The latest trailer for Justice League dropped on March 25, and comic book fans all over the world rushed online to get a look at the newest scenes from DC Films' upcoming epic.
The reactions thus far have been somewhat mixed. Much of the criticism centers on the overall tone of the movie, which seems to be a continuation of Batman v Superman, which left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans.
The problem is if that that happens with Justice League, then DC Films may be in trouble. This could indeed be a make or break situation.
The comparisons to Marvel Studios will always be there, for obvious reasons. The House of Ideas has conquered the big screen, setting the tone for every comic book themed film that will follow. DC can't possibly live up to the standard set by Marvel, and fans know that.
But that's not the issue for DC Films now. The issue is with the reception from the fanbase, who have been very loud with their complaints. The universe that DC has crafted is extremely dark, devoid of hope, and none of that has been lost on the DC faithful.
No one expected Saturday morning cartoons, but no one expected Armageddon either.
That is precisely what the DC Cinematic Universe is heading toward. The Injustice storyline will undoubtedly be played out on the big screen, leaving behind any chance of true character development in the process. Fans know Batman, they know Superman and Wonder Woman, but to take those iconic figures and stick them in the middle of a war right from the jump?
What happened to pacing the story? DC Films appears to be in such a rush to get its properties in the theaters, that the storytelling is taking second place. In the blink of an eye, fans were asked to accept a new Superman with Henry Cavill, who received mixed reviews. They were asked to accept a big screen Wonder Woman with no backstory to build the character.
They were also asked to accept a new Lex Luthor, who came off more like The Riddler. Jesse Eisenberg could have also been described as The Joker without face paint.
The Joker that fans ultimately got has metal teeth, is covered in tattoos, and has a genuine soft spot in his heart for Harley Quinn. The Suicide Squad had the potential to right the ship for DC, to get things back on track and moving in the right direction. But that was not the case.
Now Wonder Woman is set for a June release, Aquaman for 2018, Shazam for 2019, along with Green Lantern Corps and Cyborg tentatively set for 2020. Nightwing, The Flash, Gotham City Sirens, Deadshot, Lobo, Black Adam, and the Dark Universe, are all on the list for DC films in the coming years.
But where is the backbone for this extended universe? Man of Steel should have been the centerpiece for it all, but it missed the mark with its murderous Superman. Batman v Superman should have been a monster hit, but it did not score well with the audience as a whole. Suicide Squad relied too much on the soundtrack, instead of the story. Now the pressure is on Justice League.
Wonder Woman is up first of course, but considering DC's track record, it may or may not be a critical success. While the argument that a film must be profitable to be successful can certainly be made, the fact is that this slate of films comes from an established universe with established fans. Too much deviation from the source material could spell doom for DC.
It's impossible to make everyone happy, that much is true. But when there's more negative buzz surrounding a film than positive, then there definitely does seem to be a problem. DC Films is putting a lot of money, time, and effort into getting these films made, and the desire to see them succeed with the fans has to be very high on the agenda.
That's where Justice League comes in.
DC cannot simply throw together a very expensive soundtrack and hope it gets the movie over with audiences. The story must be the focus this time. It must be cohesive, it must be dramatic, and it must be entertaining. When fans come away from Justice League, they must have the opinion that DC has indeed hit on all cylinders.
Much of that can happen if Ben Affleck's Batman gets the screen time he needs to connect to the audience. Affleck's performance was arguably the highlight of Batman v Superman, even if his motivations were skewed. Fans were asked to believe that The Dark Knight could be a killer, and that's something that virtually no one wanted. Batman's ideology must be that of his comic book counterpart, or the disconnect for fans will continue to deepen.
If Batman is right, then the movie should be right as well. The mission to nail Batman creatively must be apparent, and it must affect the entire tone of Justice League.
Justice League must be not only a financial, but a critical, success. It's the absolute best opportunity the comics giant has to prove it can make this new universe work, and DC must make the best of it.
If the story is good, and if the characters are respected, then Justice League will undoubtedly be a hit. However if it's not, then the entire future of DC Films may be affected. Comic book fans deserve the best, and that is precisely what DC must deliver with Justice League.