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:
- November 13: Caroline Goodall, Devon Bostick, Frances Conroy, Gerard Butler, Jimmy Kimmel, Joe Mantegna, Steve Zahn
- November 14: Aaron Copland, Dick Powell, Olga Kurylenko, Veronica Lake, Zhang Yimou
- November 15: Ed Asner, Emma Dumont, Jonny Lee Miller, Petula Clark, Sam Waterston, Sean Murray, Shailene Woodley
- November 16 & 17: Danny DeVito, Dylan Walsh, Luke Kelly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Martha Plimpton, Martin Scorsese, Rachel McAdams, Rock Hudson, Tom Ellis
- November 18: Allison Tolman, Carter Burwell, Chloe Sevigny, Delroy Lindo, Margaret Atwood, Owen Wilson, Susan Sullivan
- November 19: Adam Driver, Allison Janney, Barry Jenkins, Jodie Foster, Laura Osnes, Paul Weitz, Sandrine Holt
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