Justice League: A DC coming of age story? (Part one)

DC properties have suffered in the past from a kind of pushy parent syndrome. Fans and critics alike have all had very clear ideas about exactly where past DC cinema has been deficient, and exactly how it might be improved. Their films have been said to lack levity. They have been said give a distorted representation of beloved comic book characters. The complaints have been many: “Has Batman broken his no kill rule?” “Does Superman inspire sufficient hope?” Well perhaps these are legitimate concerns, fans after all would like to see the best representations of their beloved comic books on screen; but then there is Marvel.

Marvel is the popular boy at school. He gets the top grades, he’s on the football team, and he has extremely rich parents. DC very much suffers from the comparison, as Marvel Studios continue to rake in top box office dollar, receive broad critical acclaim, and have their projects backed to the nines by the Disney juggernaut. It is no surprise that DC acted out, it began to define itself by what Marvel was not. If Marvel was quippy and playful, DC was dark and brooding; spending its lunch breaks smoking behind the bike sheds. If Marvel was bright and hopeful, DC was sepia and grim.

The adolescence of the DC cinematic universe then has been a traumatic one, but there are certain things that DC has got right. Their superhero casting has been superb, from Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman to Ben Affleck’s Batman; they have made some excellent choices. Nor are they short on talent, Zack Snyder, for all his critics, did produce the iconic Watchmen; and now they have the architect of Marvel’s Avengers, Joss Whedon.

The thing is, I’m always along for the ride. I am not precious about the comic books, for me there are no sacred cows. Cinema has to work on its own terms; it has a fundamentally different language to comic books and graphic novels. While the two have proven to cross-pollinate beautifully, a film should express itself in the manner most befitting of its medium. So too, the talent behind DC should be free to produce something new and inspiring. Joss Whedon had left Marvel Studios after having found their interference to be too damaging to his creative vision. The fact that DC has been able to snatch Whedon suggested that perhaps they were willing to offer a little slack.

When Zack Snyder pulled out of Justice League, the film was handed to Whedon. I should confess, I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for the DC cinematic universe; I’m along way from their harshest critic. But now, with the big success of Wonder Woman, and Joss Whedon at the helm, I’m beginning to get a little excited about DC. I await Justice League with something approaching anticipation.

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