There’s this thing in pop music where critically derided bands like to scoreboard-boast that the millions of people who’ve bought their records can’t be wrong. For example, Bon Jovi’s 100,000 million fans can’t be wrong.
What WB just did with the Justice League is the movie trailer equivalent of that: the millions of fans who helped Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad gross a combined $1.61 billion worldwide last year can’t be wrong. That is, of course, assuming all of those fans actually liked what they saw, which um…
Nope, $1.61 billion in ticket sales proved nothing’s wrong. Who cares if critics, bloggers and Youtubers hated both movies? Plenty of fans loved them, and are ready to air guitar to their heart’s delight whenever they hear Wonder Woman’s rock inflected theme music. For every fan who criticizes Batman v Superman nonsense dream sequences there’s at least another fan who will happily explain those dreams to you because who doesn’t want to talk about parademons and Injustice: Gods Among Us? It is for the latter group of fans that this new Justice League has been made. It will do next to nothing to win back any Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad detractors but should play well with the base.
WB has been hyping this for days now, trickling out new mini-trailers and posters. Today finally brought the full-length trailer, and boy howdy is it ever more of the Batman v Superman grimdark same just now with occasional jokes about how much of a loner asshole the Ben Affleck Batman is and how totally kickass Aquaman is. There’s almost nothing about the actual plot. Instead, we’re served up a parade of rock songs married to a nearly unending display of action scenes in which the Justice League show off their killer moves, almost exclusively in glorious, signature Zack Snyder slow-motion. It’s more video game than movie, but the same was true of Batman v Superman and it still made over $800m worldwide.
The behind the scenes reports indicate WB’s fledgling DC movie empire has been in complete disarray since Batman v Superman, and Ben Affleck increasingly resembles a depressed, mentally anguished contract hostage instead of a fully willing movie star. However, Justice League had to be made. They were too far into production to turn back after BvS came out, and it was too late to replace Zack Snyder. Since then, WB has cleaned house, and are not committed to anything beyond Wonder Woman, Justice League and Aquaman.
You wouldn’t know there has been any kind of sea change from this trailer, though, which is a whole helping of live action video game Zack Snyder craziness. Poor Amy Adams is reduced to a reaction shot of her looking up at something, quite possibly thinking, “Zack Snyder’s actually really nice, and they’re paying me so much money that I can afford to go off and make something like Nocturnal Animals. I’ll just count the minutes until I go home and play with my kids.” J.K. Simmons also gets a line as Commissioner Gordon, and unlike Lego Batman Movie’s incompetent version of Gordon it’s not, “Just wait for Batman to solve it.” So, that’s something.
For now, WB has to make due with being the studio that makes comic book movies that bank big globally but never earn Marvel Cinematic Universe-style applause. This Justice League trailer indicates the only real thing they were able to change from Batman v Superman was to punch up the script to add some jokes, transparently mimicking Avengers-style quips. For example, Aquaman thinks it’s awesome that Batman dresses like a bat. Dude, this Aquaman’s just so cool, right? He’d steal your girlfriend, and you’d still want to be friends with him.
Yet underneath the surface level infusion of lame jokes and chest-pounding bravado is something which literally looks far too familiar. You can’t just fix what’s wrong with the Zack Snyder approach to comic book moviemaking by bringing in some high-paid writers to punch up the script with jokes. There needs to be some cohesive plot motivating the action, and believable characters and….
Yeah, but did you see that part where Aquaman jumped off the Batmobile and took down all those parademons? So cool.
We can at least give them this: they are holding off on the inevitable twist that Superman will probably come back as a bad guy in this movie.
What do you think of the new Justice League trailer? Am I giving it too little credit for the ways it differentiates itself from Batman v Superman? Or has this been a waste of time because what’s the point in arguing Zack Snyder anymore? Let me know in the comments.
Justice League is due out November 17.