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There May Be Hope For The DC Extended Universe But 'Justice League' Isn't It

Like Henry Cavill's CGI'd upper lip, we deserve better.

You may have seen the reports that 'Justice League' had an underwhelming box office. In fact the film has reported the lowest opening in the DC Extended Universe but worse than that: the film just isn't very good.

We're not here to slam 'Justice League'. In fact when we say "isn't very good" we honestly mean the film is absolutely fine. Its runtime isn't excessive and the action sequences are mostly fun, but the issues with the film are as blatant as the mustache they digitally edited off Henry Cavill's face.

The DCEU is a massive part of our cinematic slate, they continue to announce films and throw cash at their projects but out of the five films they've released so far, only 'Wonder Woman' has managed to land with audiences and critics.

The main problem with 'Justice League' is that it has no idea what it wants to be. From the tone of the script to the kind of film it wants to be in the pantheon of current superhero movies, it makes absolutely no sense.

Gal Gadot reprises her role of Wonder Woman alongside Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ray Fisher's Cyborg.
Gal Gadot reprises her role of Wonder Woman alongside Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ray Fisher's Cyborg.

Comparing 'Justice League' to 'Marvel's The Avengers' is unavoidable as both feature A-list superheros teaming up in what we'd call a "cash grab" or "two hours of punching".

It made sense for Marvel to do this kind of film in 2012 because it was the first time we had seen an ensemble like it on big screens. Five years later DC has attempted to do the same thing, despite Marvel having moved onto more complex structures to their ensemble pieces (see: 'Captain America: Civil War').

With Marvel, audiences have moved on from the model of 'The Avengers', expecting something with more depth, richer characters and a complete concept. We get none of that in 'Justice League'. For that, 'Justice League' is simply, fine. Just fine.

You can passively enjoy Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg -- all gloomy and frowning -- as they punch countless villains before facing off against a giant CGI demon that looks like a dehydrated Viking.

With a cast of six main superheros, each grappling with their own various angsts (daddy issues, a boyfriend that died 100 years ago, ocean sads, daddy issues, daddy issues and being dead), the tone of the film follows Zack Snyder's "superheros are sad teens with capes" trope he's hammered into us since 'Man of Steel'.

Ben Affleck as Batman whose superpowers include vast wealth and looking melancholy in various headgear.
Ben Affleck as Batman whose superpowers include vast wealth and looking melancholy in various headgear.

Yet after the success of 'Wonder Woman' the studio decided that audiences love lightness -- which they interpreted as jokes. They decided the first cut of the film needed to shoehorn jokes into the film through shoddily executed reshoots.

This isn't the first time Warner Bros. has been at creative odds with a director; most of their projects have had directorial clashes and departures. The Affleck-led 'Batman' has had public issues with the script and directors; the Flash solo flick and 'Justice League Dark' have had their share of the same problems.

The only solid films we can expect to come out at this stage from the DCEU are 'Aquaman' because it's already filming, and 'Wonder Woman 2' because of the first film's extreme success.

Everything else has had a huge question mark looming over it.

Warner's blueprint for the DCEU is less of a blueprint and more of a finger painting. There are five "confirmed" and 14 "undated" projects all in the works, most of which focus on single periphery characters.

When Snyder stepped aside near the end of 'Justice League' (both due to personal issues as well as rumoured studio pressure) Joss Whedon stepped in. Remember Whedon? He's the creator of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' as well as the man who helmed both 'Avengers' films.

Obviously Whedon knows what he's doing when it comes to forgettable, quippy superhero movies... he made 'em for Marvel!

Joss Whedon presents: 'The Justice Le'- uh, rather 'The Avengers'.
Joss Whedon presents: 'The Justice Le'- uh, rather 'The Avengers'.

Whedon's reshoots were inserted into the film so poorly it was almost insulting and completely jarring. These moments of cutesy one-liners are stark reminders of the reason for their own existence -- the studio's lack of faith in the original cut.

None of the main characters, save Ezra Miller's Flash, have or are given any agency to pull off these moments due to the intense desire to characterise them as frowny babies.

Miller is wonderful and steals the film quite easily, neatly layering the complexity of coming to terms with his own issues with the absurdity of being a hero.

He fully revels in the lighter touch but his character also feels the most out of place. The cast of 'Justice League' act like they're at a funeral while Miller rocked up to a birthday party.

The visions of what Snyder wanted to create grinds up against what the studio thinks people want to see, and the end result is neither.

There's a marked shift in the super flicks. Marvel's Kevin Feige oversees all yet allows strong directorial voices to tackle films within his greater plan. From that we get 'Thor: Ragnarok' and the upcoming 'Black Panther'.

If DC and Warner Bros. map out what they want from the DCEU, and trust directors to execute it, they'll have an easier job convincing audiences they're making films for a purpose rather than because Marvel's doing it too.

Ezra Miller's Barry Allen (aka the Flash) was a fast favourite in the film.
Ezra Miller's Barry Allen (aka the Flash) was a fast favourite in the film.

As soon as the box office results came out it was chaos. There was speculation that Affleck wanted a 'graceful exit'. There's now also a huge question mark hanging over many DCEU projects. But it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom.

As with 'Justice League', a lot could rest on the shoulders of Ezra Miller. The undated Flash film could be the key to overhauling the DCEU for the better.

Earlier this year it was announced that Flash's solo film would be titled 'Flashpoint', most likely referring to a 2011 comic arc written by Geoff Johns.

In Johns' 'Flashpoint', Barry Allen wakes up in a world where he no longer has his super speed. Wonder Woman and the Amazons are at war with Aquaman's Atlantians causing death and destruction their wake. Many of his super pals from the Justice League aren't who they used to be, something changed everything.

Barry is forced to figure out what triggered the change in timeline and reverse it before his memory adjusts to the new reality.

It's brilliant but more than that, it gives DC and Warner the chance to jumpstart their timelines.

If Barry is able to reverse Flashpoint and travel back to his own timeline... there's a chance the DCEU could tweak what's not working. It's the best shot at a reset button they have.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, never try and CGI Henry Cavill's upper lip ever again.

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