Justice League (2017)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, and J.K Simmons
Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust. After seeing Justice League, arguably the biggest film for Warner Bros. and DC Comics to date I have so much hope for the future of DC Films. Hope is the best way I can describe how I felt as the credits rolled and I had finally seen the comic books greatest icons unite in glorious live action. Justice League is in no way a perfect film and I have plenty of issues with it that we will delve into later, but Hope is a powerful force that allows us to overcome almost anything and breathes light into even the darkest of places.
Justice League’s story really isn’t that important and its weakest element, so my description will be brief. In the absence of Superman, our villain, a degraded general from the hell-scape of Apokolips named Steppenwolf comes to Earth to redeem himself in the eyes of his peers and to do so he needs three Motherboxes, to call upon a cataclysmic event that will give him control of the Earth. I know, not exactly original and it doesn’t take many risks, but when it does, the narrative and villain’s motives become meddled in a sea of magic boxes and a plot that moves a little too quickly for its own good. To stop our horned, CGI, world ender, Batman and Wonder Woman must unite a group of would-be superheroes to take down Steppenwolf, before he turns Earth into his personal Apocalyptic paradise.
In the case of Justice League the cliché “The Journey is better than the destination” certainly rings true. Once Batman shows up and starts collecting heroes, I could really care less who they were fighting or why I just never wanted to stop watching them do it. It fully embraces its DC heritage more so than any of the previous films and for the first time, I felt like I was watching a DC comic book come to life. And before anyone gets mad, MoS, BvS, and WW certainly had their comic book inspired moments but when you finally see all these modern gods, together, and enjoying themselves being heroes, it’s impossible not to be filled with joy, excitement and most importantly hope.
Justice League is undoubtedly fun and a blast to watch but it certainly isn’t without some major issues. As I mentioned above Justice League’s story could have been better, and this is mostly due to a breakneck pace, that doesn’t allow for a lot of plot development. Steppenwolf has some great lines and is a cool punching bag, but saddled with a weak plot he didn’t have much else to offer and I just didn’t care who he was or why he was here. A weak villain and basic story shouldn’t be too much of a complaint though as this seems to be a hurdle for all superhero films and one Marvel is only now figuring out on their end.
One of the most noticeable differences in Justice League compared to its other Snyder directed counterparts are Danny Elfman’s score. Unfortunately, even though we get the classic 89 Batman theme and a version of William’s iconic Superman score, everything else just felt generic, bland and didn’t really add that extra element of wow that a score can.
My biggest problem with Justice League and the thing I think could hurt its legacy and re-watchablilty in the future is some really bad CGI. The Speed force sequences and underwater scenes in Atlantis look great for the most part but Cyborg is hard to look at sometimes and thanks to the mustache fiasco, Superman’s CGI face is immediately distracting every time we get to close to him. Luckily for Justice League, it’s easy to look past some issues that would sink other films, as it’s the characters, cast, and culmination of comic’s greatest heroes that makes Justice League so enjoyable.
This is definitely a Zack Snyder film but it feels way toned down compared to everything else he has done, the visuals as always are stunning but some quick editing hurts shots that should linger. Snyder further glorifies these characters with his stunning style, but the hands of Whedon are undeniable as his signature dialogue is all over the place and while we are on the topic of dialogue Justice League isn’t without some cringe-worthy moments. Another lingering effect of Snyder’s direction is unnecessary shots that take away from scenes that could have been included to help push our story and character development forward. I felt like some scenes could have easily been left on the cutting room floor in favor of more time with our characters or villain.
Justice League is a hard tonal shift for the DCEU but one that fits these characters so much better than what we were getting previously. There is more color, laughs, and smiles than any of the other DCEU movies combined and for the first time I actually liked seeing Superman as he is closer to The Man of Steel from the comics than ever. In fact, that is Justice Leagues strongest elements its cast and their portrayal of these heroes. Ezra Miller’s The Flash and Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman were definitely the standouts for me and every time either one of them graced the screen I perked up in my seat a little. Comic book purists may not like the different take on these characters but they do have some inspiration from the pages of DC as The Flash feels like a mix of Barry and Wally West while Aquaman comes across a lot like the badass hooked hand Aquaman from the 90s.
Batman feels the most different from the last time we saw him and definitely less angry, this is the Batman I wish we got in BvS. Wonder Woman continues her all-out dominance as the DCEU’s best character even though I did feel like her skirt shrank a couple inches. Gadot’s confidence as Diana shines through in not just her acting but the character as well. Cyborg felt like the weakest character of the group as I didn’t feel the heart they kept pushing in press interviews and promotions. I have no doubt Fisher will evolve in the role in more ways than one but with the distracting CGI and a slew of other characters that I found far more interesting; Cyborg just didn’t connect with me like the others.
Justice League isn’t the DCEU’s best film, that title still belongs to Wonder Woman, but it’s certainly the most fun and enjoyable to watch DC film to date. Finally seeing the Justice League be the Justice League is unmatched in cinema spectacle, and while the Avengers technically did it first, no offense to Captain America and crew they are not the freaking JUSTICE LEAGUE. But again, I want to reiterate, Justice League’s biggest strength is it’s a firm step in a direction that will hopefully resonate with all audiences and set the tone for all DC Films moving forward. For me I can’t get over the fact that hope is what I’m filled with most when I think about Justice League, hope for these characters, hope for the future of DC Films and hope that I will never have to sit through another bad DC movie again.
Review by: Casey Walsh