One film critic called Batman v Superman “an excruciating therapy session.” Another said it was like a “loose, unofficial quarter-billion-dollar remake of The Odd Couple, in which Oscar and Felix are literally trying to kill each other.“
That doesn’t sound like much fun.
And so Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, and director Zack Snyder want everyone to know one thing: Justice League, the next installment in the DC comic book universe, will be fun. It will be colorful. It will have jokes.
Last week, Warner Bros. invited a group of film reporters to the London set of Justice League in what seems like an attempt to prove to the world that the criticisms have been noted, and Justice League will be different than Batman v Superman. While its predecessor involved pitting two beloved heroes against each other, Justice League will show its heroes—Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman—joining forces to fight a common enemy.
“People don’t like to see their heroes deconstructed,” producer Deborah Snyder, who’s married to Zack Snyder, told the reporters on set. “They like seeing them in all their glory.”
If nothing else, it was a pretty brilliant public relations move, because it worked. The narrative surrounding the film is already changing from one of skepticism to one of hope and (cautious) optimism.
“After spending a day on the set of Justice League, this hater thinks that this time they could be getting it right,” wrote Devin Faraci, a film critic who’s been harassed online by fans of the DC movies.
Other reporters who visited the set left with similar impressions: “I can say that what we saw seemed a lot more ‘fun’ than what we saw in Batman v Superman and, again, everyone involved is well aware of the reaction to Batman v Superman and working hard to make something that’s good,” wrote Uproxx’s Mike Ryan.
One moment in particular stood out in several reports: A scene in which Barry Allen, better known as the Flash (played by Ezra Miller) meets Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Wayne, as he tends to do, mysteriously shows up in Allen’s apartment.
“Barry Allen, I’m Bruce Wayne,” he says.
“You say that like it explains why you’re sitting in my place in the dark in my second favorite chair,” Allen replies.
Wayne looks up at the wall, where Allen’s Flash costume hangs (reporters were surprised by how bright red it was, given Snyder’s penchant for desaturation). “And this?” Wayne asks.
“I’m into competitive ice dancing,” Allen says.
Wayne then notes that the plates on Allen’s costume are the same type that are used to prevent space shuttles from burning up upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“Very competitive ice dancing,” Allen says.
Despite the poor reviews, Batman v Superman still brought in $872 million worldwide, the fifth most for a film in 2016 (though well short of its goal). But Justice League, with its bevy of heroes and newfound positive narrative, needs to perform a lot better. As Disney has with its Marvel franchise, Warner Bros. has invested billions in the DC universe. Another critical failure and unremarkable box office result would probably spell doom for Supes and the Caped Crusader.