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Monthly Archives: August 2017

What I hope to see in Justice League

I remember when I saw the symbol for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from the 2013 Comic Con, goosebumps rushed over my arms. My introduction into comic book heroes was through Batman: The Animated Series and later the animated Justice League series, so I’ve always had a preference for DC characters.

I had always craved a DC team-up movie, and after the Dawn of Justice announcement, I hoped that eventually a Justice League movie would follow.

With Justice League set for release later this year, a dream I’ve had for about 15 years is coming true. And while the DC cinematic universe has been hit-and-miss, I hope that the momentum from the successful Wonder Woman film earlier this year will carry into this project.

In addition to compelling character designs, fight choreography, and the introduction of some DC heroes to the silver screen, here’s what I hope to see in Justice League.

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From left: Cyborg, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Aquaman. Not pictured: Superman, inevitably. 

Cyborg starts as a depressed ex-jock and evolves into a charismatic leader. Cyborg’s personality varies wildly between different media, so representing him faithfully in a film will be a challenge. Showing a complete evolution of his character within the film would pay homage to his multiple portrayals. The film could start just after he loses his sports scholarships and is desperate for his father’s approval, and by the end, he relaxes into a more confident hero. Maybe he can even sneak in a “boo-yah” for fanboys’ sake. And mine.

And while we’re on the subject, I hope that Cyborg’s sci-fi-inspired powers aren’t whittled down to “magic technology that is convenient to the plot.” My hope is that the film will be smarter than Felicity’s unbelievable skills on the show Arrow, where the philosophy goes, “Got a problem? There’s a technology hack for that. Just let me flutter my fingers across a keyboard.”

Barry Allen is basically Wally West. From the one-liners in the trailers, the film seems to be treating the Flash more like the younger, wisecracking Wally West iteration of the speedster than the more serious Barry Allen. Not only do I want comic relief in the film, I hope Barry will be the stand-in for the audience the way that Steven Trevor was in Wonder Woman: someone in awe by the might of the other superheroes but inspired to be the best that he can be because of them.

Aquaman is a warrior without having to conveniently relocate the battle to a dock, beach, or seafood restaurant. Aquaman’s reputation has suffered in popular culture thanks to the clean-cut and unimaginative portrayal he had in the cartoon Super Friends, in which he was only useful when located near water and his complex telepathic abilities were simplified to “talking to fish.” Since that was his last memorable representation, people unfamiliar with the character consider him only useful when he’s near water.

The initial photos for Justice League looks like Aquaman was inspired by the 90s comics by Peter David. With the long hair and the shirtless design, all that Aquaman is missing is the harpoon spearhead for an arm. With this ferocious design, I’m hoping that the film will acknowledge that Aquaman is still a tenacious warrior on land.

None of the main characters die. Let’s not beat around the bush; Superman will be alive in this film and will join the team. But *spoilers* there was no reason for him to die in Dawn of Justice in the first place. The stakes are always lowered when characters die and come back to life in some plot-convenient magical resurrection. If we need the dramatic payoff of a character death, write off a character because Aquaman lost faith in humanity and retreated back to his underwater kingdom, or because Cyborg couldn’t maintain the technological demands of high-impact battle on his body. The heroic death cliche is meaningless now.

I’m extending this to some other Wonder Woman characters that the studio has announced will be in this film. My hope is that these characters are present in the story via flashback and not through resurrection or a disingenuous fake-out death from the solo film.

The political allegory is genuine but respectful. Steppenwolf, from the planet Apokolips (the same home of the galactic tyrant Darkseid) unites the Amazonian, Atlantean and human races against him. I hope it’s a careful metaphor for the divisive political climate that has erupted over the past few years. It’s a topical subject that will resonate with audiences.

I also want to see references to domestic terrorism based on politics and xenophobia. I just hope that we can handle these topics without being heavy-handed. While I am invested in Zack Snyder’s original vision, I hope that with Joss Whedon leading the post-production, the script can handle contemporary issues with compassion and not shallow moments thrown in for the shock factor.

I don’t want to see literal recreations of some of the more painful moments of terrorism we’ve experienced or seen in the news in the past few years. But I also don’t want a convenient after-school special where the heroes learn that teamwork makes the dream work and they forget all of their prejudice in an hour. It’s a delicate balance, but if the film finds that line then the story will be impactful.

There is only one main villain who is mostly a metaphor. 

To avoid Wonder Woman spoilers, skip this next paragraph.

I already knew the twist in Wonder Woman before I saw the movie because I had read the cast list on IMDb. However, I still wasn’t bothered by the bait-and-switch. Ares was a metaphor for the horror of war on humanity. The fact that World War I was so much more expansive than one person, even a god, was a central theme for the film. When Diana learned that fighting the war was more complex than defeating Ares, the audience learned that fighting mankind’s inclination for war will be a more constant struggle for us than simply good-versus-evil. And that was especially powerful within a superhero genre film. The only reason why Ares appeared in god form at the film’s climax was because we needed to see Wonder Woman’s powers unleashed in a cinematic spectacle. That, and to see that defeating Ares didn’t prevent World War II or any other war that came after that.

The conflict in Wonder Woman was much more effective than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Finding a reason in Dawn of Justice for Batman and Superman to fight was an ambitious task, and I thought Snyder chose an interesting theory. Superman represented the Ubermensch, a man so powerful he could influence the world without opposition. Humanity’s best hope is that Superman’s morality is pure, or else face the consequences of his wrath or greed. I liked the echoes of “who watches the Watchmen?” Not only is it a reference to Snyder’s earlier film, but it was especially topical in a flood of superhero genre films and the dozen or so films currently slated for production between Marvel and Warner Bros. studios.

A comic book-inspired Lex Luthor would have been an effective counterpoint to that. Luthor as a politically and financially powerful figure with a corrupt morality would have been an interesting character against a physically powerful but morally conscious Superman.

Instead, we got a weird knockoff Joker for Lex Luthor. And then remnants of Zod from Man of Steel. And then, for absolutely no reason other than to have a fantastic fight scene with Batman, Superman, and an unnecessary Wonder Woman, the film threw in Doomsday (who looked more like Killer Croc).

The conflict was everywhere and I couldn’t tell you what the theme of film was by the end. So, I’m hoping the studio learned their lesson and made the antagonist in Justice League more philosophical than a mess of galactic, all-powerful allies who attack Earth with little motivations other than to give the Justice League a reason to join up. Yes, I want comic book Easter eggs. But I don’t want half-formed villains that the Justice League has to fight all at once in order to demonstrate the full force of their powers.

Is it too much to ask for a clean narrative, character development, and spectacular fight scenes?

If it is, I’ll still be buying movie tickets anyway. I’ve waited 15 years for this.

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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Blog

 

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