One could pretty easily make the case that DC Comics' attempt to construct a connected movie universe, akin to Marvel's similar MCU, has been on a downward trend ever since it began. If we broadly consider the birth of this huge undertaking to be 2015's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it's been a leaking ship from the off-set, with meddling producers, a ballooned production budget, a huge amount of new characters fighting for screen time, and an overall ambition to do with one film what Marvel had to spend four setting up. It was a downright mess, and a tragic one too, starting the entire universe off on the wrong foot. A few short months after, things didn't improve much with the release of Suicide Squad, which managed to make the very same mistakes. Many disqualified the DCU (as it's commonly called) as nothing more than cheap knock-offs of its rivals.
That's one pretty shoddy warm-up for a team-up movie...
And so, we've reached the release of Justice League, something that, in any other world, would be considered to be the ultimate culmination of any DC Comics fan's wettest dream, seeing these iconic heroes do battle side by side in a showdown of the ages. However, both in front of the camera, where trailers have done little to ease concerns of the drastic change from the serious melodrama of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to the slightly more comedic and loose vibe of Justice League, to tragedy behind the camera as director Zack Snyder left the project after a personal loss only for Josh Whedon to pick up the reins (and that, by the way, made the production budget grow by an additional $100 million), it's hard to think of a large budget movie having undergone more criticism and degradation from fans and critics alike before its release. It's a production under heavy scrutiny, then, and it has gone through many changes during its development. Now, though, it's finally here, and the ultimate question remains; can Justice League create a platform from which the franchise can grow? Sadly though, it's impossible to answer yes to that question - at least without a caveat or two.
Right off the bat, it's worth pointing out, that Justice League behaves quite differently to its predecessor in a number of critical ways. Most importantly, it's immediately apparent that DC Comics and Warner Bros. have vigorously studied fan-criticisms of Batman v Superman, and of the fact that its melodramatic overtones made for poor character interactions and unbelievable exchanges. They paid so much attention, in fact, that they chose to throw out this narrative setup altogether, and opted to go down a more comedic and satirical road, drastically altering the characters they'd spent energy and money setting up beforehand. Ben Affleck's Batman is no longer haunted, stoic and dark, and instead, he's now a pun machine who looks for the silver lining in any negative scenario. The powerful Aquaman, portrayed by Jason Momoa, is a jock, rather than a wise guardian of the oceans. The Flash is reduced to nothing more than comic relief, both in dialogue and in action sequences, where it's easy to draw parallels to a weird superfast combination of Mr. Bean and Jim from American Pie. Even worse is that it's pretty easy to identify that these comedic sensibilities were added later, as an afterthought - it seems designed by committee, not by designers.