Justice League 2017; Bad Idea

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of another bunch of superheroes banding together for whatever excuse.  The interactions of godlike beings is always entertaining, especially when they are portrayed with such typically human qualities as the Fantastic Four and Avengers have been in recent years, or as the latest Justice League cartoons managed in the in the years before that.  But there are a couple serious flaws with making the movie right now as opposed to say in another five years.

For one, movie makers must realize that if they are going to have a successful movie they will need to attract beyond the comics readers, and the only way that crowd knows most of the primaries (apart from Batman and Superman) is through a media that has traditionally portrayed them as flat and uninteresting characters (here Marvel already had a huge advantage).  Take Wonder Woman, traditionally the number three in DC comics.  Not much to her.  And the only successful show about her took place in the seventies.  Aquaman and The Flash still suffer from the same perception of being two-dimensional.  The Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onzz, is almost completely unknown to the public.

Marvel had a huge advantage in this regard.  All of the most important characters had appeared in more than one medium over the decade before they started making the movies, and Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, and even Thor were all well in the public consciousness.  More importantly, they had all been reincarnated as three-dimensional personalities.

Second thing, Marvel took established actors for most of the key roles, people an audience already wanted to see.  This was especially important for Iron Man (a complex character hard to play) and Captain America (someone difficult to play as anything but flat).  In the JL movie Wonder Woman would have to be a key element, and she is to be played by a virtual unknown apart from small parts in three Fast and Furious movies.  And while she is an attractive woman, she hardly calls to mind an Amazon with her slight figure.

Now certainly Smallville and the recent game Injustice: Gods Among Us has improved the public’s awareness of the characters who will be in this movie, but here again DC needs to take a lesson from Marvel, which has been extremely successful with its Avengers franchise.  In a series of movies, they gave us the chance to be reintroduced to their leading characters and eased into the actors would play those roles.  In the process, they generated interest years before Avengers actually came out.  If Justice League is to be a commercial success, they will need to do the same thing.  They will have to do so more carefully, as they have many hokey movies such as the 1960s and 80s Batman and Superman movies to live down before they can try such a delicate project as a team superhero movie.



About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well; https://cianbeirdd.wordpress.com/cian-beirdd/
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9 Responses to Justice League 2017; Bad Idea

  1. Loki says:

    Wholeheartedly agree. That said, if they absolutely have to fast-track it (and I guess they’re terrified that if they don’t, the “super hero fad” will die before they get around to a JL film — of course, they’ve been projecting the end of this “trend” for fifteen years now, and the movies are raking in more money than ever), I think what they’re doing is probably smart — draw audiences in with a Superman and/or Batman film, and then introduce Wonder Woman (and hopefully one or two other leaguers) as secondary or even tertiary characters appearing there. Would it be better to give each character their own film á la Marvel? Absolutely. But with their clearly rushed time table, layering the characters so that they’ve at least appeared on the big screen before they take centre stage in a JL-film is likely the least dumb way to go about it.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      Least dumb. Nice. My big concern is introducing the characters with their new depth may be too much for an audience to accept. We have seen bits from Smallville, of JL, but the older audience grew up with Linda Carter and Superfriends. Very, very flat.

      • Loki says:

        I don’t think so. Audiences accepted Black Widow and War Machine in “Iron Man 2” with little preamble or prior knowledge, and Hawkeye went over fine in “The Avengers”. I’m sure The Falcon will be similarly received in Cap 2. Sure, they had _no_ prior expectation instead of a _negative_ one, but … I’m having a hard time seeing older audiences refusing to see a Superman/Batman film because they see their (perceived) flat Wonder Woman on a poster or in a trailer. And once she shows up in the film and (hopefully) isn’t flat like they assumed she would be, their prejudices should have lessened for an upcoming film where she’d hold more of a centre stage.

        At least that’s how I (and probably WB) hope it will happen.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        I agree that is what they want, but Wonder Woman is the no. 3 in DC, not a bit player like Black Widow. The perception will be stronger, and harder to break down. Also, it has taken some serious magic to make Batman and Superman work. Pushing that magic is not a smart plan. By comparison, the Mrvel movies have seemed relatively effortless. If they hadn’t tried so hard with X-Men 1-3 they would have been great too.

      • Loki says:

        And I’m glad you picked up on the “least dumb” phrasing. 😉

      • Loki says:

        We seem to be on the same page about this, although I do think you’re worrying a bit too much about preconceptions as regards Wonder Woman. I think the demographic that knows more of her than the name and a vague understanding her her general appearance and the demographic of the fans who care enough to know she’s not really a flag character is fairly overlapping. I don’t think there’s a huge crowd of people who will say “oh, that character? No way. If it had been someone I’d never heard of, that’d be different”. Some will surely say that, but they’d say the same about Superman or Spider-Man, as they’d be the ones with preconceptions about superheroes in general.

        But perhaps my understanding of this is flawed, as a European. Wonder Woman is basically utterly unknown over here — comparatively, Red Sonja would get ten times the name recognition here in Norway. I guess the 70s show might have had a bigger impact on American general awareness of the character than I realise — a negative one, if I read your expectations correctly.

        I also think you do the X-men films an injustice. They might not be great (though I hold the second one is), but their success and choice to take the source material seriously was the instigator of this great era of cinematic superheroics. Without them (and Raimi’s Spider-Man), we’d probably never have gotten Marve’s “effortless” later ventures (or possibly even Nolan’s trilogy).

  2. Cian Beirdd says:

    Red Sonja is almost unknown in the U.S. Wonder Woman was great, I loved it, it is still a cult classic, but it is dated is all. In DC, she is the third biggest star. No question. She is the third superhero, the flag feminine hero, and an icon in her own right.

    As for X-Men. I really hated that they messed with the original plots without doing so with a point (a la Spiderman, FF, etc.). I hated that they added characters to the universe when there was no need or reason to. But the acting was good, and you are right it generated an interest in the comic movies that had never been there before.

    • Loki says:

      Right, that’s what I thought — so since she’s so well known, I don’t think people expecting a flat character is going to be a problem. There could be other problems, like the movie sucking, but … I don’t think expectations that she’s a boring character will be an issue.

      I hadn’t read X-men comics yet when the first movie came out (translated superhero comics come and go on the Norwegian market as sales are always borderline too low to be profitable, and in my childhood they were not present — though they came back for a few years in my late teens, which is when I got hooked), so I’m not sure to what extent they messed more with the plots than Spidey and FF did. But I enjoyed them, and the second one is still on my list of the very best superhero films I’ve seen (though at this point Avengers, Dark Knight, Watchmen and (if that counts as superheroics) V for Vendetta are all above it, and the first Iron Man and second Raimi Spider-Man are probably about as good). I was devastated that the third one was so awful in comparison (I think X-men 1 is ok and X-men 2 is Awesome), but they seem to be on, if not the right track than at least a better track now with “First Class” and “The Wolverine”. Hoping “Days of Future Past” and “Apocalypse” continues the trend.

  3. Talhwch says:

    I think we can agree that the third X-Men was the worst and the second much better. And of course the new movies are much better. I loved the Raimi movies, they just picked a poor fit to play lead. I also have loved all of the newer Avengers movies, and the four Nolan DC contributions. I am surprised you made no mention of Blade. All three are cult classics here. It is a great time to like comic movies.

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