Justice League shows DC (unfortunately) following in Marvel’s footsteps
A new Justice League “team” photo, featuring The Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman, was released Tuesday night. That’s half the team – Aquaman, Cyborg, and (obvious spoiler is obvious) Superman will make up the rest of the league. And somehow people who watched Man of Steel, and then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then saw Suicide Squad, still managed to get excited about this movie. Unfortunately, it’s becoming all too clear now that DC is determined to follow in Marvel’s footsteps, and that includes revisiting its missteps.
Over the last – well, several – years, Marvel has delivered a string of massive hits, most of which were also extremely enjoyable movies. There were a few movies that fell a bit flat – like Captain America: Civil War, and before that, Avengers: Age of Ultron – and those suffered from the same problem, which is that things get too crowded. If you’re a devoted comic book fan, these films are a treat, just to see all your favorite characters banter and fight on the big screen.
(Also see: Superhero movies turn into comic books, and that’s not good)
On the other hand, as movies, these overly long (but somehow short on time) movies fail to deliver, because they’re not really ensemble movies. In a movie like Ocean’s Eleven, every member of the crew can have a role to play, but not all of them need to have their own solo moments or equal screen time. If you have to set aside 10 minutes for Hulk and Iron Man to fight, or you need to set aside another ten minutes for Captain America and the Winter Soldier to rediscover their friendship, due to the needs of the shared universe, then you’ cross-referencing the time actually spent on the movie people pay to watch.
Luckily, after each misstep, Marvel was able to kick off a smaller film focused on a single story arc, and in each case it delivered a healthy dose of fun. Guardians of the Galaxy was an example of how to make an ensemble film, with Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill starring in the series. Ant-Man was a hilarious heist movie, while Doctor Strange managed to recapture the feeling of watching Iron Man for the first time.
With DC, on the other hand, we have Man of Steel, with Krypton-sized plot holes, then we go from one hero to three with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and in between we have Suicide Squad which had all six villains, as well as Flagg and Katana, and of course Enchantress and Waller consuming lots of screen time. What promised to be redemption for DC ended up being its worst movie yet.
(Also see: Everything is Connected – How DC Already Built a Better Connected Universe Than Marvel)
Somehow that doesn’t give us confidence in the Justice League movie. DC wants to build a shared universe, just like Marvel, and it tried to bring its heroes together organically in Dawn of Justice, while Suicide Squad went for the ensemble approach like Guardians of the Galaxy. None of those really worked, and now it seems like he’s taking notes from Civil War and cramming more people than he can handle into a single movie. Characters will need to be introduced, motivations explained, and judging from what we’ve seen from the studio so far, that doesn’t exactly inspire much faith.
Movie deals are now decided on a dozen upcoming movies – DC has announced the dates for several upcoming movies. Unfortunately, they’re still making money – at least in their first few weeks – and that means these movies are going to keep coming. We can only hope now that DC takes a look at all the critical feedback it’s received (and the drop in week two numbers) to realize that if it did better films, it would bring in even more money. Instead of continually trying to outdo himself, he needs to be able to step back and try to focus on a smaller story. Like Batman defeating gangsters, without the fate of the planet at stake, perhaps?