Justice League Is Another Embarrassing DCEU Entry
The DC Extended Universe is notorious for its consistent cinematic disappointments. However, months back the world had a reason to rejoice as “Wonder Woman” hit a critical and commercial grand slam homerun out of Fenway Park and actually managed to make my personal top ten list of 2017. News of Zack Snyder’s initial Justice League cut being deemed “unwatchable” had no adverse effect on me; I had dismissed it as unsubstantiated hearsay given that early word supposedly released by an insider about Wonder Woman being an incoherent mess prior to its release was proven to be incorrect. I was hoping that this would also be the case for Justice League but alas, it’s a colossal fiasco.
Justice League takes place months following the events of Batman vs. Superman. Enthused by Superman’s heroic act of selflessness, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) assemble a troupe of superheroes comprising of Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). The monumental threat they face is the evil Steppenwolf and his Parademon army as they rummage for three artifacts called Mother Boxes. When fused through a ritual called the Unity, these boxes will terraform Earth into the lurid hellhole of Steppenwolf’s apocalyptic home world, in which he will then proceed to subjugate the planet.
The novelty of seeing the venerable heroic luminaries of the iconic Justice League on the big screen consolidating and working in tandem to vanquish the nefarious forces of evil is the film’s selling point. But how does Justice League expect to accomplish such a hefty feat when its screenplay handles its characters like a bunch expendable robots made from rusty scrap metal? This film does such a slapdash job at introducing the ensemble and hastens through their backgrounds. The script is almost entirely unconcerned with cultivating those characters and their relationships; opting instead to attempt audience gratification with superpowers rather than giving them reasons to cheer on the heroes besides the fact that they’re the good guys here. To me Justice League also seemed more concerned with setting up Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash for their own future solo installments, which in turn resulted in skeletons with no meat on the bones. Therefore, the infrequent moments of character development and discord between members of the ensemble are low on the believability scale and feel more like stilted plot dictations than genuine contemplations of multifaceted individuals.
Adding further insult to injury, Steppenwolf can go right ahead and join the nethermost nadir of overwhelmingly weak comic book supervillains; he is unspeakably awful. Even thinner than Malekith of “Thor: The Dark World”, this achingly bland and dull CG baddie is nothing but a punching bag for our heroic posse. Justice League doesn’t even halfheartedly attempt to delve into his motivations for world conquest or provide any insight into what’s in it for him. Seeing as how the valiant stars of the show are barely given their chances to shine, it’s not all too surprising that the villain would be left on the cutting room floor.
Justice League is tonally inconsistent. According to Taylor Williams of CBR, there were concerns about the DCEU being too somber in nature. To lighten up the tone, Chris Terrio was hired to rewrite the original Justice League script. After director Zack Snyder left during production following the death of his daughter, Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the project and oversaw some extensive reshoots, with his comedic touch evidently on display. The notion that a film can be enhanced by simply changing its genre is quite ludicrous, especially in the case of Justice League where deficiencies in basic storytelling regardless of genre are rampant. But I digress, the film’s issue in the tonal department is that it can’t seem to find an appropriate balance of gravitas and levity. It feels more like a Zack Snyder film and a Joss Whedon film duking it out because the shifts between Snyder’s staid style and Whedon’s droll qualities are jarring, thus further cementing the film’s overall disjointed composition.
However, it wouldn’t be fair to only shoot my derisions at Snyder, Terrio, and Whedon; the CEO of Warner Brothers Entertainment is in desperate need of a sci-fi-type brain cleanse. What in God’s name was going on within the enclosures of Kevin Tsujihara’s gray matter when he mandated Justice League to run just under 2 hours? Let me guess, box office revenue. A shorter runtime means a greater number of showtimes per cinema. Given the global popularity of the Justice League, this entails more rear ends into auditorium seats, which in turn means cash in the bank, am I in the ballpark yet? Justice League’s deflated length is simply an insufficient amount of time to nail multiple origin stories and arcs of redemption while simultaneously trying to pump enough adrenaline with action. The end result is a choppy, muddled, and unfinished mess of a product; it’s not rocket science.
All in all, Justice League is another embarrassing misfire for the DCEU, all the more disheartening given my renewed hopes for the franchise following the impressive Wonder Woman. The frustration lies in the apparent lack of passion for the DC universe. Instead of tackling the fatal narrative shortcomings that have plagued the majority of DCEU entries, the producers thought it would be a good idea to simply affix flippancy and condense the runtime, thus pouring a barrel of lemon juice into the wound. Justice League flounders as cinema, underwhelms as popcorn entertainment, and I implore you to save your precious time and money.
My score: 3/10
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© 2017 Rami Nawfal