Such is the power of Amy Adams that she has saved countless subpar movies when sandbagged with lackluster leading men — American Hustle from comb-over Christian Bale, Trouble with the Curve from curmudgeon Clint Eastwood and even Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian from dad-joke enthusiast Ben Stiller. But even Adams and her belief that journalists wear waistcoats couldn’t save Justice League.
Adams appears in director Zach Snyder’s new HBO Max version of the film, which has premiered to chaotic reviews. Since 2013, she has played the dutiful Lois Lane in Snyder’s cinematic depictions of D.C. Comics, including Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the original 2017 Justice League. Frankly, Snyder needs to pay for Adams’ therapy bill after making her have to think about this film again — and in a pandemic, no less.
We could talk about how uncharismatic Ben Affleck is as Batman or why the hell it’s four hours long. But the biggest indictment against the film is how little fanfare it attracts among Adams’ stans — we’re more likely to talk about The Muppets than we are to mention any of Adams’ cinematic turns as Lois Lane. It’s not because she’s *gasp* bad. Adams and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman are the only real strengths the franchise has against the sleek Marvel machine. Rather, there’s still too much riding on Adams’ career to acknowledge her less than favorable role here.
Adams is the second-most Oscar-nominated actress to have never walked away with a tiny gold man. (Her Hillbilly Elegy co-star Glenn Close currently reigns with eight nominations and no wins.) She’s been up for a statue six times and should’ve won in 2009 for Doubt. True Amy Adams fans know her best performances were in 2007 for Enchanted and 2016 for Arrival, but the Oscars didn’t want to have that conversation.
As such, I fear we might be on the precipice of a decline in Adams’ critical darling status after a string of middling films. It really shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it does: Having not received Oscar gold, she’s stuck in a perpetual limbo of having to overachieve. Like Close, to the public, she must remain a perfect actress in pursuit of Oscar adoration, which is a trap they shouldn’t have to avoid, but that’s what we expect of female actresses, who are rarely allowed to tentpole bad blockbuster films while still trying to appease the staid Academy.
This leaves unfavorable films like Justice League or the forthcoming Woman in the Window troublesome, threatening to knock her off a pedestal we’ve so precariously put her on but refuse to cement. At present, she’s a prestigious actress taken for granted, yet condescended to for appearing in forgettable mainstream fodder.
The allowance to lead both acclaimed and money-grabbing films without condemnation isn’t something we deny to male stars like Affleck: He spent a decade working on B-films only to come back and win Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars for Argo. In fact, the male redemption arc is a hallmark of award season. Where former esteemed actors like Affleck, Mickey Rourke and Mel Gibson receive Oscar nominations for cleaning up their personal lives, actresses who’ve never made a public blunder are expected to remain pristine or ruin their chances for acclaim.
The fear here is that if Adams never wins Oscar gold, that will be the opening line of her obituary. Not that she’s an acclaimed actress or devoted mother, but a six-time Oscar loser. She’s so much more than that, and it’s a shame that her legacy all might boil down to what some out-of-touch — and racist — organization has decreed.