Should we be worried about Justice League and DC's future?

Mike P Williams

The first official trailer for ‘Justice League’ made its way online, but the reaction has been mixed.

The heroes that make up the Justice League (bar Superman, of course). Credit: Warner Bros.

While we’d seen footage of Warner Bros. and DC’s upcoming superhero ensemble before, this was the first proper trailer unleashed, and it packed a huge amount into two-and-a-half minutes.

What’s striking is a distinct lack of fun, charm, wit, and hint at a story. Admittedly it may be later in the year when we learn more about the film’s plotting and get a specific story trailer, but the concern is that these other key elements appear to be missing – or at the very least masked by the edit.

Aside from obligatory introductions to our team spearheaded by Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), that includes Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), we’re privy to little more than a series of slickly cut moments to a Beatles cover that make up an enormous amount of various scenes. The issue is there’s not a semblance of a story besides rounding up the gang and showing them off in slow-mo.

But wait, where’s Superman (Henry Cavill)? Despite him snuffing it at the end of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, everyone not only knows that Supes cannot die that way, but we even see him begin to regenerate at the end of the movie. Either his omission is to build-up to a heroic return, or it’s assuming fans aren’t bright enough to realise that he’s definitely on his way back.

While last year’s ‘Dawn of Justice’ boasted a strong trailer, DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’ had arguably one of the best trailers of 2016. Yet the film, as a plethora of opinions suggested, was a mess; offering limited character development and virtually no story to the fold.

Margot Robbie and the cast of ‘Suicide Squad’. Credit: Warner Bros.

The notion that ‘Justice League’s’ trailer is in a similar, vague distinction but nowhere near as fun to look at suggests they’ve not learned much from feedback in regards to how the studio had gone too darkly and adult-themed with little room for humour.

Take a Marvel trailer, for example. Apologies for the obvious and overused comparison between the studios, but the fact is seeing a few minutes of the latest ‘Captain America’ or ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a thrilling experience – something of contrast to ‘Justice League’s’.

Despite ‘Dawn of Justice’ totalling at $873 million and ‘Suicide Squad’ earning an impressive $746 million, their next venture needs to be hitting that billion-dollar mark. Disney and Marvel have a handful of movies that’ve broken said milestone, so it’s about time Warner and DC caught up.

The question of when they intend to genuinely compete with Marvel is something no one seems to know. Will ‘Justice League’ be that elevation? Or will it take this summer’s ‘Wonder Woman’ to forge a serious challenge?

Gadot’s ‘Wonder Woman’ could be that turning point that’s been on its way for some time. Director Patty Jenkins could be the one to take it up a notch and reach a billion dollars; but even its trailer isn’t as convincing as it should be.

As unthinkable as it sounds, if both ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Justice League’ were to get unfavourable reviews and fail to ignite the box office, it makes you wonder where the future of the DCEU stands.

What is its next trump card and where would it go beyond 2017?

With ‘Aquaman’ getting pushed back and ‘The Flash’ having its own setbacks such as its director jumping ship, it doesn’t leave them with a lot to barter with, having already unleashed their Superman versus Batman and Suicide Squad anti-hero titles.

Jason Momoa as DC superhero Aquaman. Credit: Warner Bros.

There is, however, ‘The Batman’ as it’s still known as. Ignoring the fact Affleck’s stepped down and been replaced in the director’s chair by Matt Reeves; by the time it comes around it may be DC;s last hope.

And while ‘Justice League’ will introduce new and potentially exciting characters to the fray, Zack Snyder is still at the helm. He’s certainly a divisive filmmaker who absorbed plenty of criticism over how ‘Dawn of Justice’ was put together. His style over substance way of doing things – whether it is by choice or simply the level of his ability – has been clear throughout his career, notably with glorified pop music movie ‘Sucker Punch’ in 2011.

The disappointment of ‘Dawn of Justice’ wasn’t merely down to the CGI-heavy action but the lack of depth and grace of its script. And that’s where the future of DC movies lie – within its screenplays that has the power to shape its audience’s experience. For the upcoming two films at least, Snyder’s had a hand in their stories, which is ominous. Marvel’s success isn’t simply down to competent direction (even though it helps), but the strongest element is the effortless nature of each and every script. Once the tone and structure of the MCU was nailed, the rest fell into place.

However, witnessing how badly Snyder handled the death of Jimmy Olson and how the blockbuster under-performed, he’d best hope not only ‘Justice League’ pans out, but the solo movies around him knock it out the park too.

‘Justice League’ is in UK cinemas from 17 November.

‘Wonder Woman’ is with us earlier on 2 June.