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Weekly Recap: A Justice League of Our Own

It’s been a rough road for Warner Brothers as they have tried to catch up with their Marvelous competition.  After a couple of false starts with Superman Returns and Green Lantern, they finally got their superhero universe established with Zack Snyder-helmed efforts Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  After the latter opened to blistering reviews, the studio scrambled to reverse course with their team-up movie, Justice League.  They were too late in the game to replace Snyder outright, but Avengers writer and director Joss Whedon was brought on board to handle reshoots.  Was it enough to right the ship?  We’ll talk about Justice League and more in this week’s recap.

The story on Justice League is one of those good news/bad news situations.  The good news is, reviews are better than they were for Snyder’s last movie.  The bad news is, critics still don’t like Justice League.  At the box office, the good news is that with a gross approaching $100 million dollars, Justice League easily took the top spot.  The bad news is that the movie was expected to blow past the $100 million dollar mark in its opening weekend.  As it stands, Justice League is looking at the lowest opening weekend of any of the recent movies based on DC Comics characters.  But the good news is that audiences seem to like the movie more than they liked BvS.  That bodes well for next week’s long Thanksgiving weekend when hopefully the superhero team can lure a few more families into theaters.  If not, at least Justice League is performing well overseas.

Longtime readers know that I am a big fan of these characters and that I have not enjoyed Zack Snyder’s treatment of them in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  I went into Justice League with low expectations and for the most part, the movie met them.  This is not to suggest that Justice League is a good movie.  It is not.  There are flaws that you have to actively ignore if you want to have any chance of enjoying the movie at all.  First and foremost is the villain.

The team comes together to fight the wicked conqueror Steppenwolf.  Never heard of him?  You’re not alone.  In comic books, Steppenwolf is one of the many flunkies of the intergalactic tyrant, Darkseid.  Darkseid was created by Jack “the King” Kirby after he defected from Marvel Comics.  He’s a great villain who would have been a natural choice to oppose the League on the big screen.  But unfortunately, he has a lot in common with the Marvel villain Thanos who has been featured working in the background of several Marvel movies.  The truth is, Thanos was a blatant ripoff of Darkseid, but since he made his movie debut first audiences aren’t likely to care.  Darkseid would be seen by many as a Thanos clone.

So instead, Steppenwolf got promoted to Big Bad status with Darkseid getting a shout-out to set up his eventual appearance.  That would be an acceptable solution to most viewers if the execution weren’t so bad.  Steppenwolf is rendered entirely in CGI.  CGI has come a long way since Ang Lee tried to sell audiences on a very blobby-looking Hulk, but Steppenwolf looks like he walked out of a cut-scene from the Injustice video game.  It’s not just distracting.  Every time the villain appears on the screen any suspension of disbelief is shattered.

I could go on about how the movie gets most of the characters wrong.  Batman is softened from the murderous psychopath who killed first and asked questions never in Batman v Superman, but he still has machine guns mounted on the Batmobile and he’s not afraid to use them.  Aquaman is a dude bro and the Flash comes across as autistic.  Cyborg has no personality whatsoever.  The movie puts some effort into making it seem like people miss Superman now that he’s gone, but based on what we saw in the previous two movies the world is probably better off without him.

Unless you’re a fan of the comic books, most of that stuff isn’t going to matter to you.  Nor should it.  I’m perfectly willing to let the movie put its own spin on the characters.  Even so, I think a more faithful adaptation could have worked.  Marvel has enjoyed great success in part because they know what to change for the big screen and what to leave alone.  The bottom line is that Zack Snyder was the wrong choice to launch this franchise and now Warner Brothers is stuck with his movies as their foundation.

In preparation for the opening of Justice League, we too a look back at some of the previous DC superhero movies.  I added Batman v Superman to the Worst to First articles on Superman and Batman.  The results have been reset for both articles, so everyone has a chance to revisit their rankings.  We also revisited the Salkinds’ attempt to spin-off a Supergirl series and the movie that finally put an end to the Christopher Reeve era of Superman.  Oh and this week’s Lego Dimensions article took a look at the DC Comics-related Teen Titans Go! Team Pack.

But Justice League wasn’t the only new release based on a comic book character.  Marvel launched their new Punisher TV show on Netflix offering comic book fans an alternative to DC’s big team-up movie.  To tie into the television show, we took a look at all three failed attempts to start a Punisher movie franchise.

Now that all the superhero stuff is out of the way, let’s take a look at Jestak’s birthday updates:

We have an actress who was cast as Spider-Man’s girlfriend only to have her character cut from the movie, the Penguin, Batman’s doomed girlfriend, Dr. Strange’s love interest and former mean girl, the voice of Lightning McQueen, a Star Wars villain, Clarice Starling, two American Horror Story actresses, an author whose works have taken on a new relevance, a legend from the Golden Age of Hollywood and one of our most respected film directors.

Our Movieline cover-story this week was an interview with Richard Gere at a time when he was being hounded over his break-up with supermodel Cindy Crawford.  We also had profile pieces on Joan Allen and Charlize Theron.  If you ever wondered what it would be like to go bowling with Furiosa, be sure to check out the Theron interview from early in her acting career.  And finally, an argument that the longevity of Citizen Kane actually makes Orson Welles the most successful person in Hollywood despite the many indignities he endured late in his career.

Next week: Things will get animated for the release of Pixar’s Coco, Movieline puts a WTHH star on their cover and Jestak brings the birthdays

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Posted on November 19, 2017, in Weekly Recap. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m going to see it on Thanksgiving, but overall I think they need to revamp almost everything about the DCEU outside Wonder Woman. You can use the resurrection of Superman (I haven’t seen the movie but I’m 99% sure that happens) as a chance to reset his personality to make him more like the comics or Christopher Reeve Superman. Also, maybe make the story of the upcoming Flash film “Flashpoint” or something similar that allows for either a soft or hard reset of the universe.

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    • spoilers

      Henry Cavill smiles in this movie and it makes a world of difference.

      end spoilers

      I believe I read that the Flash solo movie will be called Flashpoint, but I don’t love that idea. I thought the Flashpoint comic book was awful. If you’re going to reboot the film series, you don’t need to resort to comic book tricks to do it. Just reboot it. Of course at this point, I figure everything is up in the air. I am counting down to the announcement that Affleck is done playing Batman.

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  2. Good one mate.Please do check my justice league review. Pls like and feel free to comment.

    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.js

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  3. Another production and the story remains the same. For the longest time, the expectation echoed all over the trade press was that this would be a $150 million opening weekend. It’s going to finish with something like $93 million, which means its officially a flop domestically. That’s less than any DCEU opening weekend. It’s $24 million less than the wretched MAN OF STEEL, which was also a domestic flop. It’s almost that much less than the current Marvel movie, which features a b-list character.

    This needs to end, no way around it. Snyder ruined Superman and the Batman beyond repair–those films should have never been greenlit and each one of them should have resulted in all of the subsequent planned productions being cancelled. Those versions of these characters can’t be salvaged (after the critical drubbing this one is getting, I can’t believe Affleck won’t finally bail, among other things). Instead of rebooting, WB has insisted on continuing to dig this grave and now, they have a failed JUSTICE LEAGUE. That’s not just a failed movie. This is the biggest DC property WB can put on the screen–nothing else even comes close–and it’s going to make less money than anything else they’ve done. WB created this train-wreck because no one at the studio understood the characters and they turned their universe-building project over to a guy who despised them. That characters had no representation in this. If there is anyone at WB with a functioning brain, he’s not going to be looking at these returns and thinking, “Yeah, but don’t worry–the Flash and Cyborg solo movies will save us!”

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    • I mostly agree. I’m steering clear of the F-word (flop) for now. But it’s a big disappointment domestically for certain. I think the international business will save it from losing money just like it did with BvS, but that’s a failure. As you point out, if WB can’t have a hit with the Justice League, what hope does a Cyborg movie have. Justice League didn’t do the character any favors.

      I’m interested to see whether or not Affleck walks. My take is that he was badly stung by the reaction to BvS and he’s had one foot out the door ever since. After Argo, he had reached a point in his career where he didn’t need to make superhero movies if he didn’t want to. He could and should have focused on his directing career. Instead, he signed on to do Batman and was initially very enthusiastic about the franchise. My guess is that he thought the world really wanted to see a live-action take on the Frank Miller Batman. Affleck’s a Miller fan which is also why he made Dardevil.

      Affleck’s been nursing his wounds over Daredevil for years. I think the reaction to the DC movies has taken him by surprised and he’s having flashbacks to his turn as a superhero. It’s obvious his enthusiasm for the franchise has steadily declined over the last year. Before Justice League even opened, he was telling the European press he wasn’t sure whether or not he would star in The Batman. And that’s after he bailed on directing the solo movie. I think it’s pretty obvious he was already looking for an escape hatch to his contract. With more bad reviews and now commercial failure, I imagine he’s had enough.

      I don’t think WB will pull the plug though. I suspect WW provided enough hope for them to keep it going. They will punch Snyder’s ticket for good. I wonder if they will also send Whedon packing or see how he does when he’s not fixing someone else’s mess. It’s going to be interesting to see how they react to this one.

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      • The reason domestic is so important is that the studio gets back about 55% of what it makes in its opening week. That begins decreasing almost immediately and will continue to do so as long as the movie is in release. The studio takes much less of a cut of the foreign take. From China, the biggest foreign market by far, the studio only gets 25%. Foreign business has to be REALLY great to make up for a domestic flop.

        Affleck is a lifelong fan of these characters. He plays the good solider when these movies are released but he doesn’t want to be associated with rubbishing them. He wasn’t just stung by the reaction to DAREDEVIL, he concede (long after the fact, so as not to affect its box-office) that it was a terrible movie. He was initially very fired-up about being cast as Bruce Wayne, said he wanted to write, direct and star in a Batman solo movie, which wasn’t even in WB’s schedule at that point. Then he started backing away. Wasn’t going to direct it. Then the movie wasn’t going to be connected to the DCEU. Then he started talking about maybe not even playing the character anymore. It really does sound like he’s just come to see it as a train-wreck with which he’d rather not be associated. Time will tell, i suppose.

        WB tried to knock off GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with the execrable SUICIDE SQUAD, cloned the awful CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER to get the also-awful WONDER WOMAN and last night, a fellow told me JUSTICE LEAGUE is like a remake of the Avengers movies and went through a bunch of stuff WB had lifted from Marvel for it.

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  4. What went wrong with Justice League at the box office

    http://www.looper.com/96786/went-wrong-justice-league-box-office/

    Justice League should have been an instant hit. The team-up film brought together some of the world’s most popular heroes, including Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, for what promised to be an epic battle—but it ended up disappointing in its opening weekend, pulling in just $94 million. 

    While this is nothing to turn your nose up at, it pales in comparison to the rest of the DCEU, representing the smallest opening for the budding universe to date. It’s also only the 23rd best opening for a superhero film, and the eighth best of the year to date.

    Considering Justice League’s pedigree, the movie seemed like a slam dunk for a smash. So what went wrong? Here’s why Justice League struggled at the box office.

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    • In its opening weekend, Justice League, the culimination of the DC Extended Universe thus far, opened to just 93.8 million in its domestically, and 278.8 million worldwide – lower figures than anyone dreamed possible just days earlier.

      Like

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