Justice League Director: Zack Snyder Screenwriter: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds Distributor: Warner Bros. Rated PG-13 | 120 Release Date: November 22, 2017
It’s easy to go into watching Justice League with very low expectations considering how the entire DCEU is filled with bad to god-awful films, with the exception of Wonder Woman. That film was a huge step forward in the right direction for the superhero universe, as it used themes of hope and optimism to do some course correction.
But with Justice League looking like it did in the trailers, one would think that the film would be a step back. However, that isn’t the case. While it is flawed, Justice League has a lighter tone, is funnier, and isn’t as bleak as some of its predecessors. That being said, it is a DCEU film. But at least it is a DCEU film that takes another step in the right direction. Check out my full review below.
As expected, Justice League‘s plot is thin at best, with Earth on the brink of being invaded by aliens. Though it’s not clear what these parademons want at first, they appear to be feeding on human fear. Knowing this, Batman (Ben Affleck) uses criminals as bait, and his scary interrogation tactics to lure these alien footsoldiers into his trap. However, whenever these parademons are captured, they self-destruct leaving only three squares behind as clues. But these three clues tie back to the mother boxes that Lex Luthor was researching during Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Knowing that the Earth was about to be invaded, Batman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) take it upon themselves to gather the metahumans together as a team and help defend the earth against the upcoming invasion. However, the invasion is happening sooner than they thought, as Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) has arrived, and is leading an army of parademons to find the three mother boxes that have been hidden by the Amazons, Atlantians, and Humans. So the team comes together rather quickly, each of them joining for their own reasons: The Flash (Ezra Miller) joins because he has no friends, Aquaman (Jason Momoa) reluctantly joins as soon as he finds out he is no match for Steppenwolf on his own, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) joins because his organic body is infused with motherbox technology that allows him to interface with anything technological – whether it is alien or human-based. Though they aren’t the perfect team, they must overcome their differences and come together in order to stop Steppenwolf from using these mother boxes to create hell on earth.
The film seems like it is at a war with itself, with two distinctly different voices at play. While Zack Snyder may have been responsible for most of the film, Joss Whedon oversaw the post-production and even handled the rewrites and reshoots. So the tonal difference is pretty stark. That being said, it seems like Whedon being tasked with post-production and reshoots was the right move for the film. It doesn’t feel as dark or bleak as some other DCEU films. The banter within the team is hilarious and lifts the film up, with each member of the team providing their own personalities to balance everything out.
Batman is the guilt-ridden hero thrust into the role of being a leader. Wonder Woman is the optimistic hero who has faith. The Flash is like that wide-eyed kid in a candy store, who is just excited to be invited to the hero party. Aquaman is just that one hero with the attitude of a badass and is just flat out reckless, but makes up for it by pulling his weight. And Cyborg knows what he is capable of, but is reluctant to accept who is he because of his current condition. All of that makes for some interesting team chemistry, with each member providing support for each other and making up for some of the flaws that they may have.
But as great as the team chemistry is for the film, its strange pacing makes it that much weaker. For one thing, the film has to squeeze out a lot of time to introduce new members. Whereas Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman acted as origins films for Batman and Wonder Woman, we have to see how Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash accepted their roles as heroes. So a lot of their motivations are detailed in a speedy fashion, which gives us very little time to understand why they decided to be heroes in the first place. And because the film is in such a rush to get through all of that, the film’s pacing feels like it is in a rush to get to the finish line. So while it may not flow well, at least the film is more fluid than BvS and Suicide Squad.
And the action sequences aren’t remotely close to being fluid. In fact, they are sporadic. There’s no seamless transition as the camera often cuts at strange times making it that much harder to know what is actually going on or if it’s the same fight. It gets even worse when the sequence cuts to an entirely different fight. It can even be jarring at times, so much so it’s nauseating. All of it just makes these fights and action pieces look like glorified VFX clips.
Still, the characters, as individuals, are great. While our heroes all get a shot a humor, The Flash is the one who is providing a lot of the comic relief with his excited quirkiness and eagerness to prove to everyone that he doesn’t just push people out of the way. Aquaman is flat out a badass. Wonder Woman still retains much of that sense of hope she had in her own origins film. But it is Batman who can’t quite figure his place within the team. He just isn’t an effective leader as he can be a bit inconsistent, on a tonal level. That being said, when he is having fun, he is having fun. And there is definitely not enough Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons).
If only Steppenwolf’s plan and motivation was just as exciting as the team chemistry. Unfortunately, whenever he appears, it just falls flat. Sure he exerts god-like powers, being nearly unbeatable as he appears to be unaffected by the superheroes’ superhuman strength and Batman’s tech. But the performance is so one-note that it appears as though Hinds was bored with the material. Even the character’s movements are stiff. There is nothing exciting about him, and it doesn’t help that his plot to turn the earth into his own personal hell has been done before.
Still, Justice League proves that there is some hope that the DCEU can be fixed. The film is definitely a step in the right direction. And because of its flaws, it is a fairly small step. There is no giant leap to follow. But because it is lighter, funnier, more optimistic, and has a pretty great team of heroes, we can rest easy knowing that at least it’s going in the right direction.