Justice League (2017): What went wrong?

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

While “Justice League ” (2017) isn’t the worst film ever, it is shocking what little impact this movie had on audiences everywhere. It’s a footnote in cinema only because it angered a group of die-hard fans, causing them to band together and create a campaign to get the director’s vision released. After seeing the theatrical cut again, I can see why. It’s so tastelessly generic and torn apart by studio notes, that it’s the cinematic equivalent of table scraps.

The strange thing about this movie is that there’s no one thing that tanks the film. It’s a lot of elements working against each other. Alone either one of them could be fine and the movie could’ve survived. But when you add them all together, it’s death from a thousand paper cuts. With the director’s cut coming out, I’m going to take the time to discuss what I see as the four biggest problems of “Justice League” (2017).


When I say underdeveloped, I’m not saying every character needed their own movie. Films such as “Seven Samurai,” “Dirty Dozen,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” have proven that you can establish multiple characters in the same film. I’m saying that the movie doesn’t give us enough elements to help us connect with the majority of these people. When I think of people I want to follow, the closest that comes to mind are Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Aside from the fact that we saw them in previous films, they are the only people we are allowed to develop connections with. Even though they may look tired in certain scenes due to the actors being forced to come back for reshoots, they still work well off each other. As far as chemistry goes, they’re the scene-stealers and without them, this version of the film would offer hardly anything. 

Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Flash (Ezra Miller) are a different story. The first time I watched them, they didn’t leave much of an impact. But upon second viewing I actually warmed up to their personalities and heart. While the script doesn’t give them much to go off of, I feel that their characters made it out of this movie relatively unscathed. I just wish they were given more to do here. 

This leaves Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Superman (Henry Cavill), and wow did this movie not do right by these two. Zack Snyder has stated in the past that Cyborg was intended to be “the heart of the movie.” His character’s journey was going to be explored in full detail and play a bigger part in the narrative. From a writer’s standpoint, this makes sense. He clearly has all the right elements to become a major player. He has the backstory to help us identify with him, as well as a character arc that could lead to something great. Unfortunately, all of that was cut, and he’s been leveled down to a glorified tag-along. It’s like if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers demoted Tom Brady to a water boy right before the Super Bowl. It not only makes no strategic sense, it makes no common sense. 

Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.

Superman is another example, as his character arc was massively cut down. I know his role in this film was to return from the dead and complete his arc of being the hero he was destined to be. But with all the cuts to his storyline, it’s had all the weight sucked out of it. What should feel like a character reaching his full potential is instead leveled down to a deus ex machina topped off with CGI lips.

I also almost forgot about the villain Steppenwolf (Ciarin Hinds) because NOBODY remembers him. In a universe that gave us alien dictators and a psychotic clown straight out of Halloween Horror Nights, does anybody remember the villain in the film? I get they wanted to use him as a means to save one of the bigger names for later movies. Which doesn’t make any sense as you have the big-name heroes go up against someone most people won’t recognize. On top of that, there’s nothing compelling about him in the slightest. I feel bad because Hinds is a great actor who’s been great in multiple projects, but here they forgot to give him any identity or depth. Why not aim a little higher with this character or better yet, use someone like Darkseid? You could have him be the guy pulling the strings on Steppenwolf, which leads the league to discover his existence later. That would create a lot of tension as they would become aware that there’s a bigger threat out there. 

Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.

It still boggles my mind how this studio has been sitting on Darkseid for so many years and hasn’t used him until this year with Snyder’s version. Nothing would fit this universe more than one of DC Comics ultimate villains. Talk about something the animated films and shows did right. How do you top this? Not with a bargain bin “Soul Calibur” knockoff I can tell you that much.


This is easily one of the most predictable scripts I have ever seen. It’s basically a group of people coming together. They all have their differences, while also displaying quirky personalities. Some discount CG monster comes in to ruin everything. Heroes resurrect Superman who fights them for a brief time and leaves, only to return and win the climax. The End. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t “Justice League” deserve a bigger story than this? 

If you’re going to incorporate all these characters, you have to make it amount to something. Because as far as stakes go, this movie takes not one chance. Some of the best DC storylines took chances with how they explored the characters and carried a lot of weight. Say what you want about the other films, but you remember them for the directions and choices they made. You may not have agreed with all of them, but they left an impact.

If this is supposed to be this series in its prime, then why do they give us something that’s so generic? This narrative feels like a paint-by-number art chart where the artists only color the basic lines and nothing else. What makes it even worse is how the film practically abandons every plotline from the previous movies. Remember that Knightmare sequence from “Batman v. Superman”? It’s never addressed. Or how Flash travels through time talking with Batman? It doesn’t lead to anything. How about the idea of Superman becoming evil and destroying the world? Ignored! Even if people didn’t like the previous films, they still had hope that these plotlines would have led to a big payoff. But because they were cut out, the previous scenes I just mentioned make no sense in context to the film we got. 


One of the most talked about parts of this movie is how bad the visual effects are. Looking back on it, I can see why as they’re not only distracting but also cringey. It’s bad enough that we had to deal with obvious green screens or the cartoon villain, but for me, every last ounce of dignity was killed when they used CG on Superman’s upper lip. Basically what happened was when they did reshoots, Paramount Pictures forbade actor Henry Cavill from shaving his mustache for “Mission Impossible: Fallout.” Warner Bros. then decided to hide Cavill’s mustache using CG. This resulted in multiple images that are so hilarious and horrifying, that they resulted in the birth of numerous memes and jokes. What hurts even more is that the film itself opens on this effect. In fact, most of the time they show Superman, it’s usually as a close up shot of his face. Almost as if they were “proud” of this effect. 

Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.

Even the climax of this film looked rushed. Changing the color scheme from steel blue to neon red wasn’t a bad idea, but looking back on it now the style change led to a lot of inconsistencies. Even though there’s a lot more color, the lighting was clearly meant for a darker background. This results in a lot of the rushed colors and random shadows becoming more obvious and taking you out of the moment.

Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.

The story goes that when Snyder left production after suffering a family tragedy, Warner Bros. execs did a major overhaul and redid the major parts of the film. When people looked at the budget and saw $300 million, they questioned why the film looked as bad as it did. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that time also plays a key part in doing an effect. Visual effects artists around the world work tirelessly to create CGI for a lot of productions. As you would imagine, a lot of time is dedicated to this field of work. To give you an idea, movies like “Avatar” took around three years to finish their visual effects. Today , we’re now at a point where technology has progressed so much that visual effects in films like “Avengers: Infinity War” take around nineteen months to complete. But here, the visual effects team was  given a bad hand and tasked with recreating major parts of the movie between July and October of 2017. As expected, this resulted in a lot of awkward unfinished products.

Between the reshoots, bad decisions, and fake effects, this film’s production was the definition of Murphy’s law. In that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.


This movie has no idea what it wants to be, and it permeates every aspect of the film. Unlike other projects where you have multiple people involved, they still create something cohesive. Here, it’s pretty obvious which move was a Snyder move or a Whedon move. There are scenes where Snyder’s style is topped off with Whedon’s comedy. You also have Whedon’s moments of levity overshadowing what was originally going to be a different scene. Who knows what this movie was aiming for because I don’t think the people who made it did, which makes for a confusing project. It’s also evident how this film doesn’t match this director’s universe. I’m not talking about movies by other directors in this series such as “Aquaman” or “Shazam,” but the universe that Snyder himself established. When you compare the style and tone here to “Man of Steel,” it feels less like two sides of the same coin and more like separate islands that have nothing in common.

Another thing I like to bring up is that this movie tries so hard to be a Marvel movie. It feels like a retread of the first Avengers film. Down to the point of having a super team form together to stop a horned villain from using cosmic cubes to take over the world for a bigger villain in space. It’s so obvious why they got the director of the first two Avengers films to helm the reshoots. 

I understand the choices made as the execs want their films to be just as successful as their competitors, but they made these changes without realizing that DC was never like Marvel to begin with. You heard right, DC is not the same as Marvel and it never will be. While both worlds have similarities, they stand out with how they handle their characters. Much like how Marvel turns everyday people into larger-than-life heroes, DC takes godlike figures and has them identify as people. So, to go in the opposite direction halfway through just creates an incoherent mess. It’s hard to see where Warner Bros. was going with this film. Did they want a big team-up or a diet-Marvel experience? I can only imagine their reply would be: “Yes.”


The end result is a film that tries to be everything but a master of nothing. Audiences are basically watching a diet-Marvel flick. As for fans, chances are they’ll be disappointed . The joy of DC comics was that you got to know these godlike figures on a personal level. You’re surprised that you have a lot in common with people who have so much power but also show sides of humanity. As for this movie, people can like it fine but it’s not going to resonate. Chances are it’ll go out one ear and out the other. 

With “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” already out, let’s hope that the director’s vision will leave a bigger impact than this has.


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