Posted November 22, 2017 by Mark Brassington in Columns

What Will Be The Legacy Of Justice League?

Justice League has finally reached theaters as the DCEU’s long-awaited counter to 2012’s The Avengers. In the early going, reviews are mixed. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes have settled into a roughly 40% rating, which is actually quite bad; however, the same site notes that about 85% of viewers are enjoying the movie, which puts it in relatively common territory for an action movie. That is to say, it’s not unusual for fans to like a movie in this genre that critics largely dismiss or roll their eyes at.

But what, more broadly, will be the legacy of this film? The hope, for Warner Bros., D.C., and the involved writers and directors, is that it can spark a sprawling empire of films. This movie is essentially about Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) bringing together the best of the DC heroes for the first time to fight evil together, and it’s clearly built as a setup for future efforts. But if you’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of the DCEU, you know that not everything goes according to plan. Let’s look back, for instance, at the legacies of past DCEU efforts now that some time has passed.

Man Of Steel

This was the film that introduced us to Henry Cavill as the modern Superman. And really, he looked the part about as well as he could have. From a visual standpoint, it was a logical follow-up to the Superman movies of the past. The costuming was a more modern update, and Cavill a slightly more sculpted version of Christopher Reeve or Brandon Routh. The comparison is perhaps best exemplified by a few online games based on the projects. Slotsource’s selection of Playtech-developed games includes titles based on Superman, Superman II, and Man Of Steel – and looking at them all in a row, you’d almost think they all employed the same actor and costume designer.

But when we talk about legacy, that’s about as far as things go. Man Of Steel nailed the look of a superman movie, but from Cavill to the script, it lacked substance. The lead actor’s performance was monotone and un-inspired, the script meandered after the first act, and the final 30 minute were devoted to a generic city-smashing spectacle that could have been in any old action property. It wasn’t the worst reviewed DCEU project, but looking back it was a very rough start.

© DC

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

We could more or less say that Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice picked up where Man Of Steel left off. It actually followed quite a similar pattern, and had the same tendencies. It did have the added intrigue of introducing, with mostly fleeting glimpses, the characters who would ultimately make up the Justice League. But any extra fun that this injected into the film was ruined by a cringe-worthy villain in the form of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. The whole thing was just rather messy, and for a film with that weighty a title, it didn’t live up.

Suicide Squad

If we’re talking about legacy specifically, we’d best pretend this one never happened. Suicide Squad was billed as something of a reset for the DCEU – a pure fun sideshow featuring a host of popular comic book villains. It fell well short of that intention. Suffice it to say one review began by quoting a character from the film: “Worst of the worst.”

© DC

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman changed the game for the DCEU. There was a great deal of hype for this film as the first superhero installment to star a woman in the lead role – not to mention the first to be done by a female director. It had a great deal of pressure on it to deliver, or else a great deal of debate would have been sparked – not about whether or not women should lead the way in superhero projects, but about where the next opportunity should come from, or what went wrong with this one. As it turned out, Wonder Woman didn’t have to deal with these issues. Director Patty Jenkins and lead actress Gal Gadot nailed it.

Wonder Woman earned so much critical acclaim that it’s being discussed as a dark horse for a few major Oscars. Gadot and Jenkins have become household names among film fans, and little girls all over the world finally have a cinematic superhero to identify with and celebrate, the way young boys have idolized Batman and Iron Man for a decade and-a-half’s worth of modern movies. The movie made more money than Man Of Steel (which is really saying something when you consider name recognition of Wonder Woman vs. Superman), and earned more critical acclaim than any of the three previous DCEU projects.

The only way to consider the legacy of Justice League is to do so in the context of Wonder Woman. As more people see this movie and its reputation is shaped, it has a chance to be viewed as a fun effort that makes people curious about what’s next. If that’s the case, we’ll look back on Wonder Woman as the Iron Man of the DCEU – the project that gave the franchise a chance and established a core, fan favorite character. If, however, Justice League is ultimately viewed as a forgettable or underwhelming project – as critics would have it – we may well look back in years and look at Wonder Woman as the only good DCEU film.

Based on either outcome, Justice League is either a mini-Avengers and a bridge to future projects, or the movie that blew the opportunity Wonder Woman served up for it. Time will tell.

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Born and raised in London he now lives with his wife and daughter in Buckinghamshire, while working in the world of Commercial Banking. Having been a fan of almost everything geeky since birth it wasn’t until 14 years old that he walked into his first comic book shop and has been a fan of mainstream and independent comics ever since. He also is a big lover of American television, rock and indie music, while in his spare time he is busy writing and editing. His first book is in the editing stages.