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The Justice League Was a Huge Letdown

While many of us have been cautiously excited (but not too optimistic) about DC finally putting together the Justice League movie, the bright side to finally seeing it was not having hopes high enough to fall too hard. “Put together” seems like the best compliment I could possibly extend to this film; it was indeed completed and submitted for grading, and like the brunt of my experience as a student, it was executed with all the important, hard parts ignored and fluffed up with low quality attempts at meeting minimum requirements.

Justice League’s cinematography and design look great and all, but when it comes down to the script and overall plot, they could not have done much worse. The process of cementing something – especially with this kind of scope – onto the screen is grueling hard work, but it’s the technical side of the process that make this the best kind of problem to solve. There are definitive techniques already out there; even pushing the technology past its current capabilities is possible when working with a big Hollywood budget and when possessing access to experts that know these capabilities inside and out. Cracking a story, however, is a far more elusive challenge that takes a universal kind of expertise.

I’ve heard that Director Zack Snyder is a nice guy. Everyone that collaborates with him seems to rave about how great he is to work with, and while it’s so nice to finally get a story about a well-known director actually not being a giant douche, the downside comes from the often-expressed notion that Snyder is extremely accommodating to executives wanting to make changes. You can’t always control this, but such kindness takes its toll when almost every other moment of the film, aside from perhaps two brief, well-conceived scenes, seemed totally void of any creativity plot-wise.

The heart of the problem you’re facing, DC, isn’t that Marvel is beating you. It’s that you use up all of your logic on manufacturing the product and forget to use any craftsmanship of the art. You need to stop targeting a select demographic of ticket-buyers. Work your way out of that bubble and into including other individual audiences. First show people what humans can universally relate to – things that are conveniently already located in both real life and the stories and comics your movies are based on – and then you can make additions to help find a latching-on point. I get how much cash is at stake here, but if you can’t stomach the risk of betting on something impossible to physically nail down, like the ideas the superhero stories you own are about, then just go open a TD Ameritrade account and spare us the mockery.

Maybe try making the kids see Superman struggle with something, then solve it in a way that kid would have never thought of. You know, like an actual story. Remember when Man of Steel put characters in danger, a danger that had to actually build up? Like with all those steps in between, instead of just explaining everything word-for-word, and then letting it play out with virtually no challenge or surprises?

You can do that slow motion and fun, action stuff all you want, pretending all the while that you made an intricate movie, but if there’s meaningful tension behind the action, it actually makes the scene’s natural watchability come out. It probably won’t be too terrible to look at, either.

When there’s tension besides just who can bench more, you’ve got an action scene on your hands. Instead of trying to milk every bit of watchability out of a scene by trying to manufacture emotion, try creating something that already wants to be watched, with the stuff that’s already embedded into the material. Only after that, can the visuals jump out at you, and people can actually care how fast The Flash can run. I mean the Flash’s big arc is getting a job. Really? You seriously wrote that and thought, “Wow, powerful stuff.” Not only were all of the moments for emotional payoff totally unearned – they were straight-up cheap. It didn’t even feel right in such an expensive-looking polished frame.

Why did you only have Cyborg show any struggle between humanity and being a robot in the form of random accidents, as if his robot side was programmed by Mr. Magoo? Did you read the character as slapstick that isn’t supposed to be funny? Why not have him articulate a single thought from the perspective of a machine, instead of loosely describing his genius every now and then? He’s an animal and a machine at once – literally man vs. machine. There’s a template for the character in his name, and you managed to turn him into the surviving abortion of a transformer and a zombie.

Aquaman’s futility wasn’t the only reason that climax was some seriously hot garbage. If you’re setting up an entire cinematic universe based on the timeline that your only competition has set, you’re probably asking for a rushed collection of disconnected ideas. Picking a song that word-by-word spells out the current predicament doesn’t add layers or connect ideas.

DC, don’t squander the short amount of time that you have before people just start making low budget Justice League movies that are way better than yours. Show heroes being heroic, not just striking heroic poses. Now we have a Wonder Woman that just talks about leading, then only makes one decision that not only didn’t require her presence, but also made their entire plan of attack even worse. We have The Flash, who is only weak when it comes to coordination – which is great, since you don’t need that at extreme high speeds – but he can get shot in the leg and be just fine.

If you prioritize matching the Marvel formula over forming the story of these particular characters, you are only shooting yourselves in the foot.

I would outline more of what makes Aquaman and Cyborg so bad in this film but I fear I will develop carpal tunnel syndrome before I finish typing. Justice League proves that many times there is no justice in the big leagues. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of people with ill-suited expertise who want to show action without talking about aggression, to show romance without actually talking about love, and to show heroes by their swinging capes instead of exploring anything deeper than the few millimeters of cool costume around them.

Featured Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr

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