Where to even start with Justice League? How does one properly summarise a movie that was:
a) produced as a reactionary sequel to one of the most divisive blockbusters of last year and tasked with being both more of the same while correcting a lot of the criticisms levelled at said predecessor.
b) has been in a state of production and editorial flux for almost a year, with reports of rewrites, reshoots and late in the game casting additions (including, most tellingly, the villain)
c) and which had its original director, Zack Snyder, walk away from the movie in post-production in order to deal with the tragic loss of his daughter, to be replaced by Joss Whedon, director of the first two Avengers movies who was recently dragged into the debate over sexual politics currently eating the film community’s heart like a cancer?
And on top of all that, it’s the latest entry in the DC Extended Universe, a series so far defined by dubious creative choices, executive meddling, and a bleak, grim ‘n’ gritty aesthetic that, whilst arguably a money spinner, has yet to do anything to step out of the shadow of its Disney owned rival, besides this year’s well-received surprise hit Wonder Woman. This is less a movie than an industrial point, a moment when the film industry transforms radically for better or worse.
That’s the kind of baggage that would normally lead to a studio torpedoing a movie and swallowing the cost, but in an age when every tentpole movie is a potential franchise starter and every blockbuster movie costs upward of a hundred million dollars and needs to make at least a billion to be considered a success, Warner Bros. has mortgaged their existence on being able to make that Avengers Assemble magic strike twice, a feat that even Marvel have struggled to do.
You’ll notice we still haven’t discussed anything about the plot or characters, and that’s not by accident: with so much transience associated with the movie, there’s no real certainty that any of what we’ve seen or heard so far of the movie, whether in text or trailer form, will represent the finished product in any substantial way.
The best we can probably hope for is that Ben Affleck’s Batman will throw a batarang at something, Ezra Miller’s Flash will run really fast and maybe crack a few jokes, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will be the most well liked feature and everything else will look plastic and overproduced.
When this is the best we can hope for a movie to be, it’s no surprise that box office numbers are haemorrhaging and franchise non-starters like The Mummy are treated with disdain and indifference rather than buoyed by 'so bad it’s good' schadenfreude.
It is telling that one of the entities co-financing this and the rest of WB/DC’s slate of movies, RatPac-Dune, was co-founded and run by current Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin. What started as an expensive boondoggle considered too big to fail and engineered by pasty Wall Street money-men may have no choice but face the reality of a crash.
And that may just be a blessing in disguise for the rest of us.