Justice League is the result of everything DC and Warner Bros. has been working toward since Man of Steel was released in 2013.
DC and Warner Bros. hasn’t had much critical success with their movies, bar Wonder Woman, which represented a change in perception of DC movies for critics. Wonder Woman was applauded for its fresh, more cheerful take on a grittier superhero universe. When director Joss Whedon, who made his own mark on the superhero universe in 2012 with The Avengers, stepped in to help finish Justice League, there was some hope that Justice League would carry on the tone Wonder Woman set.
While reaction to Justice League has been overwhelmingly more positive, it’s still a miss with most critics. Rotten Tomatoes labeled it “rotten” and many writers have pointed out that while it’s better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, that’s not a high bar to clear. DC fans haven’t taken the reviews well and, like clockwork, debate over whether DC movies are just as good or better than Marvel movies has sparked up again.
It’s a pointless debate. Critics don’t have a vested interest in DC or Marvel movies. Most critics don’t care who the superhero movie is about; we just want to watch a good superhero movie. Bringing up the “DC is better than Marvel” debate ignores the more important conversation to be had about the age of superhero movies we exist in. It’s not about Marvel vs DC, it’s about reaching a level of quality for genre films we’ve come to expect in the past decade — and Justice League feels like a product of a ‘90s superhero movie. That’s a problem.
Like I said in my review, Justice League is enjoyable at times, but it’s not a good movie. The dialogue is clunky, the acting is mediocre and it feels outdated when we think of what a superhero movie should be. There’s no vibrancy to the movie and, despite two minutes of trying to make Justice League about more than men and women in costumes, it doesn’t amount to anything of importance. It’s a shame, too, because Cyborg is my favorite superhero in any comic book and I was a fan of Wonder Woman when it released this summer.
At the same time, I thought Avengers: Age of Ultron and Doctor Strange were problematic movies that I didn’t enjoy.
It’s never about a Marvel or DC movie; it’s always about the quality of that story. Justice League doesn’t emphasize the overall story, but focuses on the coming together of a group. It tries to tell the backstories of each character, but doesn’t accomplish its goal of making you care about their personal arcs. The Flash and Cyborg have detailed, painful pasts, but we only glimpse those histories before moving on to Batman rounding up a group of people to take on a big bad. If director Zack Snyder doesn’t care enough about following these characters’ pasts, why should we?
My least favorite superhero is Captain America. I hate the boy scout routine and I generally find him to be less interesting than the rest of Marvel’s characters. Captain America: Winter Soldier, however, is my favorite superhero movie. Uproxx’s Drew McWeeny says it best:
Gradually moving things away from big silly comic book bad guys, the changes to canon have helped underline the way Steve Rogers is motivated by his own personal compass of right and wrong. He is no mere tool of America, no matter what his name is.
Captain America isn’t the best superhero in film because he’s powerful, but because he’s decent and deals with actual human problems. He’s dealing with global conflicts and exploring his role in the destruction being caused around the world. This is further examined in Civil War, which asks the audience to understand the biggest conflict being waged is one of morals and a duty to what’s right, while exploring the consequences that often time comes with it.
Civil War and Winter Soldier aren’t just men in costumes hitting bad guys, and that reflects the modernity of comic books as a whole. It’s far more interesting, but it has little to do with the fact that it’s Marvel. DC and Warner Bros. managed to make my second favorite superhero movie, The Dark Knight, because it also explored questions about evil and the psyche of a sociopath. It demanded Bruce Wayne make difficult decisions and explore his own morality, far more than Justice League or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ever did.
The reason superheroes are interesting is their extraordinary ability to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Justice League never gets there, but The Dark Knight did. Winter Soldier did. Civil War redefined what that conversation in superhero movies look like.
This new generation of superhero movies goes beyond the costumes to explore the same material long running arcs in comics do, and that’s why we’re celebrating a new renaissance of films. Unfortunately, Justice League has more in common with a Tim Burton Batman movie than Civil War or The Dark Knight, and those movies just don’t hold the same amount of joy for me as they once did. But this is just my opinion, and that’s the point — it’s not about which universe is more successful overall, it’s about individual films individually being entertaining or not
Here’s the thing: You’re allowed to really love DC or Marvel movies. You’re allowed to your opinion and you’re allowed to voice that opinion. Don’t harass critics who don’t agree with you or call out other people for having a different opinion. Let this quick public service announcement remind you how not to act on the internet.
Justice League will be released on Nov. 17.