Well, Justice League is finally here. We had to wait a couple of years for it, ever since the powers that be up at DC Entertainment decided we were going to be treated to a big, shared cinematic universe where the JLA would finally be teamed up on screen.
The reviews are in, and sadly, it has a “Rotten” approval score of just 40 per cent. However, there is one positive thing about the movie that the critics can all agree on: it’s miles better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the clunky, messy predecessor that set it up.
Here are 15 ways in which Justice League improves on Batman v Superman.
15. It has Kevin Smith’s blessing
Hollywood’s resident fanboy Kevin Smith has given Justice League his blessing. Even before the movie was released, he could see from the early material that it was going to be the movie that comic book fans had been waiting for – the movie that comic book fans wanted from Batman v Superman, but failed to get.
See, Kevin Smith is a great filmmaker and an avid comic book fan. He made his breakout hit Clerks by selling his comic book collection to raise the money – and then used the profits to buy the collection back. He lives and breathes superheroes.
He’s written a whole bunch of superhero scripts over the years, and in the scripts that aren’t about superheroes, his characters talk about superheroes constantly, so Smith is the best guy to ask, and after what he’d seen from the set, he said, “It looks like [Warner Bros. and DC Comics] heard [the criticisms] loud and clear, and everything that was missing or perceived to be missing from Batman v Superman seems like it’s in full display on Justice League, so I’m on board. I was already on board, but I’m very happy to see that they’re taking that direction.”
14. It has a sensible runtime
One of the biggest criticisms of BvS was that it was way too long, clocking in at an insufferable 151 minutes. A lot of alarm bells were ringing a few months ago when the runtime of the earliest screen test version of Justice League was reported to be 170 minutes long – nearly three whole torturous hours.
Warner Bros. reportedly enforced a two-hour runtime limit on the production team. The directors and the editors clearly struggled with this. They pushed it at the absolute limit with a final runtime of 120 minutes – not a minute to spare!
So, we’ve got two nice, manageable hours of Justice League material to watch. And don’t worry about that being too long. You don’t want a superhero movie to be too short – the Fantastic Four reboot was a scant 100 minutes and look how that turned out. 120 minutes is a good length.
13. Ezra Miller is all in
We didn’t get to see much of Ezra Miller’s Flash in Batman v Superman. We caught a brief glimpse of him here and there, but we didn’t really get to see his nervy, dorky interpretation of Barry Allen until the trailer for Justice League came along and got us excited.
The critics seem to agree – Ezra Miller is the most game and enthusiastic cast member in the entire movie, out of all of the core superheroes. Uproxx wrote in their review, “Ezra Miller sure looks like he’s having fun, so that’s promising.” You can just tell he’s excited to be a part of it, and that’s what you want.
How can we get excited if the people involved aren’t excited? We’ll be getting a solo movie from him soon enough, but until then, Justice League is the best we can do, and it is glorious.
12. Junkie XL is off the soundtrack duties
The music of Batman v Superman was really lacking, especially considering some of the awesome soundtracks we’ve had from the superhero genre (and from the wider action and science fiction genres) in the past. That’s because Junkie XL was in charge of the music. Even if you’ve never heard of Junkie XL, you can tell from his stage name that he’s not the man for the job.
Halfway through the production of Justice League, Junkie XL was replaced by Danny Elfman. Now, Danny Elfman – he is the man for the job. He composed the soundtracks for the 1989 movie of Batman and its sequel Batman Returns, and he also provided the theme music for Batman: The Animated Series.
His original Batman theme was used in the movie, as was the classic John Williams theme from the original Superman movies. What’s even better about Williams’ Superman theme is that it was used during “a dark, twisted moment” in the film. Oh, and The White Stripes are on the soundtrack, too. Junkie XL being removed from the production turned out great!
11. It’s a movie for comic book nerds
There’s a case to be made from the perspective of the Hollywood producers that superhero movies should not be made for comic book fans. If you tailor the movies to the widest possible audience (i.e. idiots who like explosions and people in cool costumes and have never read a single thing in their lives, even comic books), then you’re likely to make more profits.
But then again, there’s a case to be made that if Batman’s in your movie, the movie itself can be pretty much anything and it’ll gross hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Justice League team have clearly taken note, as notable critic Kevin McCarthy has called the movie “awesome” and said that it’s “firing on all cylinders” and “filled with so many moments that had me geeking out and crying nerd tears.” That’s what we want!
10. It has a looser structure
The key storytelling problem with Batman v Superman was that its story was so tightly wound with no room for anyone to breath, and yet structurally, it was all over the goddamn place. That’s the worst combination when it comes to telling a story. You want to have a tight structure that knows where it’s going, but give each scene room to exist on its own merits.
It’s what The Big Lebowski did, and according to The New York Times, it’s what Justice League does, too.
In the Times’ review of the movie, they basically said in the opening paragraph that it’s a bunch better than BvS: “Justice League, the newest DC Comics superhero jam directed by Zack Snyder, is looser, goosier and certainly more watchable than the last one.”
“The bar could scarcely have been lower given that the previous movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was such an interminable slog. The superhero and villain dynamic is much the same (slayers going to slay etc.), but there are a few fresh faces now and Wonder Woman has more to do than play backup.”
9. It’s pure entertainment
Batman v Superman was trying to be more than it was – a big budget superhero romp – and it crashed and burned because of it. However, Justice League knows what it is. It’s pure entertainment. It’s escapism.
What we need is an enjoyable movie about a band of superheroes that we can just simply enjoy for a couple of hours (and no more than a couple of hours) and switch off from the outside world. That’s Justice League’s purpose, and it’s about time. As Forbes said, Justice League is “a bad movie, but a great time at the movies.”
8. The action sequences are grander
The action in Batman v Superman was seriously lacking. For starters, there wasn’t very much of it.
There was the occasional car chase or fight scene, but most scenes were random cameos from characters that will be explained in three years when their solo movies get doled out or conversations at dinner parties or establishing yet another Bruce Wayne property where he has yet another girl in bed.
And even when there was an action sequence, it was clunky and inconsistent and choppily edited. It’s not fun to watch. However, when it comes to Justice League, there’s two things you need to know: there’s plenty of action, and all the action sequences are masterfully crafted.
The critics agree – they’re saying it’s “packed with superhero action” and features “one of the best action sequences ever in a DCEU movie.”
7. Joss Whedon has made his mark
Joss Whedon was never supposed to be anywhere near Justice League. He was doing Batgirl for the DCEU after doing the first two Avengers movies for Marvel. Zack Snyder was directing Justice League after handling Batman v Superman, and it probably would’ve been virtually the same movie.
But then Joss Whedon was brought on to do some rewrites on the script. Being the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, Joss Whedon is a fanboy’s wet dream. He’s come under fire recently after his ex-wife accused him of being a fake feminist, but he’s still a great genre filmmaker. Also, tragedy struck when Snyder’s daughter died and he was unable to complete the film.
It was a really terrible thing to happen, and no matter what you think of Snyder as a filmmaker, your thoughts have to be with him and his family at such an awful time. But this meant that Whedon could step in to finish the movie, and he injected it with some Avengers magic.
Famed film critic Richard Roeper has described Justice League as “a putting-the-band-together origins movie, executed with great fun and energy.” You could describe The Avengers in exactly the same way. That’s a good sign.
6. The team dynamic
Batman v Superman was technically, sort of, in a way, the first movie to feature the Justice League. But we didn’t get them all fighting together. We didn’t even get them all conversing. The Flash showed up for a quick cameo appearance and yelled at Bruce Wayne, while some CCTV footage of Cyborg cropped up on Wayne’s hi-tech Batcave computer.
Of course, toward the end, Wonder Woman came striding in to assist Batman and Superman in their fight against Doomsday, but we didn’t really get much of the team dynamic. Well, in Justice League, the team dynamic is everything. We get all the heroes bickering and bartering taunts with one another.
The chemistry among the cast is really great, too. They all clearly get along and settle into their characters perfectly. It’s great!
5. It’s cleaner
Batman v Superman was a hot mess of a movie. In terms of structure and storytelling, it was a clunky, inconsistent mess. Empire magazine called it “cluttered and narratively wonky.”
With Justice League, directors Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon have stripped that down and given us a simple superhero movie that is fun and colorful and action-packed and only tells us what we need to know for this story. The review of Justice League in Variety read, “The movie is never messy or bombastic.
It’s light and clean and simple (at times almost too simple), with razor-sharp repartee and combat duels that make a point of not going on for too long.” Now, while some of those comments were underhanded insults, they still make for a better movie than Batman v Superman.
4. It’s a standalone story
Justice League was originally entitled Justice League Part One and it was going to be the first part of a two-part story in the middle of the DC Extended Universe where every movie was supposed to be one chapter of an overarching story. The whole universe was basically going to feel like one really, really long movie, rather than separate movies.
But there’s nothing satisfying about that unless you’re watching the whole thing in one sitting. If you’re watching it two hours at a time, every few months, then each instalment of the franchise needs to stand on its own. That wasn’t the case for Batman v Superman, where the whole movie essentially only served the purpose of setting up later movies.
But it is the case for Justice League. They dropped the ‘Part One’ from the title and the two-part nature of the story and instead decided to make the most awesome and kick-ass single, standalone movie they could – and they deliver.
3. It has a lighter tone
One of the main problems with Batman v Superman was that it was way, way too serious. Look at that title – it sounds like fun, colorful, exciting, awesome comic book action. But that’s not what you get. The whole thing gets bogged down in a sense of grim, unforgiving, faux Frank Miller.
It should’ve lightened up a little. Clearly the creative team has realized that and taken it into account when they were making Justice League.
In fact, Flash actor Ezra Miller has said that this was always director Zack Snyder’s plan, ever since he saw the reviews of BvS calling the movie too gloomy: “The first time I ever sat in Zack’s office, he told me people were mad at him for making things too dark. Zack always intended for the Justice League to rise out of the darkness, and maybe even bring Batman with them. Maybe an inch.”
2. It’s funny
Batman v Superman should’ve been funnier. We’re not talking hilarious, or a Thor: Ragnarok level of humor. Just a little something to whet our whistles. Well, Justice League does have it, and it works. As all of the best superhero movies should do, there should be funny moments and serious moments, with each one striking the right tone.
Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded in this manner, but Thor: Ragnarok didn’t by going overboard with the comedy. And then Batman v Superman failed by not having any funny moments at all.
According to Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine, the humor is the center of the movie: “The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble.”
1. It doesn’t lie in its title
The title Batman v Superman promises a movie that pits the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel against each other in a fun, exciting, action-packed romp ripped from the pages of DC comic books. But that’s not what it is at all. The actual fight between Bat and Supes is like a footnote.
Batman v Superman is really just a precursor to Justice League, and the movie suffers because of it. But luckily, Justice League has learned from those mistakes, and its title doesn’t lie. The team isn’t just a footnote on the foundations of a shared cinematic universe. Justice League at least does what it says on the tin.
From its title, it promises to be a movie about a team of superheroes who have to work together against all odds to save the world from certain destruction. And guess what? That’s exactly what it is! No bullcrap, no setting up the universe – just good, clean, superpowered fun.