An unspoken undercurrent of yesterday's wall-to-wall JUSTICE LEAGUE coverage (which will continue a bit today) was how unprecedented it was. See, when studios invite the press to the sets of their films, the reports for those visits are held under an embargo for many, many months. Typically, they don't allow journalists to post about what they saw or heard until they're ready to unveil a trailer. It makes for a week-long blitz of promotion for the production. Such was the case when I went to London for the ASSASSIN'S CREED set visit. That happened way back in October, yet I wasn't allowed to post a word about it until mid-May, the same week that Fox released the trailer.
In the case of JUSTICE LEAGUE, journalists were in London just last week (!!!). Literally. This thing just happened, and everyone is already allowed to share their thoughts.
Why would that be? Why would Warner Bros. want to have the press out here, speaking exhaustively and extensively about a production that's barely halfway into its cycle?
Because they're sorry. They're very, very sorry about BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. They know that a great many people were disappointed by the film, and that their disappointment has turned to cynicism towards JUSTICE LEAGUE, which finds most of the BvS creative team back in the saddle.
We've already seen the great lengths that the team behind SUICIDE SQUAD has gone through to differentiate itself from BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and with everything we've seen in the last 24 hours, it's evident that JUSTICE LEAGUE wants to do the same.
From the slightly more cartoonish logo for the film, to talk of a Batman with a restored faith in humanity, a focus on classic themes of Good vs Evil with our God-like heroes facing off against the Devil-like, horned villain Steppenwolf, to director Zack Snyder talking about how the tone of this one will be different than BvS, it's very clear that they're trying to change people's perceptions about the film...and they don't think they can afford to wait another five months to do it!
So they're getting out in front of the negativity and trying to inspire a wave of optimism. Not a bad idea at all.
As part of all of the on-set conversations between JUSTICE LEAGUE's filmmakers, stars, and the press was one particular chat with Snyder and his wife Deborah that really pulls the curtain back a bit. In this particular discussion, we get to see exactly how contrite, and how affected they were by the backlash against BvS.
"When Batman v Superman came out, I was like, ‘Wow, okay, oof,'" the director told reporters. "It did catch me off guard. I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment. I do think that the tone of Justice League has changed because of what the fans have said."
"I love the characters, and maybe to a fault sometimes, I dork out on the hardcore aspects of the comic books," Snyder added, defending against the notion that he brought a very bleak feel to his two DC films so far. But it's those very "hardcore aspects" that makes fans worry. Even during this set visit, a costume designer said that the red that's been added to Wonder Woman's breastplate was thought of as years worth of congealed blood.
It's pretty clear that Snyder's sensibilities are very different from those of everyday fans- the kind that grew up loving and idolizing these heroes. At one point during the talk, Snyder kind of cracked. While everyone else on the production team has done a good job of staying on-message and promoting the film in new, colorful, upbeat ways, Snyder stammers during an intriguing part of the chat.
"Listen,” he said somewhat defensively, “if it’s about putting more fun in the movie or embracing some of what I think is in all the characters inherently, this sort of larger-than-life, big, fun stuff…"
If you're expecting an end to that sentence, you're out of luck. Snyder abandons whatever train he was on there, and when words return to his mouth, they're words used to defend and explain why he did what he did with BATMAN V SUPERMAN:
"You really had to dig down on the darker parts of them to make them fight each other. I really do believe that with this movie, with Justice League, they’ve been freed of the responsibility to be in a place where they would fight each other. That’s liberating for us in making the movie, because now we have a single enemy with a single objective, and it’s really about uniting the team. That, to me, is a fun activity."
So, in essence, Snyder reveals that he thinks we had to earn the light, fun, adventurous stuff by sitting through the dark, grim, morally-convoluted stuff. Through the prism of his artistic vision, the light can only come after the darkness has gouged your eyes.
Meanwhile, his wife Deborah- who serves as a producer on the film- gave her own, more company-friendly explanation of how the reaction to BvS has informed what we can expect from JUSTICE LEAGUE.
"Listen, every film is a learning experience," she told reporters earlier that day. "We hear what everyone has to say because we care what the fans say." When pressed to specify what, exactly, they learned the drubbing BATMAN V SUPERMAN received from critics and the so-so response it got from fans, her response is very frank. "The main thing we learned, I think: People don’t like to see their heroes deconstructed."
Yes, to some, that should've probably been obvious from the start. With a Holy Grail property like the first-ever meeting of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman on the big screen, you probably don't want to start by deconstructing the iconic heroes. These are sacred cows, after all.
The producer continued to pile on with her message of course-correction, promising that JUSTICE LEAGUE would be a "totally different movie" than BvS. Passing along a message similar to what her husband would later say, Snyder also says that they're arriving in the Light after taking us to the Dark. "What’s really great is that where we were going is kind of what the audience was wanting, which is a good thing. We just had to take the characters from somewhere [dark] to bring them up to where they are now."
It's been a fascinating couple of days if you're a DCEU fan, and one has to wonder how large of a dent WB/DC's unprecedented damage control has made on the negative feelings people walked away from BATMAN V SUPERMAN with.
What do you think of these latest remarks about JUSTICE LEAGUE? Do they inspire confidence? Do you think that enough could've been shifted between the time BvS came out and the start of JL's production that whatever changes they've made are being implemented smoothly? Discuss!