Pity DC. Just when its cinematic universe, the so-called DC Extended Universe or DCEU, appears to be on the right track, finally putting its critical and box office troubles behind with the sensational success of the female-empowering ‘Wonder Woman’ this past summer, things came crashing back to harsh reality in ‘Justice League,’ DC/Warner Brothers’ highly anticipated super-powered team that’s supposed to be DC’s answer to Marvel’s ‘Avengers.’ Boasting such heavyweights as Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg and Superman (yes, he’s baaack!), you would think that JL should have little trouble crossing $100 million at the domestic box office on opening weekend with no major competition (‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is in its third weekend) in sight, but as the final tally came in, it appears that anything is possible.
To be fair, JL had what we might call “bad karma.” One of its production companies is Ratpac Entertainment co-founded by Brett Ratner who, along with his mentor rap mogul Russell Simmons, finds himself accused of sexual misconduct in the current enlightened Hollywood climate. While women went in droves to see ‘Wonder Woman,’ most seem to have stayed away from JL despite Gal Gadot reprising her role in it. Moreover, director Zack Snyder was forced leave the set in May 2017 due to a family tragedy (his daughter’s suicide), leaving the unfinished tentpole in the more-than-capable hands of fan fave Joss Whedon (‘The Avengers,’ ‘Age of Ultron,’ ‘Agents of SHIELD, BTVS, Firefly, etc.). In light of Snyder’s track record (‘Man of Steel,’ ‘BvS: Dawn of Justice') in the DCEU, this change may be taken as a blessing in disguise, but even Joss isn’t Superman and only re-shot some scenes (ballooning the movie’s budget well north of $300 million), having little creative input at this late stage of the film’s development. As a result, JL is plagued by everything the critics have mentioned: inconsistent tone and pacing, a paper-thin plot, underdeveloped characters, subpar FX, and topping it all off is a weak ass villain named after a short-lived '70's Canadian rock group. Quite disappointing.
DC/Warner Brothers really had to bring its ‘A game’ to JL in order to try and catch up to Marvel, but instead of doing justice to ‘Justice League’ it laid an egg while second tier Marvel characters routinely perform better. How? Movie analysts and DC fanboys alike are still scratching their collective heads on this one. Is it because there are simply too many superhero movies out there ("superhero fatigue"), or is it because mainstream audiences just don't find DC characters all that interesting, with the notable exceptions of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman? I guess we'll find out in due course when Aquaman and Shazam get their stand‑alone movies.