Well the numbers don’t lie—Justice League was a bust. What was intended to be Warner Bros. and DC’s answer to The Avengers instead landed with a thud when it hit theaters last November, on the heels of production issues, extensive reshoots, and the reported firing of original director Zack Snyder. The superhero team-up has now concluded its box office run, and with a worldwide total of $657,924,295, Justice League stands as the lowest grossing film of the DC Extended Universe thus far—the DCEU being the series of films that began with Man of Steel and are connected by a shared universe.
In fact, not only did Justice League finish at the bottom, it grossed over $100 million less than Snyder’s 2013 reboot Man of Steel, which itself was somewhat disappointing for WB. If Man of Steel had been a bigger hit the studio would no doubt have moved forward with a Man of Steel 2 right after, but instead—facing stiff competition from the off-to-the-races Marvel Studios—they shoehorned Batman into a follow-up.
Batman v Superman is the highest grossing title the studio has released thus far, but no doubt the negative response to that film had something to do with the lack of enthusiasm for Justice League. Indeed, Justice League isn’t an out-and-out disaster of a movie—it’s fine—but if you gauged general audience interest, it just wasn’t there.
Here’s how the current DCEU lineup stands with worldwide box office:
1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – $873,634,919
2. Wonder Woman – $821,847,012
3. Suicide Squad – $746,846,894
4. Man of Steel – $668,045,518
5. Justice League – $547,924,295
If we look at the domestic box office takes, Justice League is still in last place, but Wonder Woman jumps ahead by a pretty wide margin:
1. Wonder Woman – $412,563,408
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -$330,360,194
3. Suicide Squad – $325,100,054
4. Man of Steel – $291,045,518
5. Justice League – $229,024,295
Indeed, Patty Jenkins’ well-reviewed origin story offers a glimmer of hope for the DCEU moving forward, and in hindsight I think we’ll look back on Justice League not as a massive misstep, but the end of a misguided era of DC Films. Snyder’s approach to the characters just simply wasn’t working, and Warner Bros.’ feverish desire to catch up to Marvel Studios at any cost led to subpar output.
Now, however, with some significant executive changes at the top, it feels like there’s reason to be excited for the future. James Wan’s Aquaman hits theaters this year, and the studio finally set Game Night filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein to direct The Flash. Jenkins is due to begin production on a Cold War-set Wonder Woman 2 this year, and a number of other films are in development. And Snyder? No longer involved.
I don’t think Snyder is a bad filmmaker, I just think he was the wrong fit for the DCEU, and what we saw with his three films and even Suicide Squad was a contrast of ideas between what the studio wanted, what Snyder had envisioned, and what general audiences hoped to see. So yes, Justice League was a failure, but this is far from the end of the DCEU and I’m genuinely intrigued to see what lies ahead.