Justice League is not a remake of The Avengers. And yet these two films, both about the forming of major superhero teams to fight threats too big for one hero to face alone, have an alarmingly suspicious number of similarities.
Is this because Joss Whedon was heavily involved in both? They may have arrived in theaters five years apart from one another, but Whedon wrote and directed The Avengers, as well as oversaw reshoots and post-production on Justice League after a family tragedy forced Zack Snyder to step away. Granted, his role in The Avengers was much larger, but both movies have unmistakable signs of his fingerprints all over them.
Or are the parallels more ingrained? Are viewers finding correlations so easily simply because of the “superhero team” common ground the films share? It may be that the similarities these two films share are just unavoidable. Still. that doesn’t account for quite how many they are. Let’s take a look at how much they resemble each other to find out if they are, at their cores, the same movie.
Major spoilers ahead for Justice League and The Avengers.
The Teams Have The Same Specific Dynamic
So, obviously, each hero in each team has their own, distinct powersets. However, when you disregard that makeup, there are remarkable parallels between the members of the two superhero teams.
Both teams have members who were active participants in one of the World Wars (Wonder Woman in World War I, Captain America in World War II) and “Gods” at their core — Thor in The Avengers and Wonder Woman in Justice League – who further have direct links to the villains: Thor is Loki’s adopted brother; Wonder Woman’s people, the Amazons, were a major part of the alliance of gods, humans, and others that defended Earth from Steppenwolf the first time he came. Both are funded by billionaires who have no actual superpowers of their own, but seemingly limitless bank accounts: Iron Man (Tony Stark) and Batman (Bruce Wayne). And there’s just one female member apiece – Black Widow and Wonder Woman – although, just as The Avengers added a second female member, Scarlet Witch, in the sequel, that’s something the cast of League also want to do. We also have a duo of burly, long-haired member who wields a unique, one-of-a-kind weapon: Thor and his hammer, Mjolnir; and Aquaman and his Quindent (that’s a trident with 5 tips). Finally, each team has a metallic-armored hero – Iron Man and Cyborg – who fires energy blasts and can fly (along with a seemingly-ever growing set of extra abilities, something Cyborg also shares Hawkeye). Yes, there’s overlap, but that’s a lot of repeated tropes.
That goes over to their interaction. There’s an overall reluctance underpinning the teams, both in how specific participants join – Bruce Banner/Cyborg and Aquaman – and a greater schism amongst the group themselves, unsure whether to be heroes. Beyond that, the entire team spends most of the movie fighting each other: The Avengers have Hawkeye turned bad and are corrupted by Loki’s scepter; the League fight an evil Superman, an event predicated by in-fighting.
Page 2 of 2: Loki and Steppenwolf Are Basically The Same Villain
Loki and Steppenwolf Are Basically The Same Villain
Loki is the God of Mischief from Norse mythology who’s appeared in all manner of Marvel comics and four MCU entries. Steppenwolf is an original creation of Jack Kirby’s, one of the New Gods who makes his proper debut in Justice League. They’re not the same character.
But in these two movies, they serve the exact same purpose with surprisingly similar tactics. After being established in Thor, Loki comes to Earth in The Avengers with the help of the blue, glowing Tesseract. In Justice League, Steppenwolf pays off a tease at the end of Batman v Superman by arriving on Earth thanks to the Mother Boxes. Both MacGuffin cubes share a strikingly similar history, as well: both were hidden on Earth thousands of years ago thanks to the machinations of ancient humans. And both Loki and Steppenwolf steal their respective cubes to use them as a means to another end: Loki opens a portal for his Chitauri allies to use to invade Earth; Steppenwolf tries to unite three Mother Boxes to unleash a power capable of transforming Earth into an apocalyptic nightmare.
The methodology comes from the same textbook too. They both command armies of more or less mindless henchmen – the Chitauri and the Parademons – and they’re both underlings of much more powerful villains – Thanos and Darkseid – who are arguably the most powerful antagonists of their respective universes and teased to appear proper in a sequel.
More superficially, they operate in a theatrical manner, with ostentatious getup (right down to the headdress) and when it comes to conflict take a similar overseer stance (both catch projectiles fired by heroes). The only notable difference is that Steppenwolf is actually able to hold his own when push comes to smash.
The Avengers and Justice League Have Very Similar Plot Structure
Both movies are, at the end of the day, about stopping an alien invasion. The Avengers and Justice League begin with skirmishes against invaders from other worlds – Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. fight Loki upon his arrival on Earth and Batman takes on a Parademon when it scouts out Gotham respectively – that directly lead to the involved characters attempting to recruit super-people for their teams: Agent Coulson and Natasha Romanov recruit Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (Hulk) respectively; Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince recruit Arthur Curry (Aquaman), Victor Stone (Cyborg), and Barry Allen (Flash).
Near their midpoint, you then get the heated (verbal) argument between two team leaders that strongly mirror each other – Iron Man and Captain America/Batman and Wonder Woman – which spills over into the wider dynamic. This, however, is all build up to the real showdown, with a major fight scene incited by one member going rogue: Hulk goes on a Helicarrier rampage in The Avengers, while Superman has a post-resurrection freak out in Justice League when he can’t yet remember who he is (as already mentioned, just like Hawkeye).
And, finally, both movies climax with a big fight against the villain and his horde of alien foot soldiers. During that fight, one character gains access to the magic cube and disarms it – Black Widow in The Avengers and Cyborg in Justice League – and in doing so a character nearly dies (Iron Man and Cyborg). The pair then end with a tease of the group’s new headquarters from the billionaire hero – Stark Tower becomes Avengers Tower and the dilapidated Wayne Manor the Hall of Justice. Justice League even apes the MCU’s propensity for multiple post-credits scenes.
Obviously, these films aren’t one-to-one copies, with characters filling a variety of similar roles, but they have far too many parallels to not be remarked on. Whatever the reason, after the mixed reaction to Justice League, let’s hope the DCEU can forge its own path in the blockbuster landscape away from the MCU
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