Dear Fellow DCEU fans,
I went back and forth for a while on whether or not I was going to write this and then ultimately decided that in the aftermath of the opening of Justice League, I had to at least convey my thoughts to you all. I can only hope that some of you hear me out with what I am about to say here.
I have been an active part of the DCEU fanbase for a year and a half now. Since so many of us came together in the wake of the critical thrashing of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March 2016, we have been able to find common ground and celebrate the franchise when it seriously felt like the rest of the world wasn't willing to let us do it. I've defended the franchise online to immature people that were only interested in pushing my buttons, I've defended it to co-workers who keep singing the praises of Marvel Studios and derisively give me a head shake of shame, and I've even defended it to people that used to be my friends but decided it was more important to be a rude jackwagon about the movies that I like instead of having an open-minded discourse about it.
In the real world, I would be told "it's just a movie." Screw that. You don't tell that to someone who's favorite superhero has been Batman since he was six years old. For geeks like us, it's far more than just a movie. It's an experience. That's why we are so passionate when we defend it to people who want to crap all over it. That's why we take it personally even though we shouldn't, because for us it IS personal. Always.
That is also where our greatest troubles lie right now as well, in my opinion. When it comes to these movie adaptations of our beloved characters we have a great deal of trouble separating our personal feelings from the fact that above all Hollywood is a business and at the end of the day, the studio and those in charge of it will always have the final say about what we get to see on screen on opening night.
When BvS and Suicide Squad were critically panned, I knew things were going to change. We all knew that, I think. The question was how much would they change? We were told that the deconstruction of our heroes, most notably Batman and Superman would be a temporary situation to build them up to the "classic" point that we all know and love from their character arcs. Many of us who have praised BvS saw that as an admonishment of how the DCEU began, a declaration that the gritty, visceral and multi-layered storytelling we were treated to in Man of Steel, BvS and even Suicide Squad was going to give way to the more contemporary structure and style of comic book movies, made wildly popular by FOX and Marvel Studios.
Wonder Woman was that first taste of the "new world" in the DCEU and it remains the franchise's most critically acclaimed film, but not just because it was tonally different than its predecessors, but also because it had the distinction of being Wonder Woman's first cinematic adventure, meaning that there were no pre-conceived expectations based on a prior version of her character on the big screen. Unencumbered by that, Wonder Woman soared to new heights and left some of us curious as to whether or not the tide had truly turned in terms of perception of the DCEU by the critics and the general public.
Then the Justice League stuff happened. Zack Snyder stepped down due to personal tragedy, Joss Whedon took over, Danny Elfman replaced Junkie XL as composer and a dangerous time began for the DCEU fanbase. Stories were told, rumors were spread, tensions rose and nerves were constantly frayed. For months all it took was one piece of clickbait to send half of us, myself included into absolute rage.
Now we sit here in the middle of the worldwide release of Justice League, divided. On the one hand you have those like me who thoroughly enjoyed the film with its much lighter tone and humor, and many of us have been joined by others who are starting to jump on to the DCEU bandwagon because of how different Justice League is from MoS or BvS. Despite the critics proving themselves to be completely duplicitous and untrustworthy in their appraisals once again, the audience numbers for Justice League are nearly as high as Wonder Woman, indicating that more people do seem to like and enjoy this movie than they did the first three DCEU offerings.
On the other hand, we now have a large section of the DCEU fanbase that has been using the words "robbed," "disappointed" and "betrayed" to describe their feelings about Justice League. Their anger is aimed at WB/DC, Joss Whedon and Danny Elfman for what they consider a crime against Zack Snyder, arguably the most underrated and unappreciated filmmaker of our time. They are convinced after watching Justice League that Snyder's original vision for the film was slashed, altered and heavily retrofitted into a two-hour paper thin generic blockbuster to appease the masses, which ironically is very similar to what the critics have been blasting the movie for as well. They hate the dialogue, they hate the CGI, they hate that so many scenes featured prominently in trailers and TV spots were removed along with whole cast members, and they themselves consider Justice League to be a shell of what Snyder's originally intended vision for the film was to be, and you cannot convince them that it wouldn't be better than what was released worldwide on November 17.
So now what do we do? Seriously? I mean, we spent the better part of a year and a half defending the DCEU from everyone that would attack it with whatever inanities they had and now we are at odds with each other, at least in terms of where we stand on this movie and the future of the franchise itself. I never thought I would be in a position where I had to defend a DCEU movie from its own fans but that is where I sit today as I write this to you, wondering if anyone out there is even listening to what I am saying about it.
For those of you that feel betrayed and hurt by Justice League, I want to make it clear that I see your perspective. You love Zack Snyder, you love MoS and BvS and you want to see more of that style along with Snyder getting his due praise that we all think he deserves, especially in the face of those out there who would openly disrespect him without a second thought, just for the sake of being jackwagons about it. I have been very vocal about how much I consider BvS to be one of the greatest comic book movies of all-time and my stance on that hasn't changed one bit. Neither has my respect for Snyder and his grossly under-appreciated storytelling ability.
But I loved Justice League. I really did. I really DO. After two viewings, I'm ready for a third and a fourth if and when I can afford it. I accepted the tonal change and understood that it was coming and even though it was jarring the first time I watched it, I still very much enjoyed myself and then the second time was just even better than before. I don't share in any disappointment about that film whatsoever, even in the face of the fact that it's not perfect. It has issues that others have pointed out that I agree with, but they don't bother me because I enjoy the movie. That's the beauty of movie criticism being completely subjective: no one is right or wrong about how a movie makes them feel or what opinion they have of it.
So for me the DCEU is 5 for 5. Yes, I do like Suicide Squad. Just because it's last on my DCEU list doesn't mean I consider it a bad movie. None of the DCEU movies are bad to me, not a one of them and I cannot wait for the next installments with Aquaman and Shazam on the horizon.
The thing is, I know a lot of you don't share that joy and excitement with me and I won't lie, THAT is what makes ME sad. I know many of you feel pain for Zack Snyder and in turn feel pain for yourselves because you feel you were cheated out of a Justice League movie that would have been infinitely better than the one we ended up getting, and you feel that he was cheated by WB/DC who did everything they could to stab him in the back and change his vision just to make a popcorn movie. While I see where you are coming from, I can't join you in that particular sun because from where I stand, that's a red sun you are standing under and I want to stay in the yellow sun. What I mean by that is I feel that you are judging Justice League by what you wish it was instead of what it actually is. The reality is that Justice League is a two-hour superhero team-up movie directed by Zack Snyder with reshoots and a writing credit for Joss Whedon and music by Danny Elfman. Nothing is ever going to change that. Even if we get an extended edition on Blu-ray and digital platforms later like many of us are hoping for, it won't change the existence of the current theatrical version of the film. So does that mean that we treat it like the critics treated the theatrical version of BvS last year? Do we heap scorn on Whedon and Elfman as they have been doing to Snyder for almost five years now? I would hope not.
I am not suggesting that anyone who doesn't like the movie is wrong for not liking it, or that they are not a real DCEU fan if they don't like it. We are all entitled to our opinions especially when it comes to these movies and we are not always going to agree on them. I understand and fully accept that as should any of us. What worries me is the idea that the dislike for this movie comes not from judging it on its own merits and abilities, but instead from a place of resentment and bias because it's not what you wanted it to be and you think it is a travesty because of that, or if it is because you believe that Zack Snyder needs defending from WB/DC since in your mind they clearly can't be trusted to give him the freedom he needs to tell his stories. When it comes to being a fan of the DCEU, should we be more concerned about the people and the process that goes into making these movies, or should we be more concerned about the movie itself? Considering that our only real and direct input on these movie decisions is at the box office when we buy or don't buy the ticket to see the movie, one would think that the movie itself is our greatest priority. Why waste time and energy lamenting what we didn't get instead of trying to enjoy what we did get?
Look, I'm not writing this to try and change anyone's minds about whether or not they like Justice League. While I do think that a number of you are being unfair about it and are not understanding how the business of Hollywood works with these tentpole film decisions, and while I patently disagree with anyone that is advocating for Justice League's failure to somehow "teach WB/DC a lesson," which isn't the least naive thing to think, at the end of the day you are going to feel how you feel and you are not wrong or right for it, just as I am not wrong or right for my disagreement with your stance on the movie or the franchise. No one can tell you to like a movie anymore than someone can tell us to hate one. I only write this as a way to convey my thoughts and feelings on the whole situation and to say that I hope despite the tonal change in the movie and the franchise, that you are giving Justice League a fair chance to be its own movie, without the expectations of what it could have been if Snyder hadn't had to step down or if WB/DC hadn't decided to make changes.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. I do appreciate it.