This Friday superhero epic Justice League will finally arrive in Cineworld and, like everyone, we want nothing more than to see the newly formed DC cinematic franchise flourish like its Marvel cousin.
Unfortunately, following negative critical and audience reactions both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad weren’t quite able to hit their potential. There was a risk that enthusiasm for Justice League had dampened, but then Wonder Woman came along and showed us that DC wasn’t giving up without a fight.
In fact, from what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Justice League has taken some notes from Wonder Woman's success to prevent it from falling into the same traps that hampered the earlier instalments...
1. It can focus on being its own movie
Perhaps the biggest issue that faced Warner Bros when they decided to launch the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) was that Marvel had already had a massive five year lead before Man of Steel was released in 2013.
If Warner Bros wanted to compete with Marvel, they needed to do some serious catching up. Whilst Marvel had years to establish characters and storylines organically, Warner Bros would have to cut to the chase as soon as possible, which resulted in BvS and Suicide Squad concentrating on setting up future films than being their own self-contained plots.
One of the reasons Wonder Woman worked so well was because it took the time to be a Wonder Woman film. Without taking detours to hint at things to come, it focused on establishing its own identity.
If, like the trailers suggest, Justice League is purely a Justice League film, then the narrative can be focused on establishing the central ensemble, without being distracted by unnecessary subplots. Don't forget that in this movie, not only do we have the return of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), there's also the first proper appearance of The Flash (Ezra Miller), plus Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
2. It's lightened up (literally)
There’s nothing wrong with making a superhero film more mature by including darker themes, but it’s important to remember that a dark film doesn’t need to literally be dark.
BvS and Suicide Squad seemed to have gotten the wrong memo since the cinematography was simply too dark to see what was going on most of the time. Sure, darker colours can make for some great imagery, but when the entire film is dark it just makes it hard to see what’s going on. Why include amazing action sequences if we need to squint to see them?
Wonder Woman heard our cries for light and turned the brightness up. Not only did this mean we could clearly see its glorious action scenes, the warm colours of Themysciria were visually stunning and acted as a thematic contrast to the colder colours of the WWI sections.
Justice League, too, looks to be brightening things up meaning that we’ll get to see it all the way it was meant to be seen – even an apocalypse can look great with the right lighting.
3. It will make us laugh
DC may like to act more serious than other superhero films, but does this mean they have to be serious all the time?
Suicide Squad was arguably at its best when the characters were enjoying being in each other’s company because we then enjoyed being in theirs. Wonder Woman was set against the backdrop of a horrific war but it still knew when to lighten the mood with humour, which also served the purpose of demonstrating camaraderie in the face of evil.
As Justice League will be all about creating bonds between our favourite DC heroes, humour would be an excellent way of making them more relatable. From what we’ve seen, it appears that’s exactly what Justice League has done. With Joss Whedon hired to direct re-shoots, jokes will be note perfect; we’ve already witnessed great comedic moments from The Flash – take the bat signal moment when he's left high and dry by Batman and the crew.
Justice League is unquestionably a superhero epic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun along the way.
4. It's character-driven
BvS was supposed to be a film that dealt with clashing ideologies, but what we got instead was a mixture of exposition and loud action. Though we got the general gist of why Bats and Superman were going toe-to-toe, it all seemed a little fuzzy without having established proper character motivations.
Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was entirely focused on Diana’s quest, following her from Amazonian warrior princess to human wartime inspiration. With moments of companionship shown in the Justice League trailers, DC’s newest addition looks to be more character-focused than before.
5. It's more than just a superhero movie
Wonder Woman wasn’t just a superhero film, it was a coming-of-age action film that developed Diana’s character whilst conveying a strong feminist message and acting as a parable for the horrors of war. In other words, it had substance.
Justice League needs to be more than simply the next chapter in the DC saga to make it substantial. Whilst the religious subtexts in Man of Steel and BvS ultimately got drowned out by everything else (trust us, there's a whole area focusing on Superman's divine nature), it looks like these themes will have a bigger part to play in Justice League.
The Justice League trailers promise some grappling with meaty themes, particularly when focusing on the inspirational legacy left behind by Superman (Henry Cavill), whose presence is in demand in a world run out of control.
Click here to book your tickets for Justice League, opening this Friday.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.