It’s no secret that of late DC Comics has struggled to put forth the kind of cinematic success that its counterpart, Marvel practically has down to a science.
Following the particularly sour taste of “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” the DC Universe is a little on edge, even after the incredible triumph of “Wonder Woman” this summer.
Unfortunately, right from the get-go, one thing is painfully clear about this superhero collaboration — “Wonder Woman” had not been released when they began filming “Justice League.”
It’s not a question of character continuity or story, so much as a clear lack of any recognition of the lessons learned from Diana’s independent success. While it’s also clear that they did attempt to do what they could to apply the lessons of “Wonder Woman,” their fate was in many ways already sealed.
I can understand why the story begins with Batman (Ben Affleck), last we saw him he was working to assemble these heroes, it feels a bit odd to make Wonder Woman, the most redeeming part of “Batman v Superman,” and most successful character of this franchise, the second fiddle. Not to mention that when Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is encouraging Bruce to reach out to Diana (Gal Gadot) the implications are just as much romantic as they are professional. Thankfully, nothing seems to come of that.
To their credit, Wonder Woman does end up being a semi-secondary leader of this motley crew (for a while anyhow), but the journey there is a bit meandering with the introduction of not one, not two, but three members of the Justice League, who make their debuts in this movie.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are all delightful additions, but we honestly don’t learn much about them.
Oh, and by the way, they’re assembling the Justice League to fight an ancient evil, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), once banished by the Amazons, Atlantisians, and the ancient humans, who’s set on transforming Earth into a hellscape. Yep, that’s right, Diana is the only one familiar with this villain, but Batman should definitely take the lead on this, guys.
I will say the movie is not in any way painful to watch. In fact, it’s quite entertaining with some genuinely great moments. My personal favorite moment was the final admission, by the Caped Crusader himself no less, that Superman is the superior hero. In all honesty though, Batman’s ownership of his superpower—being born into wealth and privilege — and acknowledgment that Superman is in many ways more human than he could ever be, is a wonderful moment of awareness for the film. Cherish it.
To be fair, bringing together a group of larger than life characters is always a challenge. Even Marvel struggles when it brings everyone together for its Avengers films (relatively speaking). But DC made it three times as difficult by failing to introduce three of its League members before bringing them together. “Wonder Woman” aside, this was I think overall a step in the right direction for these stories, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to (fingers crossed) learn from their greatest hero moving forward.