Cinema vs Studios

After waiting for over a year and plagued with production problems that could put the very word problem to shame, the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) latest offering, the Justice League opened in theatres this Friday, November 17, 2017. For the fans of DC comics, it is the first offering that has brought the greatest superheroes in the DC universe together on the silver screen.

They had very high hopes from the movie after the debacle of the past films, Wonder Woman aside and expected that Justice League would be surefire megahit that would not only earn money but also provide movie-goers with an experience of satisfaction and wholesomeness. And boy, they could never have been any more wrong.

While it is not true that the Justice League is a bad movie. Like all movies, it has its moments of glory and grandeur and there are moments where it is a stupid mess. It would not be wrong to say that some of the scenes in the movie are pure bliss, scenes that capture the very essence of the comics and pander to their fandom. I would not be lying if I said that a few scenes in the movie are some of the very best that could ever be in a super-hero film. The casting, DCEU’s strongest point, is further strengthened by the addition of highly talented actors.  But it would be naïve to ignore the mess the movie is. Scenes are disjointed, there is a serious lack of co-ordination, heavy use of CGI and above all, a plot that feels rushed and under-developed. Justice League could have a sure-fire megahit (there is no doubt it will still make a ton of money) and a critic’s delight if it could just have been properly made but it appears that DCEU is yet to take lessons from last year’s Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. And the worst part of all this is that the sole body responsible for this abysmal failure of the Justice League is none other than the studio behind it, Warner Bros. Dude, ever heard of the saying that don’t chop the very branch you are sitting on?

Ask any kid who grew up in the 90’s who their favorite comic book superheroes are? Most would say Superman or Batman (both DC properties) with an odd few naming Spiderman (Marvel) or Fantastic Four (also, Marvel). Iron Man, who? Thor, what? Black Widow? Never heard of her. But today, it should be a matter of grave concern to the makers of the Justice League if the movies containing the tent poles of comics are making far less money that the movies containing these non-descript heroes. For me, it was nothing less than a shocker when the Batman v Superman grossed a measly USD 875 million, far far less than any good Marvel Movie. Don’t get me wrong but it is not that DC movies are pure shit, the infamous “Martha-moment” or the entire Suicide Squad aside or Marvel Movies are all great. But it is really disheartening to see Superman and Batman being pummeled down by these beings of far lesser significance. Wonder Woman was great and well-loved by all. Why not the others?

The root cause in the DCEU’s repeated false starts is the behavior of the studio executives who know nothing about comics and everything about making money by the most shameless forms. The latest diktat by the CEO of Warner Bros that Justice League should be limited to around 2 hours of running time to maximize screens was stupid & ill-advised, at best or suicidal, at worst. The movie had to establish the Flash, Cyborg and the Aquaman as Justice League Members with credible back stories, pave the way for the resurrection of the Superman after his death near the end of Batman v Superman, initiate the coming of the big-bad Darkseid, explain the McGuffins, establish the role of the Green Lantern corps in the movies, provide enough groundwork for future ventures, be good enough and earn a hell lotta cash to justify the investments in the DCEU. This was compounded by the personal tragedy of Jack Snyder which led to him leaving the movie and the roping in of Joss Whedon to complete the movie. Whedon, unconfirmed reports suggest, re-shot over 30% of the movie and changed the movie’s tone (Take that Marvel-you copied our superheroes, we will copy your cinematic style). It would be an understatement to say that the production was under pressure and the diktat made the matters worse. How could anyone cram a plot so huge into a runtime so little? Did WB not learn even a single lesson from the receptions of the theatrical release of BvS and its extended edition? The butchering of the reels and the garbage that has filtered out is not the movie millions of fans were waiting for. It is smoking mess, nothing else. True, the individual scenes are pure gold and that is a testament to the entire production crew but the movie-goers went to watch a full solid movie not any disjointed mess of movie fragment of a few mins here and there.

This is unfortunate. Movie audiences are being taken for a ride by the big studios and this must stop. Injustice has been done to the Justice League. When will “Justice be served”? Who will truly “assemble the league”. This, only time will tell.