This year will see a bit of a culmination for the DC Extended Universe. Not only will we be getting a standalone Wonder Woman movie, but mere months later, we will be seeing her, Batman, The Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, and (presumably) Superman take to the big screen together in Justice League.
Of course, in any shared universe, it’s impossible NOT to make comparisons to the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, which boasted five standalone films before seeing them all team up in The Avengers. Dissimilarly, DC has only had one standalone film so far, two teamups, and will have one more standalone before Justice League hits the big screen. It’s a much different approach, to say the least, and while it’s all well and good that they’re trying to pave their own path, there is no denying that they’re in a bit of a rough spot.
The advantage Marvel had going into their Avengers film is that, up until that point, all of their films had been pretty well received by fans and critics alike. Justice League doesn’t really have that luxury. Instead, they’re coming off of two negatively-received films, one film with viewers split on either said, and one (currently) unknown reception. They have a lot of ground to make up for in the PR department, and the movie will have to be a total slam dunk if they want to turn around the narrative on their universe.
Understandably, some fans can’t see them quite doing it. While the DCEU will have four films under its belt before Justice League, some may argue they don’t do a lot of good for the Justice League. Despite seeing Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the first two films, one could argue that they didn’t do a good enough job at developing the characters. Both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were more of plot or idea-heavy narratives, and while Batman and Superman technically have arcs, not a lot of folks felt too close to the characters by the end of their runtimes. Suicide Squad is a completely unrelated film, so we can’t even talk about that, but we can hope that Wonder Woman will help in growing her character a lot more.
So does where does this leave Justice League? Is it doom to wallow in mediocrity since we have no character development for our leads? Not necessarily.
Warner Bros Is Listening
First, I do think it’s worth mentioning that Warner Bros is very much listening to all the criticism out there. Yes, when Batman v Superman first hit theaters, they went and overreacted, and the result was the maligned Suicide Squad. In trying to address the suface-level issues, they created something of a muddled mess that only made things worse. However, with Justice League, they have time on their side. Sure, they may not have had much time before shooting officially started to make big changes, but between principal photography and reshoots, there should be plenty of opportunity to address core story issues.
As we can tell, based on the myriad of announcements surrounding directors like Matt Reeves, Matthew Vaughn, and Joss Whedon, we can already tell they’re driving their Plan B pretty hard. While it’s easy to see this as a bad sign that they have no confidence in their vision, it’s important to note that when this world started out, they had no vision. All they had were a bunch of suits and a general idea. With Geoff Johns now in the driver’s seat, we have every hope that their upcoming approach will work, and that includes his vision for Justice League.
Rest assured, Warner Bros is not going into autopilot on this one. For better or worse, they’ll be doing what they can to make sure they knock this one out of the park.
With that in mind, let’s discuss one way they can actually make Justice League work.
The Seven Samurai Approach
I’m not sure about you, but as I watched the Justice League trailer a couple weeks back at this point, I got a very distinct vibe. Despite it being a superhero teamup film, not unlike The Avengers, it felt nothing like Marvel’s iconic film. As mentioned above, we know relatively little about a good number of the characters, so they’ll be coming into this film relatively clean. A closer comparison I could draw to this is Seven Samurai — or its American remake, The Magnificent Seven.
In those films, we know next to nothing about our heroes who unite to keep a village from ultimate destruction. Swap out a village for earth, the bandits for Parademons, and our samurai (or gunslingers) with the Justice League, and we have what is essentially a comic book remake of the classic tale. Despite the lack of a “built-in” universe, these films worked, and if handled properly, Justice League has the ability to work in a similar fashion.
Given that our only real exposure to a successful teamup film in a shared universe comes in the form of The Avengers, it’s easy to forget that films once stood on their own. Just because we haven’t had a chance to see all these characters develop in their previous films, that’s not to say it’s doomed to wallow in mediocrity.
Now, that’s not to say that Justice League is guaranteed to be a smash hit. We’ve seen good trailers give birth to bad movies in the past, so we could very well be doing down that route. However, it can’t be understated that there is more than one approach to making a film like Justice League. Just because we can’t have The Avengers doesn’t mean we can’t have something genuinely amazing in its own right. With Warner Bros now more attentive than ever, and with Geoff Johns now at the helm of this massive universe, they may have more on their side than we realize.
What do you think? Do you see any potential for Justice League to work, despite its lackluster foundation? Let us know in the comments down below!