With a mere 40 percent ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, Justice League is not looking like the box office juggernaut that Wonder Woman was for DC. Wonder Woman still sits as the DC Extended Universe’s best ranked film on Rotten Tomatoes at 92 percent, in no small part due to star Gal Gadot’s fantastic performance as Amazonian princess Diana Prince, in addition to powerful appearances by Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta), Robin Wright (Antiope), and, of course, Chris Pine (as Diana’s love interest, Steve Trevor). One has to wonder, though, in the wake of the incredible reviews that blessed Wonder Woman — Warner Bros is even pushing for an incredible 15 nominations for the superhero flick, including Best Picture, according to the Warner Bros. website — if perhaps the studio set the bar a little too high for the ensemble Justice League.
First of all, we need to consider the type of film that Justice League is. It used to be that expectations were not to be terribly high for films coming from the superhero genre. Certainly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe changed those expectations dramatically with Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man. When Wonder Woman blew the doors off the box office in June, 2017, expectations for the upcoming Justice League suddenly soared.
To be honest, Justice League also has some pedigree behind it. Director Zack Snyder cut his teeth mostly on superhero films, including Watchmen, and Joss Whedon, who snagged a screenwriting credit on Justice League and finished post-production in the wake of the suicide of Snyder’s daughter, are two of the best-known directors of the most recent superhero films, and we need to realize that these are two men who are incredibly skilled at what they do.
They got two serious box office heavyweights: Ben Affleck, who has gone through a bit of a renaissance as far as his acting street cred goes, and new kid on the block Gadot, as the leaders of Justice League in the wake of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death at the hands of Doomsday at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Relative newcomers Ray Fisher (Cyborg), Ezra Miller (Flash) and the always-awesome Jason Momoa (Aquaman) sparked the chemistry between the members of the cinematic Justice League into overdrive.
So why, then, are reviews less than awesome for Justice League?
To be honest, Justice League is a huge film, one that was probably better off split into a couple of parts in order to help with the flow of the story more effectively. Not only did the story have to explain how the Justice League ultimately came together, it had to explain enough of Steppenwolf’s backstory so that those unfamiliar with the storyline would not be wondering what his deal was. Justice League also had to explain just enough of Barry Allen’s, Victor Stone’s, and Arthur Curry’s stories to hook audiences as well. While today’s audiences might be familiar with The Flash on The CW, Ezra Miller’s take on the speedster is a little different than that of Grant Gustin’s (as it should be). That’s a lot going on for a film trying to clock in at under three hours.
The chemistry between the Justice League members themselves makes for some pretty funny moments, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is, as always, equal parts warrior and Earth mother, particularly as far as Victor Stone is concerned. It is, in fact, Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman that frequently steals the show in Justice League, and Momoa is clearly having a great time as Aquaman. However, the story is just too big, and the characters’ individual arcs too epic, to try and cram into under three hours.
So while Wonder Woman set the stage for great expectations for Justice League, we need to remember that we need to look at Justice League on the basis of its own merits, rather than the expectations that Wonder Woman established. Justice League is a fun movie in its own right, but we need to remember that it is designed to be a fun adventure for the fans, and, judging from the 85 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes for Justice League, the fans approve.
[Feature Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]