One of the key shortcomings of Batman v Superman had nothing to do with the movie Zack Snyder had made, and everything to do with the other movie Zack Snyder would soon make: In Justice League, Batman and Superman must find common ground, along with Wonder Woman and a bunch of other cool but considerably less important heroes, to protect Earth from the kinds of threat that cannot be kept at bay by one man alone.
Because we knew they'd be teaming up in the near future, the fact that the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader spent a solid two hours engaged in a weird, testosterone-heavy feud felt inherently ridiculous. Of course they would eventually unite to fight a common foe. There was a strange air of inevitability about the whole affair, even if nobody could have imagined the two enemies would bond over their mutual love of Marthas.
Now, as attention turns to Justice League, that dynamic between billionaire playboy and caped Kryptonian finds itself under scrutiny once again — only this time, the stakes are higher, because it's not more than just the Gotham and Metropolis citizens' lives on the line. It's the future of the DCEU.
Check out the spoiler-light, Superman-free first trailer for Justice League before we try to work out whether these two men can ever really put their egos aside to work together for the greater good.
On first impressions, the footage screened at Comic-Con is notable for two reasons: The tone is much lighter than Batman v Superman (even if the color palette isn't), and Bruce Wayne himself is bringing all the jokes. Considering he spent the entire of Dawn of Justice looking mad as hell, you might wonder why exactly the Bat is on such good form here.
The truth is that his brighter mood here exposes the primary flaw of Batman v Superman's conceit: The fact the Batman of this universe is not an inherently dark character, but rather was moulded to behave like a trigger-happy killer in order to fit the narrative of a movie which needed to pit its two heroes against one another merely to justify that movie's existence. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Batman v Superman — but it didn't allow Batman to be a hero, and despite modern superhero movies' obsession with the grey area between good and bad, that's exactly what Batman is.
Freed from the constraints of such a ridiculous premise, Justice League will allow Batman to play the hero. But what about Superman? Will his character, so brooding in both BvS and Man of Steel (and so far removed from his bright persona in both DC Comics and the Superman movies of old), be given a reinvention to go with his reincarnation?
He needs it. It's perhaps not such a surprise that Batman wasn't taken with Superman when half of the audience wasn't either — and that's no reflection of Henry Cavill's acting ability, but Zack Snyder's fascination with dark, flawed superheroes. Superman has a gigantic "S" on his chest. This is not a character born to exist in the kind of gritty world Christopher Nolan pioneered in The Dark Knight.
When Superman learns to laugh a little, the audience is happier, and perhaps that levity will be the key to Justice League succeeding where Batman v Superman didn't in reaching casual audiences on the scale of an Avengers movie. Perhaps it will also be the change that allows Bruce and Clark to behave like grown men, and focus on saving the world rather than protecting their bruised egos.
Even if Bruce Wayne can't learn to love Superman, we have to, because along with the dude who talks to fish, the Scarlet Speedster and the rest of the team, DC is banking on him. Justice League hits theaters November 17, 2017.