Last November, I was busy creating a tiny human and so did not have time to go to the theater for Justice League. I finally got around to seeing it a few weeks ago, and in general I felt the same about it as I did about the other DC movies: there was a good movie in there somewhere. It just wasn’t the final cut.
There wasn’t anything really horrible about the movie; it was just kind of blah. Characters, plot, effects, everything. The more I thought about it, the more ideas came to me of how to improve it (none of which involve more Whedon-esque quips).
Start with Intergang
It’s pretty clear that BvS set the stage for a villain from the fiery dystopian planet Apokolips to appear in Justice League by teasing parademons and possibly Darkseid himself (“He’s coming!”) Justice League picks that thread up by starting the movie with an invasion of parademons, then goes on to a history lesson about the Mother boxes and Steppenwolf, the movie’s big bad (and one of Darkseid’s lieutenants). Although I got a laugh with the scene comparing the sketch of a parademon to Batman, in general this was not a terribly compelling plot and definitely involved some info dumps.
But I have seen a better way to introduce the Apokoliptians in Superman: The Animated Series, which uses a criminal organization called Intergang to bring in concepts like Mother boxes and boom tubes (which are shown but never explained in JL).
Intergang is a group of humans based in Metropolis, generally led by a guy named Bruno Mannheim, that use advanced technology from Apokolips to commit thefts and other crimes. The DCU movies do like to pretend from time to time that they care about how all this superhero stuff affects the average citizen, so perhaps seeing an “arms race” of super-tech in response to the beginnings of the Justice League would be an interesting direction to take (a bit like Vulture in Spiderman: Homecoming).
Just as with the parademons, we could see Batman investigating Intergang early in the movie. This would be a good excuse to show Batman acting like a detective instead of a thug who just likes to dangle people off buildings when it’s helpful to him. As his investigations lead him further, he and Wonder Woman could come across the information about the Mother boxes and Darkseid’s underling who brought them to Earth. This seems a little more organic than an oddly specific flare signal from the Amazons and an info dump from Diana (though, again, I enjoyed seeing more of the Amazons).
Intergang also provides a vehicle for character development for Lois Lane. Instead of grieving by writing fluff pieces, Lois could grieve by throwing herself recklessly into a dangerous investigation of the group. As much as I liked the “mother-in-law” scene with her and Ma Kent, this reaction seems more like the Lois Lane I am familiar with. It also gives her a reason to cross paths with Batman early in the movie so they can be like, “Man, doesn’t it suck that Superman’s dead? Yeah, we could really use him around.” And thereby lay the groundwork for his eventual resurrection and Lois’s role in it.
So if we have Intergang, do we need Steppenwolf in his role? Well, we need some Apokoliptian to be calling the shots for Intergang, but it should definitely not be Steppenwolf, who is one of the absolute worst villains in all modern superhero movies. His defining characteristics are that he has a cool axe and some vague mommy issues. It is an absolute waste of a great actor like Ciaran Hinds.
If I have one problem with the DCU movies in general, it’s that the third act tends to devolve into an everything-is-dark-and-on-fire CGI mess. So maybe we could have a villain that’s not a giant CGI monster for once?
There are several flunkies of Darkseid’s that would work for this role. Kalibak and DeSaad specifically were well done in S:TAS, giving some insight to the political machinations going on back on Apokolips. But my first crazy choice would have to be Granny Goodness.
We haven’t seen anything like Granny yet, not even in a Marvel movie. Done well, she can be intimidating while at the same time providing comic relief. Remember, for example, that she is voiced wonderfully by Ed Asner in the DCAU–what if we had someone similar to play her here? It doesn’t have to be too campy.
Plus, if we get Granny, we can also get her Furies, which would make for a pretty cool climax battle for the Justice League, with several different types of action. And it would be nice to see some female supervillains for once (they are a rarity even in Marvel movies).
Complete Cyborg’s Story Arc
Going in to Justice League, I was afraid that Cyborg’s character was going to be very bland, but I was pleasantly surprised with him and his backstory. (Though his character design could have been better…) But after finishing the movie, I really feel like he got the shaft in terms of character development. Batman and Wonder Woman both see grow over the movie, Aquaman gets some set up for his upcoming movie, Flash gets some nice resolution and a cute end credit scene with Superman. What does Cyborg get? A story arc that’s left hanging.
At the beginning of the movie, we see that Cyborg is conflicted, to say the least, about his father’s decision to save his life and make him into a cyborg with the technology from the Mother box. He feels more like an experiment than a son and is frustrated that he can’t understand his changing powers. Later, he must save his father from the parademons, and this would have been a great time for his feelings to come to a head.
But instead, the team saves his father and just kinda leaves, and I don’t think we see Dr. Stone again at the end of the movie (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Cyborg never works out his feelings about what was done to him, and how he’ll live going forward. For a character that is essential to the plot, being the only one who understands how to shut down the Mother boxes, this seems like a significant oversight. Especially when Barry gets such a nice scene with his father at the end showing his character growth.
I’m sure the powers that be had planned to flesh this out more in a solo Cyborg movie, but I wouldn’t bet on that being a certainty now.
Speaking of which, after seeing the end credit scene, I think it’s pretty cute that they think they’ll be doing not only another possible movie with Darkseid that they’ve been leading up to, but also an Injustice League (or Secret Society/Legion of Doom/etc) movie. Beyond Aquaman and WW2, I’m not convinced of how many more movies we’ll get in the DCU period. My younger self would cry to hear me say this, but I’m not sure I really even care.