Avengers, Assemble— Oh, Wait . . .
Justice League is a solid film. From its earliest moments, through its opening credits (an area I think the DCEU consistently nails), Justice League had me hooked—and it kept me thoroughly entertained throughout its two-hour-long runtime. Full of impressive (and sometimes unique) action sequences, as well as a host of likable characters, it successfully brings hope to a troubled cinematic universe.
Unite the League
Justice League’s shining light is the League itself. Ben Affleck does another excellent job of portraying the caped crusader and surely deserves to be mentioned as one of the best. Occasionally, it does feel weird to see Batman cracking jokes and, hell, even at one point shedding a smile or two with the other characters—but overall it’s a great performance and it will be a shame to see him hang up the cowl. We all know that Affleck wants out, and without delving into spoiler territory, this is subtly addressed in the film. Things are certainly lining up for his eventual (inevitable) departure.
Gal Gadot reprises her role of Wonder Woman and delivers another stellar performance. She is a shining light, and in some ways a foil to the darker edge we see with Batman. Ezra Miller gives one of the standout performances as Barry Allen, aka the Flash. It’s fair to call him comic relief, but he’s also the character that nerds like us can relate to most. His character is inherently funny; it’s not just an onslaught of jokes (something Marvel occasionally crosses into). Most of the humor lands, and it is used sparingly, never impeding on a dramatic moment. This humor also works thanks to some strong direction and great comedic timing; either Zack Snyder’s been working on his chops or Joss Whedon has worked his magic.
The League is rounded off by Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). These characters are sometimes overshadowed by the others, but they are still given decent amounts of screen time and both have their role to play in the plot. This isn’t a Hawkeye scenario here. In fact, the team balance and chemistry between each member is one of the film’s strongest points.
As we all know, Justice League’s reshoots led to Henry Cavill’s famous mustache debacle due to his role in the upcoming Mission: Impossible 6. This resulted in the VFX team having to CGI-out his mustache and, well . . . you can kinda tell. It isn’t the most jarring thing in the world, but if you’re looking for it, there’s no denying the fact his upper lip is awfully . . . well, you know, absent.
Justice League pits the League against Steppenwolf—which is a cool name for a power metal band. It’s a generic villain, I won’t lie, and his motivations are piss-poor. It doesn’t look like Snyder was even attempting to create a decent villain because there’s literally no effort to be found.
However, I actually didn’t have that much of a problem here. Steppenwolf is not an engaging villain, but he is a pretty formidable foe who appears frequently throughout the film and actually beats the crap out of our heroes. The CGI isn’t as bad as some people are saying, but he does totally look like a video game character and it’s impossible to care about him in the slightest. There are several scenes in which Steppenwolf is the only character on screen, and they could seriously have been screenshots from a video game.
But overall, the CGI is nowhere near horrible.
Justice League contains some incredible action sequences, all of which are beautifully shot. I’m not going to lie, this is a damn good-looking film. Snyder’s vision for the DCEU works; it’s more vibrant than ever before, yet maintains that darkness and grit that we should all crave from the DCEU. Some might say it’s still too dark, and maybe you want something a little more colorful, but the whole film looks incredible. From the set design to the way it’s shot, to the color palette . . .
But the action sequences, in particular, stand out. They’re easy to follow, and you actually feel every blow. The sound design was top-notch. I’m not going to spoil anything, but there are certain fight scenes that are unlike any we’ve seen before in the DCEU or the MCU, scenes that not only show us something different but are well-executed and successfully blend action, character, and humor. Fans of the Injustice video games will find much to like, as there are several shots which could have been ripped straight out of the games. The entire creative vision for this film seriously impressed me. It really makes me hope they don’t try to lighten the film anymore, not from fan pressure or any other reason.
Because this brings me to one point of concern . . .
There are people out there who don’t differentiate between DC and Marvel. There are people who seriously couldn’t tell you if they were watching a DC film or a Marvel film. And, for better or for worse, Justice League might as well be another installment in the MCU. They’re not doing anything differently, story-wise. Sure, this is a well-done film and should help to keep the DCEU alive—but do we want these two cinematic universes to simply mirror one another? Do we want to watch the same thing that we’ve already seen, just with new heroes and villains?
Even tonally, Justice League is more light-hearted, more “fun” (love it or hate it), than previous installments, and that has produced something that works but is simply a repeat of things we’ve already seen. And there’s no denying that DC is playing from behind—Marvel had a five-year head-start.
This is an issue; we can’t ignore it—at least, I can’t. Me, as somebody who really enjoys Marvel films and who has enjoyed many of DC’s films in the past—whether it be Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, V for Vendetta, or Watchmen, etc . . . I don’t think this issue going to be addressed at all in the DCEU, to be honest, but hopefully, DC produces some more standalone films that align more closely to what we got in the past.
Anyway, it doesn’t detract anything from the film—which, again, is solid.
Overall, I was thoroughly entertained by Justice League and I look forward to seeing if Aquaman continues this hot-streak. It’s a popcorn flick, and you shouldn’t go in expecting much else. However, in terms of surface-level entertainment value, and a good time at the movies, Justice League succeeds.
If you look any deeper, well . . . there’s not much else to be found.
Have you seen Justice League? Did you like it? Do you think the DCEU is starting to find its legs, or is it still stumbling along on the heels of Kevin Feige’s MCU machine? Sound off in the comments! I would love to hear your thoughts.
Oh, and make sure you stay right to the end of the credits!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Justice League is in theaters as of this article’s writing and was produced by DC Films. Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures.