I’m not sure where we all stand on the DC Universe now. The first three films, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad are all very divisive, with the mere mention of them starting subreddit wars. However, then Wonder Woman came out and was seriously amazing, making us think that maybe we had turned a corner and that the DC Universe was about to become as great as we all wanted it to be. But to prove that Wonder Woman was not a fluke, Justice League needs to be seriously good. So, was it good enough to banish the doubters away forever?
As warned, aliens start to invade Earth believing the planet is defenseless after the death of Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man From U.N.C.L.E). Fearing the extinction of all life on Earth, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck, Argo) enlists Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, Furious 7), Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About Kevin), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa, Stargate: Atlantis) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher, The Astronauts Wives Club) to defeat the invading force.
A lot of the thrill that comes from having an actual live-action Justice League movie is that we get to see all these characters together. It helps that the five are all brilliantly cast. I won’t go on for much longer about Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, I’ve already talked about how brilliant they are in reviews for Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman. So let’s talk about the new guys. Ezra Miller as The Flash has a tough job because we’ve had a very good Flash in the shape of Grant Gustin on TV for a while. His depiction was so well liked that some wanted him in the movie and were unhappy that Miller was cast. But he makes this Barry Allen his own, a very awkward young adult who seems to be happy being part of this team simply because he wants friends. Then there’s Jason Momoa, who makes perennial joke Aquaman into one of the best parts of the movie. And Ray Fisher is going to get cast in a lot more things after doing such a great job with the surprisingly meaty role of Cyborg. Basically, this is a great team you are very happy to get behind.
Justice League feels like it knows what’s doing now as well. Both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad decided to change what they were trying to do halfway through production which left to some bizarre tonal shifts. Even though this film did have some extensive reshoots, it at least feels like it knows what kind of film it’s trying to tell. It still has plenty of darkness, but everything has been brightened up a bit. There’s actual color for one thing and unlike the depths of despair that Man of Steel liked to plunge you into every ten minutes, this film actually has quite a hopeful view which is amazing considering the villain wants to turn the world into hell. Some fans may be irritated that it’s moved away from how this universe started, but it’s far more enjoyable to watch now.
The action, however, is a mixed bag and much like the previous DC movies. By that I mean there are some brilliant moments and some terrible ones. Some scenes are brilliantly done, especially Wonder Woman’s introduction taking down some religious terrorists in England. I’m also partial to the more epic stuff and think that the way Flash’s speed force stuff is done. But then you have to look at some of the other action which is really weak. Plenty of scenes have way too many cuts which mean you struggle to follow what’s going on. Then there are the scenes where the CGI looks a bit off and it becomes noticeable that a lot of what you are seeing comes from a computer rather than real life. I’m not sure if the difference in quality in some action scenes is because of the change of directors during the movie, but it does drag the movie down.
I know that DC has been trying to catch up to Marvel in many ways but they have unfortunately copied one of their worst attributes, bland villains. Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds, Frozen) may look fearsome, but that’s pretty much the only interesting thing about him. He wants to come to Earth to destroy it and make it like his home world and that’s pretty much it. He has an army of parademons which are just cannon fodder to make our heroes look more awesome. And I get that is the whole point, the movie would rather focus on the heroes and them being together. But it means that Steppenwolf is very dull and not someone who will be remembered beyond the credits. Could be the worse though, he at least doesn’t do the Macarena while destroying everything with a giant sky beam. Yes I am still mad about that Suicide Squad.
And just because Justice League has learned from the DC films that have gone before it doesn’t mean it is completely rehabilitated. It still carries some of the big issues that afflicted the films that came before, mostly too many storylines that don’t ever get properly developed. This isn’t as bad as it was in Batman v Superman where it used about 20 different famous comic storylines in one movie, making it all too crammed and giving no one time to breathe in a two and a half hour film. But there is one certain part where you think that you could make this short ten-minute scene into an actual movie, and it would have a far bigger impact than it has here. I get the feeling that the people behind the movie are like children at the sweet shop, they get excited at all the opportunities and end up getting sick by trying to have a bit of everything instead of getting one thing right.
It’s frustrating that after how wonderful Wonder Woman was that we end up taking a step back with Justice League. It has many of the same problems that have afflicted previous DC movies which makes you concerned that not all lessons have been learned. But it is still a movie I enjoyed and has plenty to like about it. The cast is great and you can easily see all five making their versions of the characters iconic if they get the movies to back up their casting. This tone makes the movie much less of a slog and it’ll even make you laugh from time to time. It will be disappointing to some but for the rest of us, it is one of the better efforts from DC in recent years. Justice League is worth a watch.