Justice League swings for the fences and hits a solid triple. This film is far from DC’s homerun that they were hoping to land but it loads the bases nicely for future DCEU offerings.
After waiting for what feels like forever, all the heroes are assembled in this cookie cutter actioner that brings the lineup out of the dark for the first time and into the shining light. However a welcome change in tone and a little bit more clarity of character cannot repair the basic script problems you have when Zack Snyder is listed as a screenwriter.
But since this film is so intent on keeping things light and playful for most of its running time, let’s focus on what’s good. Ben Affleck still remains a strong and fearsome Caped Crusader. When coupled with the Dependable dry wit of Jeremy Irons’ loyal Alfred, the two have a very easy chemistry that evokes a long history between the two even though this is only the second film that they’ve appeared in together. With crime rates skyrocketing since Superman’s death, every night Batman goes out and takes down a bad guy he feels he’s doing penance for wronging the Kryptonian.
Everybody in the world should have a crush on Gal Gadot at this point. Her Wonder Woman and Diana Prince are an absolute shining Beacon of Hope, Grace, and feminine Revolution that just radiates off the screen. She still speaks in a very regal way that evokes the power and the nobility of Themyscira and is still on the side of humanity For Better or Worse. Her athleticism is a joy to behold, and nobody male or female can express so much in one look as she can. She can remind you of high school dances, and if she turns her glower at you you know you’re in deep shit.
Our new recruits all bring serious promise to the table. Jason Momoa as Aquaman is all scales and testosterone. Ray Fisher brings a soulful sadness and power to his Cyborg. Undoubtedly the scene-stealer here, Ezra Miller’s Flash is hilarious, awkward, quirky, and still has that rigid sense of DC heroism that is just waiting to come to the surface.
I’m missing somebody here. Hang on. Oh right! Amy Adams and Diane Lane make welcome returns as Lois Lane and Martha Kent who have banded together to help each other deal with the fact that the most important person of their life is indeed gone. Lois’ writing has ground to a halt. Poor Martha Kent has been plagued by foreclosure problems on the Kent farm. Both actresses bring such veteran chops to the proceedings that it is always fun to watch the choices they make and the selling of grief and friendship really works.
I’m still forgetting someone. Oh that’s right, the villain of the piece. Steppenwolf the Lord of power who wishes to blah blah blah. It really doesn’t matter he is a CGI cross between 1980s General Zod and Conan the Barbarian. With a splash of Sauron for good measure. Kneel before my ex humans. Everything you’ve heard about him is fairly true. He’s boring. His look is uninteresting. Not to mention his army of Parademons even though they’re comic canon are really fucking annoying. The one facet of his personality that I did enjoy was the fact is his weakness is ultimately his ego. Voice by ciaran Hinds, he has a very menacing robotic baritone but that’s not enough. Not when you’re going up against 6 Larger than Life Heroes. He is obviously the herald of Darkseid to show up in the next film, but when the Justice League does meet Darkseid in the second movie one of the first things they need to ask Darkseid is “Why did you send this asshole?” In fact now that I brought up Steppenwolf let me just bring up the plot. There are three mother boxes on Earth which are incredibly powerful mystical cubes of unearthly power. When the three cubes awake and are formed as one they become the Unity which Steppenwolf will use to take over the world -eyes glaze over yet? see what I mean? It doesn’t matter it’s been done a million times before. God damn superhero macguffins.
Did I say 6 heroes? Okay it might be time for you to put on your spoiler cap if you have one.
OF COURSE SUPERMAN IS BACK!
It’s not some BS cameo either. Henry Cavill has second billing and has probably one hour of screen time in this two-hour film. It’s fairly clever how he’s brought back and what occurs the moment he rises from the grave, and I don’t want to spoil it for you but let me give you a hand. Alfred warns Batman “Do you really think you should be the first thing he sees when he wakes up?”
Let’s just say big blue has some scores to settle.
Of course at one point Superman is suited and booted again and joins in with the rest of the heroes in the final reel of the film and this is where the movie shows the most promise. Henry Cavill Superman has been reborn recharged and is a hell of a lot of fun! Gone is the frowny Goth Superman of the past two movies that doesn’t know where he sits. This is a guy who’s happy as hell to be alive again and isn’t going to waste the time. He launches into battle like a badass knowing he’s pretty much invulnerable. He cracks jokes at the Justice League members new and old, and his resurrection scene which I’ve dubbed the Reckoning, is a job dropper. Much Ado has been made about Henry Cavill’s digital mustache removal, and at times you can be bizarre and distracting, but if it takes you directly out of the movie, you should never have been here in the first place. I hope they keep the new tone and flavor of this Superman for the next Standalone films because I simply cannot wait. Danny Elfman even manages to sneak in a few notes from John Williams iconic Superman March into the movie and I almost had a heart attack.
When these Heroes come together and start battling in tandem bouncing off each other, offering advice, and exchanging weapons, it is a true Union of Might that the Avengers only achieved through circling camera tableau. The Final Act even though it is mired in goopy CGI with purple skies and countless red shirt bad guys is still a Wonder to behold and what DC fans have been waiting decades for.
Now the damage report. Justice League is a goddamn mess. I know you probably heard that Joss Whedon was called in to finish some extensive reshoots after Zack Snyder’s family suffered a horrible tragedy. The seams do indeed show. At one point you’re getting Zack Snyder’s grand opera superhero Extravaganza, then you’re getting the best Buffy episode you’ve ever seen. Frankly the run times of Batman v Superman and Justice League should be flipped. BVS should have run a tight 2 hours and focused only on the conflict between the two Heroes. Whereas Justice League should have had a near 3 hour run time so we could really spend some time with the characters and develop a stronger narrative concerning their stories and the main plot.
The camaraderie and the bonding between the heroes is a lot of fun but incredibly forced. To be perfectly honest they have not spent enough time together to be talking to each other the way they are. Stay for one scene where Aquaman lays everyone’s shit bare to hilarious effect. Cyborg calls Batman an asshole after only knowing him for about a day. It’s funny but rings false. You can’t blame the actors though they really give it all they’ve got. Once again all of the staples of Warner Brothers over producing and Studio execs with their hands in the soup are on full display here. It neutered Suicide Squad and it confuses audiences here too.
The color palette is strictly off. All the colors of the heroes costumes are cranked up and bright but there must be some Unwritten rule book that the Final Act must take place in a purple sky filled with lightning and dreary dark doom and shit. They fare much better when played in bright daylight and at sunrise. Still Snyder’s visual style is the essence of graphic novels. He’s able to capture so much story in one frame that other filmmakers will take decades to achieve. However this proves to be diminishing returns because Snyder will always sacrifice substance for Style.
All in all the flashes of Brilliance are so bright, so warm, and so engaging that I found myself for giving most of the movies serious downfalls. I had a blast watching Justice League because I was able to tap into that inner child that first picked up a comic book and glimpsed another world beneath the pages. It’s message and it’s hearts are very inspiring. Hopefully that message inspires humanity to team up more, to hear each other’s story and ultimately to inspire the filmmakers to make something a little neater and more coherent for the average moviegoer.
The dye is cast. The potential is there. The league has been united. Hopefully the next movie will be wholly better. But now we know where to look.
Up in the sky.