What is most disappointing about Justice League is that we all knew is was going to be rubbish. Even with the excitement around Wonder Woman, could she alone drag this ailing bunch of super-miserabilists back from the brink? Nobody really believed so, and this was indeed the case as she was helplessly sucked down into the depths of glumness like a 14 year old listening to Morrissey in a dark Amazonian bedroom. In fact, there hasn’t been a decent DC film since Nolan hung up his bat-boots. So what exactly can DC do to stop the rot?
Well, for starters, lighten up. Even as far back as Iron Man, Marvel have employed writers, actors and directors who can mix in some comedic respite. Given the constant employment of Zack Snyder, a man who could reboot Sooty and Friends as a tedious three-hour CGI-fest, DC seem to have intentionally gone the opposite way. DC’s single foray into the lighter side, Suicide Squad, could have worked; a good solid cast, sharp dialogue, moments of slapstick, but was let down by a bloating of peripheral characters and Cara Delevingne’s hopelessly obscure Enchantress. Even the much-lauded Wonder Woman is surprisingly much glummer on second viewing.
Of course, it has been said that while Marvel have the best superheroes, DC have the best villains, yet it’s difficult to envisage so given the recent baddie output. Lex Luther’s baffling geek remodelling, David Thewlis’ grumpy Geography teacher and most recently an almost laughable Steppenwolf are hardly on a par with Heath Ledger’s Joker. Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Penguin, Mr Freeze, Darkseid are all waiting on the bench. Admittedly, Jim Carrey and Arnie haven’t exactly covered some of those with past glory, but all could be easily remodelled to fit the modern universe.
Possibly the most unforgivable element to all this is that no-one is really interested in new Batman or Superman movies these days. Henry Cavill has never wore the red S with any conviction and it’s unlikely he’ll extend his contract; Ben Affleck doesn’t bring anything new to the Wayne table yet is plodding on with a new Batman film and Justice League 2. Gal Gadot brought something fresh, yet whether she can develop Wonder Woman as DC bleed every last drop out of her is unknown.
So where to now? The films currently in production don’t exactly get the pulse racing; Justice League 2, Aquaman, Shazam and Wonder Woman 2. Could DC wipe the slate clean and start again? It’s possible yet it’s a risk that audiences will buy into yet another Batman or Superman reboot, and given Gal Gadot will no doubt be kept on as Wonder Woman, the new stories will start to baffle somewhat. Possibly the most sensible route, given Marvel’s recent success, is to pick some lesser known characters and take risks with directors. Taika Waititi’s addition to Thor: Ragnarok was a stroke of genius and produced the freshest Superhero film for years, yet with Snyder at the helm once again for Justice League 2 and James Wan (known mainly for Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious) putting final touches to Aquaman, this seems unlikely.
DC have so far been fortunate; recent films have been depressing and downright poor, yet audiences have always flocked to see them. So why change the formula? Yet Justice League has changed that; poor ratings plus a severe drop in box office revenue may finally force the executive’s hand to try something different; even Batman can’t fudge P&L figures. We can only hope.