There was no real room for a middle ground with 2016's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Depending on how you feel about the D.C. universe, Zach Snyder joints, and Bat-fleck, it was either an irredeemable piece of garbage or a good world-building movie that set the stage for bigger and better set pieces. This is the baggage attached to Justice League, and plenty of fans are ready to pile on the team-up flick despite the movie being months away from release.
But past failures in the universe are no reason to write off the new movie; that's the same logic people used to dismiss the merit of comic book movies altogether before X-Men reinvigorated the genre back around the turn of the century. Sometimes it just takes growing pains to figure out what pieces to include (or exclude) before you get the recipe down. There were plenty of missteps in Dawn of Justice, and that makes things a lot easier this time around.
At least one important question was answered in the last movie: Ben Affleck proved he can play a convincing version of an older, gruffer Bruce Wayne. Despite initial skepticism at his casting, most fans probably would have been happy with more Bat-fleck in Dawn of Justice, and the early trailers for Justice League put his semi-washed version of the billionaire superhero in the center of everything. He's charismatic enough to carry out a recruitment effort of new pals like the Flash, while retaining qualities of the grounded, isolated hero we've all come to expect.
The focus in the latest trailer is much better than what we saw in the promo run for Dawn of Justice. The second trailer for that movie was all over the place, trying to inject quirky dialogue from Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor in the middle of montages of Superman's heat vision and super strength. Compare that with the latest trailer for Justice League, and it's not even close; you can see a clear, coherent story building about the assembly of a super-powered team, rather than a blend of slapstick comedy and ultra-violence.
DC's biggest problem has been trying to appeal to too many different people at the same time, rather than building projects with a coherent vision and letting the work speak for itself. They're often seen as the company obsessed with the grimmer, more brooding side of comic books, while Marvel appeals to the brighter, lighter side of the comic book world. Rather than recognizing this has been a symptom of the characters they use — Batman's story is inherently dark, while Robert Downey Jr.'s quips as Iron Man are hard to replicate — they've tried to shoehorn character traits and styles in where they don't really belong.
If the new Justice League trailer is any indication, they're starting to strike a better balance and even amplify what you would point to as the strengths of the universe and the cast.
Gal Gadot's cameo as Wonder Woman was one of the big hits of Dawn of Justice, and she looks poised to play an even bigger role in Justice League after she stars in her own feature film this June. Aquaman looks like a complete badass, draped in a look that's equal parts Seattle grunge and cold steel. It's a departure from his iconic green-and-orange look that belies the depth of his powers and suggests a general lack of seriousness. And the wide-eyed optimism we've seen from The Flash fits the character, adding the light touch they've previously tried to force onto mastermind villains and more serious heroes.
You may have noticed someone missing from the trailers so far, and the lack of Superman is intentional on several levels. He's absent from the universe for very obvious reasons I won't spoil if you haven't seen Dawn of Justice, but it's strangely a blessing in disguise to have one of D.C.'s most famous heroes in the background right now. Superman's tale has proven to be one of the hardest stories to get modern comic-book movie fans invested in, and his near-unlimited power and black-and-white moral compass is a hard sell to people who have taken such a liking to a hero like Batman.
Trailers aren't everything, but so far D.C. and Warner Bros. are hitting all the right notes as they try to convince comic book fans they've learned from their mistakes. It may end up being a lot of bluster with little pay off, but let's allow the final product to do the talking instead of burying the new project before it's even released.