JUSTICE LEAGUE Trailer Shot-By-Shot Breakdown

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The Geek League of America website has been online for over four years now, and in all that time, we’ve never done a “shot-by-shot” analysis of a huge movie trailer. Well, no time like the present, right? This year at San Diego Comic-Con, Warner Brothers unleashed the first look at footage from their massive superhero team up film, Justice League. After Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’s disastrous critical reception and polarizing effect on general audiences, the studio is counting the November 2017 assemblage of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg to turn things around and put the DC Extended Universe in the elite box office category with the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars.

The Hall H footage was met with thunderous applause, and the online reception to our first look at this legendary super team in action has been mostly positive, but regardless of how many times you’ve watched and poured over it, there may have been a few things you missed. So, here then, is a scene-by-scene dissection of the trailer, featuring all the references, easter eggs, and insight into these grim n’ gritty, hard-drinkin’, and now even wise-crackin’ DC movie heroes!

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If DC learned any lessons from the ponderous, morose tone of Batman V Superman, it certainly isn’t evident right away, because the teaser kicks off with the usual ominous Zimmer piano notes and low bass rumble, as the blackness fades to the interior of a cold, grey storehouse or meeting hall in Alaska or some other equally miserable, freezing locale. The camera pushes in on the sullen, depressed faces of the villagers, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone just pointed a camera at a theater audience who just watched Batman V Superman for the first time. Cheery!

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We then hear Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne in a voiceover ask, “There is a stranger who comes to this village from the sea…he comes in the winter when people are hungry; brings fish, comes on the king tide.” He then appears in frame with a beard (which has a long way to go to match the awesomeness of that old fisherman above) and says, “that was last night.”

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That last bit catches the attention of  this frosted-tipped, ripped, surfer dudebro, because he slowly turns around and burns a hole through Bruce with a pair of piercing green eyes. “Talk,” he grunts.

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The Zimmer score suddenly comes to a halt and “Icky Thump” by the White Stripes kicks in over some footage of The Asgardians burying the Tesseract in a forest—err…I mean, some ancient kings burying a Mother Box, which is a highly advanced, sentient supercomputer from the planet Apokalips with a vast array of powers beyond human comprehension. According to reports, Justice League will feature the main villain Steppenwolf hunting down three of these Mother Boxes on Earth, which were at one point held by Amazons, Atlanteans, and humans.

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“Icky Thump” is a great song, but it’s an odd choice here, juxtaposed against this imagery. Its placement is the obvious first step in DC course-correcting to a more vibrant, playful tone, but honestly (and ironically) this is where a darker, more operatic score would have hit harder.

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Another thing you’ll notice about this footage so far is how dull and kind of lifeless it all looks and feels. Batman V Superman may have been far too dark and bleak, but Larry Fong’s cinematography on that film had a deep richness to it that Justice League is already sorely lacking, even in these early images. The decision to replace Fong with Fabian Wagner could turn out to really bite Snyder on the ass here.

Hey, is that Aragorn on the right?

Anyway, Bruce continues speaking to the frosty dudebro in a voiceover as the Mother box is buried and a montage of character shots begin: “I believe that an enemy is coming from far away…”

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“I’m looking for warriors…”

The camera pushes in on Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in some kind of dingy, Zack Snyder environment. From the looks of things, she’s staring down something pretty mean and ugly, most likely a Parademon from Apokalips. These critters were seen in the “Knightmare” sequence from Dawn of Justice.

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“This stranger…”

And, “this stranger,” the hard-drinkin’, tribal-tatted, bearded, dudebro from the first scene in the trailer is…

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Aquaman! Yup. The King Of Atlantis is now a jacked-up, grunting Godsmack fan who bears zero resemblance to the character. Jason Momoa’s casting and the visual aesthetic is a perfect example of a director and a studio embarrassed and/or scared of how an audience subjected to decades of bad stand-up comedy routines about one of their iconic characters will accept them, so they’ve taken it to the Nth degree. The great irony here, is that by overcompensating so hard with the badassery, they’ve actually managed to create something that comes across far goofier than Aquaman ever was. So far the only thing fun about this character’s depiction is finding new ridiculous nicknames for him like, Aqua-bro, Dothraquaman, Bro-seidon, or Wet Lobo.*

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“Others like him.”

A late teens/early 20s-looking kid in a hoodie opens a huge padlock and enters some unknown building. More on him later.

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“I’m building an alliance to defend us. Its very important that I see this man.”

Here we see Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, aka that disembodied torso in Wonder Woman’s Batman V Superman YouTube video clips who was screaming blue murder as a Mother Box turned him into a half-robot superhero.

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The montage ends as the hoodie kid from earlier switches the power on to his cool secret warehouse lair, complete with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the state of the art computer equipment. Hoodie kid has impeccable taste in TV, because we can see an episode of Rick & Morty playing in the middle right monitor. The computers and lights dramatically come to life to reveal Bruce Wayne creeping in a lounge chair in the corner of the room.

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“Barry Allen. Bruce Wayne.”

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Yep, that’s right kids, this not-Grant Gustin person is Ezra Miller, our movie version of Barry Allen, aka The Flash, the fastest man alive! I don’t know whose idea it was to give Barry Allen a man-bun and scraggly “lead singer of Days of The New” facial hair in that Batman V Superman email attachment, but obviously that person has been fired and now Miller sports a squeaky-clean mug and respectable mop of jet-back hair, nailing the iconic look of Barry Allen from the comics:

Oops.

Oops.

“You say that like that somehow explains why there’s a total stranger sitting in my second-favorite chair,” He says, as Bruce rises out of the chair.

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Snap-back to Aquabro as he gets all up in Bruce Wayne’s face.

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Cut to: Wonder Woman and Batman chilling out in what is likely the Flying Fox, Baman’s huge version of the Batwing and mobile command center for the Justice League. The thing can fit the Batmobile inside of it and has multiple floors. Think of it like Batman’s version of the SHIELD Helicarrier.

“He said he’ll fight with us?” Wonder Woman asks.

“More or less, Bruce wryly replies.

“More more, or more less?” Diana asks.

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Smash-cut to Khal Drogo tapping the back of Bruce’s favorite head against the barroom wall and asking if he paid his dues.

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Bruce: “Probably more less.”

Diana: “He said no.”

Bruce: “He said no.”

Banter! Quips! Humor! In a DC movie! But wait, there’s more!

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Now we’re back to the Flashcave as the camera shifts its focus from behind the Flash’s scuffed-up suit to Bruce, admiring the kid’s ingenuity.

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“Look man, I don’t know who you are (what are you talking about, dude? He just told you he was Bruce Wayne five seconds ago!), but whoever you’re looking for —”

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Barry gets cut off as Bruce swiftly and suddenly whips a Batarang out and flings it at The Flash’s face.
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In a cool sequence, time seems to slow to halt as Barry observes the batarang in mid-flight and deftly snatches it out of the air as the speed force lightning crackles around him. I would have preferred this lightning to be yellow, but hey, what are you gonna do?

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Bruce: “So you’re fast.”

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Barry goes into total science nerd mode. “That seems like an oversimplification.”

Bruce walks towards the Flash intently, delivering his recruiting pitch with deathly seriousness. “I’m putting together a team; people with special abilities. You see, I believe enemies are coming an—”

Barry doesn’t even give Bruce time to finish. “Stop right there, I’m in!”

Bruce stares back dumbfounded. “You are? Just like that?”

Barry gets awkward and stammery. “Yeah..uhhh…I…need friends.”

Bruce lets out a relieved smile and shakes Barry’s hand. “Great.”

It’s hard to tell her whether he’s happy The Flash joined up, or relieved that this strange kid doesn’t immediately release Batman’s true identity on social media. Why doesn’t he just show up as Batman here?

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Barry: “Can I keep this?”

It’s so refreshing to hear jokes and back-and-forth humor that really lands, and it’s clear Ezra Miller’s Flash is channeling Paul Dini’s interpretation of the character from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series of the late ’90s/early 2000s, and will be the running (pun intended) comic relief throughout the movie. There’s also a very Tony Stark/Peter Parker from Civil War vibe to this scene, so look for Barry and Bruce to have a very “get on the nerves of my mentor but he’s secretly proud of me and will build me a shiny new suit when this movie is over” kind of thing.

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Now it’s badass action montage time with the return of a booming, dark score! Bats drops into frame with his updated suit, which doesn’t stray too far from the BVS design, thankfully. Looks like he’s going subterranean parademon hunting here.

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Wonder Woman clashes her magical bracelets together in an iconic action pose!

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Cyborg…stares!  F/X are probably still being rendered for him, but over all not too shabby!

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The Flash gets spooked by something and dodges with lightning quickness. This is our first full look at the Flash’s costume, and it’s…not as awful as the descriptions sent back by the bloggers who visited the set in June, I suppose? The red color is far more vibrant than the TV show, which is a plus, and the cowl itself looks fine, but the armor plating is unnecessary, as are the black portions. The most unfortunate thing about this costume design is that it’s obviously inspired by the Injustice video game and comic book universe version of the Flash. That overly-violent, “extreme” world is infecting the movies, and Geoff Johns should nip that in the bud ASAP.

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Bro-seidon: WINTER IS COMING.

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The League, sans Superman and Aquaman, walk into that dingy tunnel area glimpsed earlier. Again, the cinematography lacks depth. This is a dull, uninspired shot.

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Cyborg to Batman, “I heard about you; didn’t think you were real.”

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“I’m real when it’s useful.”

This is a nice exchange. Chris Terrio nails the dry Batman humor here and, from what we’ve heard from the set visits, throughout the entire movie. For some reason, Batman’s nose on the cowl looks weird in this shot. Looks like it may have been rescultped.

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“Icky Thump” kicks back in for….the title card! It’s…ehh. A very underwhelming logo.

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Now a stinger! It appears Roman Reigns has let Bruce down and they are having a dick-measuring staredown.

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Bruce breaks the silence: “Arthur Curry…I hear you can talk to fish.”

END.

Overall, a mixed bag of a trailer. Of course, the film is in the midst of filming in London, and a lot of the action sequences aren’t finished yet, so Snyder and Co. couldn’t show a lot of that stuff off. The first Avengers teaser also didn’t feature much in the way of spectacle either, and strangely enough, it also featured a rock song. I like the direction they are going in with the humor, and it does seem a tad bit more colorful, but this brief look at Aquaman and the dingy, flat cinematography do not inspire much confidence. It’s a step in the right direction for DC, but this Justice League trailer is one stitch on a large, gaping wound. There’s a long way to go.

*Special thanks to social media pals Marc Lapierre, Greg McLean, and others for the nicknames bandied about this week.

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Jeff Carter

Jeff is the defining voice of his generation. Sadly, that generation exists only in an alternate dimension where George Lucas became supreme overlord of the Earth in 1979 and replaced every television broadcast and theatrical film on the planet with Star Wars and Godzilla movies. In this dimension, he’s just a guy from New England who likes writing snarky things about superheroes, monsters, and robots.