Five years after Marvel united the Avengers, DC is finally responding with their own team-up movie, Justice League.
It’s not been a smooth ride for DC. Financially, the franchise is doing well, but critically, save for Wonder Woman, their films have been panned and Razzied for being pretentious, excessively dark, and lacking in direction and verve.
The Justice League movie is also emerging at an awkward time for the genre. It’s been almost 10 years since the first MCU film, Iron Man (2008), was released and we’ve had a decade of origin stories and superhero installments since then. Genre fatigue is kicking in and it’s going to take a lot of innovation to ensure things don’t get tedious.
Here are some things we're hoping Justice League has done to fix the DCEU.
Find a tone that works
Enough with the gritty, broody vibe. If the success of Wonder Woman taught us anything, it’s that audiences love simplicity: a straight narrative with clear, driven intentions, a likeable protagonist that isn’t bogged down by existential whining and moral complexities after every moment of drama. Wonder Woman stripped away the baggage of world-building too, providing us with focused fun-filled entertainment that made us want more.
Key director Zack Snyder (who left the movie in May after his daughter committed suicide and was replaced by Joss Whedon) has had his work cut out for him with a dozen characters to juggle, but now that we've seen a properly dark Dark Knight, and even a dark Superman, it’s time to lighten up.
A villain to match DC’s greats
If there’s one area in which the DCEU can outshine the MCU, it's with its villains. DC has no shortage of compelling antagonists and with Justice League, they've finally hauled in one.
The movie introduces us to CGI-birthed Steppenwolf, a member of Darkseid’s elite, and his army of Parademons. We know - the genre’s greatest villains have always been non-CGI characters – Doc Ock, Joker, Bane. Steppenwolf could just be another CGI-overkill villain much like Doomsday was, without character or intrigue. But let's not forget: Ultron was completely CGI and look how compelling he was. Fingers crossed.
Fight in the light
Action set pieces count for a lot in superhero movies. Yet, recall the final showdowns in the DCEU thus far. Few are as eye-catching as The Avenger’s Battle of New York, or Captain America: Civil War’s airport showdown. Abysmal fight choreography aside (which sees our heroes just smashing things), one reason for this is the lack of light.
Viewers have to make an effort to focus on things in the shadows, a strenuous process that takes away from the intensity of these climactic set pieces. All that smashing doesn't help either - the flying debris continually obstructs our view of the action unfolding.
Many of the DCEU final showdowns tend to end up the same way – in a barren land reduced to rubble and flame with our heroes and villains leaping and flying around, and a massive explosion at the end from an energy ball. With most of its cast capable of inflicting damage on this kind of scale, Justice League needs to introduce a new dynamic into the mix. We’ve seen quite enough of the same-old.