There can be little question to most observers (including those at Warner Bros) that the DC comics cinematic universe has had some mighty ups and downs in terms of quality in recent years. The glory days of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy have been almost entirely forgotten as the disappointing Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad took its place. 2017 was to be the year that this would turn around and Wonder Woman seemed indicative of heading in the right direction. Justice League being the next film in line fails to capitalise on all that positivity yet still is an entertaining but deeply flawed film. Find out more in our review.
With Superman dead, Bruce Wayne seeks to recruit a number of super heroes to join a league that can respond to the threats that face mankind. That threat though, comes sooner than expected in the world destroyer Steppenwolf who seeks to find Unity which will restore his power.
The idea of Justice League is best explained as the DC version of the Avengers. An attempt to bring a cast of characters together to fight some equally bad threat. It is with that mind that the various cast members must work well together, and it becomes clear that the cast has a Chemistry and likeability. People like Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill are all familiar with their respective characters and each other as actors and that largely shows. Of the newcomers Ezra Miller seems to have all the jokes as Barry Allen/Flash and Jason Mamosa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman who tough guy persona work exceedingly well with limited material.
The chemistry of the main players translates into a general sense of fun and humour and one can’t help but wonder if this is the guiding hand of Joss Wheedon who took over directorial duties from Zack Snyder for personal reasons. Lots of moments through Justice League will have you smiling if not laughing, which is a nice change. But it’s not just a humour here that makes it more entertaining but a laser like focus that helps move things along. An efficiency of storytelling with only a short running time helps that and probably a lesson a lot of modern films could learn.
One of the inevitable downside of this new-found efficiency is that exposition rather than action is the thing to be edited down. Justice League has very apparent plot holes which one can’t help but feel might be on a cutting room floor (or perhaps a computer) somewhere. The feeling it elicits, and I think this will be especially pronounced in the comic fandom will be a struggle with a lack of details and a feeling of carelessness with beloved source material. Back stories feel like vignettes and new characters feel superficial in their dramatic moments especially considering there are some nice more dramatic moments for returning characters.
One of my biggest issues is the visual action which is less frenetic than past attempts in the DC universe still feels hopelessly fake. A washed-out aesthetic doesn’t help either. The sense of doom or menace that anyone feels against a computer generated reflects in both actor and audience engagement with the peril that the movement portrays lost or at best muted.
Yet Justice League’s greatest problem is the mishmash of these elements. Fun with dour aesthetics, humour in global cataclysm and none of it quite feels cohesive. This could be the problem of two directors (although only one is credited) or it be student interference (as it was with Suicide Squad) but it might also be a weaker script as well. Nothing quite feels complete even if it is entertaining.
Justice League Review Cheat Sheet:
Justice League is a flawed but efficient and entertaining superhero movie. Its burden of multiple bite size origin stories, two directors and a heavy reliance on dour computer generated visual effects for its action sequences sometimes overshadow wonderful chemistry, humour and drama amongst the lead players. An improvement on past efforts but far from a home run.
+ Wonderful cast with chemistry.
+ Humour and drama works most of the time.
+ An efficient non-bloated running time.
-a lack of detail and development in new characters
-dour overuse of computer generated effects.
-Not a cohesive whole.