As a 10-year-old I was a big fan of the DC comics retinue of super heroes: Superman above all, then Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, and others. Each had his or her own origin story and set of special powers. It did not bother me, then, that they were similar to each other, and that their extraordinary abilities did not lead to a diminishment in crime and war. Their personalities were distinct, though Batman was not the darker sort of character he is in the films today, and Wonder Woman was not the figure of strength and feminist power that she became in the recent film bearing her name. Their origin stories, and their powers, made them individually interesting, and worth the dime or the quarter it cost to buy their comic books.
When they banded together to combat various menaces to law and order under the name of Justice League, their exploits were presented in a comic book series of the same name. The series for me never held the same interest as the books devoted to the individual heroes. They became flatter, their personalities less distinct, and even though the problems they confronted might be more challenging, they were not as interesting. They were prosaic.
More recently, the films devoted to super heroes in both the DC and the Marvel Comics universe have struggled with how to make their heroes interesting once the origin stories were told. Only the Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan seemed to succeed. (I do not read super hero comic books anymore, although I have sampled a few recent Superman issues, so I cannot make any statements about what has happened to comic book heroes over the last half century. I can speak of films a bit more knowledgeably).
Aquaman is a heavy drinker. Wonder Woman and Batman have drinks together. Are they going to become an item? The Flash seems to have some sort of attention deficit problem. Batman accuses Wonder Woman of denying herself meaningful relationships because of her grief over the death of Steve Trevor in World War II (she doesn’t seem to age). Aquaman is alienated, in the Holden Caulfield fashion.
As these super heroes become more recognizable as inhabitants of a real world, the world we live in, they are rendered less interesting. Like the Justice League in the comics, this Justice League film (2017; dir. Zack Snyder) is bland and unexciting, for the most part. It does offer the resurrection of Superman, who was somehow killed in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016; dir. Zack Snyder), even though his powers are supposed to make him invincible. The resurrection was cheesy.
Why do alien threats to the earth come in the form of absurdly attired psychopathic monomaniacs who wear blue costumes and helmets with huge ram horns?
The plot about an alien psychopath seeking three boxes which when brought together will give him infinite power to destroy the earth and take over the universe seems a throwback to the the 1950s. Yet it does resonate with current circumstances. How often in all of these Marvel and DC films is the existence of the earth, or the universe, threatened?