With Zack Snyder’s Justice League the DC Extended Universe moves into full gear, unfortunately at times it looks like they’ve stripped a gear or two. As the film’s troubled production has been no secret, with the original concept of it being a two part film being jettisoned in favor a two hour standalone one, and then the tragic death of Snyder’s daughter leading to the studio to bring The Avengers director Joss Whedon on board to finish the project, so it’s no surprise that the final product is less than polished. That aside it still feels very much like a Zack Snyder film, one with a few Whedon quips randomly thrown in to lighten things up, but the dark and gloomy colour palette remains consistent from his previous outings with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The collapsing of two films into one is the biggest detriment the film has as the “plot” rushes along at breakneck speeds only to be brutally halted occasionally for the introductions of new and old characters and massive info dumps; Martha Kent (Diane Lane) has lost her farm, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) has been reduced to writing puff pieces, Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) visits his wrongly accused father (Billy Crudup) in prison, and then there is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who is beating up terrorists in-between working at the Louvre while also helping Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) recruit superheroes for a team that could be their only chance in stopping an alien invasion. The first guy Bruce looks for is Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) who really has no interest helping mankind, and Wonder Woman tracks down Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) who also isn’t all that keen on the whole “team-up” thing as he’s bitter about being turned into some kind of Frankenstein monster.
That’s a lot going on for the first act of a movie and I’ve not even got to the alien threat; turns out Lex Luthor was right about an oncoming alien threat and soon we have Amazons and Atlantean warriors battling Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) a giant dude with a horned helmet who has returned to Earth to retrieve three space McGuffins (The Avengers only had one space McGuffin so already this movie is obviously superior) that he needs to reclaim victory after losing a battle to the Amazon/Atlantean/human alliance five thousand years ago.
One of the common criticisms of the Marvel movies is their lack of good villains, something they are finally getting better at, but Justice League provides us a villain so terrible that he makes Jesse Eisenberg’s manic pixie Lex Luthor look good by comparison. Not only is the CGI used to create him terrible, and I’m not sure why a guy in a horned helmet had to be a total computer generated creation, but he is monumentally boring with absolutely no character development. His sole motivation seems to be, “I failed to conqueror the Earth last time and so I’m totally doing it now.”
Warner Brothers had issued a mandate that the movie could be no longer than two hours and that is exactly what Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon delivered, unfortunately the result is a movie so crammed to the gills with action and plot exposition that we literally have no time to care about any of the characters. There is about zero chemistry between the Justice League members and the writers attempt to lighten things up by turning The Flash into an annoying comic relief sidekick which pissed me off to no end. The Flash is not a sidekick, he is one of the core members of the League and his powers are badass, but for this movie he’s introduced as a social awkward nerd who previous to this movie has apparently done nothing more than shove random criminals aside and then run away. Aquaman even talks smack about The Flash tripping over his own feet, and don’t get me started on how crappy that cluttered costume looks.
Note: Bruce Wayne notes that Flash’s costume is armored with the same materials that is used to protect the space shuttle during re-entry, but if Barry needs this type of protection to keep him from burning up when he engages the Speed Force where is the protection for his face?
One of the hardest elements of writing a Justice League story is justifying why any other team member than Superman (Henry Cavill) is needed, if you need someone to talk to fish you call Aquaman but other than that there isn’t much the team can do that Superman can’t on his own. So you either have to somehow knock Superman out of the action for a while or come up with a serious threat that would require six or more superheroes. Well in the previous movie the studio managed to completely waste the “Death of Superman” storyline and had good ole Supes kacked, but as dumb as that was it did allow for the first half of this movie to exist, and when he does come back *Spoiler* it’s abundantly clear that Steppenwolf and his Parademons were no credible threat to the last son of Krypton. During the final fight Superman is even sent off to rescue some civilians just so the movie doesn’t end too soon.
Justice League is not a terrible movie, and certainly nowhere near as bad as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s a step back from the fun and engaging outing that was Wonder Woman and does not bode well for further team-up movies.
• I still don’t buy the whole world mourning Superman when he never seemed all that beloved in the previous films.
• Aquaman is bitter about his mom, former Queen of Atlantis, for abandoning him as a child. Gee, that sounds something worth seeing.
• Cyborg is a bitter brooding dude who seems to be around only to give exposition.
• “Do you talk to fish?” About the best joke in the movie.
• Batman may be against using guns but cannons and missiles he’s okay with.
• So has Batman’s nightmare from BVS: Dawn of Justice been averted?
• Diana tells the guilt ridden Bruce Wayne, “You didn’t kill him.” Technically no, he didn’t kill Superman but he certainly tried.
• What was with all the cutting to that Russian family? That screen time could have been better utilized.
• The Parademons being uncontrollably drawn to fear was lame.
• Would have been nice to know who was activating the Boom Tubes.
• The League practically hands over the third Mother Box to Steppenwolf because they are idiots.
• J.K. Simmons was criminally wasted as Commissioner Gordon.
Justice League (2017)
Justice League wasn’t the tonal mess I expected, with two cooks working on it there was always that danger, but it’s clear that much of the story and character development was sacrificed to meet the studio’s demands of a two hour standalone movie.