Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot & Henry Cavill
Review Author: Shaun
As many of our readers know, I’m a big DC Comics fan so this movie had my interest the moment WB announced it. However, once again we find ourselves in the same position we were in last time. Massive speculation and hope from fans followed by another disappointment. As for me, after the success of Wonder Woman, I had high hopes for Justice League. This is DC’s hottest property and worthy of such hype but re-shoots and rewrites don’t exactly fill your fans with confidence.
Remember the tone of Man of Steel? This was to be the framework for all future DC films. Grounded and the feel of taking the comic books seriously (following in the Dark Knight trilogies footsteps). Now in 2017, it feels as though a secret meeting was held to rewrite what had already been written and not tell us about it. This is a very fun & light-hearted film but without the major tonal inconsistencies of Suicide Squad. The characters joke around and witty oneliners sneak their way into intense action scenes.
The structure of the film as a whole is unfortunately a mess. I enjoyed portions but the drama was dull due to some very sloppy storytelling and a lack of focus in the first half. Similar to last year’s Batman v. Superman, Justice League has several different beginnings. During the entire first act, almost every sequence seemed like it could have been starting the film. It keeps introducing new characters and locations, which makes sense as this is an ensemble superhero movie, but that just reinforces my opinion that DC rushed into this way too quick. Unlike Marvel, who had an origin movie for basically every Avenger, DC threw half of its character introductions into one movie, and it’s extremely rushed.
The Flash (Ezra Miller) is the breakout star of the movie, he steals every scene he’s in. Miller has proven to have quite a bit of range as an actor, but here he shows off possibly his best side, which is a charismatic sort of comic relief character. He’s consistently hilarious in the film and manages to never be annoying, his quips and one-liners added a lot to the light-heartedness that the film was going for. He still contributes to the team, though, in a very interesting way. He’s a naive and inexperienced kid, kind of like Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, and it’s fun to watch him grow as a person and as a hero while he fights off the bad guys.
Cyborg and Aquaman are given a little less development than Flash, which may disappoint viewers who were looking forward to seeing more of them. Both Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa are entertaining in the roles, and we get to see the characters show off their awesome abilities, but that’s about it. They aren’t given much backstory and we don’t find out that much about them as people. With Flash, we learn a little bit about his personal life and get hints of some emotional conflict, and Cyborg has a bit of that as well, but Aqua-man gives us nothing. I didn’t know a thing about who he actually was by the end of the film (apart from the stuff I know as a fan), and he didn’t make me too excited for his standalone movie we’re getting next year. I think that’s more to do with the cut of the film, a bit more time with them would have been perfect to flesh out their characters.
The big bad is Steppenwolf, who is quite possibly the worst aspect of the film. He’s a rubber-looking CGI creation with once again, no depth whatsoever. He’s just a big baddie who wants to take over the world and be all-powerful. All we learn about him comes from Wonder Woman explaining it to us via flashback. He’s not threatening as a bad guy, very weak as a character, and his appearance is regrettably comical. Ciarán Hinds who provided the voice of the character is fine and tries to work with the dialogue he was given but his performance is shackled by a full CGI creation.
The film gains its momentum after the first hour, but by the time it got an idea of how to streamline the story more, the finale was one big splat of CGI vomit on the screen. The CGI all around is actually pretty bad. Computer effects have advanced to the point where we can animate pretty much anything, and some movies take advantage of that in a good way (Injustice 2 looked more realistic). Wonder Woman is easily the best DCEU movie that’s come out so far, but most will agree that the worst part of that movie is the chaotic, effects-heavy climax. The battle extravaganzas that take place, specifically the finale and Steppenwolf’s introduction earlier on Themyscira, can be fun but they’re extremely over-bloated and the set pieces feel inexcusably artificial. There isn’t a tangible sense of danger and it doesn’t feel like the characters have real objects to interact with, so as a result, the stakes don’t feel very high at all.
I need to mention the CGI which was used to digitally remove Henry Cavill’s moustache. (For those who don’t know: He was shooting the next Mission: Impossible movie at the same time, and was forbidden to shave, so they used computer effects to make him appear clean-shaven). The way his mouth moves is unnatural and his plastic-looking face sticks out like a sore thumb. Superman is fantastic, though, and his re-introduction was pretty entertaining. Fans of the character will particularly enjoy his powerful return and the contribution he makes in the latter half of the movie. Even with the bad CGI mouth, Superman comes back with a bang and is put on the mantel where he should be. This is the Superman we have been waiting for since the old films and the difference between this performance and Man or Steel is crystal clear. Cavill brings to the screen a new hope-filled Kal-El which was missing from the previous films. Coming out of this movie the one the big thing I’m excited about for the future is the next installment from the man of steel.
I feel Justice League got a hold of its story around the beginning of the third act. It’s easily the most amusing section of the film, mainly because it’s a lot more cohesive and it focuses on the action and character moments. However, there are elements sprinkled in that take away from the fun. It keeps cutting back to this nameless family in a foreign country defending their home against invaders, and there’s no explanation as to why we keep following them. We don’t see enough of them to care, but we get just enough to question why they are a part of the movie.
WB apparently forced the filmmakers to cut the film’s runtime down to less than two hours. It definitely shows in the rushed exposition of the first act and the jumbled story, and that’s likely the biggest reason Justice League feels so all over the place. Director Zack Snyder had to leave the film at the end of production due to the unfortunate death of his daughter and Joss Whedon took over to oversee post-production. I don’t know how much of an impact this shift had on the final product, but what I do know is that the movie didn’t turn out great.
I can’t say I was overly disappointed or that this is a terrible film because even with all the problems it’s still a very fun movie. The interaction between the characters is the true sell and is where the main heart & soul of the film comes from. Fans will likely have a blast seeing these iconic characters and being a part of the action. My advice going forward would be to slow down and for WB to stop panicking because studios interfering always does more damage to the end product.
FYI – the two post-credit scenes are fantastic, pure fan service! (Aimed at the likes of me). Unlike most modern-day scenes, they don’t push the future story along, instead leave it open for the standalone films to go in whatever direction they choose.
Rating: 2.9 / 5 pints of SuperGuinness