I’m no subscriber to the belief that you are either a Marvel or DC fan. All I want are good movies, and whichever studio can deliver those is absolutely fine by me. Have DC delivered a good movie in Justice League? Well, no. But it also isn’t a cluster f**k like Suicide Squad was. So I guess how you ultimately feel about the DCEU’s big team up will depend if you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person.
Lets start with what works…and obviously keep in mind, from here on in there may be spoilers lurking…
However much criticism director Zack Snyder gets, the guy does make visually stunning movies. Justice League is no different. Most of the 120 minute runtime is chock-full of beautiful shots. Stunning landscapes, arty transitions, slow motion ass kicking and gratuitously lit shots of Aquaman’s cod piece, it’s all there.
In it’s short life the DCEU has received a lot of flack for how seriously it takes itself. The movies and the characters were always too dark and brooding. Even Superman, who should be rooted in colourful, cheesy righteousness. The tone and look of Justice League is a massive step forward in this area. It feels as though previously the contrast was stuck on 50, and someone has suddenly discovered it can be turned up to 100.
There are also lots of jokes. Some good and some not so. You get the impression that the ones that do land are largely through Joss Whedon’s influence (a ‘Do you bleed?’ meta moment between Batman & Superman a particular favourite). Whereas the ones that don’t, create the vibe of a dad that’s trying too hard to impress their kids friends. The point is that this time around at least the effort was there, and that’s appreciated.
The main cast of characters is great. Gal Gadot has made Wonder Woman her own already and is excellent here. Ben Affleck is again a fine Batman, however he definitely doesn’t seem to be enjoying the role. Recent reports about him wanting to retire the cowl are not surprising.
Particularly impressive are the new roster of heroes introduced though. Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman was great. His upcoming solo outing should be a damn good time. Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg was someone I didn’t have high hopes for, but became a standout. DC already giving Cyborg a solo movie makes a lot more sense having seen Fisher in action. Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash can be annoying, but mostly manages to hold his own as the comic relief. Henry Cavill is also finally enjoying the hell out of playing Superman in this movie, and it’s great to see his natural charm shine.
What doesn’t work…
The plot. Frankly it’s a complete mess. It’s convoluted and rushed, with little time given to any natural character progression or motivation. The DCEU seems to be suffering from a crisis of confidence. This isn’t surprising, given the negativity most of the movies have received up until now. What this has meant for Justice League is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It tries hard to be serious, poignant and moving, but also light-hearted and humorous, and doesn’t really succeed at being any of those things convincingly.
It’s also undoubtedly suffered from having two directors (Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon) with distinctly different styles. You can see elements from both throughout the movie. The problem is that you can almost pinpoint exactly which scenes and lines are Snyder’s, and which are Whedon’s. The result is that the different themes and tones each have tried to achieve end up undermining, rather than complimenting each other.
Essentially the main reason Justice League is not as good as it could (or should) be, is the same reason all of the DCEU movies have suffered so far. It’s also the reason they will continue to chase Marvel. They haven’t taken their time. Where Marvel meticulously planned their universe through multiple solo movies, and carefully introduced characters prior to team ups, the DCEU have blown their load early, and left no one really satisfied but themselves.