Marvel, the action-packed superhero branch of Disney, knows how to make a hit superhero film. With the DC universe, Universal Studios jumped onto the bandwagon a little late, but I can never have enough super hero films. Even though Universal is in the market now, their films still lack several critical elements that Marvel includes on all their standard models.
Warning: this post contains Justice League and Thor Ragnarok spoilers.
It’s a wicked cool trailer, but the film just didn’t pack the punch it promised.
First issue, the bad guy was, well, not bad enough. Marvel just released Thor Ragnarok in which the bad guy—beautifully played by Cate Blanchett—Hela, singlehandedly took out all of Asgard’s army. The bad guy in Justice League is completely unknown to the audience, hid under an abandoned reactor in Russia, and captured random people from Gotham to find out if they knew the location of the cube the humans buried 2000 years ago…
That’s just…That’s not even a slightly logical plan, bro.
But, true to cheesy cinema plots, one of the humans happened to work in a high tech lab. The connection between the lab and how they got the cube is unclear; possibly something to do with Cyborg’s accident. I’m not entirely sure. Long story short, the bad guy got the cube. The world almost ended. The bad guy was defeated by Superman’s gorgeous grin…and his fists.
In one short film, Universal introduced the bad guy, Cyborg, Flash, AquaMan, reintroduced Superman, and also put the world in danger of ultimate demise. They simply tried to do too much with the Justice League film. Marvel’s not-so-secret secret formula is to create several solo films for the main characters before pulling them together, giving them the screen time needed to put the world in danger and slyly introduce a real really bad guy. But of course, the bad characters don’t see themselves as bad, so I need to stop calling them that…
Too much content and a lack of connection with the characters are both issues that can be fixed if Universal takes a little time to fully develop the character’s archetypes. Oh snap! Already putting my animation degree to use.
That’s right. I just did an in-depth study of archetypes and realized that is the main issue with DC films. Batman is the only character that has a clear archetype: shadow mixed with hero. We know that Batman will fight for justice and never use a gun. Yet, in the Justice League film, Batman grabs an alien gun and starts blasting away! He also uses guns on his car.
Maybe I missed the part where Batman changed his mission statement to accept firearms. Sorry to sound like a total nerd but, imagine the character depth that would have been added if Batman uses the alien gun, then Wonder Woman looks at him with a raised eyebrow. Batman shrugs, “What? It’s an alien gun. It doesn’t count.”
Another peeve: AquaMan—protector of the ocean—litters in the ocean!
But let’s move on and take a look at the success of My Little Pony, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Marvel.
Viewers love characters that behave as expected (archetype) with twists (growth).
Another example from Marvel: Despite being betrayed over and over, in every movie Thor continues to trust his brother Loki. Yet, in Thor Ragnarok, the brothers work together, but when Loki betrays him again, Thor enacts his secret backup plan and states that he finally learned. Thor’s character grew in a way it was uncharacteristic and yet expected. Because the audience grew with Thor and his experiences, we appreciate that he finally learned to not fully trust Loki.
If Universal wants to have a loyal fanbase (like Marvel’s), Universal Studios needs to release a film about Aquaman, Cyborg—*the football scholarship teen who lost everything in a car accident and became a monster*—and a film for the Flash—the kid who could go anywhere in the world in a moment yet is going nowhere in his life because he’s trying to prove his father didn’t commit murder. Those are great full-feature stories that were glossed over in a few sentences and quick scenes in the Justice League.
It’s not as good as Wonder Woman, but still worth a view. What do you think?
Report Card: Justice League
Overall Score: B-