While virtually everyone was surprised that Batman v Superman turned out to be a dour disaster, no one was more surprised than Zack Snyder himself. Criticism of the tone of the film hit him hardest, and it caused him to rethink Justice League, but I have a question for you... Is that a good thing? Do you think it's a good idea for a studio to engage in rapid course correction or does that only lead to bigger problems down the road? Let's explore this question together.
First, let's start with what Snyder had to say about the reaction to BvS...
“When Batman v Superman came out, I was like, ‘Wow, okay, oof,’" admitted Snyder. At Comic-Con to promote the film last summer, he wore a tight black T-shirt pulled over his muscular frame, but on Justice League’s Leavesden, England, set, the now-slighter Snyder was dressed in a tweedy vest and tie, his reading glasses dangling from a lanyard. Since coming onboard to direct Man of Steel in 2011, Snyder has worked virtually nonstop on these DC Comics films, and he began production onJustice League a mere two weeks after Batman v Superman debuted to scathing reviews.
“It did catch me off guard,” he said of the response to BvS. “I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment. I do think that the tone of Justice League has changed because of what the fans have said.” That, ultimately, is why Warner Bros. summoned a crew of journalists and naysayers to report on a movie that has not yet released any official stills, is barely weeks into shooting, and won’t be out until next November. The message was clear, and the principals stuck closely to it: The creative team behind the DC Cinematic Universe has heard your complaints, and the grim fog that suffused Snyder’s last two superhero movies is about to lift.
Okay, so you're probably thinking to yourself, "Great! He recognizes how sullen his film was and he's going to remedy that." The only problem is that virtually every time a studio attempts to "lighten things up" after a dour film, it turns into a fucking catastrophe. Here are a few examples...
Tim Burton's Batman Returns was a dark film. In an era when Christopher Nolan wasn't even making movies yet, it brought lots and lots of edge to his already fairly edgy Batman. And what happened? The film made less money than its predecessor and parents everywhere went into an uproar over the tone of the film. What happened? WB kicked Burton to the curb, brought in Joel Schumacher, and the rest is history. Sure, Batman Forever made more money than Batman Returns, but it's an infinitely worse film that set the franchise on the road to ruin.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze
Lightening the tone isn't a cure-all for a franchise's problems, as proven by 1992's abysmal follow-up to the mildly dark Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Again, this one had a lot to do with parents upset by the violence in 1990's original, so what did New Line do for the sequel? Dropped the weapons altogether, leaving Mikey to fight the Foot Clan using pepperoni sticks as nunchucks. Paramount made the same mistake all over again with this summer's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, proving that no one ever learns anything.
Here's another huge problem that sequels can make: When a bit works for five minutes in the first film, they base the entire follow-up around that bit. This has never been more officious than in this 2000 sequel to 1996's marginally enjoyable Nutty Professor remake. Yes, those dinner table scenes in the first movie are fucking hilarious, but there's absolutely nothing funny about making any of those characters into leads. Nevertheless, that's what we got here and I've got a feeling that Snyder's going to be shoving Wonder Woman right down our throats in Justice League. Yes, she's awesome, but don't overdo it. We've waited decades to get a great Wonder Woman on screen, let her be awesome without trying so hard to make us like her.
So there you have it. Three sequels that went in a new direction, all of which failed miserably. I certainly don't want more of the same from Justice League, but I also don't want Snyder to swing so far in the other direction that the movie turns out to be awful for completely new reasons.
Synder quote via Vulture