Justice League is making it really hard for me to compare to other films.
I have been one of the biggest defenders of the DCEU that I am aware of for a while now. I absolutely adore the DCEU. Dawn of Justice is my second favorite movie ever, one of my favorite pieces of art ever. I absolutely loved both Man of Steel and Wonder Woman giving them the highest rating I can 5/5. Suicide Squad I thought was very well made, without any major flaws, and had a lot of highlights but was stylized in a way that was not my particular favorite type of style, the sort of anarchistic punk style which, to be fair, fits the characters.
These films were clearly the apex of superhero films.
1: Dawn of Justice
2: Man of Steel/Wonder Woman (The Two were about comparable in my eyes, Superman having a better first part whereas Wonder Woman had the better second part)
3: The Best superhero movies from other films lines (Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, Captain America 3). Suicide Squad was about at this level in my opinion.
But I…don’t know how to compare Justice League to these films.
Let me say the biggest thing in it’s defense: I had an absolute blast watching it. I felt great watching it.
But…was that the heat of the moment plus my pre-conceived desire to like it?
I am writing this blog mostly to try and talk out with myself how I actually feel about this movie.
So the big thing I’m worried about is that it won’t have the depth the other movies, especially Dawn of Justice, had to rewatch over and over and to reconsider and to think about again at some later point. Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman…I think about all of these fairly often. Their themes and philosophies I have woven into my life. They are constantly resonating with what I see around me. Will Justice League be the same way?
What are the major themes of Justice League as a film and a piece of art? I say that and I’m not actually sure which to me indicates a problem. The biggest one is the need for unity, what with the three tribes uniting to stop Steppenwolf to be echoed by the JL uniting to stop him. However….that’s not very much to go off of, especially compared to the other films.
All the DCEU films so far have been about what DC as a whole and DC Rebirth is about, the greatness of humanity, the power of the human spirit to prevail.
In Man of Steel we saw people constantly acting heroically inspired by Superman to do the right thing against the existential alien threat, like military generals standing up to Faora, or Perry White helping to save Jenny from the debris, or Lois Lane willingly going with Superman on the alien ship, or Martha Kent telling off Zod etc.
In Dawn of Justice, we see a Batman and Superman who have no knowledge of each other being manipulated into fighting by outside forces but being united together by their shared humanity, as well as other themes of media manipulation, of not idolizing or demonizing people, but accepting that they are just people like you and me trying to do the right thing, of the nature of memory and the significance of heroism. Honestly if people understood the “maybe he’s just a guy trying to do the right thing” it would probably REALLY help and alleviate a lot of our big contemporary political issues…
Suicide Squad was about how even the dregs and outcasts of society are really noble individuals internally. Harley Quinn might protest “we’re the bad guys, it’s what we do”, but in the end she gives up being with her puddin’ for her friends and it’s his love for his daughter that gets Deadshot twice over to stop Enchantress.
Wonder Woman was about the nature of why people do bad things, and how each person is fighting an internal struggle just as she was against Ares, that you can’t force people to do the right thing, but only love can help them realize it’s what they want.
Does Justice League convey that theme or really any number of consistent themes?
I have only watched it once so far so it’s hard to say, I might have been so caught up in it that I just didn’t notice a lot, which happens.
Make no mistake I was greatly enjoying watching it the first time, especially Superman fighting the other League Members (though I have no idea where people get the impression he was somehow super different then he was in the previous films. After he regains his memories he seemed exactly the same to me.)
I’ve already mentioned the theme of unity but what other themes did I notice in Justice League?
Justice League carries over a theme that has been present through the DCEU which is parenthood, and how it shapes people. Let me give examples from the prior DCEU films first:
1: Man of Steel is just loaded with parent imagery. It is Kal-El’s natural birth that gives him the free will to choose what he wants to be instead of being genetically forced into a role
2: There’s a really important line where Pa Kent reassures young Clark that “you are my son”, that the lack of biological connection is not as important as their bond of love and raising
3: Superman’s first battle with Zod is because Zod threatened his mother
4: In Dawn of Justice Batman was of course formed by his parent’s death as is usual
5: But it goes on to make a beautiful connection where Clark trying to get Bruce to save his mother’s life instead of his breaks through to Bruce that Clark isn’t some alien monster but a person with a mother just like the scared kid he once was.
6: Lex Luthor’s motivation is shaped by his abusive parenthood and convinces him that power is always corrupt
7: In Suicide Squad Deadshot through the whole movie is motivated by his love for his daughter
8: Harley Quinn in her fantasy brought on by Enchantress is the mother of Joker’s children, which is a small character point because it shows a perhaps subcouncious desire of her to reform herself and The Joker to have the stability needed for a family
9: El Diablo is motivated by the loss of his wife and children that he burned up because he couldn’t control his powers and his anger
10: In Wonder Woman the relationship between Diana and Hippolyta is obviously based around Hippolyta being Diana’s mother and her desire to protect Diana
11: Diana sharing the same bloodline as Ares becomes important near the end where she calls him brother as she kills him
This is continued on in Justice League
1: Cyborg says that his father doesn’t have a son anymore, referring to his loss of his own humanity in his mind, which shapes his early antagonistic behavior and shows the blame he assigns on his father saying that he should have died
2: Flash is motivated by wanting to get his father out of prison and until the JL came along was content to “run in place”, his familial duty to his father trapping him in a go nowhere life (almost ironic given his powers), even against his father’s wishes
3: Aquaman is motivated by his parental abandonment which explicitly is stated to be the reason why he should be doing things, that his absence of parents is what means he should be acting
4: Not sure how this works into the symbolism but it’s the mother-daughter relationship of Diana and Hippolyta that allows Hippolyta to warn Diana of the threat of Steppenwolf since Diana recognizes Hippolyta’s signal
5: Might be missed opportunity or it could be there and I just didn’t notice it but Batman’s parents don’t get brought up even as a passing mention in this movie despite all the familial connections to it, at least I don’t recall it coming up.
So, Justice League does continue the theme of parenthood, and it has theme of unity…anything else?
Not so much, and it’s possibly part of the shorter timeframe. Which leads me into thinking about Whedon taking control of the film.
A lot of DCEU fans disliked the addition of Whedon one-liners like Batman saying “I didn’t bring a sword” when he gets into the Nightcrawler or goofy moments like after Flash gets Diana her sword how he faceplants into the ground.
I’m gonna be honest, um….I don’t LIKE those parts, but I also didn’t mind them. They just of didn’t impact me really.
What does annoy me is Whedon cut out for those parts a lot of Synder’s parts supposedly, but I don’t blame Whedon himself for that, instead I blame Warner Bros for arbitrarily cutting down the movie size. If it was allowed to be 3 hours I think a lot of the problems I do have with the movie, like the missing Synder content and the truncated final fight would be alleviated. Whedon had 2 hours to work with though so I dislike what he did at some points, but I don’t blame him for it, it’s something he really shouldn’t have had to do in the first place.
Did Whedon add anything I like to the film? I don’t know how much but I do know at least one scene he added which I liked, which was Batman telling Alfred the reason they need Superman isn’t his powers but because “he’s more human than me”. A little cliché for DC at this point but that was handled pretty well. I was blown away to here that he purportedly added Memoryless Superman asking Batman if he bleeds as a callback to Dawn of Justice. Never would have thought it.
Basically, what I’m saying is, I think the Extended Edition if/when it comes will be absolutely amazing even more so then the film was.
So, what do I mean when I say that I love but I might not like it very much. What I’m getting at is I don’t know how much depth there really is for me to go back into like the other films. The other 4 films I could watch all day, and I’m worried this one will come off as just an action piece spectacle in comparison.
I can see the logic that team-up movies should be action piece spectacles and the philosophical bits should be saved for solo movies. Avengers 1 is pretty much an action piece spectacle if you are being honest with yourself. The most interesting part of that movie on any kind of deeper level is Cap and Tony exchanging the lines “Big Man in a suit of armor, take that away what are you?” “…Everything special about you came out of a bottle.” But for the most part it’s clearly just to have them together and bask in the coolness of the idea.
Yeah, Justice League clearly does that. They even have the same problem of the villain not being at all threatening at the end, capable of clearly being beaten by one member of the team.
But, art to me shouldn’t just be an adrenaline rush if it wants to be really good. You shouldn’t be watching just to get your blood rushing. It should be emotionally moving, or thought provoking or something that makes you care 10 minutes after it ends. And Justice League definitely made me care, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. Will this pleasant buzz this movie gave me last? I don’t know.
My thoughts about Justice League right now are that it’s at the very least a really good movie and a 4/5 about on the level of Suicide Squad even if it stops giving me the pleasant glowy feeling when I think about it for enough time. If that feeling doesn’t wear off, OR they come out with an extended edition that gives it the same depth and intensity of the previous films OR I watch it again and realize it WAS there but I was missing it, then it will probably be a 5/5 movie about on par with Man of Steel and Wonder Woman. My thoughts might change but that’s how I currently see the movie.
As a sidenote, if you want to see purportedly what Snyder and Whedon personally contributed to the movie there is supposedly a leak that says: