Does DC finally do the League justice?
Justice League (2017) is a DC superhero action film directed by Zack Snyder. It stars Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, two heroes who must recruit a ‘league’ of powered individuals including the Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) in order to combat an oncoming war led by the villainous Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds).
Not the first league
DC, five years after the fact, has finally gotten to its big superhero team-up. And while this may be a marked improvement over Batman v Superman, as hard as Justice League tries it can’t escape its mediocre legacy. Seeing the JL on the big screen for the first time may bring the chills, but a lacklustre plot and style means there’s not a lot of thrills to be had.
Starting with BvS‘s biggest problem, the plot, and at least Snyder has improved on that – at least marginally. Unlike the mess of subplots and half-baked philosophy of his previous work has become a straightforward ‘getting the band back together to save the world’ that has been seen a hundred times before. On one hand keeping it straightforward is a welcome relief after the concrete milkshake of BvS, but that’s been traded off by an oh-so-generic by-the-numbers screenplay that’s stretched thin over a mercifully short two hours.
This may also be the impact of the two-time director snafu behind the scenes when Whedon stepped in to finish the film for Snyder after he respectfully retired to handle a personal matter. And while Snyder’s grandiose style and Whedon’s comic sensibilities worked together much better than I expected, its not enough to fix a screenplay that brings nothing fresh to the justice-dispensing table.
The real heroes
That makes the film’s cast the real saving grace of Justice League. While Ben Affleck sleepwalks through the movie with ‘I don’t want to be here’ basically plastered onto his face, the rest of the cast manages to not only pull their weight but also elevate some of the more lacklustre elements of the film. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is still just as good following her solo film earlier this year, being effortlessly likeable and endearing to the audience while also managing to sell some more dramatic moments this time around. Another standout is Ezra Miller’s the Flash. Likely to be the breakout character of the film, Miller plays Barry Allen as a goofy, overexcited loner and it works wonders bouncing off the other cast members. The way his super speed is visually portrayed is also quite inspired and does a great job distinguishing itself from the popular CW series.
Jason Momoa as Aquaman is basically exactly what you would expect from hearing ‘Jason Momoa as Aquaman’. He’s a heavily tattooed tough guy who seems to relish in violence and bravado which may not gel particularly well with the Aquaman of the comics but works within the confines of the movie. The other new member, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, doesn’t work quite so well. Fisher’s playing Cyborg with the monotone, emotionless delivery of, well, a cyborg, but it does makes it hard to not only like the character but even care about him. A little more humanity, and a much stronger arch, would’ve gone a long way. On a final note, villain Steppenwolf is also the complete throwaway you would expect from a mediocre superhero film – undeveloped, uninteresting and blandly designed.
As visual aesthetics go, this film clearly remains a Snyder project – and while the grey particle effects of BvS have been toned down the perpetual slow motion, mediocre CGI and overly busy action scenes have not. While a few set pieces succeed by keeping things simple and clean, far too many devolve into a Snyder-fest of hulking grey figures smashing concrete in slow motion, which perpetually wastes the potential for action this movie has. Especially in the large scale vistas of Steppenwolf’s invasion its impossible to become rooted in a spectacle that’s so hollow and overly messy – and Steppenwolf’s design is about as inspired as the film’s screenplay.
Dawn of Justice?
While a marked improvement on Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Justice League still can’t reach the heights of this year’s Wonder Woman. A mostly great cast manages to elevate the thin plot and mediocre action to a film of mildly entertaining proportions, but is this truly the ‘dawn of justice’ smash hit that DC wants? Sadly no.
General Audiences: Meh
Film Buffs: Not Recommended
True Believers (DC): Recommended