TL;DR – Is it as good as Wonder Woman, no not by a long shot, but it is also not the steaming mess like the last two films, so there has been some improvement here.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
P.S. – There is a mid and end credit scene.
Ok before we start I need to say that this is actually a very hard film to review because while it shouldn’t matter, you can’t avoid not looking into the issues this film had in pre-production. Firstly, you have the disastrous reaction to both Batman v Superman (see review) and Suicide Squad (see review) hitting after production had already started, and you can see the course correction that they tried to make here. But also during production Zach Snyder’s family suffered a great tragedy and he stepped aside which meant that the reshoots and final edit was completed by Joss Whedon. So it is hard to work out where to direct criticism, but also you don’t want to heap stuff on someone who has suffered greatly. So will all this groundwork I will try my best to be objective here but you can’t help but bring outside stuff into this.
To to set the scene, it has been a couple of years since the end of Batman v Superman, Bruce (Ben Affleck) is still trying to put his team together, Diana (Gal Gadot) is still working at the Louvre, and Superman (Henry Cavill) is still dead. However, as the years go on it feels like something wrong is brewing in the world, and this is confirmed when Batman captures an alien scout and discovers that his fears have been well founded, another invasion is happening. So building a team goes right to the top of his to-do-list which is good because all hell is about to break loose because something old is back and it only wants one thing, and that is to wreck things up. As far as setups go, it’s not bad, it pushes our heroes together, and also is a big enough threat to warrant it. However, like a lot of things with this franchise, it does leave you feeling like it was lacking something. So today we are going to look at what that can be, but to do that, and given the nature of the film we will be going into [SPOILER] territory quite early, so proceed with caution if you have not seen the film, but if you want my no spoiler opinion of it well then Justice League is just meh overall.
Now given this is a big team-up film, the first place we need to look at is the casting/acting, and this is probably the film’s high point. Indeed, no matter the issues with the DC Extended Universe one of the big strengths the films have always had is its casting (well nearly all of them … The Joker …). Ben Affleck might be allegedly trying to get out of the role, but he is a very good Batman, and thankfully is a little less brooding this time around. They have gone with an older Batman that is starting to hurt but positioning him more as the leader of the group, and Ben fits well into this role. Henry Cavill’s charisma shines through even the odd script and some CGI issues that we will talk about later. Now is it disappointing that they wasted the death of Superman in a bad film and brought him back so quickly it casts doubt on the concept of death in the universe, yes, but it is still good to have him back. Hell, it was worth it even if it was just for hearing the old lady near me that exclaim ‘oh wow’ during one particularly shirtless scene. Of course, Gal Gadot is amazing, we saw that clearly in Wonder Woman (see review), and nothing has changed here. However, it would have been good to see Wonder Woman being given more to do.
Now, this time around we also get to meet three new members of the League that had been teased in previous films, and they are some of the best and unfortunately most misused parts of the new film. So the first cab of the rank is Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) a cyborg created by his father, who is wrestling with forces from both within and without, not sure of his power. Overall I think Ray did a good job of acting even under a lot of CGI and brought a lot of pathos to the character that could have come of a trite if not handled correctly. Then we have strangely one of the weaker elements of the movie Aquaman played by Jason Momoa. The problem here is not with Jason or his performance, it is just that because we have to introduce all these new characters, as well as forward the plot, some of them just don’t have the time to flesh out their characters. So we have some scene where Aquaman and Mera (Amber Heard) just spout exposition at each other to give Aquaman’s backstory in a couple of bullet points and it’s painful to watch. Indeed, it not until later in the movie when they let Jason do what he does best, that his character comes into being, and you get to see his really good comic timing,. Also, I live in an area with a large Polynesian community and they were ecstatic when Aquaman first appeared, and for good reason, we need more indigenous and diverse stars on our movie screens. Finally, we have Barry Allen also known as The Flash (Ezra Miller) and what a breath of fresh air he is for the franchise. Everything has been so dower and serious and it is so good to see his joyful energy on screen, though I wish they had not spoilt his best lines in the trailer. Yes, sure he does have a tragic backstory, and no I haven’t watched any of the Arrowverse Flash, so I don’t know how he compares, but I loved nearly every scene he was in.
While there is a lot I like about Justice League, like sassy Alfred (Jeremy Irons) trying to set Bruce and Diana up on a date. However, there are a number of issues from the past that has still impacted the film. The first big issue is the story that feels both rushed and also drawn out, which is an accomplishment, sort of. The big issue with the series so far has been this need to play catch up to Marvel and their Avengers series. However, the one thing they forgot to take from Marvel is the need to do a lot of groundwork to set the universe up. We jumped straight from the first solo film, to a big universe showdown between heroes, to another solo film, to the big crossover event, and yes also Suicide Squad in there as well for some reason. For Marvel, it took five films before they did there big crossover event, by which time they had already introduced all the Avengers, and indeed it took them thirteen films before they felt comfortable with the fact that we knew the characters enough to do their big vs moment. So we rushed into Batman v Superman, and we rushed into Justice League and you can feel it. As we mentioned earlier because each of the characters had not had their own films yet we had to spend a lot of the first act of the film pulling the story to a halt to give exposition dumps about who these people are. This is compounded but a second act that just drags, we know that they will bring Superman back and that he’ll be good so every moment they go ‘maybe it won’t happen’ is a waste of time. The final act is the standard brawl that we have seen a couple of times already, and while it all looks good, there is nothing there that you will remember standing out a day later. One of the clear changing of the course decisions that you can see is the addition of more comedic moments in the films, and it is a bit hit or miss. A lot of The Flash’s were really quite funny, as was Alfred, and indeed a moment when Aquaman should have checked where he was sitting, however, the other moments never really landed for me. Also, everything about bringing Superman back felt contrived, but then they had written themselves into a corner here tanks to Batman v Superman.
When it comes to the technical side of things somethings work, and others left me wondering if parts of the film had taken a step back rather than forward. I really liked Danny Elfman’s score, it was quiet and reflecting when it needed to be, and soared when it needed to soar. He also incorporated snippets of classic themes, like the theme he wrote for the 1989 film. These little callbacks were a nice touch, and they don’t get overused. The costumes and armour for the cast were really great, they were designed and crafted to give them weight and substance. However, one area that was a clear step back was the costumes for the Amazons, which have gone from practical to now all sporting mid-drifts. The visual effects were a mixed bag, I think Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) was well realised, and his axe was one of the better weapons I have seen. I have heard some people complain about Victor’s metal armour, and it is a bit shiny, but overall I didn’t mind it. However, there are some things that didn’t work, like Henry Cavill face. For all the reshoots he was sporting a dope as moustache, because of the next Missile Impossible film, so they had to digitally remove it, and you can tell. Also, there were scenes which didn’t look all that great from a visual perspective. Like at the start of the film when they are fighting on Themyscira and a horde of Amazon’s on horseback ride down the side of a hill. It looked like it was from the Return of the King, and while that would have been fine in 2003, today I was kind of expecting better.
In the end, do we recommend Justice League? Well maybe. With all its problems it is still a huge step up from both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, and there is no Martha moment to rip you out of it. However, it is not approaching Wonder Women and for the big team-up film, it should be just as good if not better than what came before. However, Justice League does give a reasonably strong base to move forward, and maybe that is enough, but I would have liked to see a bit more. Look when I was queuing up to buy me ticket there was a guy behind me in a Batman shirt and he was so excited for the film, and I really do hope he enjoyed it more than what I did. I can really suck when you watch a movie destroy a property that you love dearly … Michal Bay … and while they still have not nailed this yet, at least progress is being made.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Justice League
Directed by – Zack Snyder with Joss Whedon
Story by – Chris Terrio & Zack Snyder
Screenplay by – Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon
Based on – Justice League created by Gardner Fox & Characters and Stories created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, William Moulton Marston, Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino, Mort Weisinger, Paul Norris, Marv Wolfman, George Pérez & Jack Kirby
Music by – Danny Elfman
Cinematography by – Fabian Wagner
Edited by – David Brenner, Richard Pearson & Martin Walsh
Starring – Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Amber Heard, Billy Crudup, Joe Morton & Michael McElhatton with Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Julian Lewis Jones, Jesse Eisenberg & Joe Manganiello
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13