If the Justice League movie manages to pick up enough steam to earn itself a sequel, there are several ways it can improve upon this past weekend's release. A follow-up is far from a guarantee, of course. Saddled with a less than glowing critical consensus, Justice League underwhelmed at the box office in the first weekend, falling short of expectations en route to the worst opening numbers the DCEU has seen to date. Ultimately, how much money it earns will be the biggest factor in determining whether or not we'll see a Justice League 2, so these next few weeks will be crucial. Thus far, the film has earned $278 million worldwide, but according to Deadline, it will need to hit at least $700 million just to break even. That number won't be easy to reach, given the film's subpar reviews and mixed word of mouth. Remember that historically steep second weekend drop-off suffered by Batman v Superman last year? If history repeats itself with Justice League, a potential sequel may be dead in the water.
That being said, if Warner Bros. feels confident that they've learned from the mistakes of their previous DCEU missteps, Justice League 2 could still receive a green light. Despite its shortcomings, this franchise is still brimming with potential. With a few tweaks and one clear voice leading the way, a follow-up could easily surpass the mixed bag that hit theaters last weekend.
So what exactly does Justice League 2 need to do in order for the DCEU to take the next step? For starters, Warner Bros. needs to lay out a plan and stick with it for a change.
A creator with a clear vision - and the freedom to see it through
Not unlike the Star Wars universe, the DCEU currently has a director problem. The shared universe may claim to be a filmmaker’s paradise, but between the increasing amount of director turnover on their upcoming projects and the significant problems they’ve encountered in the editing room as of late, their recent history says otherwise. Justice League now stands as the second DCEU movie to be completely reworked after filming had wrapped, despite reports that the widely publicized reshoots would only account for 15-20% of the finished product. (If you saw the movie, you know that wasn’t the case.) The departure of a director midway through post-production would knock any film for a loop, but at times, Justice League very much felt like two different films had been edited together. Fans are now even calling for a Zack Snyder director's cut of the movie, in the hopes that one streamlined vision would result in a superior film.
The DCEU desperately needs to get its house in order, and that starts with hiring talent they truly believe in and allowing that talent to see their vision through to the end. That doesn't necessarily mean bringing Snyder or Joss Whedon onboard to helm JL2, mind you. The important thing here is to find a filmmaker that has a story worth telling (more on that later) and the talent to pull it off.
Justice League's less than spectacular CGI has been a major talking point of the last week, and most of those criticisms honed in on one of two targets: the laughably awful removal of Henry Cavill's reshoot mustache and the surprisingly crappy effects behind the film's entirely computer-generated villain, Steppenwolf. The VFX team only had two or three months to pull off Superman's hairless face, but the latter CGI goof has no such excuse; Darkseid's uncle was announced as the big bad way back in June of 2016. But even if the special effects had been on point, Steppenwolf still would have been a forgettable, one-note baddie whose character motivations are boiled down to a one minute long exposition scene that non-comic fans probably didn't even comprehend. Admittedly, Justice League 2 doesn't have a very high bar to clear here.
This isn’t the first time that the DCEU has come up short with a CGI antagonist. The design of Batman v Superman’ Doomsday was widely ridiculed, and the underwhelming reveal of Ares’ final form was arguably the most bland aspect of the otherwise superb Wonder Woman. The effects-heavy Enchantress and her minion Incubus weren’t exactly high points of Suicide Squad, either.
DC needs to learn from its mistakes, and opting for a JL2 villain that’s more human, less CGI would be a great place to start. As it happens, the post-credits scene for Justice League sets up an incarnation of the Injustice League. DC would be wise to roll with this tease rather than going with for broke with Darkseid in the sequel. And it just so happens that they have an ideal storyline in their catalogue to make an Injustice League movie work.
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