DC’s answer to Marvel’s The Avengers brings us the Justice League. In the aftermath of Superman’s death, Batman puts together a team of enhanced individuals in order to mount a defence against an impending invasion from space or another dimension or something.
There was a burst of Superman and Batman movies in the 70s and 80s. It became clear that the successful initial entries were flukes, with the producers not really understanding the properties they were producing.
Then came the Marvel movies. DC joined in with the Nolan/Bale Dark Knight films which were highly successful. Warner Bros/DC then made a fatal error. They assumed that Nolan’s grim’n’gritty real-world approach to Batman was the reason for their success. It must be the case, therefore. that the same approach would be equally successful for Superman.
They hired Zack Snyder
Snyder is without equal in bringing eye-boggling visuals to the screen. Unfortunately, he has dark and twisted views and an approach which is sometimes inappropriately adolescent. And he applied these to Superman, the sunniest and best-defined superhero of all. Batman has successfully supported multiple interpretations over the years, from camply humorous to grim’n’gritty. Superman, however, has always been a brightly-coloured avatar of noble humility who does the right thing come what may.
Snyder chose to make him a muted-coloured, conflicted soul, beset with uncertainty, and wrote him into a position where he had no choice but to kill. The sequel offered up more of the same, with Batman and Wonder Woman on board.
Warner Bros were surprised when the films, though successful, failed to achieve the level of success they should have. Audiences like a feelgood element in their super-hero movies, it seems.
Then Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman showed that you actually could succeed, critically and commercially, with DC properties. The Wonder Woman character felt positive, and so did the movie. Cue Justice League.
I sympathise with Snyder over the family tragedy which took him away from Justice League mid-production, but I am glad that it brought Joss Whedon on board. Because it is only too clear from the movie what it would have been without Whedon’s rewriting and reshooting. Whedon gets a writing credit, but not a co-director credit.
Justice League is full of disaster porn, delivered in dark and muted colours. But it benefits from the inclusion of some humour, and a spirited, uplifting mood, something completely absent from Snyder’s two previous DC movies.
It’s far from perfect. The plot, though simple, has unanswered questions. The supporting cast is underused. Barry Allen is fun but completely unlike any Barry Allen from the comics. We meet three new League members and remain uncertain how they came by their powers or how Batman knows about them. Villain Steppenwolf is too generic and his story also leaves us with questions. And it is inevitable that Warners/DC will be accused of copying its Marvelous competition.
But the interplay between the Justice League members is good. There are a lot of easter eggs for comic fans. Wonder Woman is as rewarding as she was in her own films. We get to see Mother Boxes and Boom Tubes. And, at last, there is an air of optimism through much of the film.
Oh, and spoiler warning for the least well kept secret in the history of cinema, Superman is back. And he’s wearing proper blue, not the muted grey/blue of MoS and BvS. And, this time he’s actually Superman, not some dark, conflicted imposter.
I came out of this film with a smile on my face, and not just because of the mid-credits scene.