Film Review: Justice League (Warner Bros.)

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Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Batman (Ben Affleck) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) from Justice League

 

Justice League. It’s finally here. Just like The Avengers, this superhero team up has been a nearly life long dream of mine to see on the big screen. And, while it doesn’t include some heroes I would have wanted (Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter) and includes one that showed up way after I stopped reading comic books (Cyborg), it’s overall a pretty successful piece of entertainment.

Fair warning, the DC/Warner Bros. version of what Marvel films has been doing for nearly 10 years now, has been rough going in my eyes to say the least. And what I have liked or loved, hasn’t always coincided with the public at large. I hated Man of Steel with a passion, liked Suicide Squad, wasn’t remotely as high on Wonder Woman as everyone else and believe Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice to be in the top three superhero films of all time. I know. I warned you.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

So Justice League, which began filming in the wake of fairly negative reaction towards BvS, comes as some sort of almost Frankenstein-ian monster. Changes were made to the script after BvS to lighten things up. Then, earlier this year, it was reported that Joss Whedon (formerly Marvel’s grand directing poobah) was brought on board to make further script revisions for reshoots. Then Whedon took over those reshoots completely as the death of Zack Snyder‘s daughter necessitated his bowing out of completing his film. So now we’re here. A film that shot an incredible amount of film and cost somewhere in the vicinity of a reported $300 million. Insanity, right?

 

 

Now’s the point where I warn you: Spoilers abound hence forth. Read on at your own peril.

Ben Affleck as Batman

The look of the film, despite all of this talk about “lightening things up,” is somehow darker than BvS was. There’s far more joking around, however, so I guess that’s what they concentrated on. The plot of Justice League follows the finale of BvS, having to do with the “mother boxes” – three boxes that Steppenwolf (no, not the 1960s classic rock band) is after to transform Earth into…oh who really cares? Anyways, one is being guarded on Themyscira, one in Atlantis, and the last somewhere on Earth. Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) sends parademons (the flying vampire things from BvS) to scout the Earth. Batman (Ben Affleck) is on the hunt for one of these winged creatures when the film starts. When he catches one, it implodes, revealing the three boxes (why exactly?).

So Superman‘s (Henry Cavill) still dead. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has gone back to art restoration and saving people on the side. Batman’s looking to get the group together and goes hunting for each one. First stop is Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who isn’t the least bit interested in helping out…at first. Next is Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller) Allen, a geeky brainiac who jumps at the invitation without a second’s thought. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) takes some convincing, but he ends up suiting up in time for the group to make their first attempt at Steppenwolf beneath Gotham harbor.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Let’s talk Steppenwolf. My God…superhero villains are notoriously awful, but Steppenwolf might be the least interesting and stupidest we’ve seen yet. Hinds is a fine actor, but the villain is neither given anything interesting to do, nor compelling to say. He’s just big and mean and pointless. The best superhero villains, on film at least, are the ones that have to use some form of ingenuity to prove their mettle. When you plop this giant, ridiculously powerful nutjob into the mix, it’s just laziness. Steppenwolf does next to nothing but fight and grumble about shit no one could give a fuck about. By the time the after credits sequence came up revealing 2 huge DC villains, one being seen for the first time on film, it made me happy that maybe, just maybe we won’t have to contend with fucking Darkseid in the next Justice League film. Doomsday in BvS was kind of cool because it was literally an abomination that wanted to do nothing but destroy and got bigger and badder the more it was attacked. The way he was taken out in that film was a master stroke. Steppenwolf’s eventual comeuppance, though a bit different than I expected, was in no way in doubt and with his demise (c’mon, this isn’t even a spoiler) there isn’t the rich dramatic angle that BvS had. On a side note, it’s the single biggest fear I have for the upcoming Avengers films. Thanos is another “all powerful” villain, so they damn well better imbue him with some real cool qualities and dialogue to avoid the Steppenwolf curse here.

It should also come as no surprise that Superman makes his return here. I get the strong feeling that one of the key reshoot aspects that Whedon did is to bring him back a lot sooner. Remember that trailer where someone comes up on Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and he’s happy that he’s returned? I feel like Superman was always going to come back, but much, much later in the film than he does here. I don’t know. Affleck looks a lot different in his scenes recruiting The Flash and Aquaman than he does when he’s proposing to use the one mother box they do have to bring Superman back from the dead. Maybe I’m wrong. I guess the good thing is that Whedon’s reshoots don’t look out of place with what Snyder originally filmed. Tonally and on a cinematography level, the film looks as one. Nothing feels wildly out of place or tacked on.

Honestly, aside from ultimately not really going anywhere significant and having an incredibly shitty villain, Justice League is just a good time at the movies. I got goosebumps in the scenes where the five first begin taking on Steppenwolf and then when all of them have to try and talk sense into Superman after he wakes up from the dead. Seeing these characters come to life and teamed up is pretty damn amazing. But it’s not as much fun as what Whedon did on The Avengers (still the best pure superhero film made – it’s like a living, breathing comic book), or as cool, innovative and dramatically impactful as Batman Vs. Superman is. But it doesn’t shit the bed, either.

Ezra Miller as The Flash

Gadot, Momoa and Miller all help to steal the show, ultimately. Affleck, who I found to be amazing as both Batman and Bruce Wayne in BvS, here is a bit wasted, sadly. I’m worried that he may not be returning for Matt ReevesThe Batman (Affleck was originally going to direct this solo film and had co-written the first script) or for the next Justice League. I believe strongly that Affleck is very much needed for this role. Fisher’s Cyborg ended up getting better towards the end of the film, but ultimately, felt really out of place next to the rest of the cast. I would have preferred Green Lantern, but whatever. What’s done is done. Cavill continues to get more relaxed in his role as Superman, so I’m eager to see where he winds up next. And you absolutely have to stay until after the credits are over for that villains scene. It’s fantastic. I’m truly eager to see where things go from here.

Justice League ends up being a fun time at the movies, one that I’ll gladly go back to. As always with films of this nature, I recommend seeing it in Dolby Cinema/Atmos, RPX or in IMAX. I saw it at an AMC Dolby Cinema and it’s spectacular that way.

Gal Gadot and Zack Snyder work out a fight scene on the set of Justice League

Justice League

 

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