During its first week in theaters, Justice League proved our suspicion that Warner Bros. needs to rethink its strategy for the DC Extended Universe. Almost everybody agrees that Justice League is the studio’s second step in the right direction (Wonder Woman was the first), but some very serious issues still need to be addressed.
We should make it clear that the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon movie is certainly entertaining, but it could have been so much better. After the movie was announced in 2014, what went wrong? More importantly, what worked in the film that should be replicated in future DCEU installments?
Check out our ideas here. But be warned that you’ll find major spoilers!
Worst: It Feels Rushed
This may be an unusual observation, since the studio announced its plans for the DCEU in 2014 and Snyder had almost 20 months to make the film. Nonetheless, Justice League is one of the most rushed comic book movies we’ve seen in some time. It’s no Suicide Squad, but it’s no Wonder Woman, either.
It can be argued that one of the film’s main problems was the number of unknown characters, in the sense that their backstories were hacked during post-production. After all, Justice League was a collaboration born out of necessity, and the work of two directors who have their own distinct styles. Finally, it lacks the epicness you’d expect from such an event, and it has a serious villain problem; the League was unnecessary from the moment Superman joined the fight.
For whatever reason, Justice League falls short in this regard. Fans are petitioning for a Snyder cut (reportedly, it would be almost three hours long). But that won't happen, because the studio won't invest any more money in this version. Just imagine how much it would cost to perfect the CGI in scenes that didn't make the theatrical cut.
At just two hours in length, Justice League was inevitably rushed. With many leaked and unfinished scenes, and numerous interviews and reveals, the end result was an unfinished movie. Unfortunately, it will remain that way.
Best: Actors and Chemistry
We don't know what a Snyder-directed Justice League would look like, but we do know that the director did an amazing job casting the superheroes! We already knew from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that Ben Affleck is an awesome Bruce Wayne/Batman. Gal Gadot was a happy surprise, both in BvS and in Wonder Woman.
Both actors were viewed as controversial choices when first announced.
The same goes for Jason Momoa (Aquaman) – who looks nothing like the superhero most fans know – and Ezra Miller (Flash). These two steal the show whenever they show up onscreen.
Ray Fisher drew the short straw as Cyborg. His role was reduced to just being there and pushing the plot forward (blame this on the theatrical cut).
The characters also have splendid chemistry when they come together and interact with each other. Dissension inevitably occurs when such strong personalities collide, as we’ve seen in virtually all superhero team-up movies, but that’s left behind when the team works as a unit.
Everybody knows what to do and when to do it, and the goal is clear. For that, Justice League deserves praise.
We know we haven't mentioned Superman (Henry Cavill), but he really has very little time to interact with the other heroes.
Worst: The CGI
When the first teaser for Justice League was released (it seems like ages ago), we understood that there hadn’t been time to finish the special effects. Then we saw the first trailer, and the problem remained. Steppenwolf's face couldn't be seen, which should have brought up some questions.
The villain was revealed later, and some said he looked as if he were part of a video game, rather than a movie with a budget of over $300 million. And that was a shame.
However, it was much worse than we thought. Obviously, bringing the villain to life via motion-capture was the worst possible decision. Then the reshoots brought back Henry Cavill and his infamous mustache.
The studio tried to downplay it with the marketing, but it was a distraction, even in what might be the movie’s best scene (League vs. Superman). We blame the extensive reshoots and studio interference. There's no reason to believe that Warner Bros. didn’t interfere, especially since the execs determined the film’s runtime.
Best: Aquaman and Flash
We know; we mentioned these two before. But that was in a different context; they were acting as team-members. But the characters also work as individuals, despite what everyone believed prior to seeing the film.
Obviously, Aquaman was the biggest question mark, given the out-of-the box choice of actor. Although he isn't the familiar Atlantean, Jason Momoa brings a kind of coolness that elevates all of his scenes. In both action and comedic sequences, the actor creates his own interesting version of the superhero. Momoa described Aquaman as a brawler who brought a different personality and style to the mix.
It's a pity that most of his backstory was left on the cutting room floor.
The Flash is undeniably Justice League’s MVP. Ezra Miller managed to perfectly capture the character's transformation from a neurotic and awkward guy into a genuine superhero who finds his own path. From this point of view, Flash is the most layered character of the group.
He also suits both casual and hardcore comic book movie fans. He’s potentially all-powerful, but is still easily impressed by the other heroes. He has what it takes to grow, and he certainly grows throughout the movie. And those Pet Sematary references worked like nothing else in any other comic book movie for us (yep, he's a geek).
Finally, he’s the star of the best moment in the entire film! You know what we’re talking about!
Worst: The Story
The story is probably the movie’s biggest flaw. On top of being rushed, it’s riddled with plot holes.
Take Steppenwolf's arrival, called by the Mother Boxes, which sensed the world’s fear after Superman died. But, really, after World Wars I and II; after several smaller wars; after the Cold War; and even after Zod's almost-successful invasion, this is when the world became fearful? When an alien they seemed to hate a couple of movies ago died?
And if Steppenwolf is transported via boom tubes to the first two Mother Boxes, why isn't he transported directly to the third? Why does he have to send scouts ahead? Was the final Mother Box necessary to resurrect Superman?
Here’s another question: Why was the Justice League standing on its own? Maybe everything happened so quickly that the world of Man had no time to react (even if the push of a button would send rockets flying). But where were the Amazons, who jumped to defend Earth ages ago? Why didn't the Atlanteans help? How did Aquaman know where to go to help the League? Where was the Green Lantern who was tasked with protecting Earth?
If the Green Lanterns knew about the Mother Boxes, why did they leave them with the weaker Earthlings when an entire Corps could have protected them?
If Superman's resurrection can be explained, how will Clark Kent return?
There are too many plot points that just don’t work in Justice League.
Best: The Credits Scenes
Some time ago, someone with DC said that there was no justification for adding credits scenes. We're so glad this view has changed!
The first credits scene brought back one of the most disliked DCEU characters ever, but it was successful because he had changed! This wasn't the Lex Luthor we’d seen in Batman v Superman. His transformation came about after his time in prison and after he acquired some knowledge on the Kryptonian ship.
This scene also introduced Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke! This is yet another example of perfect casting!
But the second credits scene stole our hearts! It didn't set up any future DCEU movie (or maybe it did), but that made it great! It was for the fans who supported all of the DCEU movies made thus far, even the most divisive!
Worst: Continuity Issues
We knew that bringing back Superman would be difficult, especially since the marketing made it clear that he was the Man of Steel from the comics this time around. But it was way more Pet Sematary than Flash said, and not just because Superman was briefly disoriented.
The Man of Steel was presented as if he were always a symbol of hope. And that wasn't the case. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was almost entirely built on the idea that the alien can’t be trusted. So Bruce Wayne's argument for bringing the hero back fell flat for us.
Batman was also a completely different character, though not to the degree that Superman was. He was no longer murderous, which was a good thing. But for someone who takes everything into account and plans every detail beforehand (as he did when he fought Superman), it seemed weird to us that he just went on a suicide mission.
As far as Wonder Woman was concerned, Gal Gadot was amazing. We'd like to add another positive here: The scene in which Wayne acted like a douche worked extremely well, both for pushing the plot ahead and for connecting with Gadot's solo flick!
Since we're talking about a shared universe, we have a question: Where was Amanda Waller, who seemingly knew as much about metahuman as Batman? Where was her Suicide Squad?
Best: Expanding the Shared Universe
Again, Justice League was the second step (although a much smaller step) in the right direction. It may lose the studio some money (many estimate $50 to $100 million), but it also presented an opportunity to rebuild everything starting from what was good in the first place.
Flashpoint should be the starting-off point. The Flash solo flick was teased in Justice League, as Barry Allen joined the force AND was set to discover new powers and abilities as he raced someone almost as fast as he is. Once they establish a multiverse, Warner Bros. can go in any direction it wants to.
Even the Deathstroke solo flick makes sense! As a matter of fact, in a multiverse, all announced projects make sense (even Superman: Red Son)!
Then there was the credit stinger, which revealed that the Injustice League, or the Legion of Doom, is coming. This is the studio's chance to make a villain-oriented movie that’s better than any previous efforts.
Did the introduction of the Green Lanterns in the first battle against Steppenwolf indicate that a Green Lantern Corps movie is coming? We don't know. But the Corps does exist! Originally, a credits scene was supposed to feature Kilowog and Tomar-Re, so it appears that Warner Bros. is seriously considering making this movie!
Worst: Cut to Pieces
Lastly – and this might be the main reason Justice League didn't work (or didn't meet fans’ expectations) – we have to mention the studio’s meddling. This has happened with other movies, so it’s really no surprise.
You may have repressed the memory, but Suicide Squad was a great example of this. David Ayer did dash off the script in just two weeks or so. There were reportedly three final cuts, so is it any wonder that Suicide Squad felt so disjointed?
The same goes for Justice League. As far as we know, Snyder had a vision for the entire shared universe, with Justice League as its crown jewel. However, when the first reports that Batman v Superman was a disaster appeared, it was announced that Justice League would be a standalone movie rather than the announced two-parter.
The fans’ disappointment in Batman v Superman prompted more changes, and Justice League was hailed as a much lighter movie. This resulted in major changes, including to characters such as Batman and Superman.
The disaster grew in scope when Snyder stepped down and Whedon signed on. This is unconfirmed, but we can safely assume that the studio ordered the extensive reshoots that brought on all of the negatives listed here.
Reportedly, Snyder's Justice League would have been three hours in length. But Warner Bros. decided to squeeze everything into 120 minutes, give or take.
Studio meddling, although they said that the DCEU was director driven? Of course.
Best: A Genuine Superhero Movie
Even after listing the movie’s negative aspects, we still consider Justice League a success. And it was an unexpected success. In spite of having two directors who had two separate visions, in spite of interference from the studio, and in spite of a drastically reduced runtime, Justice League remains one of 2017’s most entertaining movies.
When the action sequences succeeded, they hit all the right notes. When it cames to comedic moments, it was light years ahead of other movies in the genre. It was full of fun references and Easter eggs.
As Kevin Smith said, Justice League’s successful moments made our hearts soar.
What do you think went wrong with Justice League? More importantly, what were the movie’s great moments?