Justice League Clips

Justice League isn’t a perfect movie. If you’ve already flown into a fit of rage after reading that sentence, maybe you should do your blood pressure a favor and click away from this piece now. For the rest of you, I want to talk a little about Justice League‘s villain, Steppenwolf, and some DC fans’ reactions to Joss Whedon liking a tweet that criticizes that character.

First off, a vocal segment of DC movie fans lost their minds when Whedon liked this tweet by Vanity Fair senior writer (and prolific podcaster) Joanna Robinson. Witness the Joss Whedon Steppenwolf tweet debacle of 2017:

I’m not sure if I’m ready to agree that he’s the worst comic book movie villain ever when Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer featured Galactus as a cloud (remember that?), but Steppenwolf is unquestionably near the nadir when it comes to superhero movie villains. In any case, Whedon seemed to agree that the villain in the movie he extensively reshot after the departure of original director Zack Snyder is awful, which, as you may have guessed, got some hardcore DC/Snyder fans pretty riled up:

First of all, I feel like we should be celebrating Whedon’s reaction instead of trashing it. Whedon’s clearly entitled to his opinions about his own work and how it’s received, and we regularly hear filmmakers or actors denounce their movies years after they’ve come out. I’ve always wished these filmmakers could speak their mind sooner, but because of PR concerns, people tend to just smile and nod and not rock the boat until the publicity hype machine has fully died down. At least we know where he stands.

Plus – and this is the really important thing here – Whedon is right to like that tweet because its sentiment is true: Steppenwolf truly is a godawful character in Justice League.

Seemingly in response to criticisms about Lex Luthor’s convoluted plan in BvS, Steppenwolf’s plan in Justice League is overly simple: find three separate Mother Boxes and put them together. That’s basically it. Even then, it’s unclear exactly what his ultimate goal is. The original script reportedly featured Steppenwolf paving the way for Darkseid, DC’s equivalent of Thanos and that universe’s ultimate Big Bad. But Whedon’s reshoots seemingly cut a lot of that out, added more Wonder Woman, and scrapped an Empire Strikes Back-style cliffhanger ending that set up Darkseid to appear in a Justice League sequel. While I appreciate the idea of not wanting to further burden this movie by making it feel even more like just one cog in a much larger wheel, the end result means that Steppenwolf feels like an underwhelming villain: a subordinate who shouldn’t require the whole team to take him down.

Steppenwolf fight 2

It doesn’t help that the character has absolutely no personality, charisma, or defining qualities beyond his obsession with Mother Boxes. Ciaran Hinds (Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones) provided the character’s voice, but it’s hidden behind so many layers of distortion effects to the point where you can’t even hear the slightest bit of Hinds’ original voice at all. What was the point of even hiring him?

(Side note: /Film Daily listener Timothy Mably wrote us an e-mail pointing out that almost all of the DC movie universe villains have been war generals: General Zod, Doomsday (Zod but mutated), Ares the God of War, Danny Huston’s character in Wonder Woman, and now Steppenwolf, Darkseid’s general. It’s an interesting observation, and may point to some of the reasons many of their movies have tended to feel oppressive and bleak.)

But while I’m piling on, here’s arguably the worst part about Steppenwolf: the digital effects used to bring him to life. There’s no consistent weight to him, and not once does it ever feel as if there’s a human underneath the CG layers serving as a basis for the performance. There’s such a huge tactile difference between Steppenwolf and any character that’s actually embodied by a human actor, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that Steppenwolf’s rendering looks comparable to video game characters in Injustice: Gods Among Us.

But other than all of that, Steppenwolf is great!

Justice League finally arrives in theaters on November 17, 2017. Read our review right here.

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