It’s been a long and difficult road for Warner Bros’ DCEU. From Man of Steel to Dawn of Justice to Suicide Squad, the flailing franchise just couldn’t seem to catch a break. And although Wonder Woman offered the series some respite from the negative responses, Justice League‘s notoriously troubled production has proven to be a challenge in of itself.
By the time Justice League started shooting, people had learned to temper their expectations. Even fans of the franchise had been burned by Warner Bros’ dubious decisions, and the only thing about the franchise that seemed to be working (Wonder Woman) was the one movie that the studio itself had written off as a holding action while people waited for their Avengers-sized crossover.
Evidently even Warner Bros didn’t like the first cut of Justice League, with one top executive calling it “unwatchable.” Again, that’s the same men who thought that Batman v Superman was good enough to be released in theaters calling its immediate follow-up unwatchable.
Despite his daughter’s death weighing down on him, Snyder went back to the drawing board and guided the film through several rounds of reshoots aimed at bringing the beleaguered blockbuster up to code. Just before the final and most extensive set of reshoots began, Joss Whedon took over direction of the film and left Snyder to his grief.
Reshoots are a normal part of any major film: fixing everything from continuity errors to how certain scenes fundamentally played out. Famously, Ben Kingsley went into reshoots for Iron Man 3 believing that the studio was going to make them reshoot the Mandarin twist ending into something more in line with the comic books. Justice League‘s final round of reshoots, which evidently cost upwards of $25 million, were anything but typical. They evidently overhauled the entire film: making sweeping change to the main characters, fundamentally altering the tone and cutting out lead-ins to the now-canceled Justice League Part 2.
By all accounts, Joss Whedon shot a completely different movie from the one that Zack Snyder originally made. And even though the new trailers — which were supposed to reflect and sell these changes to the movie-going public — were unabashedly terrible, the film’s new direction and Whedon’s involvement were enough to make fans of the franchise hopeful for an improvement over the series’ shaky foundations.
Now a week out from the film’s release, people have seen the movie. And when the social media embargo — NOT the review embargo — finally lifted, the results were surprisingly positive. Rather than the deluge of negative press that many anticipated leading into the Frankensteined blockbuster, most praised it for the demonstrable improvements that it made compared to its predecessors.
Thank God for small miracles, I guess.
Looking through the fresh perspectives on the upcoming blockbuster, most reactions appear to be mixed. While not on par with The Avengers — or even Wonder Woman, for that matter — most called it a fun, if flawed, movie that was in line with most bloated, studio-driven, multi-million dollar blockbusters. Paul Shirley of Joblo.com called it “a fun, bumpy ride that succeeds in character, but fails in narrative. It’s a mixed bag of execution that’s saved by the actors, who rise above the shortcomings to deliver an engaging, funny and hopeful, yet flawed, entry to the DCEU.”
Erik Davis of Fandango said that it “is better than BvS and #SuicideSquad – it’s lean, mean & packed w/ superhero action. I dug most of its lighter moments & I think it has one of the best action sequences ever in a DCEU movie. And of course Wonder Woman steals the show.” Haleigh Foutch of Collider said that the movie is “solid entertainment despite some problems. They pulled off a strange alchemy that works better than it should. The story is lacking, but the League is great and it’s a blast to watch them in action together. Wonder Woman is clutch, obvi.”
More and more critics have similarly weighed in, mostly to the same end. The movie is perfectly alright. It’s better than its terribly reviewed forebears. The characters, and especially Wonder Woman, work well in it. It’s lighter and funnier than previous entries, although the story, direction, villain and special effects are a mixed, less-than-functional bag.
It appears, at least preliminarily, that the movie won’t go down as the titanic mess than most had assumed it was going to be. It’s important to note, however, that this is just the social media embargo, not the full review embargo. It allows those rare few who have seen it in advance to give condensed, initial impressions (often in less than 140 characters). These are not full reviews, detailed opinions nor ringing endorsements. They roughly sketch out “it could have been worse” and “this might not tank the DCEU” across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The rest of us won’t have to wait long to find out how good (or bad) the movie is for ourselves. Justice League opens next week.