All The Possible Problems With ‘Justice League’
So there's a Justice League movie coming out this year, and someone, somewhere, must certainly be getting excited about it. Surely. Wouldn't it be terrible if they made one of these things and no one anywhere was excited for it?
Or is that actually kind of funny?
This wouldn't be the first time for that, either. I'll admit I wasn't neck-deep in the hype-pond for Batman V Superman, but I do remember a bit of the run up to that movie, and can't recall a single person saying a positive thing about it. From the premise to the casting to the trailers, it was mostly just a parade of people slam-dunking on that poor movie for about a year. And sure enough, when it came out, everyone hated it and it only made ... $850 million.
Oh. That's still quite a bit.
Anyways, our apparent unquenchable thirst for dreary pap has led to the upcoming release of Justice League, which ... hooray? I know DC is a huge comic empire with legions of fans everywhere, all desperate to score points on their bitter enemies, Marvel fans. So I guess they're excited. And for me, I'm kind of right in the wheelhouse to get hooked into a huge dork-universe, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is like 50 movies big now and I don't have the time for that. This Justice League thing; that's something I can conceivably get in on the ground floor of. So let's say I'm less excited, but ... open. Attentive even.
Let's look at the trailer:
Ok, so first impressions, that reminds me a lot of The Avengers. I wonder if that's a coincidence.
What else we got?
There's a Batman! I know him! I basically like Batman. And he has a bathorse!
So the whole deal seems to involve a lot of Batman, which is good because he's like the only DC hero I know, and I also spend a lot of time with a teenage boy, so we have a few things in common. This is off to a good start.
We actually commit more crimes than anything.
Ok, so there's other people here. That's probably a Wonder Woman. And that'll be Aquaman. And a Flash. Cool, I've heard of all these characters before, though mostly from Seanbaby's 17-year-old write-ups of a 40-year-old cartoon. So a pretty complete background. Oh, and look, there's a ... cyborg?
I don't know this guy. This could be a problem. Now I don't want to troll anyone here; this cyborg probably has decades of history, and millions of fans who are eagerly looking forward to seeing him on the big screen, and that's fine, but is that knowledge a necessary requirement to seeing this movie? Like if I don't bring that to the table, will big chunks of this movie be impenetrable to me, inside jokes and references just bouncing off my thick skull? The Avengers kind of had this problem too, where if you didn't walk into the movie with a reason to care about the Hulk or Thor or Iron Man, the movie sure wasn't going to give you one in the six minutes of screentime they had.
Oh, The Avengers made $1.5 billion. That's ... a hell of a counterpoint.
Anyways, back to the trailer.
"What are your superpowers again?"
Oh fun! They're riffing on Batman's lack of superpowers. I have literally read one DC comic in my life and I have already heard this joke thousands of times. This is, in a way, the exact flipside of the problem where viewers don't know enough about the characters. The filmmakers assume all of this is new to the audience and have to dredge up all the oldest, first-idea jokes and interactions these characters will have with each other, just endless jokes about tights and magic lassos and Aquaman's saltiness.
What else we got?
And here come the bad guys.
They're fighting some ... bad guys. This is good, I guess. Punches. Bat-tanks. A five-pointed trident. Nothing to get too offended about here. And hey, where's Superman? Seems like he'd do a pretty good job punching these dudes.
So this is as good a time as any to explain that I never saw Batman V Superman because every single person who spoke of it seemed to hate it. So I actually had to do a little Googling to find out why Supes isn't in this movie.
This is like the whole reason I'm reluctant to dive into the MCU. To watch any given movie you need to have seen several earlier ones. In this case it's only a single previous movie's worth of dreck to sit through, and it already feels a little off-putting. Comic books have dealt with this continuity problem many times before, with it being widely suspected of turning away new readers. And now we're trying to set up that same dynamic with movies?
Oh, Civil War made $1.1 billion. I literally have no idea what I'm talking about? Cool, cool.
But let's stick with this for a second. Because an even bigger problem is the strain this continuity puts on the plausibility of the world. One of the things superhero movies are really good at doing is showing a human character in extreme circumstances. It's not just about the punching and the banter and the benippled outfits; in a good superhero movie we get to see a character in obscenely unrealistic circumstances, but still painted as human and realistic as possible. That's neat! I like that!
I'm a nerd too, guys!
But those tightly written character moments feel implausible when other obscenely unrealistic superheroes are running around in the same world. It's just too much. When you read these characters' origin stories they almost always seem to occur in isolation, because they don't make any damned sense in close proximity. Like, when Bruce Wayne was training to be a scientist-ninja, did he read about Superman in the newspaper? Did that affect his decision to pursue this life? Did he consider that when designing his costume? Why would Gotham even have a crime wave if Superman was around? He was just a one-city omni-God?
Probably not healthy to think too hard about any of this.
I know I'm dredging up old, stupid arguments, the kind of things comic fans got bored of arguing about years ago. But these are movies now. These stupid arguments are new to a lot of people. I guess getting over this kind of stuff is kind of the price of admission. You go for the fistfights and nipples and the quips, my god the quips, and just agree to look past all the other stuff. Or at least mock the other stuff on its own terms.
Which is easy to do here!
Everything's too dark, the bad guys seem generic, the Flash seems annoying, Aquaman seems moist, Batman seems like he doesn't want to be there, that's not what a trident is, and the whole thing is scored to a cover of Come Together, which is a little on the nose and a good sign the movie is being made by idiots.
Three stars. I'll probably see it its second week.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and not a very good movie reviewer or actually a movie reviewer at all. As the author of the amazing novels, Freeze/Thaw and Severance he thinks you should definitely go buy both of those now. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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