Justice League is promising to be a turning point for the DC Extended Universe. The grim and gritty tone that the first few films established is beginning to wash away. Fans want their superhero experiences to be light, fun, and palatable to all audiences. It’s well known that Justice League underwent extreme reshoots in order to shift its tone towards a lighthearted feel and the marketing has been laser-focused on jokes and team banter.
But, is that all it takes to make a film like this work?
Don’t Rely Solely on Humor
I recently talked about the abundance of humor in Thor: Ragnarok and how it robbed the film of a lot of potential dramatic impact. If Justice League takes the same route, it could be detrimental to the audience’s investment in the story and characters. Especially since we’ll be meeting a lot of these heroes for the first time. Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash will all debut in Justice League. Will we really care about them if most of their appearances are centered around jokes?
Granted, it’s important for movies to have a sense of humor. That is, they need to be able to sense when it’s an appropriate moment for a laugh. Comedy can be used to diffuse a tense situation or highlight an absurdity that other characters don’t recognize. But, if humor is used as a constant barrage, it will eventually lose its power and become ineffective.
The Team Dynamic
One of the most important elements of a film like Justice League is figuring out how to balance these extreme characters within their established group. Every character need to shine and have a good character arc. They also have to bounce off each other in natural and compelling ways.
This can’t be a one-person show. Wonder Woman, Batman, or anyone else can’t steal the spotlight. If we want to use The Avengers as a comparison — and trust me, EVERYONE is going to do that — that film gave every member of the team at least one standout moment. If Justice League wants us to get on board with its cast, especially the new introductions, it needs to show us the team both as individuals and as characters we’d like to see on their own.
Find Your Own Groove
Maybe the most difficult challenge Justice League will face is presenting a superhero universe that feels distinct from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They tried that with their previous films but audiences didn’t seem to jive with a po-faced take on these icons.
However, Wonder Woman hit upon what can differentiate the DC heroes: an aura of mythic importance. Man of Steel attempted this and it mostly worked, but the tone and lack of self-awareness undercut any successes from that movie. If Justice League can properly display these characters as modern-day gods, it will give us a look at superheroes that feels apart from Marvel’s more grounded approach.
At the end of the day, general audiences want to laugh when they go spend money on entertainment. I’m not saying that Justice League shouldn’t be funny. But, if that’s the only card it has to play, it might not be enough to win over fans.
We’ll see how this pans out when Justice League opens on November 17.