Justice League isn’t as bad as many critics are claiming, but it definitely isn’t the best superhero film either…
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes–Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash–it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Look, we are only a handful of films into Warner Bros.’ expensive and dull DC Extended Cinematic Universe and it’s clear that they could not be more desperate to catch up to Marvel’s near two dozen films and the acclaim that accompanies them. There really isn’t much to say about the DC film universe that hasn’t already been expressed heavily by every film critic on the planet. So while we are not going to use this time to recap all of that negativity, it should be noted that the majority of those well-founded criticisms are not present in Justice League. This leads me to being on the other side of the criticism fence for the second time since the DCEU began (the first being with Wonder Woman). The point is Justice League isnt that bad. It just isnt that good either.
There are tons of cringeworthy Flash-face moments though, so there’s that at least.
A few lines up I touched on how the “majority” of criticisms of the DCEU don’t plague JL, which I stand by firmly. However, that doesn’t mean that some of them don’t make themselves known and overstay their welcome though. Such as not having any build-up for the world around us with references to moments that would’ve been great to see for ourselves in individual solo movies.
For instance, it would be really cool to know all of the villains Batman has faced over the years to get a better grip where he is at mentally, instead of just off-the-cuff remarks between he and Alfred as if to say “did you catch that Penguin reference I made? Did you? Did you? Ah, that was for you, the fans.” But the big three elephants in the room with this world is obviously the lack of understanding behind Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, the three of whom are easily the best parts about Justice League.
Flash is the comedic relief, no surprise there. The trailers for JL really laid it on thick in letting fans know that there were moments in the film they could laugh at. What they didn’t tell you is that most of them were awkward, often times forced or random, and all the while constantly reminding us that we really don’t know these characters at all.
You know what, in order to do this right, we really need to break down these three characters in order to get an adequate idea as to what worked well and what didnt. So let’s do that real quick.
Barry Allen is fast, the fastest man on the planet even. With the appropriately named “Speed Force” aiding him, Flash could literally solve half of the problems in the movie. But he doesn’t, because he is quirky, socially awkward, and incapable of making friends on his own which constantly puts him at odds with not only the group, but the larger task(s) at hand. For example, during the first fight between the League and Steppenwolf, Barry reveals that he is afraid of bugs, and therefore can not get close enough to engage in the flying grasshopper people that feed off of a person’s fear. That’s like a double-whammy of uselessness for who is arguably among the most useful and powerful League members. For any lack of fight experience, he can make up for by running so fast, time is at a stand still (which it might have been based on how it was perceived on screen) and hitting everyone with a stick or a rock or something.
Barry is fast, awkward, and sometimes funny. But there were rarely any moments where we could take the character seriously. It was like the whole DCEU had spent so much time trying to be so dark, that it had to sacrifice one of its core characters to make up for it by throwing zany one-liners out there every few minutes just to lighten up the mood. I like Ezra Miller, and I love the Flash. What I don’t love, is sacrificing a character’s intelligence for the sake of comedy when the two don’t have to necessarily be mutually exclusive. When we meet Barry, he seems highly intelligent, self-aware, and a little awkward. As the movie goes on, he can’t tell which way is east or west and constantly reminds the audience that he is so socially inept, that it almost gets annoying.
Jason Momoa. I could just say his name to get my point across and leave it at that, but holy damn, Momoa killed it in this role. Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, is constantly the butt of all superhero jokes, and an endless meme of the Justice League. But not this time. In JL, Aquaman is rugged, tough, fearless, occasionally philosophical, and a multi-dimensional character that will continue to receive endless praise from me. The only problem, aside from a rather forced and rough introduction, is that Aquaman’s lore, lineage, and heritage is scattered all over the place in this movie. Not Momoa’s fault, he killed it and looked like he had a ton of fun doing it. But man, the writing in this film tried to pin him down like no other, but he managed to break through with flying colors. He even managed to deliver one of the funniest moments in the while film after he had a little mishap with Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. But if you consider that the world is made up of more than 70% water, that means that there is more than 3x the amount of adventure and mystery when compared to the land portion. That’s a lot of story to ignore just to introduce Aquaman by giving Bruce Wayne a .gif in an email, then follow that up by having him be a center character in what should have been one of the most amazing and badass comic book movies of all time. Shame on the production side, but major props to Momoa for being amazing.
If you can get over the fact that Cyborg looks like Ray Fisher had his limbs replaced with left over Decepticon scraps, then you would find a pretty good character in Cyborg, aka Victor Stone. Among all of the Leaguers, Stone is the only one at odds with who he is. A kid with a scholarship, on the path to athletic greatness, fame, and success, all of that is taken away in an instant due to a tragic accident (that is barely explained, since so much was crammed into this film). With the help of science and some crazy supernatural sci-fi stuff, Victor Stone is miraculously able to hack anything and summon YouTube videos with his bare robot hands. Okay, a little odd but honestly, without Cyborg the Justice League would have bee screwed. He singlehandedly supported the JL and pretty much saved the day or two the film spanned over. But what makes Cyborg so great, is that he doesn’t want to be what he has become. He has chosen the whole “curse” perspective over the gift thing. Yeah, glass half full much? Anyway, his struggle with coming to terms with who he is throughout the film was pretty much the only attempt to tug at the emotional heartstrings for audience members. Nothing else moved me while watching this film, except for Fisher as Victor Stone.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Wonder Woman is just as awesome as she was in her solo film, and Batman is… well… not really Batman. I couldn’t help shaking the feeling that this iteration of Batman was far more different than the version we saw in Dawn of Justice. Affleck doesn’t seem to portray the conviction of Batman, nor the persona of Bruce Wayne, save for the single exchange between Barry and Bruce when they first meet where the former asks the latter of the nature of his super power.
Welp, all right then…
So after the five embark on a journey to take down Steppenwolf, some sort of modern day Hitler with an elk helmet on and a really large axe/hammer thing, Batman and friends deduce that there is a chance to revive Superman. Not to spoil anything, but they do. Anyway, the following scenes after Supes revival are probably the raddest part of the film in its entirety. Clark isn’t quite himself and doesn’t remember Bruce, let alone even recognize the other JL members. A battle ensues that is easily the highlight of the whole two hours and one minute you’ll be in your seat (if you discount the trailers).
From there, the movie takes a dive. Steppenwolf’s history with earth is explained where we see a couple of Green Lanterns partnering with humanity and the Amazons. Heck, even the Gods come down to help stop Steppenwolf. But the thing is, that wasn’t needed at all. After Superman gets his marbles back in the bag (he took way too long to give a sh*t about helping), he shows up at the last minute and whips the crap out of Steppenwolf with so little effort and barely any help from the other League members, that it makes you wonder just why even bother having a Justice League at all. It took armies, Lanterns, and Gods facing him eons earlier, it seems so absurd that a single OP Kriptonian can do the job alone in under five minutes.
Okay, so now that we have all of the above fresh in our minds, the two biggest complaints I feel I must point out are the rushed introduction of core characters, and the brief attempts to cover their origin stories in passing (that was one complaint), with the other being some of the cheapest and poorly executed CGI I have ever seen. The sets and explosions and backgrounds and just, everything. But perhaps the worst, was Henry Cavill himself, having his face, and this is not a joke, his face completely covered in CGI due to having a mustache he was contractually obligated to keep due to filming another movie at the time. Yes, they had to CGI Cavill’s face to cover up his mustache because of a contract obligation. And holy crap, was it noticeable. Half the movie I wondered if it was some other actor with Henry Cavill’s face CGI’d over it, and other times I had to lean over to my friends in the theater with me to ask if he had some horrible face disfigurement that took place during filming that I didn’t know about. Nope. Mustache.
JUSTICE LEAGUE EXEC: We can just CGI Henry Cavill’s mustache out it will be fine and not look weird at all
HENRY CAVILL: pic.twitter.com/Ag41j6LbPn
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) November 17, 2017
Henry Cavill’s mustache could not be contained by mere human CGI pic.twitter.com/TnxdpbeNVT
— Zack (@Blankzilla) November 16, 2017
The movie ends with a rather boring and lackluster finish where Steppenwolf is defeated or whatever, but what really had people surprised were the two stinger credit scenes. The first of which touches briefly on the age old rivalry of who is faster between Flash and Superman. But the other scene, which was pretty long, introduces Death Stroke and revisits Lex Luthor on a yacht somewhere after having escaped from Arkham (for some reason?) where the two casually mention putting their own group together to combat the League (dun dun dunnnnnn… Legion of Doom).
Let me be blunt; Justice League was kind of fun. And I will say it was the most fun I had with the DCEU in the theater so far. Was it good? Maybe to fanboys who would take a bullet for the franchise, but for those that know the proper formula for setting up characters in a larger universe with intricate detail? Probably not. Either way, it is probably worth seeing. Just don’t expect anything great, because there really isn’t much to praise here. Except for Momoa as Aquaman, just dayumm.