, the follow up Justice League film, Throne of Atlantis, ended up focusing on the very hero they left out. Throne of Atlantis was also adapted from a Geoff Johns comic, and like War, it ends up being overly dark and chaotic.
One of the biggest criticisms of the film was that the Justice League cartoon had already managed to visit Aquaman’s origins in a two-part episode, executing it far better than Throne of Atlantis. Other critics said that Aquaman is the most boring character in his own movie, and that the inclusion of the Justice League was unnecessary. Throne of Atlantis doesn’t stand as a good example of a Justice League movie mostly because the Justice League seems pointless in it.
6. BATMAN UNLIMITED
Some fans might not have heard of this particular franchise, and maybe that’s for the better. Batman Unlimited was a toyline introduced in 2015 that spawned a cartoon franchise consisting of three animated movies. The first two movies Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts and Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem included a few Justice League Members, enough to consider them Justice League movies.
Animal Instincts features Green Arrow and The Flash, along with Bat-family members Red Robin and Nightwing, turning the film into a team movie of sorts. However, along with Monster Mayhem — which also features Cyborg — these films feel, in a word, toyetic. Sure, they’re fun at times, but feel like more a toy commercial than a labor of love, leaving a lot to be desired with this representation of the Justice League.
5. JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS
Don’t take this one too seriously, since it’s kind of obvious that Gods and Monsters is supposed to be an alternate take on the DC trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Gods and Monsters portrays the League as a syndicate that maintains peace through force, replacing the usual heroes with alternate versions. Batman is a vampire, Wonder Woman is from Apokalips, and Superman is the son of Zod.
This dark, alternate take on the Justice League was pretty well received, and for good reason, Gods and Monsters has strong characters and an interesting, exciting plot. However, with all that said, it’s not really the Justice League, since they don’t exactly bring justice to the world, just order. An interesting alternate take, but it’s not the classic league, even if thats a good thing.
4. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Comic book fans are rather split on Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the harsh truth is that it was a critical failure, and its depiction of the Justice League is objectively weak. To start, Batman’s motivations to fight Superman are shaky at best, not to mention he straight up kills criminals and uses guns, two major betrayals of the character. Superman isn’t any better, a brooding psychopath that deals out more destruction than good.
As for the rest of the league, they’re forcibly shoehorned in to the film in what is perhaps the worst scene in Batman V. Superman. Each hero is given little more than a two-minute video-clip displaying their powers or origins. Then the Flash weirdly shows up in one of the film’s many dream sequences. Wether you like BvS or not, you have to admit it fumbled the Justice League.
3. JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS
After Man of Steel and BvS, dark superhero stories started to take over film and TV, as did superheroes fighting each other. An example of both came in the form of the direct-to-video animated movie, Justice League Vs. Teen Titans. This movie not only managed to mess up the Justice League, but the Teen Titans as well. The plot is inconsequential, simply a way to setup why the two teams are fighting.
The film mainly focuses on the Titans, specifically Raven and her relationship with her demonic father, Trigon. The Justice League barely comes in to play and once again feels like they are included for star power more than anything. The League is shoehorned in and the film’s art style, the style of the other New 52 movies, still feels off. Definitely a miss for the Justice League.
2. THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
This is another one not to take too seriously, since the wacky world of The Lego Batman Movie is clearly a satirical take on the DC universe. Lego Batman is a comedy through and through, flipping Batman and Gotham on its head into a fresh, hilarious story. This Batman is obsessed with himself, part of what pushes others away from him, including the Justice League, who leave him out of all their fun.
In one scene, we see just how little the League likes Batman, illustrated by the party they are having without him. The League dances and has a grand old time, something that Batman has a hard time covering his jealousy of. Though it’s meant to parody the DC universe, we’re glad this isn’t how the Justice League actually acts.
1. JUSTICE LEAGUE
Though it has yet to come out, both comics and film fans are wary of the upcoming Justice League film, and with good reason. The film has had a myriad of production issues, delays and the final trailer was underwhelming. Who’s to say how the film will turn out, but from what we know about it, things aren’t looking good.
After the departure of Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon took over directing, making a lot of changes along the way. Now, this might seem like a good thing, but nothing kills a film like two directors’ visions colliding. On another note, Superman has been almost completely left out of the marketing, and while we know he’s alive, this absence might mean he’s in very little of the film. We’ll have to wait and see, but Justice League and the DCEU’s future isn’t looking good.
Which one do you think was the worst interpretation of the League? Let us know in the comments!
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