WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2017)
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Amber Heard
The Avengers of the DC Universe…Unite!
Batman. Wonder Woman. Aquaman. Cyborg. Flash.
Throw Superman in there too.
What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!
Having been foiled in his plan to dominate Earth via the use of all-powerful ‘Mother Boxes’ thousands of years ago, big baddy Steppenwolf (Hinds) has returned – trusty Parademons by his side – to capitalise on a world without Superman (Cavill). After attacking Themyscira, home of the Amazonian warriors, and Atlantis, abode of Aquaman (Momoa), to pillage two of the three Mother Boxes needed to mount the assault, he turns his attentions to Earth. Batman (Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) get word and decide they need to form a crack squad to stop the impending devastation. After some persuasion, they recruit the combined powers of Aquaman, cybernetically reconstructed Cyborg (Fisher) and superhuman speed fiend Flash (Miller) – together they are…the Justice League.
As powerful as they may be together, they still need one more element in order to defeat Steppenwolf, some kind of man…who is super.
The long-anticipated coming together of the DC Universe’s finest, Justice League had the ingredients to be something special. With three duds in its slipstream (Man of Steel, Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice) and one shining light (Wonder Woman), the movie hadn’t been set up particularly well but, then again, this is JUSTICE LEAGUE. If any DC movie was going to stand on its own, towering above the rest and rivalling anything Marvel could even contemplate releasing, it was Justice League.
What a shame it’s not very good.
From the get-go, the movie is sadly a jumbled mess of two men’s ideas (awful external circumstances led to Snyder being replaced by Joss Whedon after the production had pretty much wrapped) and the contrast of tones is jarring and distractingly noticeable. A washed out, slow-motion funeral scene is layered with Sigrid’s excruciating cover of Everybody Knows, creating the first of many destabilizing moments – and it’s pure Snyder in its dismal delivery. Following that, Justice League lurches from dark, underlit scenes to wisecracks and humour and the transitions just aren’t smooth enough to justify the about-turn in tone. It’s clear that conflicting approaches were at play in creating the movie and it shows in the final product.
The cast are all dependable and able in their respective roles, however, the development is lacking – maybe down to runtime, maybe down to writing, but the ‘less-established’ heroes aren’t given that much depth. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is afforded the most development and it’s interesting when we do see his story. Ezra Miller’s Flash just stays on the right side of comic relief, threatening to fall into annoying territory at times but, again, the character works well on the big screen. Momoa is big, burly and brash as the new-look rock ‘n roll Aquaman and his performance is entertaining enough (expect the full origin story in his standalone flick), though I still believe Brick Tamland’s trident was more impressive. Ben Affleck is as strong as he always is, but AGAIN the role is reduced to allow for the additional characters. Once more, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is the star of the ensemble, though, without Patty Jenkins’ presence, Snyder’s interpretation becomes little more than eye candy at times, with lecherous shots aplenty.
The character of Steppenwolf however…shudder. Steppenwolf is one of the worst movie villains of all time. Dripping with naff CGI, poor Ciarán Hinds is nearly unrecognisable (actually, that may be a good thing for him). There’s zero fear factor around this computerized turd and by the end, he skulks around like a Scooby-Doo villain. It’s sub-par all around, and as the antagonist against the talent of heroes on offer, this is a crushing disappointment.
The writing isn’t nearly as bad as the CGI utilised throughout, but it still isn’t great – for example, after highlighting the fact that Mother Boxes are crucial to Earth’s survival, the League blissfully leaves one unattended in a car park for Steppenwolf to swoop by and thieve. The comic aspects, though, are actually amusing, if at times against the spirit of the characters, but it’s refreshing to see some levity and fun in the DCEU, keep it up. Each member of the League is afforded time for quips and the majority are well-placed and hit the target (though I can’t decide who depicted ‘loner’ Batman best, this or The Lego Batman Movie). Crucially, when the League is together, the movie is at its strongest as they quip, bicker and fight each other until the need to unite comes.
After a solid intro involving Batman dishing out justice (wink wink) to a filthy (badly CGI'd) Parademon, the subsequent action alternates between exhilarating and tough to frenetic and overly-computerized tosh. It’s an issue that plagues comic book movies in general and destroys the suspense of disbelief required as the video game effect takes hold. With action lacking, it’s another frustrating negative strike.
There’s nothing within the plot to get excited about, its standard stuff. Big bad comes to Earth, good guys come together against adversity, bad guy goes away. What should have been a heavy, emotional moment, the reveal of Superman was ruined by the persistent use of Cavill’s name in marketing – good job. That moustache-less upper lip, though…
Whilst the ensemble work well together and complement each other, leading to some entertaining and close moments, Justice League as a whole suffers from poor writing, editing, CGI, tone and an appalling villain. It seemed harder to ruin this opportunity given the talents of the cast and, most importantly, the characters (which, once more, include BATMAN, SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN...), however, Warner Brothers has somehow managed it. Where do they go from here? Well judging by the post-credits scenes, more of the same it would seem.
Justice League is a devastatingly clumsy missed opportunity. That’s the sad truth.
November 18th 2017