Despite what many people believe about critics or people who write about movies professionally, I love to be surprised, and I love to be proven wrong.
When I kicked off an unexpectedly vehement wave of fan-driven mayhem this spring by sharing buzz I”d been hearing about Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, I did so without having any idea what kind of blowback I”d get. I wasn”t looking to shake anyone”s faith, and I certainly wasn”t pretending that the buzz I”d been hearing was the final word on anything. That”s one of the reasons the extreme overreaction bummed me out so much. If I can”t feel free to honestly report which way the wind is blowing as we build up to the release of a film, then you”re essentially asking me to just be part of the marketing arm of the studios. That”s not how I started writing about film, and it”s certainly not going to be where I end up. Fans seem to only want to hear good news, or they want their own opinion reinforced, but again… that”s not really my job.
But when I do find myself reversing my opinion organically, then I am happy to say so, and little by little, Zack Snyder and company are winning me over. I also think there”s been a conscious decision at Warner to brighten the mood of these movies. Justice League is largely being made after the release of Batman v Superman, and there”s been constant work by the production team to listen to fans. That”s another reason this spring bummed me out… I”ve known Zack and Deb Snyder for years, and I think they”re both terrific people and genuinely talented. They are a great team, too, because they have each other as sounding boards, and they have always struck me as people who genuinely care about listening to their collaborators and soliciting reactions. Whenever they”ve had me in for a set visit or to see what they”re doing in an editing room, it”s felt as much like they were asking me questions as showing me things. Zack”s never struck me as an “I have all the answers and no one else”s voice matters” kind of guy, and I suspect they were blindsided a bit by the reaction to BvS. Zack is so good with details that it must have thrown him to see people reject the big picture. I think all of his skill with film craft is absolutely on display in BvS. I just don”t like the story they told.
Justice League appears to be a really solid foundation for a film, though, and one of the things that drove me craziest in BvS (those on-a-computer-screen cameos that felt shoehorned in) is given room to breathe here, like it always should have been. Having Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) track down potential members for the Justice League is a very simple, very functional way to introduce each new world that DC plans to explore in the coming movies. I particularly like the Aquaman stuff here, precisely because we”ve never seen Aquaman in a live-action movie before. Jason Momoa is a performer I like a lot, but it”s always felt like he was looking for the right project, something that showcases him properly. He was gone from Game Of Thrones too soon, and while I thought he was perfectly cast as Conan, the movie”s completely insane. This looks like a great fit for him, and that shot of Aquaman standing in the path of that wave is awesome.
I”ll be curious to see how I feel about Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) after the film. I think Miller”s a really gifted performer, and he”s really appealing here. It”ll be hard for me to shake Grant Gustin”s work, though, because I”m a real fan of The Flash series right now. I”m sure it”ll be fine. If I”ve learned anything over the years, it is that multiple interpretations of a character or a story do not erase one another; they simply offer alternatives. I hope I end up loving both of the Barry Allens, and that the movie makes great use of a guy who I think is a rising star.
Does a great preview reel mean they”ll make a great movie? Of course not. But it”s nice to see some humor here, and to get a sense of how they plan to make these characters pop. I hope by the time this is released, Warner has their DC Films all figured out and moving in the right direction. Today certainly felt like they sent a strong message that they know where they”re going and they have good ideas about how to get there.
Justice League arrives in theaters November 17, 2017.