Listen, folks, I’d be a stone-cold liar if I said I didn’t react to the new Comic-Con Justice League trailer with a strong sense of excitement. Sure, the film doesn’t come out for over a year – November 2017 – but still! Did you see the Flash tapping into the Speed Force to catch Batman’s Batarang? How about Jason Momoa’s Aquaman walking into a crashing wave while finishing off a fifth of tequila?
And you can’t have missed that killer comedic beat between Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne! About the “more-or-less” chances of Aquaman joining, she asks, “More ‘more’ or more ‘less’?” He tells her that it was probably “more ‘less,’” after which they both agree that “He said ‘no.’”
Let me be totally fair. These kinds of scenes – bright, comedic and bad-ass character moments – are exactly the things I want from this Justice League film. After watching the trailer, I thought that if Zack Snyder spreads the tone of these scenes throughout the film, then we’d have a darn good film on our hands. Heck, with beloved DC Comics writer Geoff Johns coming on board to peer over Snyder’s shoulder, a fun Justice League movie seems possible, maybe even likely…
But then I remembered something – two things to be exact: Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Remember that final Man of Steel trailer? I remember watching it and thinking,
“This looks perfect. Amazing. The action looks more visceral than we’ve ever seen Superman before, but the story also looks to be honoring the inherent optimism tied to the character. Also, the score! Hans Zimmer will knock it out of the park again, judging by the epic, heroic, percussion-heavy theme from this trailer. Overall, I think it’s about time for Superman to be cool again—for kids to be able to proudly idolize this American icon of kindness, honesty, and bravery.”
And what was the finished product, the final film like? Well, it wasn’t outright terrible. It had a great cast and some touching character moments between young Clark Kent and his adopted parents, but overall it suggested a fundamental misunderstanding of the character.
That final, destructive action set piece in Metropolis, aside from being far too long, did not show Superman trying to save anyone. Supes would toss general Zod through buildings, blast his laser vision and make no effort to, say, carry Zod into outer space to prevent collateral damage. It wasn’t the kind of Superman that we wanted to see.
This was a Superman that breaks necks and asks question later, and the film was downright depressing for it…
Flash forward to Batman v Superman. The entire marketing campaign looked to be playing course-correct for Man of Steel’s missteps, and I was on board for all of them!
Superman looked to be sinking deeper into his fun, Clark Kent persona; Lex Luthor seemed to be bringing a certain level of humorous self-awareness to the proceedings (“You would not want to pick a fight with this person!”); Zack Snyder and company even looked to be putting the Metropolis disaster in context to motivate Batman to take on Superman.
Again, what was the final result? It was even worse than Man of Steel.
Superman was more depressing than ever, with his theme – the one from the Man of Steel trailer – not being used at all. We got scene after scene of sad piano motifs, suggesting that being Superman is a burden on Clark Kent and that all he wants to do is quit. Sure, there wasn’t as much collateral damage, but this time it was worse because Superman would say things like, “Superman was never real…”
The movie wasn’t funny either. The moments of humor in the trailer were technically in the film, but surrounded by the incessantly dark themes of the story, they weren’t funny. The whole film had an air of dread, and every character seemed to be competing in a brooding-contest. I’ve said it before: Batman can brood, but that’s it! Nobody else should brood, least of all Superman.
BvS teased the rest of the Justice League, but with no fun surrounding the proceedings, I didn’t care…
Now we have the Justice League footage, and the age-old saying comes to mind, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Batman v Superman was the first fooling. Snyder and company made me believe that they had learned from Man of Steel’s misunderstanding of Superman; that the first film was just a foray into the “real” version of Superman that we expect, and that he’d show up in the sequel. He never did.
Now Justice League comes along promising much the similar thing. They would have us believe that their Flash will be really funny and that Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman will have snappy, fun chemistry. On the film’s poster, Superman is even smiling. Oh, the thought!
But I won’t be fooled again. Zack Snyder’s trailers are always great at stringing together scenes and suggesting a tone that the film may not share. The Flash probably will be funny, but I don’t have complete confidence that I’ll be laughing in the theater because I don’t know whose neck Superman will have snapped in the scene before or the scene after!
So here’s my advice, as a lover of Batman, Superman, and The Flash, and as someone who has been burned by Zack Snyder twice: don’t get too excited about Justice League.
I hope I’m wrong. I really, desperately want to be able to stand up after my Justice League screening next year saying, “Oh yeah, now that was awesome,” but forgive me, Zack Snyder, for just not trusting you quite yet.