Has there been a more talked about superhero film than Justice League? It certainly seems like every week, even from as far back as two years ago that there was a story about the film. The issues (different directors, cut down script, reshoots, rewrites and as always with WB/DC films – studio interference that hindered instead of helped the film) have been documented but after all that, how does Justice League stack up?
Justice League begins with a quick check in on how Batman and Wonder Woman are doing. Batman is being Batman except he is now hunting Parademons, more or less. Wonder Woman is doing her heroic stuff as well, in the best sequence of an excruciatingly bad first 35 minutes, this part stands above all – easily. We swiftly move onto Themyscria, the introduction of Steppenwolf and his search to find the Mother Boxes. Bruce and Diana then go searching for other Meta Humans. Bruce tracks down Barry Allen / The Flash and their interaction is one of the best things about the film: funny, quick witted and a great back and forth. Diana finds Ray Fisher / Cyborg and tries to convince him to join their team. Bruce unsuccessfully tries to get Arthur Curry / Aquaman to join as well. Once the team is together, the film actually picks up and improves markedly.With Synder not being able to complete the film, the question has to be asked if you can tell the difference between Whedon and Synder’s directing? I couldn’t and it seemed like any reshoots were in keeping with Synder’s visual style. The writing, which Whedon ended up with a credit for, is another matter. It is all over the place, some fantastic dialogue and some cringe worthy – not sure who wrote what parts and I don’t care. It just didn’t mesh at all. The tone of this film is far lighter than Synder’s previous two DC films and the tone shift is a little jarring. To be honest, I was one of the few that liked the ‘heavy is the crown’ theme that ran through his other films.
The good news is that despite a variance in the quality of their lines, all our heroes do a good job. Erza Miller is a standout, his Flash is a little bit goofy but it works in the context of where the character is in terms of his development (i.e it is very early on in his genesis). Fisher does well with a limited amount and Mamoa brings his own style to an entirely new iteration of Aquaman. Gadot excels once again as Wonder Woman, perfectly conveying the style, power and grace she established in her solo film. Affleck isn’t as effective this time round but is still solid. It is no secret that Superman will be in the Justice League, so this isn’t a spoiler, but (after an admittedly odd but enjoyable grave digging sequence) Cavill is Superman in the traditional sense* and has some great moments. Steppenwolf is a poorly rendered CG character. Ciarán Hinds does some great voice work, but the character looks like he is from a video game…and not a good game.
The thing that really hurts this film is time. A WB mandate that the film be only two hours long looks to have resulted in chunks being cut from the film and it shows (so get ready for yet another ultimate/directors/extended cut) and given the reshoots and rewrites, why was the film not delayed in its release. The CG images and rendered landscapes and green screen are at times horrendous. This is the age of Superhero films and audiences aren’t going to accept poor effects, given what has already been accomplished in that department. WB / DC need a bunch of new writers and directors to come put their stamp on things because at the moment they seem determined to handicap their own product. Having said that and despite this film being quite weak, there is still enough here to like and bodes well for future films in this universe. There are many brief moments in Justice League that tease what is or could be on the horizon, which should have plenty of fans excited. This is including a very tasty post credit sequence setting up a big entry into the DCEU.
Justice League is not a good film. It has great moments, some really great moments but when those moments aren’t great, well they aren’t even good in any way – the entire film doesn’t come together.