When it comes juggling tone, DC’s budding universe can’t seem to make up its mind. Justice League, the latest in the DCEU, represents Warner Bros. and DC Comics latest tonal shift. It’s one thing to want to get away from the dark, brooding image left by Batman v Superman, a film I admittedly enjoyed. It’s another to go in the complete opposite direction. The inability to pick a tone and stick with it, is what has perhaps made this franchise hit and miss thus far. But we’re not reviewing the DCEU as a whole. There’s a lot to like about Justice League, and I found myself enjoying the film more than I expected. It’s fun, energetic, and ultimately, it’s entertaining enough, but not great film.
With the league united, their chemistry keeps the film afloat. Yet, none of the individual characters thrive on their own. Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments as a whole is that Justice League doesn’t do much to make the viewer crave more from the likes of Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. With the holy trinity we know what we’re getting. Introducing new characters is a tough challenge for any franchise, but Zack Snyder and the rest of the brain trust to some degree, botch the introduction of these characters. Jason Momoa is solid, and he brings a lot of energy, but the writing makes it feel like his back story is fleshed out. The same could be said for Flash and Cyborg. I’m not sure how much more there is to learn about these characters going forward.
Even the films central villain is a dud. We’ve taken note of Marvel’s struggles with villains but DC has their own issues here. Steppenwolf is utterly forgettable, and never as menacing as the voice over (Ciaran Hinds) work makes him sound. It’s a standard villain formula. Establish his dominance, raise the stakes, make him look unbeatable all before our heroes easily swoop in and defeat him in cliched fashion. Can someone just create a brand new, actually compelling villain for once?
Visually, the CGI at times feels unfinished. It’s hard to not to notice some of the more egregious moments of less than stellar visuals. Much of the film is blanketed with obvious green screens including one in particular where apparently, real cop cars weren’t available. Maybe the crunched timeline played a role in this. We’ll never know. Nonetheless, the overall aesthetic of the film just doesn’t match the tone set by DC in its other entries. The bright color palette accentuates the fact that, in a very public way, DC and WB are screaming “we’re changing everything!”. But even within their own film, that aesthetic isn’t consistent either. We can tell where Whedon had input, and where Snyder’s vision stayed in the film. Marvel movies have the distinct humorous tone they’ve kept consistency with, why does DC have to change? This franchise can be dark, especially with the deeper themes of some of it’s more notable characters.
Most of the problems with Justice League again, revert back to the issue of tone. A large majority of the comedy in the film falls flat. When the comedy works, it does so within the context of the group as a whole. Ezra Miller is a fine flash. However, the comic relief character feels woefully shoehorned into the film. The script too often calls for Miller to be funny and these moments feel uninspired. The attempts at humor aren’t necessarily awful. Rather, they aren’t the laugh out loud moments they’re gunning for. You smile, move on, and wait for the next one.
It’s not all bad. There are some genuine moments of fun in this film. There’s also a lot of really great references and teases of things to come. Still, there are some bizarre narrative choices particularly in the films second act. Yet despite the last 500 words of negative things to say, I largely enjoyed Justice League. If for no other reason than superhero team-ups are incredibly fun to watch. The chemistry of the cast definitely boosts the movie from becoming a snooze fest. When the characters are having fun, so are you. It’s an infectious brand of energy that for a substantial amount of the run time doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Justice League passes by some of the more intriguing questions Batman v Superman poses. Or, more notably Man of Steel. That’s what I have enjoyed about the series thus far, save for Suicide Squad, that the filmmakers aren’t afraid to dive head first into some interesting topics of conversation. Man of Steel is the shining beacon to prove that point. Justice League favors a humorous Batman, over a deeply philosophical one, which Affleck portrays well in his first outing as the character. Those ponderous moments of reflection on human nature is sadly missing from this latest installment. In Justice League, Affleck’s performance indicates the recent news surrounding him as the character: he’s fulfilling his contract at this point.
Is it a step in the right direction? For most viewers, probably. For me, I’m one of the few who thoroughly enjoyed Batman v Superman. It’s a step back as whole however after summer’s Wonder Woman, an energetic and thoughtful entry into the universe. Justice League does limit my excitement for future movies featuring the new characters introduced, despite committed performances by each of them. It’s a serviceable film. Unfortunately, that’s where the buck stops. Amidst the shockingly cheap looking CGI there’s solid elements here that prevent it from being a total misfire. Justice League is a crowd-pleaser, just not for those expecting a little more out of their comic book adventures.
Have you seen Justice League? Comment below and let us know what you thought of the film!
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Ciaran Hinds, Jeremy Irons
Directed by: Zack Snyder