Quick Hit: A combination of styles and a desire to be more appealing lead this film to be what it is – appealingly beautifully messy.
I may be a DC fan, but really, I’m just a fan of good characters. I’m just as into the MCU as anyone, and I don’t detract on DC for trying to set up the same thing that Marvel did – the comics have been copying ideas from each other for years. With our subsequent posts on Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman, my faithful DFP readers have seen me glean various degrees of enjoyment from the DC universe. And in some ways, Justice League fixes one of my biggest criticisms of the universe – its treatment of Superman (if someone dares call that a spoiler, I will simply stare at them blankly). However, in doing so, DC did exactly what I was afraid of when I heard that the great Joss Whedon was attached to the project – become a bit too much of a Marvel mirror.
First, let me just say that watching the collection of heroes on the screen was wonderful in ways I cannot describe. Let me follow that up by saying that the chemistry between the cast members actually works, and is probably the best part of the film. The gleeful banter, coupled with the terrific action shots (at times – more on this later) lead to a really enjoyable group dynamic. There is also a small character arc for nearly every player here, but the movie isn’t long enough to really give each arc the time it deserves. What each character does manage to have is their own moment in the sun, and their own purpose in being part of the league, which I think is extremely important.
The inclusion of all these different heroes allows both of those that were directing (Joss and Zach Snyder) to have lots of different aspects to play with. This also allows all the characters to truly tap into the aspects of the heroes that we haven’t really seen yet. You have Batman’s (Ben Affleck) glum attitude and the fact that he’s not getting any younger – Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still as hopeful as ever, and newcomer Flash (Ezra Miller) is trying to figure out his role in the world with his new power set. Ezra Miller is often times the stand-out for his portrayal – which is easily recognizable as an amalgam of Flash interpretations from the comics and the animated series (most closely resembling Michael Rosenbaum’s Justice League version). The only critique I really have with Flash is his goofy running style which looks like he’s on skates. Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) just wants to be himself, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is struggling with his new power set and what it means to be who he is. But the problem is that all this is wrapped in such a quick, glamourous looking package. There’s very little meat past the initial character introductions, which leads me to the absolute worst part of the film – the villain.
Steppenwolf is not exactly a name that is known like “Lex Luthor” or “The Joker” or even “Gorilla Grodd” (Flash fans – you get a shout out). And this film really did nothing to introduce casual comic book fans to who he is. Instead we get essentially a villain straight out of the MCU – a CGI strawman with a dubious motivation set and no real characterization. The villain isn’t just bad – he’s horrendous, and at no times did I doubt that the JL should kick him all the way back to whatever dimension he came from. However, I will say the fact that they worked in, through his inclusion, both Atlantis and another scene in Themyscira, and probably one of the best small superhero shout outs in recent memory (think Green).
I can complete understand and rationalize what went wrong with the movie – you had two very different directors, plus the studio, that all wanted something different for the movie. And I don’t doubt that a lot of this film will be a crowd pleaser, because it’s a lot like the current MCU – fluffy. One of the reasons I wasn’t as harsh as some people about other DCU films is because they felt so different. There were real stakes and real grounded circumstances. But on this film we flew right into the other side of the spectrum, and so it’s not my favorite of the DCU films. That still lies with Man of Steel, for all its own issues with its portrayal of the Boy in Blue (I know, I know I gave Wonder Woman a better grade - it's a better film).
A small shout-out – the introduction of Superman once more, though rushed, is probably one of the best scenes in the movie. Couple it with an absolute laugh out loud moment with Ezra Miller, and it was my favorite moment, bar none.
In conclusion, this film is a mixed bag that will likely lead almost everyone to have something they liked. I doubt that overall a ton of people will hate it, but I also seriously doubt anyone will leave saying it’s their favorite film either. Most people will feel it’s good or average. I think my grade of a “B-“matches those sentiments. Stay for one mid credits and one end credits scene. See you next time folks.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"