Justice League: It's Not Terrible!
Review By Aaron Haughton
It’s the CGI mess we’ve all been waiting for, and wouldn’t you know it, it even rhymes with superhero fatigue. It’s a bird, it’s a plane—oh, wait, no, it’s just the Justice League...
I’m kidding. It’s not that bad. In fact, it’s even a little better than I initially suspected. It still suffers from the warring visions of two very different filmmakers and definitely feels like a film that’s been quite literally stitched together, but it still manages to stand and deliver on occasion. I wouldn’t call it a win exactly, but it’s a small step in a somewhat better direction.
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) assemble a team of supers to square up against yet another CGI monster who threatens earth and its existence. Along with Cyborg (Ray Fisher), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman, (Jason Momoa), and a revitalized Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman and Wonder Woman attempt to stop Steppenwolf from terraforming the earth, but will they make it in time?!
The film gets off to a bit of a clumsy start with some iPhone footage some kid shot of Superman with his glorious CGI upper lip, which doesn't exactly knock your socks off. From there it goes through several other seemingly false starts before it finally finds its footing 10-15 minutes into the film. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the studio allowed the film to spill out over the 2 hour mark, but due to a mandate from on high, the filmmakers were forced to cram the film inside a 2 hour window. This constraint can definitely be felt, and it seems like a significant chunk of the movie may be lying somewhere on the cutting room floor.
Unlike Rogue One, which was also directed by two different directors, there is no seamless flow to Justice League. Snyder's dark, serious tone and Whedon's lighthearted silliness seem to be at war during most of the film, but yet there are times that their blended style really works. Superman's upper lip, the 2 hour storytelling restriction, and the film having two directors; these were widely known issues and disasters. So, the real question is, despite all the productions mishaps and obstacles, does it still manage to meet expectations?
There are a lot of aspects about the film that I really enjoyed, like The Flash realizing that Superman is just as fast as him and the entire battle sequence between Steppenwolf and the Amazonians on Themyscira; however, a lot of the film falls flat and lacks any kind of depth whatsoever. It's got the fluff of a Saturday morning cartoon, which was actually kinda nice. It brought some nice levity and some much needed goofiness to Synder's DC vision. I suspect most of this lighthearted feeling can be attributed to Joss Whedon, who conducted massive reshoots and rewrites after stepping into fill in the director role following the tragedy of Synder's daughter. Like I touched on briefly before, the contrasting tones were noticeable, but actually mixed quite well — or better than expected, anyways.
The film almost functions better as a standalone than it does a cohesive universe simply because there's massive holes in DC's attempt at cohesion, take the rocks on Superman's grave at the end of BvS for example, which are literally irrelevant now with JL's story continuation. A lot of scenes feel interchangeable or out of place, and some moments don't help drive the film's plot forward.
The performances were pretty decent all around. Momoa made for a solid Aquaman and didn't just shout "Oh YEAH!" The Flash served as comedic relief, but nearly all his jokes were shown in a trailer, so they lose a bit of their edge. Due to the time constraints, the new characters don't have time to properly develop, or aren't given a whole lot to do — I'm looking at you Cyborg. Gadot as Wonder Woman is charming as always, but without Patty Jenkins behind the lens, she's fallen back into the male gaze once again.
The worst character aspect by far though is the villain, Steppenwolf. He's the most basic, boring, recycled villain. He's just a CGI monster with horns, and has no character. Him being CGI also doesn't give the actors anything to work with. They were better off just having the League fight Superman, which could've filled out an entire film and still be worthy cause to rally a team of metahumans.
Overall, it's a fun time out at the movies, but it's ultimately a disposable experience. It is an experience though, and a lot of theatergoers seemed to be genuinely pleased with the result. It's definitely not the bloated cluster fuck that was Batman Versus Superman, but there's still massive room for improvement. Maybe it will push DC to course correct (again) into producing only standalone films. Without a unified head, like a Kevin Feige, the shared DC universe has little to offer, but with Justice League it's clear that Warner Bros. is starting to listen to its fans. Finally. So there's still a little ray of hope on the horizon.
Rating: 3 Parademons outta 5.
What did you think? Was Justice League a gigantic mess? Did it exceed your expectations? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!