Review - 'Justice League'
We have been inundated with numerous superhero films this year, which really isn't much of a surprise. What is a surprise, however, is that all of them have been good; Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok were all good-to-great superhero films. That leaves Justice League to either put a black mark on the near-spotless record, or continue the trend. It does neither. Instead, Justice League opts to occupy a muddled middle-ground and will probably fade from the memory once next year's Black Panther rolls around.
Justice League follows Bruce Wayne/Batman and Wonder Woman as they recruit heroes to combat the impending threat of Steppenwolf and his army of parademons.
I suppose the biggest surprise about Justice League is that, for the most part, it feels like a cohesive film. I say this is surprising for two reasons. Reason one: Justice League essentially had two directors. Zack Snyder, the original director worked on most of the film, but Joss Whedon handled extensive re-shoots after Snyder had to leave due to his daughters tragic suicide. Reason two: DC extended universe films have a tendency to be edited in a nearly incomprehensible manner, look no further than Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman. So naturally you would assume that Justice League might suffer from the same problems, and it still sort of does at times, but it's impressive that they managed to edit it in a way that at least makes sense.
Another thing that surprised me about Justice League was how much I ended up enjoying the various characters and how well they interacted with one another. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is a big bright spot which really isn't much of surprise, as is Ben Affleck as the Batman. It makes me a little sad to think that Affleck could be on the way out, I would love to see him under the careful guidance of Matt Reeves in the new Batman trilogy. Out of the newcomers, Ezra Miller shines as Barry Allen/Flash, even if the majority of his lines are playful quips. Miller adds a sense of whimsy that is infectious. Despite claims that Ray Fisher who plays Cyborg gets the short end of the stick, I actually felt that his character was pretty well-realized and that he actually did get his fair share of moments. Surprisingly, the same can not be said for Jason Momoa as Aquaman. I enjoyed his gruff, humorous take on the character, but he really doesn't get enough screen time to make much of an impression. Finally, and mild spoilers here, we have Superman himself played by Henry Cavill, and he's pretty awesome, despite some of the worst CGI I've seen in recent memory.
Now despite these significant steps forward for the franchise, this film also takes its fair share of steps back. The most egregious problem with Justice League is actually not much of a surprise. The entire third act is a cacophony of muddled CGI. DC films have been no stranger to this flaw since Man of Steel graced us with some of the most over-the-top city decimating action sequences. Man of Steel went too far, but at least it was cool to look at, Justice League's final fight looks straight-up ugly. There's so much going on and none of it looks real. It is easily one of the most deflating and boring action sequences I've ever seen in a superhero movie. Which is strange because most of the sequences leading up to it actually looks pretty good and had a sense of creativity about them that kept things engaging.
Another critical mistake that Justice League commits is in its run time. Clocking in at a lean hour-and-fifty-nine minutes, this is the shortest film in the series thus far. It's baffling, because this is a film that would have had a justifiable excuse to be longer. The length does ensure that boredom doesn't set in, but I would have liked to see these characters get to know each other a bit more, then maybe there could have been some higher dramatic stakes and I might have been more invested in that terrible third act. This movie isn't really concerned about making you feel any real emotions, it's just here to entertain.
From a technical standpoint, Justice League is also a pretty huge disappointment. As I mentioned earlier, a good portion of the effects-work is poor. The smaller sequences are fine, but when Zack Snyder tries to widen the scope of the action it just ends up looking like a bad video game. Also, the score by Danny Elfman really isn't that great. There are some musical cues that call back to previous scores that at first I appreciated before I then realized how lazy it was to recycle old themes in a film that isn't part of the same universe.
All-in-all, this is not the crowning jewel I was hoping for. When I think of a Justice League movie, I think of something that should be spectacular that's filled with jaw-dropping, fist-pumping moments. Justice League isn't bad, but it makes almost no impression whatsoever. It's entertaining, sure, but it really isn't anything more than that, and that's a damn shame.