What can I say, I’m torn. The more I contemplate Justice League, the more disappointed I become that Zack Snyder did not get to complete his vision in a way that he would seem fit. It was always going to be a much “lighter” film in tone, but wow, I’ve got whiplash from the ‘180’ the film takes from BvS.
This was not the epic masterpiece I expected, but more of a safe play by WB, and the movie suffered for it. 50% of the trailer content seems to have gone missing, the Snyder-esque slow-mo hero shots vanished, and any sense of depth be damned. (Here is a taste below of missing content)
Having said all that, I still enjoyed the film somehow. Justice League’s best aspects lie in the chemistry between its cast and the film’s individual depiction of each superhero. I would have enjoyed seeing more plot development for sure, but understand when you are cramming all of these characters into one film, that is going to have to wait until their respective solo debuts.
The plot is set many months after the events of BvS. Justice League finds Batman seeking out meta-human allies to battle the impending cosmic threat he’d previously foreseen. With help from Wonder Woman, he recruits Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg to prevent the alien invader Steppenwolf and his army of parademons from conquering the world.
The movie never quite finds its rhythm. It’s only through the charm of its cast and its depiction of its heroes that the movie is saved from being a misfire. The action scenes are entertaining for the most part, but my biggest gripe is the “Whedonism” of the Superman scenes. If you’re really shocked to learn that Superman lives in Justice League then you’ve done well in insulating yourself from the advertising barrage. I won’t delve into the details of how Superman returns, but suffice to say it includes a fair share of dicey choices made by both the characters and the storytellers. It is obvious that 80% of his story was a product of the reshoots. How is it obvious? Because his CGI lip is so distracting it evokes almost as much laughter as Ezra Miller’s stellar and hilarious performance.
Thankfully, the Justice League itself works as a balanced team. Although Batman’s agenda clearly drives the plot, no particular member dominates the limelight more than the rest. Each character gets moments to shine and make a positive lasting impression. It’s to the movie’s detriment then that the film never quite offers this appealing lineup of heroes a worthy enough opponent to face or establishes any real doubt that they won’t overcome any of their challenges.
Batman has a nice arc here, accepting that he went too far in BvS and that he needs make up for past sins in order to defeat this new enemy. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is far more self-aware and self-effacing than in the previous film.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is still the moral compass of the DCEU. She’s powerful and graceful yet willing to reveal her own shortcomings. The chemistry between Gadot and Affleck remains palpable, and the dynamic between this duo helps provide a human center to this otherwise clunky narrative.
Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry has some genuine moments and feels less like a musclehead spewing one-liners as trailers would depict. There’s one particular scene in Atlantis that raises more questions about the character and his journey than this film adequately explores or clarifies but I guess we will have to wait for his solo affair to dig further into that.
Ezra Miller’s Flash is a standout and scene-stealer. He’s funny, excitable, and has a good rapport with all the other heroes even when he’s annoying them.
One particular scene involving Superman will have you laughing out loud legitimately.
Meanwhile, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg ends up being far more integral to the plot than some might expect, giving him a chance to prove himself as an intriguing character. His steadfast belief in heroic ideals helps keep him human even as his body becomes increasingly machine-like and alien to him. Again, a few unbelievably epic looking shots from the earliest trailers were abandoned as noted above. I do wonder how much different the film could have been…
Finally, the villain Steppenwolf (a character voiced by Ciaran Hinds and performed via motion-capture). Steppenwolf is a wholly digital character, but not an entirely convincing-looking one. He’s another Marvelesque, one-dimensional bad guy with a rote agenda and lacking any distinct personality. Steppenwolf never proves menacing or original enough to leave much of a lasting impact beyond indifference. He serves a basic purpose. To cause enough of a threat to galvanize and bring the team together.
Earlier this year, Avengers helmer Joss Whedon took over production and the direction of reshoots on Justice League following Zack Snyder’s departure due to a personal tragedy (the final film’s direction is credited to Snyder with Whedon receiving a co-screenwriting credit). This led to many observers, myself included, to wonder: Would Justice League suffer from an Identity crisis as a result of two. My verdict is that yes, yes it does. I believe the film would have been incredibly different and much better as a final Snyder product. These are incredibly tragic circumstances however, so it’s hard to argue with the move. I just wish they’d stuck to the original vision more and not attempted to pander to the masses because in the end, it’s a shabby product which will ironically make even less money. Here is to holding out hope for a Synder-cut at some point in the future.
Justice League is a 3/5 stars fun ride with some enjoyable moments for sure but ultimately, the thought of its missed potential is what will stick with me the most.
You can follow Peck on Twitter @BigTimerPeck