“Justice League”: A Millennial’s Movie Review
Justice League is an action/adventure film of the superhero genre. Directed by Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, the film stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher as five gifted individuals who must band together to defeat a world-ending evil. Following the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the villainous Steppenwolf (played by Ciaran Hinds) arrives on Earth to seek the mysterious motherboxes, objects of power that, when brought together, bring an end to the world as we know it. Our heroes must not only settle their differences with one another, but overcome their internal struggles if they are to prevent the coming apocalypse.
Here it is. After years of universe building, months of production, highly publicised reshoots, a studio-mandated pivot and four films, the DC Comics Extended Universe finally has their team-up movie. After the unprecedented success of Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. will be hoping that the combined presence of Batman (Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gadot) and the Flash (Miller) as well as the relatively unknown characters Aquaman (Momoa) and Cyborg (Fisher) can attract moviegoers in droves to the cinema. They simply cannot afford to keep producing divisive films (BvS, I’m looking at you), lest their profits will inevitably take major hits. As a director who has had his share of criticism for past DC movies, Zack Snyder and co. will want to learn from past mistakes, and carefully craft a beautiful, coherent, and entertaining film. With so much riding on the success of this film, will the League be united in spectacular fashion? Or will there be no justice for the DCEU?
Justice League is a definite improvement over Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, though it falls short of the compelling heights Wonder Woman reached. It is the epitome of a ‘good, fun movie’ in that it’s entertaining, glossy, cool and action-packed. The film clocks in at just under two hours, so character introductions and storyline setups occur at a breakneck pace. This can feel rushed and disjointed at times, but the on-screen charisma and explosive action mostly distracts from this. I don’t think it’s as good as the studio wanted it to be, but given the circumstances involving a directorial change, it is a fair effort and one that will be appreciated by DC movie fans. At the risk of sounding biased, Justice League fails to be a better overall film than its Marvel counterpart. But there is still much to enjoy here, and I’d recommend the film to all comic book movie fans or for an enjoyable night out with friends.
The biggest draw and easily the best element of Justice League is seeing these superheroes come to life together on the big screen. Ben Affleck’s days as the Batman may be numbered, but that didn’t stop him from putting on the cowl and killing it as an older Bruce Wayne, struck with guilt and laser-focussed on his goals. Gal Gadot further cements her place as the definitive Wonder Woman with a performance that stands out even amongst the star-studded cast. The same can be said of Ezra Miller’s Flash, who adds a much-needed injection of eccentric comedy to the team, while giving fans of Grant Gustin another version of the Flash they can enjoy. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman was easily the coolest character from the marketing material, and though his character is more casual and less of a badass than expected, he mostly lives up to the hype. Even Cyborg, who at first seemed an unusual character choice for the film, made himself useful and had an intriguing backstory, despite his (maybe deliberately) robotic speech and acting.
It might be a good sign that the DC movies are starting to find their feet when it comes to balancing the fun, adventurous aspects of a comic book movie with the dark, serious elements of each character’s morals. Zack Snyder is a director best known for his ‘style over substance’ approach, but here there is definitely more balance than in his previous films. There’s enough meat on each character to make us care about each. And as expected, the film is also shot beautifully right from the opening credits sequence. The action sequences are well-executed and exciting, even peppered with small nuggets of comedy. The amount of attempted comedy in this film is actually rather surprising, and though most of it actually doesn’t hit, it still brings a different sort of lightness to the film. How much of this can be attributed to temporary director Joss Whedon, I can’t say. But I can say with some relief that the film doesn’t feel like it has two completely separate tones, a testament to the good communication and complementing power of the two directors.
You Can’t Save the DCEU Alone
Plot-wise, there isn’t much that can’t be predicted from the trailers. All the hallmarks of a group of superheroes coming together to fight a big bad and his faceless army are there. It all goes by very quickly. Sometimes too quickly, such that the attempts made at character development feel rushed, and before you know it, we’re already on the next story beat. One can tell that extensive scene-cutting was probably done to achieve this, thus the slightly rough, disjointed feel. Speaking of rough, some of the visual effects in the film are also surprisingly below-average, the most obvious of which is the CGI work on main villain Steppenwolf’s face. Disappointing.
And while we’re on the topic of the villain, let the record show that this is probably the most one-dimensional villain in the DCEU so far. A character that is written to be inherently evil and isn’t shown to have much justifiable desire other than to ‘destroy the entire world’. Ciaran Hinds does the best with what he’s been given, and Steppenwolf is a strong and intimidating character. Just not one that lives up to modern-day expectations. Finally, Danny Elfman’s score features some iconic elements of the original Superman and Batman 1989 themes, but it just isn’t well utilised or well placed to evoke an emotional response from the audience. We can barely hear it over all the action, so it often sounds like generic, temp music most of the time. Another disappointment considering the DCEU started with a great Man of Steel original score.
Not perfect. Far from perfect, to be honest. But certainly not terrible and certainly a positive, enjoyable experience. As an optimist I’d count that as a small step in the right direction, though there is certainly much to improve on in future films. Much of what is missing from Justice League does stem a bit from the fact that most of the Justice League members did not have their own solo movie to introduce themselves to the audience, thus the characters did not seem as familiar as Thor and Iron Man did in The Avengers. But Warner Bros. wanted to bootstrap the process, and to a certain extent, they succeeded. Assuming the film doesn’t flop and cause WB to pivot the entire cinematic universe again, it’s time to look forward to the standalone films and sequels on WB’s slate. Aquaman, Wonder Woman 2, and The Flash are among these titles, so there’s lots to be excited about. We can only hope that great filmmakers like James Wan and Patty Jenkins continue to push the universe forward, continuing on from the groundwork laid by Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Overall Score: 7.0/10