Salt salt salt salt salt salt salt salt salt salt salt… Creative intro!!
Credits: Chibi Spider-Man & Chibi Batman
Y-You… You came back! :') These are not tears, there are just way too many ninjas cutting onions here. Keep it together, Jed. Stomach in, chest out. Ahem! Welcome to the first official edition of Thought Bubble Thursdays! Your (hopefully) weekly hub for all things geeky! What sets this apart from the other hundred geek spots scattered all over the internet? Good question! Read along to find out ;)
Initially, I didn't want to do an intro post, but I wanted Justice League to air for quite a bit more before I posted this. Hopefully, you've already gotten the chance to see it or are not deathly allergic to spoilers before you read this.
THERE BE SPOILERS HERE!
You're still here? Either you're really interested or you're a really great friend. Either way, thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope it doesn't disappoint. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Before we begin, I just want to make it clear that I'm a 10-1 Marvel guy. That is, for every 10 Marvel characters I'm fond of, I'm a fan of 1 DC character. Back then, it was mostly because Marvel was the overwhelming underdog in that fight. We'll get into detail regarding that in a bit. I always loved rooting for underdogs or things that most people prefer. Some call me a hipster or a contrarian, but I feel like I've just always been an investor. Buy low and all that. Call me anything, just don't call me a fanboy. Because I'm not.
So yeah, I just disclosed that because I want to make it clear that I'll try to be as unbiased as I can during this whole series. All of the things I will say are my opinion alone. I welcome any discussion in the comments section, so please feel free to chime in.
Marvel vs DC
I won't discuss the whole history of the rivalry here, as it's been discussed over and over across the whole interweb. The rivalry between The Big Two of the comic book industry is even almost synonymous to modern comics itself. Throughout the years though, DC has always come out on top. Thanks to the widespread success of their characters in other media, the superhero genre was almost synonymous to DC's stable of heroes for the mainstream audience. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman — you couldn't mention the word "superhero" without evoking images of DC's "Trinity". The only bullets Marvel really had against them was Spider-Man and the X-Men (both properties which, ironically, Marvel Studios do not own the film rights to).
For those of you who aren't following who owns what, basically Marvel was going bankrupt during the late 80s and early 90s so they sold the rights of their franchises to different film companies. If you want a detailed history, you can find it elsewhere on the internet. Put simply, Marvel couldn't make movies of their own characters. How screwed up was that?
Fast forward to 2008, Marvel decided to produce a little independent film and hoped that their risk would pay off. Since they didn't have access to their most famous characters, they decided to use a then C-list character in hopes that it could usher in an era of prosperity. They had been working on its script since 2005, and they hung their hopes on a relatively unknown character to carry their studio to new heights. And, it did. The film turned into Iron Man.
DC had been making hit after hit, but they were isolated from each other. So, when Marvel decided to pit a connected universe against the likes of Batman and Superman, it was definitely a gamble. $13B later, I'd say that it paid off. So, where did DC go wrong?
Something that Marvel is in danger of with the way things have been going. It's difficult to avoid it, that's why I'm rooting for DC to put up a competitive fight to keep Marvel on its toes. But, like I said, with the way things are going, that's easier said than done.
For years, DC rested on the success of Batman, Superman, The Flash and their other franchises. They were untouchable. Unfortunately, that led them to stagnate in terms of innovation. It's the age old tale of companies that have been too long without competition. I'm not a big fan of competitiveness, but this is the exception I could think of at the top of my head.
DCU means Desperately Catching Up?
It does seem so, doesn't it? Even with tons of movies under their belt, Marvel's recent success with their cinematic universe has made their limited movies seem like an afterthought. Sure, the Nolanverse was a work of cinematic brilliance, but it had already ended. While Marvel had already assembled their cadre of superheroes and elevated them from obscurity, DC had yet to unite their stable of heroes. With a rabid fanbase (and the Speed Force) behind them, they decided to play catch up.
While Marvel's ensemble movie was met with universal acclaim, DC's Justice League had mixed reviews, at best. So, with all the backstory out of the way, let's examine what went wrong.
Marvel had spent years carefully crafting their cinematic universe by sowing seeds through individual movies. They allowed the audience to get to know and develop a bond with their characters. Marvel had to do it though because Thor or Iron Man really didn't have the same recall as Superman or Batman. By the time Marvel was ready to put the band together, the audience was already rooting for the characters. They didn't need to insert backstories in The Avengers and they just went straight to the action. The result was a fun-filled romp that broke cinematic records and solidified the MCU's legacy.
On the other hand, when DC united the league, the only characters we ever got to really know was Cavill's Superman and Gadot's Wonder Woman. Sure, an argument could be made that Affleck's Batman was introduced in Batman v Superman as well, but we don't really know him know him. We know of Batman, because of his numerous iterations, but we don't know his Batman. He was supposed to be a grizzled veteran by the time BvS rolled in, but he didn't feel like "The World's Greatest Detective" that the comics has pushed over the years.
Cavill's Superman was the brooding Superman nobody cared for. Surprisingly, Justice League turned his character around. Apart from the weird moustache issue, the Superman in Justice League was probably the best version of the character on screen. A good balance of light-heartedness and sense of responsibility. In his previous appearances, he was strangely portrayed as a fish out water, even though he grew up as a country boy his whole life. He only ever became aware of his alien origins when he was a teenager. So, I don't really know why he was portrayed the way he was.
Look, I actually hate Superman. He's too overpowered, and he's portrayed as someone who could do know wrong. I mean, where the hell in the world could one find Kryptonite!? In reality, he could've finished the main villain here anytime he wanted to. The reason why he was put in the backburner for half of the movie is because the League was quite unnecessary with Superman around.
Gadot's Wonder Woman was fine. She became a beacon that women rallied behind during her movie. It was a good movie, but it was too overhyped in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for representation, but if the agenda is surpassing the quality of the movie, then I don't think it's fair to judge it on that. She has a beautiful face, but she's no Amazon. If she was given more to do here, it would've been better.
Momoa's Aquaman? A total stranger. Fisher's Cyborg? A complete mystery (hashtag Cyborg is a Titan). Miller's Flash? Okay, so we've hit a sore spot for me. Indulge me for a second here. You see, my favorite DC character in the comics is Wally West. Who is Wally West you ask?
Ugh! Not you!
There! That's better.
Oh, he's only the second person (well, third if you really want to be technical about it) to wear the mantle of The Flash. As to why he's my favorite DC character, I'll reserve that for a future installment. In recent years, DC has been pushing the original Flash, Barry Allen, down everyone's throats. As to why, the reason eludes me. Barry had already died because he made a heroic sacrifice to save the universe. The freaking universe. Mind you, that's no small feat.
For the longest time, Barry Allen was Buried Allen. His former sidekick Kid Flash, a.k.a. Wally West, took his uncle's superhero identity to honor his legacy. But, in comics, nobody stays dead for too long. Barry came back and took back the mantle of The Flash. At the time, Wally already had twins and he's fine with giving back the title. Well, that was before DC rebooted their entire universe and wiped Wally from existence. But, that's a whole different can of worms.
My point is, Barry and Wally were two different people. Barry was a noble, nervous scientist type and Wally was a blue collar car mechanic, but was portrayed as a light-hearted jokester in his animated iteration. Barry's hair is blonde and Wally is known for sporting red locks. Barry's life was marred with tragedy, having witnessed his mother's death and his father was wrongly accused of being the perpetrator. Wally grew up idolizing Th Flash, which turned out to be his uncle by marriage. Barry was all about sacrifice and hope, while Wally was all about living up to Barry's legacy. A lot of people prefer Barry, but I grew up with Wally West as The Flash. Heck, Barry Allen died before I was even born!
Ezra Miller portrayed Barry Allen, a fidgety, loner hipster whose father was framed for the death of his mother. He has black hair, and is the comic relief of the team. I get that DC wanted to combine the best defining traits of the two Flashes, but come on. Other than showing that Barry's father was locked up in jail, he portrayed a character more reminiscent of Wally West. Anyway, that second stretched for far too longer, didn't it? That's what happens when you're the fastest man… oh wait.
Basically, DC formed a group of characters that we should be familiar with on paper, but really don't know. In their haste, they sacrificed a lot of character building for the sake of world building. They took a top-down approach compared to Marvel's bottom-up approach. That's all well and good, I mean, it's been done before. Nothing wrong with that, just ask the other league of extraordinary gentlemen…
Have you heard the saying "if you can't beat them, join them"? Well, DC might've been listening attentively in class when that was taught, because they literally made The Avengers starring their own more well-known characters. I wanted to enumerate the similarities here, but most of my notes already line up with a video created by ScreenCrush. So, I'll save some space and embed the video here:
At the center of the similarities lies Joss Whedon, the man who directed The Avengers who was later tapped to pick up where Zack Snyder left off with Justice League. It's the very same reason why Justice League looks like a cobbled together, Frankenstein-like movie. Two directors who have such different visions both had input on the same film. Snyder's take was dark and gritty, while Whedon's was light and colorful. Some prefer the grittier take, but according to the data, those are a remarkably small few.
Zack Snyder really has a unique vision, but I don't think it's a popular notion. A unique vision, so I should be rooting for him, right? I tried to, but I really couldn't. I'm trying to find his quotes about superhero movies, but I can't seem to find the exact ones I remember. But, I will say this, I don't think that his vision is aligned with that of any fan of the genre. For someone making movies for public consumption, you would think that it's an important aspect.
In response to Spielberg's claim of the superhero genre being a passing fad, Snyder had this to say:
“I feel like [Spielberg’s] right. But I feel like Batman and Superman are transcendent of superhero movies in a way, because they’re Batman and Superman. They’re not just, like, the flavor of the week Ant-Man—not to be mean, but whatever it is. What is the next Blank-Man?”
Oh no you didn't. Don't go dissing on my boy Blankman!
I enjoyed Justice League, but not as much as I should. In fact, I enjoyed it less than I enjoyed many of Marvel's movies. The main difference in their approach is that Marvel gives a sense that it's building up to something massive, while DC seems like it's just throwing out their big guns without a plan. There were a lot of plot points from the earlier movies that have since been dropped. I do hope that DC rights the ship before it gets lost. As I said, I want DC to succeed because I don't want Marvel to become complacent.
Talking about Spielberg's claim of superhero's being a passing fad, there might be some truth to it, but as a comic book nerd, I seriously don't think so. However, we can't discount the fact that superhero movies have been churned out at a steady rate. That could've caused some saturation and could've turned off some of the viewing public. Perhaps people had already lost faith in the universe that DC had been building. Whatever the reason may be, this could play a huge factor in the lukewarm reception of Justice League. If the culmination movie Avenger's Infinity War fails to meet the lofty standards it had set up for itself, then we can revisit the saturation theory. But, for now, the fault lies in DC's court.
Or maybe, the reason why Justice League didn't succeed the way they had hoped, is because they already united a far superior league.
I grew up watching this series, and through all its missteps, it presented one of the most compelling depictions of DC's premier heroes ever. If DC would've just presented a live-action version of the cartoon's pilot, it would've been far better. Each member had enough room to shine, and the villains' motivations were far more justified. It opened up a whole world for the cartoons, so why not do the same for live-action?
Where DC) we go from here?
Woah! I just noticed that I've been going on for almost as long as a Zack Snyder movie. A-yo! Sick burns aside, I feel like I need to wrap this up. This went a bit longer than expected because there were a lot of topics to discuss. The next iterations of this series would be more on point. You have my word.
As for DC? I feel like they should create a roadmap and just stick with the plan. With Flashpoint in the horizon, I feel like they're going to reset the board and start over fresh. I don't know if that'll work given the current climate, but it's worth a shot. To wrap this up, just because Snyder dissed Ant-Man, I'm going to pit all of their movies against Ant-Man to give an idea where they are right now.
Man of Steel vs Ant-Man? Hands down, Ant-Man.
Batman v Superman vs Ant-Man? Definitely Ant-Man.
Suicide Squad vs Ant-Man? Is this a joke? Ant-Man, of course.
Wonder Woman vs Ant-Man? It's a close one, but I'll give it to Ant-Man.
Justice League vs Ant-Man?
Oh come on, if the collection of DC's greatest superheroes would be defeated by the pint-sized Avenger, then you really need to start from scratch! I'll give credit where credit is due though, and give Justice League some props. Definitely the best DC movie by far.
Will you come back next week? I'll make it worth your while.
What are your thoughts about Thought Bubble Thursdays? I'd love to know in the comments section.
Do you have opposing thoughts about my view of Justice League? Let's discuss.