Have Stephen King’s It and Thor: Ragnarok sucked the air out of the fall film schedule? DC’s Justice League movie launches just two weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, but there’s a strange absence of excitement preceding this movie. Aside from a scattering of teasers, trailers, featurettes, and clips flooding TV and YouTube, is anyone terribly hyped about Justice League?
Where’s the buzz for this supposed blockbuster event?
Several industry forecasts project Justice League to open (domestically) north of $150 million, but I’m not so sure, as controversy and conflict have plagued this film for months. Prevailing logic suggests that Justice League will easily generate a cool billion in box office… but let’s remember that this is the year of Alien: Covenant, The Mummy, King Arthur, The Dark Tower, Valerian, and Blade Runner 2049 — nothing is certain in Hollywood these days!
Justice League should be a no-brainer billion dollar box office hit. However, this has been a down year for theaters and blockbuster releases overall — for a variety of reasons. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot going on in the world — hurricanes, wildfires, government investigations, terrorism, nuclear war sabre-rattling — all of which are probably contributing to the decline in movie attendance, to some degree. Hollywood is also reeling from a series of major social and criminal problems (mostly of their own making, directly and indirectly).
The ongoing sexual harassment and rape scandals rocking Hollywood is focusing an intense spotlight upon the entire industry — regarding the negative and criminal treatment of young men and women by high-profile stars and power brokers — with no end in sight (they’re not alone, however, as politics, business, high–tech, and other fields are grappling with these same issues). Justice League is not immune to the problem either: Ben Affleck, who plays Batman in Justice League, is seen groping a young interviewer in an old TV interview, while director Joss Whedon has admitted to infidelity by his ex-wife. No one is suggesting that Affleck and Whedon’s issues will derail Justice League, but they surely aren’t helping the film’s profile.
Add to that the strange lack of positive press surrounding Justice League. Henry Cavill was recently interviewed by a fashion web site, The Rake, wherein he discusses how the DC extended universe (DCEU) hasn’t lived up to fan or critic’s expectations thus far (Wonder Woman being the lone exception). In parallel, there’s a rumor that DC’s Flash movie, Flashpoint, remains in limbo, pending the results of Justice League. Seriously, who’s running PR at WB and DC? These can’t be the messages they want out there leading into Justice League‘s release.
The aforementioned Wonder Woman‘s success earlier this year undoubtedly helps Justice League, but DC has to be careful not to overplay this hand. Gal Gadot’s presence in the film’s marketing has been heavily exploited in recent weeks, but it’s unrealistic to expect Gadot’s Wonder Woman to carry the film — she has five other teammates plus a major villain sharing screen-time.
Then there’s the fact that few people have seen the actual film — typically a major release on the scale of Justice League would have had several press and fan screenings by now, to help generate buzz and build anticipation. However, to-date there’s only been a single, private preview, which resulted in just a handful of positive (albeit carefully-worded) comments:
Something is off. You’d expect far more excitement and anticipation for Justice League at this point, and it’s just not there (at least, not at a level consistent with a film of this size). Clearly, there are outside, extenuating circumstances overshadowing this film, as noted above. However, strictly from a competitive standpoint, Thor: Ragnarok is poised to eat a large helping of Justice League‘s audience (it’s tracking better than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and we all know how that turned out). Additionally, the weeks following Justice League include Coco, The Shape of Water, The Last Jedi, and Jumanji — that is some seriously stiff competition!
It’s anyone’s guess how Justice League will do at the box office. Given the competition, controversy, and general audience apathy there’s good reason to worry about this film’s box office results — how much or how little is the big question. What’s really odd is that WB and DC seem to be holding back and laying low, for some reason. Look at it this way: if Justice League truly is an awesome, epic film, then wouldn’t you expect the studio to be screaming about it from the rooftops? Maybe they are, but all I can hear is “Hulk Smash!” and “May the Force be with you!”
Justice League hits theaters on November 17, 2017.