What, no Superman? Six things we learned from the Justice League trailer

The first full trailer for DC’s forthcoming superhero film has wisecracks, ultraviolence and a new baddie. But the Man of Steel is nowhere to be seen

The bad news for Warner Bros is that the first two films in the DC “expanded universe” (DCEU), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder, and Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, are two of the most critically reviled comic-book movies in Hollywood history. The good news is that huge numbers of people still turned out to see them, resulting in a combined box-office return of more than $1.6bn worldwide. This November comes another DCEU effort, Justice League, which the studio hopes will be its answer to Marvel’s The Avengers. Can it capitalise on the enduring fascination for DC’s big hitters, while also winning over the critics? Here are six takeaways from the first full-length trailer.

Zack Snyder’s quick fix for the DCEU? Marvel-style wisecracks

Warner Bros-owned DC has seem determined not to follow the Marvel blueprint for success. Instead of introducing its heroes in standalone movies before teaming them up, Avengers-style, the studio employed a drastic shortcut, in a barely believable scene in Dawn of Justice, that involved Batman and Wonder Woman watching what amounted to previews of films featuring the various future members of the Justice League.

DC also avoided Marvel’s light-hearted tone, the banter and the wisecracks, in favour of Snyder’s trademark heavy metal film-making – an operatic style you might describe as death by CGI.

But after complaints that Dawn of Justice took itself way too seriously, there looks to be a breezier tone this time around, and plenty of Marvel-style inter-superhero badinage. It’s no surprise that the gifted Ezra Miller, as the Flash, is emerging as Justice League’s comic relief, but the decision to reimagine Jason Momoa’s Aquaman as a second laidback counterbalance to Ben Affleck’s Batman is surprising, if not entirely unwelcome.

But Batfleck is still pretty grumpy and violent

The Dark Knight seems to have finally developed a sense of humour, as evidenced by the meta line about his superpower being great wealth. But there’s still a sense that this is the furrow-browed, Frank Miller-inspired Batman of Dawn of Justice, rather than the noble caped crusader of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Affleck’s version of the hero has apparently been modelled on the actor’s most obnoxious roles: Gone Girl’s womanising Nick Dunne or Shannon Hamilton, the deeply unpleasant manager of the Fashionable Male clothing store in the Kevin Smith comedy Mallrats.

Justice League
Furrow-browed … Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder. Photograph: Empire

Moreover, Batfleck seems to have added even heavier laser cannons to the Batmobile, despite criticism of his ultraviolent approach last time out. Firing up the big guns may be rather more forgivable when your target is alien invaders from a dystopian hellhole rather than defenceless Gotham street scum. But there’s still work for Snyder and Affleck to do if they hope to retool the new Batman into a sympathetic character.

Mother Boxes will play a powerful part in events

Whatever criticisms the DCEU has faced during its troubled adolescence, nobody can accuse Snyder et al of ignoring the comics. Where rival Marvel seems to adapt its source material only loosely – last year’s Captain America: Civil War being a case in point – Snyder seems determined to translate entire scenes from his favourite graphic novels. So it’s no surprise that Mother Boxes – powerful ancient tech from the ghastly Fourth World dimension ruled by supervillain Darkseid and his minions – have found their way into Justice League. We saw one in the scene in Dawn of Justice in which Victor Stone is transformed into Cyborg by his father, Silas. The new trailer shows it flickering with energy as the elder Stone is confronted by one of the winged parademons from Bruce Wayne’s “Knightmare” fantasy sequence in Dawn of Justice.

Rumour has it that three of these boxes exist on Earth, bequeathed to the Atlanteans, the Amazonians and other early humans in ancient times. But their true owner is Darkseid, who now wants them back. This evil deity’s lieutenant Steppenwolf is expected to be the chief bailiff and main baddie in Justice League.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman
Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Photograph: Warner Bros

A threat to Atlantis draws Aquaman into the Justice League

Previous trailers showed Aquaman distinctly uninterested in Wayne’s offer to join a superhero team, but clearly something has changed. Is that a second Mother Box sitting daintily on a plinth in the scene featuring Amber Heard’s Mera, Queen of Atlantis? Will Steppenwolf and his parademon infantry launch their first attack on the underwater realm in the new movie?

The big-screen Flash shares his small-screen counterpart’s tragic backstory

Viewers of Warner Bros Television’s The Flash will be familiar with Barry Allen’s backstory: the superhero’s father was imprisoned for murdering his mother when their son was just a boy. Billy Crudup will play the DCEU’s version of Dr Henry Allen, who gets a prison visit from Barry in the Justice League trailer. In the comics, it was the time-travelling villain Reverse-Flash who committed the murder and framed Allen. Will the forthcoming solo Flash movie (currently having directorial difficulties), explore similar territory?

Superman is missing, presumed alive

There’s still no sign of Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel in the new trailer, since he was apparently killed off by Lex Luthor’s monstrous creation Doomsday in Dawn of Justice. But we do see Amy Adams’ Lois Lane looking hopefully up to the skies, and Cavill has been announced as a member of the cast. Given Snyder’s affection for comic-book references, it would be no surprise to see Justice League mirroring the storyline of 1992’s The Death of Superman and its sequels, which revealed that Kal-El had been recovering from his Doomsday-inflicted injuries in the Fortress of Solitude. In the comics, Superman grows his hair out to shoulder-length – as per Nicolas Cage’s test footage for the abandoned Tim Burton project Superman Lives. With luck, Snyder won’t feel the need to follow suit.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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