Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds
Released: November 17, 2017
Warning: Spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League
The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) hasn’t had an easy time. While I consider Man of Steel to be decent, it’s far from the great movie that this cinematic universe needed to start with. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a clear attempt to get to the hyped up Justice League movie as quickly as possible and sacrificed a lot of its potential along the way, even with the also hyped director’s cut that added some context to scenes but still had too many flaws for its own good. Suicide Squad is a dumpster fire Guardians of the Galaxy ripoff and one of the worst DC films ever. Then Wonder Woman came earlier this year and it was so good it looked like Warner Bros. had finally learned from their mistakes and the DCEU could fully realize its ambitions. Now we have Justice League and it feels like they threw the baby out with the bathwater.
Justice League directly continues off from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the world and Batman still reeling from the death of Superman. To make matters worse, an alien invasion led by the conqueror Steppenwolf is on the horizon that threatens all life on Earth, causing Batman and Wonder Woman to find the world’s greatest heroes so that they can join up and save the world, but they need Superman’s help and have to find a way to bring him back.
Justice League is the most meh and disposable movie I’ve seen this year. Let’s just get it out of the way and mention the notoriously troubled production and discussed reshoots because the movie actively suffers because of them. The scenes that Zack Snyder directed and Joss Whedon reshot can be clearly told apart and never mesh together into a coherent whole. The worst part being the CGI on Henry Cavill’s moustache. Maybe others didn’t notice, but to me it stuck out like a sore thumb. That and scenes of humor that were clearly put in at the absolute last minute by Whedon to bring some humor to the film make the whole thing feel chopped up and stitched together. Some of them are genuinely funny and fit in the rest of the movie fine, but others just don’t work.
The characters and plot are nothing to write home about. The main villain Steppenwolf needs three cubes called the “Mother Boxes” so that he can terraform Earth into a hellish wasteland like his own planet Apokolips is. He’s the most generic comic book movie villain ever, both in motivation and visual design. The heroes fare better, but the character arcs of the newcomers suffer from the lack of solo movies to establish them. Origin stories are just mentioned in passing without being shown, not even in flashbacks. We’re just told for example, how Flash got his powers and the accident Cyborg was in, and that Aquaman was abandoned by his mother at birth. These stories would’ve been really interesting to see, especially in their own movies that would’ve helped flesh out this cinematic universe. The characters that work best are the ones who’ve had their own movies, those being Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, even those three are questionably handled since Batman talks about Superman like he was best friends with him (even though he tried to straight up murder Superman out of paranoia in BvS), and is never called out for his callous disregard of life in that same movie. Also, for all that Superman is spoken about as a beacon of hope for the world that inspired people to do good, he was feared and reviled by at least 50% of the world in BvS, and people only came around his way when he sacrificed himself at the end of that movie. It’s possible that’s what they were referring to, but I don’t think it was.
All this said, I do have good things to say. The movie is smart enough not to let Batman off the hook for trying to kill Superman, and multiple characters call him out for being so cruel to him in BvS. On a spectacle level there are some pretty good action scenes. The ones that stood out to me are the scenes with the Amazons in Themiscyria when Steppenwolf arrives, and when Superman finally returns from the dead and the rest of the Justice League has to get some sense back into him. It shows off just how powerful Superman really is, and he has some great moments with The Flash that I’m not going to spoil. For the music they bring back Danny Elfman’s Batman and John Williams’s Superman themes. Pandering? Yes. Awesome? Also yes. The actors and actresses for the most part do a really good job with the material they’re given. Henry Cavill feels like the Superman fans know and love after two movies of Snyder’s more brooding portrayal, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is still the best part of the DCEU, Affleck makes the best film Batman in terms of faithfulness to the comics, Ezra Miller is really entertaining as Barry Allen/The Flash, Jason Mamoa as Aquaman is clearly having a blast, and as much as I rag on Steppenwolf, Ciaran Hinds’s voice acting is very good. The one actor I didn’t like was Ray Fisher. He was just so boring as Cyborg, a character who I don’t even think fits as a Justice League member to begin with. He was dull and felt like he wanted to be somewhere else the whole movie. Cyborg’s awful design and CGI didn’t help at all, looking like he came from Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. Other than him though I thought the special effects were fine, and whenever The Flash uses his super speed you got a good sense of just how insanely fast he was really going. Lastly, if you do go see this movie, the mid-credits and end credits scenes provide some nice fanservice to go crazy over. As dull as the movie usually is, there are some truly outstanding moments in between the long stretches of averageness, but it never manages to take those moments and run with them.
I’m coming down hard on this movie because you can see the glimpses of potential that it has, but never fully realizes. Unless a cut of the movie that realizes Snyder’s original vision is released, we’ll never know what the movie was originally going to be like and if it was better or even worse than what we’ve gotten. I love these characters and wanted Justice League to be the epic super hero blockbuster that it deserved to be, but as it stands now it’s just a lower tier meh. Go see Thor: Ragnarok instead, or buy and watch the animated Justice League cartoon series that aired on Cartoon Network in the early 2000’s.