So it’s official, after DC fanboys months of debating, conspiracies, sadness, anger and a plethora of other emotions over 2017s Justice League, we can conclude one thing, it is definitively the lowest grossing film of the DCEU, a somewhat head scratching and disappointing crescendo to DC films so far and a result that DC fans and probably Warner Bros thinking, what next?
I mean Aquaman is still coming out later this year, as is Flashpoint and a Wonder Woman 2 most likely but as far continuing the DCs continued universe, there are multiple questions going forward, some questioning the viability of the whole thing in fact but we need to look at how we got here, how did Justice League end up doing so badly? I say ‘badly’ with a caveat of course, JL has grossed about $663 million worldwide, no mean feat of course and a big worldwide tally but far short of what WB and DC fans would have expected for it, just shy of Man Of Steels total at $668 million and it didn’t come close to Wonder Womans‘ $821 million or Batman V Supermans‘ $873 million.
But how can this be? Not only are Batman and Superman teaming up but so did Wonder Woman played by the beloved Gal Gadot, Aquman, Cyborg and The Flash, a reduced roster but a roster of some of the most recognizable and well liked characters not only in DC but in all of comic books…. how could the film do so poorly in comparison to expectations? The answer is manifold but I think you can attribute the result to 3 main reasons that I’ll go into – hype, disjointed production and word of mouth.
Up there with The Avengers, Iron Man and Batman V Superman, Justice League was naturally one of the most anticipated films of the last decade, comic book fans, not only DC fans were clearly excited for the film and hoped it would be a good step forward after Wonder Woman knocked it out of the park, this may have been a problem in retrospect as too many people may have gone in expecting well, another Wonder Woman esque DCEU film – in quality at least. The film was probably never going to live up to that standard with all the hype laid upon it and I think this is absolutely one of the reasons why it is seen as a failure in many fans eyes.
I feel like there’s this overall feeling that comic book fans are almost impossible to please (not true, look at all of the MCU pretty much) and with the DCEU you could argue this is the case, fans were turned off by BvS jumbled, overly bleak tone and supposed rush plot and clearly voiced their distaste, Justice League was decidedly lighter with a lot of jokes but again fans weren’t too pleased as it seems, ‘Batman was too jokey’, ‘flash was a cartoon character’ etc. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to put all of the blame on the final production and the fans have a part to blame in all of this, with a bunch of expectations so broad that the film could never possibly have pleased the majority of them.
This isn’t WBs fault in the slightest… or maybe it is but either way, they went with Zack Snyder, he was championing the DCEU and was their leading man, due to unfortunate family circumstances and also because they didn’t like his work on the film apparently, Snyder left and or was fired which is a shame, Whedon took over and we know how the story goes. The result is pretty apparent though with a film clearly watermarked by two directors with prominent styles, Whedons quippy, bantery dialogue and lighter overall tone coupled with Snyders penchant for stylish visuals, sincerity with his characters and use of fantastic characters for real world metaphors and it just… didn’t really work. Justice League isn’t a terrible film in my eyes don’t get me wrong but I left it feeling like it could have been better myself, with more consistent characterisation following on from BvS for Batman, Superman was done decently enough but missed out on a cool black suit, any facial hair and specifically a mustache (which I don’t really care about people do!)
The film tried to be DCs The Avengers and it just didn’t translate well enough, if you’ve watched the Justice league cartoons or read the comics, they’re far from a super serious, boring group and they’re traditionally a fun going group of heroes… and Batman with great interaction and humour, especially from Flash and Green Lantern and that’s what makes watching them do their thing so cool. But with a reduced roster and just two films previously for Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to be established – and just cameos in BvS for Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, you do get the feeling things were rushed just a tad, people may know the characters from elsewhere but film going audiences may not and seeing them trust together so quickly may have been a bit jarring and felt derivative of y’know, Marvel.
Word of mouth
Last but not least, the curse of the bad word of mouth strikes again for the DCEU… Rotten Tomatoes absolutely played a part and you couldn’t get away from the furore and anger of DC fans for the rating be slow and the news about the rating in general… and the conversation around the film, in the digital age, word of mouth goes a long way and Rotten Tomatoes has all but killed a few prominent films box offices in recent years, which is an entire interesting topic on its own. But with more positive ratings across the board and especially on RT, would Justice League have done better commercially? Absolutely. And would the conversation looking back on the film now be completely different? Quite likely.
Positive sentiment and word of mouth goes a long way, a series or franchise associated with negative ratings and bad reviews will be seen as exactly that – bad and even if it’s slightly improving, people still go into each new film expecting the worst, while the opposite is also true for franchises with glowing, spotless reputation like the MCU for the most part. It’s an expected truth of the film industry and the fact of the matter is that the DCEU has always been on an uphill battle since Man of Steel and trying to ‘win over’ fans and critics alike ever since.
And well those are my thoughts, there may be more intricate reasons as to why the film ‘bombed’ and you may have your own thoughts and I’m sure people will discuss Justice League for years to come in relation to the DCEU and the dangers of trying to rush a cinematic universe into existence. I don’t know what WB will do going forward and how things will turn out but I just hope we get more diverse, interesting comic book films that come from places outside of a company that rhymes with ‘Garvel’, no hate but I just like my variety!