I want to first start this post with a sincere apology: usually, my posts are scheduled for Friday afternoons, but I hope that our readers will enjoy a Saturday edition of my critiques. There is a reason for this, and it’s something that has become a personal mantra of mine, which has improved my relationship with others immensely.
I have a rule about stating ideas “in the moment”, especially in regards to when I’m angry or depressed. I don’t feel that these emotions place people in a state of thought that is mindful of others; a combination of Mr. Rogers, my mother, and a few decades of experience in having my feelings hurt has taught me to give time to what is bothering me, and to always have a well thought-out rebuttal to said stimuli.
This is why I’ve given Justice League: War some time to settle in mind. And even with my separation from the experience, it is time for some old-fashioned, no-holds barred rebutting.
It’s not that I don’t prefer the writers or artists that are working on The New 52, it’s the idea that the direction that the company has these writers and artists following has been falling short with longtime fans. The numbers in 2012 have seen an increase in sales for many of their popular titles, while some of the “dark horse” titles like Animal Man have been objectively amazing, but this doesn’t make up for the fact that fans have had a less-than-stellar reception of where DC has been taking us.
In short, Justice League: War is representative of everything that is wrong with the direction DC is currently taking.
The portrayal of these iconic characters is the most leering of these problems. Yes, there is a reason why we love characters like Tyrion Lannister or Tyler Durden: they are uncaring of the social norm, intensely selfish with larger-than-life egos, and generally represent what a human being cannot actually be if they would like to function in society. Because of this, the people at DC thought that instilling these values in six of the seven Justice League members represented would be a good cultural fit for iconic paragons of selflessness and caring. It is infuriating to dwell on, as a long-time fan.
The most glaring occurrences of this are the characterizations of Superman and Green Lantern. The former is portrayed as someone who is only good for his sheer power, accompanied with a God complex and no sense of right or justice. The movie doesn’t even hint if Superman has a good reason to be in its midst: there is no personal investment for Superman to care about the circumstances, and states that others do not need to be in Metropolis because it is his “turf”. Gone are the days of Superman possessing the soft skills to talk a person out of jumping to their death, or to care about the community around him; instead, we receive this cocky powerhouse that leaves a bad taste of gritty reboot and macho tendencies in our mouths.
Green Lantern’s portrayal is even more egregious, instilling the idea in the audience that he is a loner who has no idea about tactics or how to properly express his thoughts through words. He is a part of organization of universe-police, for Rao’s sake, and an Air Force officer in the United States military. He even uses the word “douchebag” in order to address Batman. He is the quintessential jock/frat-boy that is only there to measure his manliness amongst other “heroes”; the entire time, I was waiting for him to set up a beer pong or flip cup construct after he had won a fight to celebrate.
I don’t dislike the inclusion of Shazam (or Captain Marvel, as many others know him) as much as other people, but the absence of Aquaman did seem off-putting. Were the people at DC afraid that they weren’t going to get to showcase Aquaman’s powerset? They had a scene in the ocean. Like, literally in the middle of the water. There were waves and everything. And for me being such a Captain Marvel fanboy, the complaint is that they limited him to only using lightning. The one being who is almost the equal to the team’s best in wisdom, strength, stamina, power, courage, and speed, and he’s shown as a stand-in for Black Lightning.
One of the only enjoyable and redeeming qualities for me was The Flash, who in the past few years has had an amazing run with insightful writers and artists. He’s shown as someone who deeply cares, who believes in the inherent good of others, and was the only positive attitude on the team that was not looking for glory or dude-measuring. He was the character in the film that had the least negative comments; I believe that he had nothing to say with a negative message, but I can’t be sure, since the brooding and lone-wolf attitude was so prevalent with the others.
The art direction was great with some spectacular fight scenes, but the costumes and voice direction left something to desired. Usually, Andrea Romano is spot-on with her voice direction and cast. I hope to get used to Jason O’Mara behind Batman’s cowl, and out of fanboy allegiance I can definitely get used to Alan Tudyk for Superman. But Wonder Woman’s voice direction, with Michelle Monaghan as Diana, constantly felt forced and jilted, as if she couldn’t get into the motivations and needs of the sole woman on the team. Every time she spoke, it felt as if the collective hope of comic book fans were trying to stop each line that passed between her lips.
I sincerely regret to say that I am not recommending this experience to longtime lovers of superheroes; it is not representative of the characters that we used to love, and is a bastardization of what executives think makes an interesting and pertinent character. Although profitable on a short-term basis, this new direction will fall out with newer fans once the next “character trait fad” comes into play, which leaves DC to reconcile with their persistent fans in the next few years. It is a disappointing reflection of what happens when storytelling and market shares are placed in the wrong rankings of importance.