17 November 2017


Today we see the opening of what should be a pretty huge event. Finally - the Justice League on the big screen!

Why is it, then, that no one seems to care? Maybe it's that awful Disney monopoly and Marvel bias that runs rampant across the Internet (bollocks). Maybe it's tough coming off a really good superhero year and it's easy to get overshadowed by THOR: Ragnarok (2017). Again, blaming Marvel, although it's worth pointing out that when I talked about how good 2017 is for superhero movies I literally DID NOT EVEN THINK OF JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017).

Of course Snyder needed a really jacked
Commissioner Gordon for some reason
I always preview these big movies trying to ascertain some kind of cultural context. To be honest, I was surprised that Justice League was coming out today. It feels like it should have been out months ago, right? It's almost like the DC Hype Machine is too strong. It's exhausting. We've seen trailers for so long that the green screen has changed during the scene where Aquaman lands on the Batmobile. Now there's way more fire. To be fair, Ragnarok did this, too, with a fairly iconic scene of Hela destroying Mjolner (that's not really a spoiler, it's the centerpiece of the trailer and film, happening like 15 minutes in) changing from Asgard to a random field.

This digresses besides the point. I don't really think I'm bias towards one studio or another, but I also have eyes and I've seen these damn movies. I actually never watched Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), because it looked far too stupid, then I read about that Martha thing and was just out. But I've seen all of both studio's other films in theaters, and I clearly didn't care for Ragnarok that much, so hopefully you can see some balance here.

This is all to say that, damn DCEU films are such hot fucking garbage. Wonder Woman (2017) is the clear outlier in terms of quality, and it seems like everyone (ESPECIALLY Warner Bros) knows it. Zack Snyder being the core champion of this entire overextended franchise is one of the more obvious bad calls in movie history, but the production of this film gets kind of muddled.

Now, his family faced a true and devastating tragedy that ultimately led Zack to step away from the film. Still, Warner Bros so quickly replacing him with Joss "That Man's Playing Galaga" Whedon seems like such a chase for the few leftover magical bits from The Avengers (2012) that they can possibly grab. Both these directors have very contrary styles, though. Snyder formed the DCEU through his dark and brooding colour palette and intense comic-driven Frank Miller-esque imagery. Whedon drove the current Marvel style of bright colours, witty banter, and a mix of realism and silliness. Did I just say The Avengers was realist? Realist in contrast to the hyper-reality of Batman v. Superman, which is super-ironic because they were originally going for Nolan-esque, right? This is all a trip, man!

In the end, who knows how this film turned out. Advance word is...suck. That's no real surprise. DC always seems to be chasing rather than innovating these days. Superhero team-up movies are in? Well, let's put ours out super-late even though we've had reliable franchises and more popular heroes for the past thirty years! Actually, Superman (1978) turns forty next year. How did we get two movies where the fucking Vision teams up with heroes before Superman did? There's also a clear tonal shift after "funny" superhero movies like not only the banter in Whedon's flicks, but Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Deadpool (2016), and yes, now Ragnarok proved to be moneymakers. They got this so wrong with Suicide Squad (2016), though. That's simply because this is all superficial. It doesn't matter of a movie has funny jokes or insane premises or whatever. What matters is if a movie is good or not - if we care about the characters, the stakes, if the plot progresses from action and reaction, and if what it presents is iconic and aesthetically pleasing with a clear sense of space, action, investment, and engagement. Non-Wonder Woman DCEU movies don't really do that, and that's why I just haven't cared about them as much as Marvel films. Marvel has its own problems, but they're legendary compared to DC's crap. I mean, look how much fun Deadpool 2 (2018) is having with its trailer this week, just trolling every body. It's confident in its product, that's why.

In addition to always having all of their properties under one neat little roof, as well as having a decades-long head start on Marvel that they totally squandered, I really can't figure out why Warner Bros keeps screwing this up. They knock other franchises like Harry Potter, IT (2017), and Mad Max out of the park. Well, maybe not that last one. Further than that, though, this group of heroes gave us the greatest string of animated series ever. From Batman: The Animated Series right on through Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, creator Bruce Timm brought a slew of stories to the small screen, all with themes adults could appreciate while still being accessible to children, full of action and character and long over-arching narratives that informed and grew each season and even from series to series. Hell, though Batman Beyond into that mix, which somehow becomes integral to JLU's ultimate conclusion. How did they get animation so right and live action so wrong?

The same goes for the latest upsurge in CW programming. They hit that line between kitsch and comic book melodrama so well while making everything grounded and believable. Why do the movies become overstylized and go off the rails? Or the better question may be, why not have Grant Gustin be the Flash here instead of Ezra Miller? Is it because the Flash kind of sort of has his own Justice League going in the Arrowverse? Or is it just that this film series wanted to do its own thing with the character? There's big bucks to be had by seeing all these heroes together, not throwing new actors at us!

And on that note, this isn't even a fully proper Justice League film since Superman is dead. Nah, there's no way Superman is actually dead, or at least he won't stay dead. This is the most obvious terrible secret in film history. It was super public that Henry Cavill had to digitally erase his moustache for fuck's sake! Supes will probably appear here, but it's going to take a bit longer for a proper Justice League team-up.

With pecs so big they're boobs!
Getting back to that Justice League animated note, I'm also struck by the villain choice. Who the hell is Steppenwolf? No one knows who Steppenwolf is. I always think back to what I know the most, and when comic knowledge gets a little rusty, it's definitely the TV shows. Characters who didn't appear in anything in the 90s or 2000s to inform my childhood definitely get blurry. There are so many damn recognizable DC big bads from over the years. Even if you didn't want to blow your wad with Darkseid right away, while go to Steppenwolf? There are plenty of other baddies on Apokolips or other New Gods to play with. Or Mongol or Imperiex or Brainiac or anyone fucking else. It seems like another huge misstep from a movie that is adding up quite a bit of them now.

This is where that tone gets muddy, too. So you want to be jollier, and that's fine, but have you seen this thing? The entire world is on fire, and I'm sure that Steppenwolf is trying to turn Earth into Apokolips, because that's what these assholes always do. Is that the time to be going nuts and screaming "Yeah!" and stabbing Parademons? The criticism comes back full circle - be fun if you want to, but Deadpool got to be fun because it was just Ryan Reynolds being a selfish asshole with no pretense for heroism.

This has all been extremely negative, I know, but I'm just not convinced this is going to be any good. Why tug at my heart strings, oh Warner Bros!? There are a few things to look forward to, though. Gal Gadot has turned into a perfect Wonder Woman, and seeing more of her, as the reshoots purportedly have done, is a good thing. Also just coming off of The Bad Batch (2017) I'm super into how insane Jason Momoa is, although that's not totally in Aquaman's character. Although, let's face it, depending on how he's written, Aquaman is either a stuck-up nerd or angry silent warrior. Momoa seems to be going for uh...bro. Just straight dude California bro. That's rad. It's a fun way to make this fish-talking character actually cool and interesting.

Financially for all the griping DCEU films tend to do fine. I wouldn't expect Avengers-level numbers, but with Ragnarok burning off a lot of demand in its first two weeks (despite a pretty damn good hold), the path is clear for a #1 opening for sure. I'm curious if there's room for two big Superhero films along with a Pixar drop next week. After that, though, the studios have REALLY cleared their schedules in anticipation of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). The path is clear for this film to do some work, even if this weekend isn't much.

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