Special Features

Brief Reminder: Justice League Employed 1,700 People, None of Whom Set Out to Make a Bad Movie

Almost all comic book movies these days come with at least one post-credits scene. Justice League is no different. In fact, it has two. There’s a funny one as well as a remarkably important one that sets up a sequel and possibly also a spin-off.

This isn’t an article about those scenes. So, don’t worry. No spoilers. This isn’t even going to be a traditional film review. I have one of those elsewhere on the site, although, really, with Justice League what’s the point? It’s exactly as terrible and Frankenstein’s monster-like as its troubled production history would have led us to believe.

But at this very moment, I’m curious what it is most people do while waiting out the post-credits stinger. Based on my experiences, the majority of moviegoers actually don’t wait at all, instead opting to file out of the theater right away, either due to ignorance or indifference. Yet I remain in the theater every time, knowing the film’s not truly over until its final scene, regardless of where that scene might fall. To fill the time, sometimes I turn to friends or family or whoever might have gone with me and ask them what they thought of the movie. Other times I pull out my cell phone and check Twitter to make sure nuclear war hasn’t broken out yet (I do that a lot these days). Then there are those times where I simply sit and read the names of all the people who actually worked on the movie.

Zack Snyder on set in video village with Ray Fisher

That’s what I did earlier today with Justice League. I’m not saying I read every single name, although shout-out to Joss Whedon’s assistant Andrew McKenzie, one of the few name I still do remember (for some reason). Even if I had read every name there’s no way I could have remembered them all. That’s because according to IMDB nearly 1,800 people worked on Justice League, with the ratio of digital effects artists to actual actors being roughly 5 to 1, which seems appropriate since this is ultimately more video game than movie.

Still, there I was reading a bunch of names I was destined to quickly forget while reflecting on everything I’d just seen. The more I thought about the movie the angrier I became. See, it’s not just that Justice League is bad, riddled with plot holes, almost completely bereft of a cohesive narrative and well-defined character arcs, and noticeably fake-looking most of the time; it’s also that Justice League demeans Wonder Woman by association and annoyingly re-uses iconic, nostalgia-stoking film scores it is in no way worthy of. It’s thus not just a bad movie but one which also somehow cheapens far better movies.

But all of that kind of fell away as I looked up at the names and briefly remembered no one sets out to make a bad movie. For example, this is cinematographer Fabian Wagner’s first blockbuster after a career in TV (most notably Game of Thrones) and serving as the DP on Victor Frankenstein, and he does his best to spare us from the grimdark march of Batman v Superman. His skies at least look blue, that is until the final act which reddens the sky as well as our retinas and is clearly almost 100% green screen.

What they were acting against like 75% of the time

As I go down the film’s IMDB page and look up the resumes for all of the production heads I see long careers with credits going as far back as 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July and 1996’s Independence Day. Several of these people started on independent films like Garden State. Most everyone appears to have either worked on BvS or Wonder Woman directly before this. A lot of them even have Oscars somewhere in their past.

For example, there are three Oscar nominations and two wins between the three editors – David Brenner, Richard Pearson, Martin Walsh. The three casting directors are similarly awards pedigreed, and the one of them who is actually new to the DCEU, Kate Ringsnell, is partially responsible for putting together Sense8’s amazingly talented and wonderfully diverse cast.

Making Justice League meant devoting 7 months to globe-hopping from Los Angeles to Scotland to Iceland and to Ireland, and then another two months almost a year later when WB forced through emergency reshoots with a total budget of $25m. Imagine the time away from family for the crewmembers who traveled with the production or the plight of the editors and digital artists working to finish and integrate all of this new footage which was coming in less than three months before the film’s release date.

Similarly, imagine how hard it was for the Suicide Squad crew to see their film, which was rushed into production before a script was ready, destroyed in post.

It’s not the Justice League’s crew’s fault that Warner Bros. misread the market and genuinely thought people would like Batman v Superman and then panicked when they didn’t. It’s not their fault that Ben Affleck looks like he’d rather be literally anywhere else in the world. Or that Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon’s script makes no sense and bends over backward to cram four different origin stories (one for Cyborg and The Flash and, Aquaman and the villain, Steppenwolf) into a studio-mandated two-hour running time. Or that this whole thing was doomed the moment WB decided to be lazy and rush into their Avengers rip-off instead of patiently building to it the way Marvel did.

Some things are their fault, like the subpar CGI (especially for Steppenwolf) and oversexualized costumes for the Amazons and Gal Gadot. But for the most part, they were given a bad hand, to begin with.

Justice League is a terrible movie, but it was always going to be. The crew did the best they could considering the circumstances, and for that, they deserve at least a moment’s recognition.

1 comment

  1. I am going to start with a nitpick. Sorry.

    *SOME* people deliberately set out to make bad movies. I watched 5 minutes of “Sharknado” and realized that it was plain bad – not so-bad that it’s good. “Sharknado” is the equivalent of astroturfing.

    Surely, there are some people who don’t care if they are working on a good movie or bad movie as long as it pays the rent, feeds the family and helps put the kids through college/university etc. There would also be people who need *something* on their resume. If you interviewed everybody working on a Adam Sandler or Seth MacFarlane production whether they believed it will be good, you’re not going to get 100% “good”.

    Other than that, people generally try to put in their best effort in things… then deadlines hit.

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