Yeah, I know. I write that like there’s only one. But you gotta clickbait that title, dudes. It’s not just YouTubers who are strangled.
In my review of the movie, the post to which this is kind of a follow-up, I didn’t mention this one thing that’s been bothering me since I posted it. So I’m going to cover it now. (So, spoiler alert.)
Yes, this movie is trying so hard to be a Marvel movie. Yes, this movie contains dumb shit like Aquaman saying “Booyah” and Superman and Cyborg bonding like they haven’t only known each other for seventeen seconds. Yes, this movie doesn’t keep the characterisation that it established in the movies that came before.
But it does something that bothers me just a little bit more? And what’s that? Well…
This movie is full of fake depth and false character development. What do I mean by that? Well, there are a few ways to really approach this topic, but I’ll try and find a route in without sounding too much like I’m rambling. Hell, I could even make another Marvel comparison, as Marvel has done a pretty good job of writing self-hating heroes, while DCEU?
The point that I’m arguing in this post is that Justice League skims over the service of character development and depth through its dialogue, but in the end, it never really follows through. Part of the problem is that it doesn’t have time (which I discussed in my review, so I won’t delve into it again here), but really I think that the writing is horrible. And they know that people love a good self-hating hero—
—so why not employ that trope here?
Well, if you’re going to use any technique, you really have to do it properly. And in about every way, Justice League falls flat there. And I’m going to use Diana as my primary example to demonstrate why I think they failed here, because a) she’s my favourite and b) I’ve looked at Wonder Woman before, so I’ve got a little more content by my stale old self to back me up.
Also because of this GIF:
I might be a little shameless.
Okay. I’ve already written a post about the character development in Wonder Woman. You can find it here, but if you haven’t read it already and you don’t want to: In essence, I discuss how Wonder Woman does a great job of developing Diana’s character from a place of naivety to a place of believing in goodness while also knowing how to keep herself safe. It also does a pretty good job with Steve Trevor learning to see the good in people, largely thanks to Diana. Their arcs compliment each other, and there love is believable.
Why do I bring this up?
Because this is a great set up. There’s just … there was so much potential here. Honestly, Wonder Woman was a great movie, and I knew going into it that Justice League was going to drop the ball but … man did it drop the ball.
And herein lies the problem that I’m referencing.
During Justice League, Bruce is a colossal bag of dicks because … somebody had to be, I guess. In being said dick bag, he points out that, while Diana shows people the good in themselves—and she does, which was her whole schtick in Wonder Woman—he’d never heard of her before they actually met. She wasn’t like Superman. She wasn’t a noble hero plastered everywhere and selling merch like crazy.
Actually, I work in a toy store. Could’ve fooled me there, Brucie. She’s everywhere. (You are not.)
So we get this scene. Bruce is an asshole. Asks why Diana isn’t a shining light of a hero. Throws Steve Trevor in her face. And then … we just leave it. Not in the sense that it’s never revisited in the dialogue, but in the sense that she doesn’t have an arc that connects to this whole discussion. In terms of what she does, and the events that happen in the movie, it sort of goes nowhere.
Okay, so, because of what happened with Steve Trevor, Diana is terrified of being a leader because that puts subsequent deaths on her head. Fine. Putting aside that you could even argue that that’s not appropriate development for Diana (or, if it is, it’s more of a sharp shift than a progression, whatever) the plot doesn’t exactly leave her resolving this.
And that’s excluding, you know, that:
The Justice League movie’s greatest sin is reducing Wonder Woman to a sidekick.
—as they put it.
If you actually consider the events of the movie, they don’t exactly make an effort to resolve the arc—or even fully address it—of Diana fearing being a leader or in the spotlight as a hero. (How exactly people would miss her is beyond me, with her jumping all over the place and looking the way that she does.) It’s sort of just left there.
The same happens with the other characters, too. Bruce is an asshole because—oh no, wait, no he’s not. Barry is afraid to do what needs to be done because—oh no, wait, no he’s not. Victor won’t associate with his dad because he thinks he’s a monster and—oh no, wait, never mind. And Superman coming back wrong? Well in this movie, anyway, that lasted a scene.
Welcome to Justice League, where we’ll stop in the middle of your arc, or skip straight to the end!
Remember when they didn’t think Tony was a team player? Well, he went up ready to sacrifice himself for the team, so. Yeah. Full circle and all that.
Part of the problem here is the time constraint. With the film’s time limit issues, it’s no surprise that some stuff skipped over, especially given how much shit they had to cram in. But considering that it was a poor decision to cram all this shit in, that’s an explanation and not an excuse. Also, in another explanation that isn’t really an excuse, when Superman shows up he takes over the whole damn film. And, like I said above, it’s not like he has a proper arc here either.
At least Lois tells him that he smells good.
Do you know why people want to love this movie? Why people do? (Why do you? Did we see the same movie? Tell me, dudes.) It’s because they love the characters who are in it. A lot of the time these are characters we grew up with and, yeah, they matter to us. That’s why there’s always so much tension around superhero movies. There’s a lot of potential to let a very dedicated audience down.
Character development and character arcs are like everything else in writing. You can’t do it by half measure. And, more, a half-assed attempt often comes across worse than not bothering at all. It’s like an unfunny comedy that just keeps trying and trying to get it’s jokes to land, and they don’t. If Justice League had been entirely plot driven, it probably wouldn’t have been as bad.
But … it was that bad. This movie skated over the top of giving the Justice League depth, and it never actually gave them real depth. The depth was half-baked. And that’s worse really. Because not only are these characters important to people, but if you hint and something like character development and don’t deliver on it, you just remind everyone the potential that you’re not hitting. You remind everyone what they could have, and don’t. And that turns people off to your content even more.
Seriously, oh DCEU overlords. DC characters matter to people. At least pretend to give a shit, hm?
Well, at least it gives the fanfic writers some fodder.