5 Ways to Prep: Justice League
By George Rose
November 16, 2017
As much as I would looooove to get excited that Thor: Ragnarok recently opened to $123 million and, somehow, Justice League is now tracking between $110-120 million, I’m not allowed to. My mommy and daddy just told me that I shouldn’t gloat when I’m on a winning team and I shouldn’t make fun of losers. I’m just kidding, my parents don’t care that much about movies. Kevin Feige and James Gunn, on the other hand, did recently try to school their fans on how to be good sportsman. In the last few weeks, Marvel’s super producer and the Guardians of the Galaxy director have gone on the record saying they don’t understand the Marvel/DC conflict and wish fans would just support each other. Under normal circumstances, I would agree. I love Thor and Superman differently but, also, equally. I grew up liking Spider-Man and Batman. The prospect of seeing them on the big screen was always a childhood dream of mine and it’s all finally coming true in magical ways. The problem here isn’t that Marvel fans are being too harsh because it’s not really DC we have a problem with. It’s the people behind turning the DC comics into movies and, more importantly, the way Warner Bros. has wasted their opportunity.
Superman was the first to breakout into blockbuster status in the 1970’s. Then Batman broke box office records in the 1980’s. Fans of DC started to brag that their stories and characters were better. A few crappy Marvel B-movies didn’t gain any traction and DC ruled the world. Then computer effects got an upgrade in the late 1990’s and Marvel started making a comeback. Batman was still recovering from the deadly blow that was Batman & Robin as Spider-Man became the first movie to break $100 million on opening weekend,. Things started to stabilize as the overstuffed Spider-Man 3 was competing with the beginning of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. After years of reigning supreme, DC was now living in a version of harmony with Marvel; both companies were producing quality product and total garbage in equal measure. Marvel was doing well with X-Men and Spider-Man, but suffered with Daredevil and Ghost Rider. DC was riding on the back of the Dark Knight while struggling with Superman.
So how did we get to a place where Marvel’s own producers are slapping the wrists of their fans for laughing at DC’s loses? Not only will understanding the whole story help you find clarity in the superhero smack-down about to go down in theaters, but you will be able to better prepare yourself for the latest contender in the battle of the cinematic universes: Justice League.
Way to Prep #1: Batman v Superman (2016)
The birth of the cinematic universe is both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, they bring together groups of characters that people love and, if done right, can elevate one’s overall experience beyond anything that any individual character could have achieved alone. On the down side, if there is a problem that occurs with even one character than the whole house of cards could collapse. Marvel took their time first with standalone features before bringing their Avengers together. DC, on the other hand, rushed their superhero team-up and paid the price. Marvel started in 2008 with Iron Man and by 2012 we had five films that utilized six of the primary Avengers. Warner Bros wanted to jump on the bandwagon so they launched Man of Steel in 2013 in hopes they could work their way towards a Justice League.
Marvel had Disney, the best studio in the world, and they had Joss Whedon, a nerd icon. They made sure there was ample talent behind the camera before filming a project like Avengers, something you really only get one shot at. DC had no choice but to stick with Warner Bros who, at this point, assumed they could do no wrong after the Dark Knight trilogy. Then came Snyder, with his distinct visual style and a 54.4% positive rating average across his first five films. I’m not sure I’d risk launching a DC universe with him behind the wheel but, ok, that’s what DC did. It came in at 55% positive, exactly what Warner Bros should’ve expected from Snyder. After realizing you can’t rush art, DC decided to delay a Justice League and instead we got a half-step with Batman v Superman, which felt rushed. The second film in the DC universe came in at at even worse 27% positive. Batman v Superman basically reinforced what we had begun to fear; Warner Bros got greedy, threw together their DC universe to compete with Marvel, and have found themselves in an uncanny crap storm after riding on the highs of the Dark Knight for far too long. They got lazy and Marvel didn’t. The harmony was over and DC lost big time.
It brings me no great pleasure to tell you that the DC universe is total garbage right now. It has been so unfortunate for the studio and the fans because, well, everyone wins when movies are successful. I love Batman and Superman, and I look forward to seeing movies with them for the rest of my life. The studio needs to stop competing with Marvel and start competing with themselves. There are amazing Superman and Batman movies out there, so we know it’s possible, but right now is Marvel’s time to shine and DC should take their lickings like a champ. They ruled the world once before and they can do it again. For now, the best you can do to prep for Justice League is watch Batman v Superman. It’s kind of terrible but it will give you the only backstory from the DC universe that you will need before the full gang unites in Justice League.