Now that the Justice League movie has finally hit theaters, star Jason Momoa has brought a bit of clarity to how much of his character's arc was left on the cutting room floor. The film debuted this past weekend to some not-so-pretty reviews and an underwhelming box office gross, so it's safe to say that, at least so far, it's a bit of a disappointment. The next phase of the DC Extended Universe was riding on Justice League's success, so if it continues to underperform, the shared universe's future could soon be called into question. The mixed to negative reviews have assuredly impacted the film's commercial performance, of course, but the various controversies that surrounded its production certainly didn't help.
Justice League encountered a number of stumbling blocks on the road to the big screen. After a massive six-month-long film shoot, director Zack Snyder stepped down during post-production to deal with personal issues, and Joss Whedon was brought on to finish the movie. Less than two months after Whedon boarded the project, $25 million worth of reshoots were ordered. (Most reshoots cost between $6 and $10 million, so the massive price tag all but ensured that sweeping changes needed to be made.) Questions of cast commitment and CGI mustaches led to some pretty negative buzz heading in, and in the end, the troubled production is definitely evident onscreen.
One of Justice League's biggest disappointments is its lacking depth and development for its central heroes. The villainous Steppenwolf was never expected to be a complicated fellow with anything more than barebones motivations, but minimal to nonexistent character arcs for the League members stand as a major oversight. And in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Aquaman actor Jason Momoa spoke to that exact criticism while providing a bit of insight into his character's minimized role:
The challenging part is [the Justice League story] is only about a weekend in Author Curry’s life. [Fans] might be like, ‘Why is he that grumpy? Why’s he hiding up there?’ We had it all planned out. A lot of things got cut. But it’s not my movie. It’s a huge movie introducing three new characters, and for myself and The Flash and Cyborg, there was a lot that was there we just couldn’t get in. It could have been two movies. We had some stuff with William Dafoe. The whole Atlantean part, about me being this reluctant king. There was no need for it because you’re going to see it in Aquaman. It’s not an Aquaman movie, it’s a Justice League movie.
Of all the headlining heroes of Justice League, Aquaman probably suffered the most from the reshoots and post-production changes instituted by Joss Whedon and the higher ups at Warner Bros. Cyborg lost some moments of self-discovery and the Flash lost Iris West, but Aquaman lost almost all traces of his backstory and mythology. It looks like the Atlantean king drew the short stick in the editing room, that's for sure.
So where did all this screentime go? Whedon clearly put quite a bit of effort into brightening up the film and adding in some humor, but it would appear that the Justice League's three most well-known heroes (Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman) benefited the most from the reshoots. The latter especially, because DC was clearly looking to establish the DCEU's Man of Steel as the true Superman. Hopefully, this injustice (sorry) against Aquaman will soon be righted by the hero's upcoming solo film, which is set to arrive in December of next year.
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