Justice League and the DCEU’s Identity Crisis

Fans were given a taste of what the Justice League era of the DC Extended Universe would feel like after being immersed into the somber atmosphere of Man of Steel (2013). The DCEU seemed to settle in to this gritty action-filled universe with the extremely drawn out epic of Batman v. Superman (2016) however, in the same year, there was a slight tonal shift in DC’s failed attempt at Guardians of the Galaxy with their ragtag team of unlikely heroes in the movie that shall not be named (2016). They seemed to do something right with Wonder Woman (2017) although it did not necessarily adhere to the already established atmosphere of the DCEU. Joss Whedon (writer of both Avengers films) is one of the writers of Justice League, and his unique writing style is undoubtedly apparent. DC’s latest blockbuster throws viewers curve balls left and right, attempting to satisfy a playful narrative filled with witty comments and a dark, high stakes world, only to fall flat and leaving the audience disoriented.


The confusion is most notable in the portrayal of Batman, one of the most recognizable comic book heroes of history. The overabundance of Batman’s sarcastic one-liners takes away from his immensely serious nature. Bruce Wayne comes off as arrogant and cheerful, two traits one would normally never associate with Batman. When Superman is revived, he grabs Batman and tells him “Do you bleed?” a powerful line Batman had told Superman in their original battle. Subsequently, when Batman is thrown to the ground, he tells himself “Something is definitely bleeding…” which although is humorous, shatters the severity of the aforementioned Superman line. There are other times when Bruce Wayne jokes about his wealth, like when Barry Allen (Flash) asks him what his superpowers are, Batman replies “I’m rich!” Later, when Superman is moving back into his home after it was foreclosed, he asks Bruce Wayne, “How did you get the house from the bank?” Bruce replies, “I bought the bank.” Batman isn’t the only character to have cringe-worthy lines. After Batman asks Wonder Woman if the boxes of mystical origin contain money or power, Wonder Woman replies, “The boxes don’t contain power, they ARE power.” In the climactic battle towards the conclusion of the film, Superman comments “Well I believe in truth… but I’m also a big fan of justice!”


Throughout the film, there are a number of reminders of what makes each character who they are. Once again, we are reminded how insanely super Superman really is. The rest of the Justice League struggles to even bruise Superman, including one moment where Superman catches up with Flash’s speed even while he is being held down by the rest of the ‘League. At one point, Superman tells Batman, “You won’t let me live, you won’t let me die!” one of the most fascinating lines of the movie which speaks volumes of the relationship between Batman and Superman. The group talks a great deal of Superman being much “different” after dying, but the only mention of this is when he is violent-crazed immediately after being revived. Superman’s revival was significantly more exciting and climatic than the groups encounter with the actual villain. Wonder Woman is so much more than just a widow and a pretty face, however, the DCEU couldn’t seem to stray away from that in Justice League. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman’s “weakness” of heartbreak is reemphasized in this film, with multiple references to the death of Steve Trevor. It seems as though the filmmakers did not know what to do with the rest of the characters (Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman); at some moments, each have valuable character interactions, hinting at some sort of character complexity, however, at other times, they might as well be background characters.


Justice League was definitely a refreshing take on a sometimes “too serious” comic book universe. Watching these larger-than-life characters on the big screen working together and duking it out provides for an enjoyable viewing experience. Just don’t think about it too much. Oh and at least someone didn’t say “We some kinda Justice League?”


Note: There is lack of content about the villain. This is reflective of the absence of a strong character/force imposed on the crew in the film.