With less-than-favorable reviews and a weak opening weekend at the box office; it’s safe to say that DC’s finest haven’t had the strongest introduction with the long anticipated Justice League. Considering Warner Bros.' track record of recent superhero films, it’s not the worst by any means, it’s just... fine for the most part. Thankfully now with this superhero universe estalished, things can only go up, up and away, right?
Whether or not you’ve picked a side in the battle of the shared superhero cinematic universes, you’d be hard pressed avoid comparing the Justice League's first outing to Marvel’s 2012 smash The Avengers. That film undeniably set the bar for every superhero team up that followed, but even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes weren’t without their faults in their big-screen team debut. With their counterparts at DC looking to almost do a play-by-play team-up story to take down the big bad, for every fumble there was the occasional highlight that may have surpassed even Marvel’s Avengers.
As a result, here’s 7 Things Justice League Did Better Than The Avengers (And 8 It Definitely Didn’t).
15 Better: Distancing Itself From The DCEU
Marvel may have a carefully constructed blueprint detailing every step of the way, but sometimes staying inside the lines actually creates more limitations. Characters need to undertake individual arcs, altercations, or simply need to be present in order to move pieces into place on the chessboard; something that DC hasn't really done. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
By making its biggest move - uniting its headlining team - so early in comparison to Marvel, there's been an opportunity for audience to get a taste for characters before sending them off on their own. Excluding members of the League that we’ve already encountered, seeing what Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg are capable has left fans keen to see not just what else they can do, but what paths they’ll be taking to discover it for themselves. The net has been cast a little wider.
14 Worse: Continuity
Even with all its faults, it’s clear by the end of Justice League that Warner Bros. was trying with all its might to get our heroes back on the track we’ve always wanted for them. Be that as it may, it still doesn’t justify the lack of cohesion that leaves gaping holes for the long anticipated team-up, and what feels like four years of wasted world building.
Why did we even see dirt levitating off of Clark’s coffin if he was going to be brought back by the Motherbox? Why doesn’t Bruce mention when he meets Barry that the speedster sent him a message from the future? This tangled web that Warner Bros. has woven ill just be another test for the DCEU to get out of - if the original plan of DC films even continues as planned.
Marvel began its blueprint with a tease, slowly but surely added detail in among the action-packed installments. Feige and co. weren’t just throwing it against the wall and seeing what stuck, they planned every element. It’s clear that only now Warner Bros. are starting to follow suit.
13 Better: Strong Female Lead
Though the scoreboard might be leaning more in Marvel’s favour thus far, there’s no denying that DC’s biggest success is one that its competitor has yet to grasp; a strong female-led entry. So far, the strongest women in the Marvel universe have been either a specially trained assassin, or a specially trained assassin… from space. Both have made more than one appearance in the MCU thus far and none of them have been solo appearances.
Countering that, Warner Bros. made the right turn of giving Wonder Woman a solo gig and she’s now the most favored hero on their roster, following its most successful film. Thankfully, bringing Diana Prince to the big screen also meant that we had a fully fleshed out character who added gravitas and humanity that the rest of the team failed to conjure in Justice League.
Batman may have helped in building the team, but all effort is made for the Amazonian to lead them into battle. She’s the film’s shining star and builds the already growing anticipation for her return in Wonder Woman 2 in 2019, the same year Marvel finally releases its first female-led gig with Captain Marvel.
12 Worse: Team Work
Hold a HYDRA weapon to someone’s head and ask them what was their personal highlight in Marvel’s The Avengers and chances are they’d say that glorious super sequence that goes from one team member to another effortlessly. Not only is it the coolest moment in comic book movie history, it finally displayed just how brilliantly Cap and his crew could work together like we always knew they could. When it comes to Justice League however… yeah, that just doesn’t happen.
There are glimmers of hope that they’re going to get themselves together. It’s when Flash tips Diana’s blade in her favor, or Aquaman being flung, thrown ,and fighting his way around the battlefield like a rag doll, but these are few and far between.
Fans deserved to see their favorite heroes in a money shot, right before they went to town on Steppenwolf, rather than leave the likes of Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Supes to do the heavy lifting and letting a bunch of fear-hungry Parademons do the rest.
11 Better: No Break-Up/Make-Up
Bands breaking up and reuniting is hardly new and even more so when those band members have powers that can save the world. The Avengers have parted ways on three occasions now; first falling out when exposed to Loki's scepter, again when Stark was tinkering away with Ultron, and another that sparked a Civil War - that one lasted until Avengers: Infinity War. In a world full of such vibrant characters and opposing philosophies, friction is a certainty, but can’t they all just put aside their differences for the greater good?
That’s another thing Justice League does right. There’s tension, sure, but the team keeps their eyes on the bigger picture: ensuring the safety of the planet from an alien invasion. The only brief spats occur when Diana and Bruce debate about bringing Superman back, and when he does return, he’s not very happy about it. That’s it. There’s no ground shaking squabble where they end up shaking hands and apologizing. They get the job done and get some added assistance from the Last Son of Krypton, who returns in a way we’ve always wanted him to.
10 Worse: Director's Voice
Justice League has had to jump over a number of hurdles to make deadline day. This hugely anticipated project was off to a rocky start ever since Dawn of Justice was met with such a negative response, and Wonder Woman such a positive one. The response to find the balance to merge the best of both was a rushed one and let to a project that felt like a patchwork of highs and lows.
Creative forces can swear on their favourite DC comic that this is from the same director who gave us Batman v Superman, but it’s clear that just isn’t the case. The familiar flair of Snyderscope is peppered with last-minute additions of Whedonesque wit, and the two just don’t gel.
Had this been a pairing from the get-go, things might have been a very different story, but instead we got an inconsistent film that doesn’t know whether to brood in the darkness or quip it all away.
9 Better: Music
There aren’t that many notable musical moments that stand out in the MCU. When the Avengers assembled, there was no specific tune that brought the chills when battle commenced.
Warner Bros. has always done well when it comes to composers; whether it was John Williams' iconic "Superman" when Kal-El flies in, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s beautiful battle cry for Wonder Woman, or Elfman dusting off that 30-year old Batman tune from Tim Burton’s classic, and letting it rise once again with Affleck under the cowl. They’re all iconic and stand on their own merit. When any of these themes do kick in, it makes their superheroes all the more spectacular.
Sure, Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash might not have their own tunes just yet, but give it time and the redirection Warner Bros. clearly seems to be aiming for and these heroes could have themes to stand alongside the Trinity the next time around.
8 Worse: CGI
First off, let’s be clear that five years on, The Avengers' CGI might not hold up for some, but when it was released, it was a full-on spectacle. Hulk one-punching a Leviathan was an awesome sight to behold and there were very few cringeworthy moments of CGI monstrosity. As for the League? Well, one word says it all, really: moustache.
Besides the final battle being set in what looks uncannily like the hellscape from Keanu Reeves’ Constantine, there’s also the polish job of Henry Cavill’s facial caterpillar affecting what seems like the entire lower half of his head. Some have already made comparisons to when Shrek became human, resulting in a CGI smoothness that transfixed viewers as soon as it appeared on screen.
Come on folks, if Marvel can de-age both Michael Douglas, Kurt Russell, and Robert Downey Jr., giving Cavill a synthetic shave should have been no trouble, at all? Right?
7 Better: No One Got Hawkeyed
There are a handful of flaws that The Avengers will never be able to shake, including sidelining Hawkeye. In the film's opening, Jeremy Renner’s archer gets at the wrong end of Loki’s scepter and becomes enslaved for his troubles. From there, he spends most the time with White Walker eyes until Natasha provides some "cognitive recalibration" and he’s back in the fight, clueless to what has happened. It was a poor plot point in an otherwise awesome film and led to a clear effort to redeem Barton's par on the team in Age of Ultron.
Thankfully, there’s no such crime committed with Justice League. Each member has a place and a purpose in the battle against Steppenwolf and when one of them does turn against the team (spoilers – the fella with the blue and red get-up), it’s a matter of minutes before Bruce calls in "the big guns."
6 Worse: Post-Credit Sequence
Marvel has made an art-form out of the post-credit tease. It’s what’s kept audiences in seats for the past nine years and made more of a job for the cinema staff clearing up after them.
For a while it seemed like Warner Bros. would try a different tactic (like just ending a film when it’s supposed to, maybe?), but that just wasn’t the case with Justice League. While the post-credit sequence did pay off for DC fans, casual audiences had no idea who the heck this white-haired eye patch-wearer was.
You could argue the same for Thanos in The Avengers, but the difference was all in the timing. The Mad Titan vanished as quickly as he appeared, whilst Lex’s plans for a league of his own were discussed with a brand new character.
It’s great for fans that Deathstroke, but anyone who is unfamiliar with Slade may well be thinking Suicide Squad’s Deadshot had a zestier doppelganger. Could The Joker or Amanda Waller stepped in instead, to strengthen the universe trying to be built, rather than spread it thinner?
5 Better: Villain Intro
While Steppenwolf might not be the best antagonist to cause issues in a comic book movie, his intro certainly isn’t anything to sniff at. Not too dissimilarly from the Loki’s arrival in The Avengers, Darkseid’s minion touching down and stepping to Queen Hippolyta leads to one of the most thrilling action sequences in DC movie history.
Just like The Avengers, a squad of brave souls do their very best to keep the mythical McGuffin out of reach from the clutches of evil, but the Amazonians in Justice League do a much better job. Rather than a simple car chase through a collapsing cave, it’s an epic getaway on horseback with the Mother Box being thrown, launched, and swung across the Amazonian paradise like a football. This is all after Queen Hippolyta has attempted to trap Steppenwolf in a collapsing cave and an army of her warriors hold him off while she slid through the doors, Indiana Jones style. It’s a highlight of the film and none of the League are even involved!
4 Worse: Comic Book Villain Problem
The villain conundrum is an issue even Marvel hasn't quite cracked, but DC can't even boast a single Loki-level villain. Though Steppenwolf's entrance is awesome, he doesn't manage to build on the success through the rest of this film. This look of this high-level henchman isn’t anything that stands out to begin with, lacking an edge to make him someone worth fearing. Even with the great Ciaran Hinds voicing the villain, he’s merely a final boss level that the League only briefly struggles to defeat.
Even some of the greatest villains in film history have had shocking game plans, but that didn’t stop audiences from cheering when they got their comeuppance. Instead, we’ve got another template antagonist after a McGuffin. The sense of genuine peril isn’t there, and as a result, the concern for our heroes never really forms.
We’re already concerned for the future of this franchise, but being concerned for the characters in it would make a nice change.
3 Better: Iconic Costumes
Though the aforementioned Amazons could do with some wardrobe adjustments, one thing that was slightly reassuring was seeing the League looking great together in battle. As Warner Bros. continues to tussle with whether or not to stick to the dark, edgy interpretation of the comic book world or look a bit on the bright side, it’s hard to knock the current costumes our heroes are wearing, no matter what mood lighting they're displayed in.
One of the greatest choices in the wardrobe department however, was finally putting the blue back in the The Big Blue Boy Scout. Seeing him take on Steppenwolf in a brighter version of what was already a good-looking garb worked and even put to shame The Avengers' star-spangled super-soldier in his debut team-up. If you recall, Captain America's suit looked more suitable for a Halloween party than battle with an alien army. Superman looks like…well, Superman.
2 Worse: Reshoots For The Soft Reboot
Reshoots are enough to make any eagerly-anticipating audience member shake in their cinema seats. Why? How much? What's wrong? We’ve never had to really ask such questions for Marvel films. Even with directors parting ways, or cast members getting changed up, it’s rarely interrupted the schedule for when the cameras start rolling. But when word got out about Justice League getting a do-over, fans went into a panic and it’s clear from the outcome of the movie they were right to do so.
Warner Bros. may well have learned by now that it needs some structure and that it’s going to take more than fan service to get sold out screenings and money in the bank. Taking a similar course of action that was used for Suicide Squad in a rush to recover has delivered some redemption, but nowhere near enough to call Justice League a success. Instead, we can only hope for now that this attempt at a rebirth is one worth waiting for.
1 Better: Equal Screentime
Another thing that The Avengers had trouble with was giving every character a chance to throw in their superheroic two cents when the time came for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to assemble. Even four years after Iron Man, those who hadn't had a solo film didn’t get the attention they deserved, leaving Black Widow and Hawkeye grounded while the rest of the heroic team were getting most of the fun.
Justice League is quite a different story. With a rather sketchy plot spreading things out, it’s left to the characters to keep things afloat, which they succeed at - for the most part. Leaving us keen to see more of each individual member is one thing, but considering that three of them haven’t even been introduced properly until this movie makes it even more impressive
Justice League might not be the strongest display of the team in action, but it demonstrated that these players on their own may be worth sticking around for.
Did you prefer Justice League or The Avengers? Let us know in the comments!