Justice League - Review

When I was a kid I never would have believed that I would have seen all of my favorite superheroes in a live action movie on the big screen. A Justice League movie should be a reason to celebrate! Well, a Justice League movie did come out, and while it was laced with fun moments, those moments were engulfed in a cocoon of problems that really brought the film down a few notches.

Continue reading to see more thoughts on Justice League but beware of spoilers!

Let's start with the positives. The cast is stellar. When they were allowed to do so, they all embodied their characters that had rich histories, while bringing their own takes that distinguished them from the people before them that had played these characters. The banter and chemistry between the characters was by far the strongest part of the movie.

If Justice League did anything good, it is that they fixed Superman. He was finally what Superman should have been all along. Zack Snyder doesn't understand who Batman or Superman are. He either finally had an epiphany, or it was Joss Whedon or someone else involved with the making of the film that allowed Superman to be Superman.

The other great thing was Danny Elfman's score. Without it, the film would be utterly forgettable. Using the Batman theme he created for Tim Burton's Batman film in 1989 was a perfect choice; and no one will ever create a better superhero theme than John Williams did for Superman, so incorporating those into the score for this film - arguably Batman and Superman's biggest stage - saved the film from being a complete disaster. Never underestimate the power of music.

That is pretty much where the positives end in a general sense. The film is better than Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad but then again, an instructional video on how to submit your tax returns is a better film than
Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.

Wonder Woman is one of the best films of the year. It was everything that a superhero movie should be, and while the film wasn't perfect Diana Prince's character journey was pretty much perfect. Justice League undid a lot of the progress that they made in that film. Between lingering shots on Gal Gadot's tight leather pants, low-cut civilian clothing, and Diana still pining over Steve Trevor nearly 100 years later, Justice League took a lot of what was great about her and minimized it to a caricature of herself. Just look at the Amazonians - in Wonder Woman, they had sensible armor. In Justice League they had midriff baring clothing that were essentially leather bikinis - perfect for protection while fighting right?

Ray Fisher played Cyborg, who is a great character in the comics. Fisher gave a nuanced performance, but the character was rushed and not able to shine. They didn't do him justice if they want to give him a future in the DCEU. He went from not knowing how to control his cybernetic enhancements to controlling all of Batman's tech in a matter of minutes. The run time didn't allow for his character evolution, especially a studio-mandated run time at that. Even if Snyder and Whedon (who finished up the film after Snyder left to deal with a family tragedy) wanted to, the studio didn't let them, and that is cancerous to art and expression for the sake of money. I hope he gets his due one day, because shoddy CGI aside (even though Cyborg's was actually was pretty good compared to everybody else's), what he was able to do in the short time with the character definitely had potential.

Aquaman is the definition of a b-list hero. He was campy, and a little ridiculous. DC has done a lot of work to fix that image of the recent years, and casting Jason Momoa as Aquaman when he should look like Ryan Seacrest is one of them. Aquaman got a bit more development than Cyborg, only because Aquaman's movie is out about a year from now. However, for being Aquaman, he spends a lot of time in the air. He jumps when he fights, launches off of Batman's vehicles and gets caught by a flying Cyborg. Let Aquaman be Aquaman! Summon a tsunami, the power of the ocean can be devastating. I want a great white shark to jump out of the water Jurassic World style and eat some parademons! Granted, they probably didn't want to pop their Aquaman cherry too early, and are saving those moves for his solo adventure. But Momoa oozed the charm needed to be the solo leading man and that was all that was needed.

We've seen the adventures of Barry Allen as The Flash on TV for nearly 4 years now. So it was weird seeing a different take on the same character running concurrently to it. Ezra was definitely the comedic heart of the film. They spent the most time with him out of the supporting characters. They seem to be setting up a Flashpoint film. I hope that gets off the ground, they've gone through about 4 directors already. There were some threads laid in Justice League that could easily be picked up for a later film. I still prefer Grant Gustin's take on the character from the TV show, but I've had four years of him. Give me Ezra a few more times, and he could definitely grow on me.

The plot was standard and forced, the CGI was abysmal (more on that later) but my biggest issue was the treatment of Batman. Here's the thing. The reason Batman is so extraordinary, is because of how ordinary he is. He isn't a god, an alien, or from an ancient warrior race. He isn't a meta-human with special powers. He is a regular human and can beat all of them. He has their weaknesses ready to use against them at a moments notice. He's the smartest person in the room at all times. He has earned the leader status because gods and aliens respect and fear him. That is what Batman is, except in Justice League. Here, he isn't really needed in the fight. He gets rescued at almost every juncture. To be fair, none of the Justice League were needed since the parademons themselves essentially defeated Steppenwolf. But Batman didn't get the respect he deserved and it was an absolute shame.

Batman was however, willing to sacrifice himself if necessary to get Superman to return. So while they got Batman wrong, they absolutely nailed Superman. But everything in this movie seems to have been plagued by something. Due to the director debacle, there were a lot of things reshot. At the time, Cavill was filming Mission: Impossible 6 and had a big bushy mustache. Paramount wouldn't let him shave it off, so he had to go film his new Superman scenes with a CGI'd upper lip. It is insanely obvious too. It took me right out of the movie, and made the scenes less impactful. For the most part, the CGI was just awful. Some fighting scenes looked like video game graphics. It was a rush job to meet a deadline, and it was obvious.

The plot was messy, rushed, and there were no stakes to be invested in. We were told why these boxes were important. I'm still not just dead sure what Steppenwolf was doing with them or why he decided now was the time to get them, and how he was so easily able to get into Themyscira and Atlantis.  We were just quickly told things. Nothing was earned. We are meant to care about Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman - characters we've seen nearly nothing of, automatically. Justice League was a fun character spectacle but nothing more. The villain was incredibly weak. While Marvel has had this problem before too, they have built something that can endure a weak villain. The DCEU hasn't been afforded that luxury yet.

Hopefully Justice League is a stepping stone to greater things. The ending and the post credit sequences certainly teased that. I'll revisit this again, because there might be some more things to mine that I didn't get. In trying to fix their mistakes from Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad they created new ones. I love these characters and I hope we can get back on the right track that Wonder Woman started us on.

There are things to like in this movie though, and you should form your own opinion so go see it for yourself.

Justice League is now playing in theaters everywhere.


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