Right off the bat (oh no, the puns have already started), I’ll admit that giving a list the title of reasons why it might not suck sounds like a backhanded compliment. At the same time, should we not all be a little apprehensive about Justice League? Yes, Wonder Woman turned out great but this still doesn’t change the fact that the three movies preceding it — Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad — have ranged from decent to downright awful. Plus, the man who directed two of those three movies — Zack Snyder — is overseeing Justice League too, so what’s to say that he doesn’t simply fall back on his mistakes from those films and just deliver the same mediocre experience again? Well, believe it or not, Justice League actually has quite a bit going for it and even though there is a very good chance that it will turn out to be a huge mess, there are legitimate reasons to be hopeful for its success.
Justice League comes out on Nov. 17. Let’s hope Warner Bros. gets this one right!
10. Joss Whedon
Setting aside the recent controversy surrounding his ex-wife Kai Cole’s scathing essay about his alleged affairs and other unsavory conduct, Joss Whedon is a talented filmmaker who can generally be relied upon to deliver a crowd-pleasing movie. Brought on earlier this year to help see Justice League through to completion following Zack Snyder’s departure due to a family emergency, Whedon oversaw reshoots and has an official writing credit on the film.
For better or worse, Justice League is still very much Zack Snyder’s baby and this is something that Warner Bros. and Whedon have emphasized repeatedly, no doubt to downplay the idea that The Avengers director would be coming in to shake everything up. Still, no matter how big or small Whedon’s contributions to Justice League end up being, the film can only be better for his involvement, given his skill in managing large ensemble casts and affection for the source material.
9. Steppenwolf May Very Well Be The Best DCEU Villain Yet
Justice League is in a weird position when it comes to its villain set-up, as even if Steppenwolf ends up being a good on-screen villain, he’ll still be seen by DC fans as a mere stepping stone to Darkseid, who like Marvel’s Thanos is the big bad everyone wants to see the heroes fight. It’s understandable why Steppenwolf would be viewed as a B-list villain too because, well, he is. Even though he’s Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf works for his nephew as the leader of Apokilips’ military, so while he is undoubtedly a force to reckoned with, he still has to play second fiddle to Darkseid. Still, this doesn’t mean that Steppenwolf isn’t a formidable adversary in his own right and it’s the very fact that no one really knows what to expect from him in Justice League that could be the secret Steppenwolf’s success.
As a skilled military tactician, Steppenwolf represents a huge threat to Earth and the Justice League, the latter of whom will still be trying to figure out how to come together as a team when Steppenwolf and his Parademons start wreaking havoc in their search for the Mother Boxes. Ciarán Hinds is also a skilled character actor and will no doubt bring something memorable to his performance. Throw in the fact that, outside of Michael Shannon’s General Zod, the DC Extended Universe hasn’t had very memorable villains yet, and there’s a good chance that Steppenwolf could be the best villain yet in the young franchise.
8. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman
Out of all the “new” heroes being introduced in Justice League, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’m looking forward to seeing Jason Momoa’s Aquaman in action the most. All respect to Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and Ezra Miller’s Flash, but there’s just something captivating about Momoa’s hard-drinking, ultra metal take on Arthur Curry. This probably has something to do with the fact that, for most of his existence, Aquaman has been a pretty lame character (although I’m sure using a pair of dolphins as water skis is bound to make a comeback any day now). It’s still a bit too early to know for sure but considering he’s the only character other than Wonder Woman who seems to have a solo movie that is actually on track to come out, Aquaman could very well be the breakout star of Justice League when it hits this November.
7. Batman’s Mellowed Out
As good as Ben Affleck’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman was in Batman v Superman, there were some issues with his characterization that were hard to overlook. While comics like The Dark Knight Returns have proven that a world-weary, past-his-prime Batman can be a fascinating approach to take with the character when handled correctly, Affleck’s Batman was just kind of a dick and made a lot of questionable, amateur decisions that felt out of character (the amount of private property he lays waste to is almost as concerning as the high body count he racks up while doing so).
From what we’ve seen of Justice League so far, it looks like a different approach is being taken with Batman overall. You get the sense that Superman’s sacrifice and Diana’s friendship has given Bruce a new lease on life and a brighter outlook on the world, which would explain why he’s so adamant in forming the Justice League to help save it. We could very well be getting the best version of Batman in Justice League: a Caped Crusader who is still the outcast of the group and the one who has a difficult time playing nice with others, but a natural leader who inspires those around him. After all, Batman is the only hero in the group who has no actual superpowers and the fact that he can joke about this with Barry Allen (“What’s your superpower?” “I’m rich.”) is a very good sign.
6. Injection of Humor
One of the ways in which the DC Extended Universe has differentiated itself from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in the humor department, as Warner Bros. has made it clear that their films don’t go for as many laughs as your typical Marvel release. And that’s totally fine, as most comic book fans would attest that, overall, the DC universe is a bit more serious in its storytelling approach, although this varies from character to character. That being said, there’s a difference between having some comedic bits of dialogue and a film like Batman v Superman, which seemed to go out of its way to be as unfunny and sullen as possible; heck, even The Dark Knight had more humor in it!
Fortunately, Wonder Woman proved earlier this year that you can still tell a serious superhero story while still being able to take a moment here and there to poke fun at something. To that end, WB has made no secret of the fact that Justice League won’t be as overly serious as its predecessor, with Ben Affleck telling People: “It’s very different from the tenor of the last movie and there’s also more room for humor.” No one’s saying Justice League needs to be DC’s version of Guardians of the Galaxy, but a bit of levity would go a long way in creating a film that is more enjoyable to watch.
5. Expanding The DC Universe
One of the great things about Justice League being an ensemble film that brings together all sorts of individual characters and stories is that we’ll be learning more about the DC Extended Universe as a whole, almost by default. We’ll not only get to see what more familiar characters like Batman and Wonder Woman have been up to since the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but get actual introductions to characters we’ve only seen brief glimpses of up until this point.
Justice League will give significant screen time to characters like Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash, so we’ll finally be able to get a read on how each of these heroes factor into the DCEU, but this will also be the first time seeing supporting characters such as Iris West and Commissioner Gordon (and those are just the ones we know about). All of this is a roundabout way of saying that even if the main narrative of Justice League ends up being a dud, the film will probably be worth a watch just on the basis of the cool DC Easter eggs it will have.
4. Saving Superman
While I’m still of the mind that killing Superman off at the end of Batman v Superman was a hollow act that wouldn’t have happened if Doomsday hadn’t been in the movie, it does seem like Justice League is doubling down on the “world without Superman” idea in the best way possible. Even if Man of Steel and Batman v Superman did a questionable job of framing Henry Cavill’s Superman as an inspirational force of good, using the character’s status as a symbol of hope and idealism as something that brings the Justice League together to fight a common enemy is an inherently interesting idea. It’s also an idea that feels authentic in terms of how these characters have been portrayed in the comics for decades. It’s no secret that Superman will rise from the dead and make a dramatic return in the film’s third act, but Justice League looks poised to be the first of Snyder’s DC films to actually get the character right.
3. Hopeful Tone
One of most common complaints about both of Zack Snyder’s previous DC films — Man of Steel and Batman v Superman — is that they established the DC Extended Universe as a dark, morose place where superheroes kill people and seem to lack the characteristics and values that fans have come to associate with them over the course of many previous decades. Fortunately, Warner Bros. seems to not only have listened to these complaints but have been planning to have Justice League be the uplifting chapter in Snyder’s trilogy, at least according to assistant director Damon Caro and effects supervisor Bryan Hirota.
Back in February, the pair told Heroic Hollywood that the plan had always been to make Justice League have a hopeful overall tone. “Justice League was always the rebirth of hope and the rise,” Caro said. “People try to say that it’s a response to the backlash, and I’d definitely say that criticisms were heard, but it’s not like we threw everything out and started with a blank slate. It’s a bit like Star Wars. Empire Strikes Back? Dark movie! But then Return of the Jedi is the rise and the rebuilding of hope.”
While Caro’s analogy doesn’t quite apply to the DC model thus far — unlike Batman v Superman, The Empire Strikes Back was actually a good movie, dark tone and all — it’s at the very least reassuring to see the people behind Justice League recognize the faults of the previous films and want to do better.
2. Wonder Woman
I think it’s fair to say that the single greatest asset Justice League has going for it right now is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Gadot’s performance was one of the few bright spots to be found in Batman v Superman and Patty Jenkins’ standalone film focused on the Amazonian princess proved to not only be the best DC Extended Universe film to date by a significant margin, but probably in the top 10 superhero movies ever made.
While Gadot has made assurances that Justice League is NOT another Wonder Woman movie, she has claimed that “Diana serves as the glue of the team. She finds moments to support every one of the team make them feel stronger or believe in themselves.” Even if the rest of Justice League doesn’t work at all, we already have ample evidence that there is no need to worry about Wonder Woman and there’s honestly comfort in knowing that going in.
1. Warner Bros. Needs It To Succeed
The most important reason for why Justice League has a very good chance of being a halfway decent film is that Warner Bros. isn’t about to let themselves release another critically-panned superhero blockbuster out into the world. While WB could certainly weather the storm and still get the DCEU on track if Justice League ended up being another BvS or Suicide Squad, it’s important to remember that the studio wants what Marvel has with its own universe (even if they won’t publicly admit it). The Marvel Cinematic Universe films are, for the most part, critical darlings and have a huge audience of passionate fans. I know they say no publicity is bad publicity but as the disappointing box office returns of recent blockbusters such as Transformers: The Last Knight have shown, audiences will only tolerate crappy filmmaking for so long before they start to become disenfranchised and stop buying tickets.
If Justice League and subsequent movies are awful, people are going to start losing faith in WB’s ability to make good superhero movies and Wonder Woman will start looking more and more like an anomaly. Justice League needs to be a hit commercially and critically to keep the momentum going following the warm reception Wonder Woman received earlier this year and if WB can’t deliver — especially after supposedly learning so many lessons from Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad — then they might as well just pack up now and stop trying to fool us all into thinking they actually know what they’re doing with any of this.