Has Joss Whedon’s last-minute tinkering with Justice League saved the flailing DC franchise?
In stark contrast to Disney’s unwaveringly slick handling of its Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros.’ attempt to launch a DC Comics equivalent has been, by and large, a compellingly chaotic shitshow. Last year, Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opened big but failed to do Marvel-style numbers, and was widely castigated for its incoherent storytelling, bloated running-time and grim, humourless tone. David Ayer’s supervillain romp Suicide Squad was even worse, with Jared Leto’s excruciating turn as The Joker further dampening enthusiasm for anything associated with Ben Affleck’s uninspired new spin on Batman. Earlier this year, the critical and commercial success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman set things down a more promising path. But shortly before the film opened, Snyder announced that he was stepping away from his BVS follow-up Justice League, as a consequence of the tragic sudden death of his daughter. Into the frame stepped Marvel MVP Joss Whedon to oversee post-production, which reportedly entailed lengthy reshoots, leading to widespread speculation that Snyder had deposited another turd in need of hasty polishing.
While it’s pointless to try and discern exactly Whedon brought to the table, the fingerprints of the Avengers helmer seem to be all over the finished film, with an abundance of quirky quips and wry pop culture references scattered amidst the inevitable awkward exposition and lengthy action set-pieces. Ezra Miller in particular ensures that some of these zingers actually land, proving an endearingly awkward presence as superhero-in-training Barry Allen, AKA The Flash. But that’s pretty much where the good news ends, as this bright ‘n’ breezy tone seems wildly out of place whenever the film is forced to deal with the fallout from its earnest, grandiose prequels – in particular the tragic fate that befell a certain figure at the end of BVS. To add insult to injury, the film skirts over the rich, potent mythology of its iconic characters to stage an elaborate but utterly pedestrian battle against a screeching CGI antagonist. It’s genuinely devastating to consider how far we’ve fallen since The Dark Knight.
As divisive and pompous as Snyder’s vision for the franchise may have been, at least it was bringing something distinct to the already-overcrowded superhero table. Justice League, on the other hand, feels like the creation of wretched corporate overlords, determined to rake in a little extra cash by shamelessly ripping off the work of a competitor. Should this strategy pay off, it potentially paves the way for a hellish future in which the ever-diminishing gap between each Marvel movie is plugged by a barely distinguishable knock-off from the DC stable. So please, vote with your wallets and go and see something (anything) else this weekend.
Justice League | D: Zack Snyder (USA 2017) with Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot. Starts November 16
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