Overall verdict: 7/10
Feels like a mid season filler episode of an otherwise decent TV show
The Good: Generally well shot and choreographed action scenes, amazing visual effects, decent CGI, near perfect portrayal of comic book characters, great acting
The Bad: Inconsistent tone, over reliance on awkward humour, disappointing final battle, generic lighting that betrays the otherwise decent CGI, clash of different styles, reshot footage was painfully obvious
“The Seven Samurai of Superhero movies”
This is what was promised in early interviews and teased through poster homages. The first big screen team up of DC Comic’s greatest heroes was already held to lofty expectations from the start. In an age saturated with comic book movie adaptations, it had to stand out. Unfortunately the studio took the easy route by catering to the lowest common denominator and sacrificing creative integrity for the illusion of a quick buck.
Following the death of Superman, criminals have become emboldened, plunging the world into a state of terror. In London, Wonder Woman stops an extremist bomb Attack while back on Gotham City, Batman is investigating the appearance of flying alien creatures that seem attracted to intense feelings of fear. A close encounter with one of the creatures convinces Batman that the alien invasion he so feared was imminent and he proceeds to recruit the super powered individuals whom he discovered in the previous movie BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Meanwhile, the alien warlord known as Steppenwolf makes planetfall intent on stealing 3 ancient artifacts known as the Motherboxes in order to unite them and summon forth a power that will destroy the earth.
The first act is a hasty haphazardly edited sequence jumping around the world and from character to character. We start off with Wonder Woman, then suddenly cut to Batman. Barely a few minutes in we cut to The Cyborg, Vic Stone, who resents his Father for bringing him back from the dead as a mechanical mockery of a man. Of course this does not get much elaboration as we jump back to Batman as Bruce Wayne who is now in some Northern European country trying to recruit a burly (and definitely awesome looking) Aquaman and then 5 minutes later he is back in his bat cave meeting with Wonder Woman before appearing in Central city another 5 minutes later to recruit Barry Allen aka The Flash. Did we forget the threat of Steppenwolf? No we did not as here he is stealing one Motherbox from the Amazonian Home and then we cut back to Lois Lane? And Martha Kent? They are talking about how they miss Superman and suddenly Cyborg is finding out his dad is kidnaped and Diana is trying to locate him. Aquaman is up next as he returns to Atlantis where he faces Steppenwolf and is defeated then we cut over to Bruce and Barry arriving in Gotham........STOP!
Thereis hardly a sense of chronology or flow to the scenes! Perhaps if the movie was edited to focus on one character at a time culminating in the arrival of Steppenwolf at Paradise Island it would have flowed better. Instead it feels like scenes just end prematurely to cut to a wholly unrelated scene only to cut back minutes later. Arguably the flow improves once the team gets together for their first mission to investigate mysterious abductions in Gotham.
Problems of its truncated narrative aside, JUSTICE LEAGUE does a good job of establishing its characters and building the camaraderie. The chemistry between teammates is impeccable. Their unique personalities play off each other beautifully and there are tender emotional moments interspersed throughout the script. My only beef with the script is all the random moments of humour. It just does not mix well. This is an end of the world scenario and you have awkward slapstick, flat jokes and even traditionally serious characters like Batman trying to be funny.
With its laughable dialogue peppering even serious battle scenes, it feels almost as if the movie is trying to copy the whimsical comedic tone of superhero movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers. Well AVENGERS this movie is not. There is something lacking in terms of the scale of the movie that pales in comparison with predecessors like the superior MAN OF STEEL which culminated in a true world ending threat being averted. In cranking up the comedy, the stakes are trivialised and it becomes difficult to take their story seriously. This seems to be an issue plaguing more and more comic book movies these days.
The hodgepodge Of 2 very differing styles courtesy 2 very different directors is evident from the get go with character even changing appearances between scenes clearly giving away evidence of the insertion of reshoots. Even the overall look of the move was given an overhaul. Gone is the evocative colour filters of past movies replaced with a palette that highlights reds and flesh tones. Also in removing the filters, the CGI elements stand out more due to the lighting mismatch with the non-CGI elements. Basically, removing the filters and boosting up the colours ended up emphasising the flaws of the otherwise high end visual effects instead of masking them.
Thisis a huge pity as much of the action depends on visual effects. Even the villain Steppenwolf is a full CGI character. Thankfully he is a compelling threat. His limited screen time gives him an air of mystery like one of those traditional slasher movie villains and his twisted personality really comes through. The action is also masterfully shot for the most part utilising dynamic camera angles and slow motion to give the perfect resemblance to comic book panels brought to life. Only the final battle comes across as disappointing and generic (and very obviously a reshoot).
It pains me to have to counter every positive with a negative but there is something I have always enjoyed and it is when movies go beyond being mere stimulators of adrenaline and endorphins, and instead address and explore deeper themes in the narrative. Movies that get you thinking. Justice League was none of this and it is sad because there was a lot of potential to explore. Cyborg’s situation as an analogy for physical disability, Flash’s anxiety issues, Batman’s guilt over his past actions and more.
We are hinted at the more metaphorical aspect of a movie as a tale of reviving hope in the most hopeless of situations. We are hinted at moral conflicts and the ethics of Batman’s sudden proposal to revive Superman with an alien device. We are hinted at a much deeper narrative surrounding the individuals and their emotional baggage. Hinted hinted hinted but never explored or even addressed outright. Buried under the awkward humour sprinkled almost at random. Themes that were explored in past movies, the deconstruction/reconstruction of a savior archetype, the impact of super powered beings on international politics, the world’s reaction to such beings, and much more all abandoned.
The result is a truncated summary of an epic that could have been. A film that hints at greater things but never delves deep into them. Sacrificing thematic depth for levity robs the movie of any uniqueness it may have had in this day and age saturated with superficial superhero shows. It’s inconsistency is it’s greatest weak spot and seems to indicate that the studio had little interest in telling a compelling tale. The amazing action, the bombastic battles which showcase the extent of each characters’ skills, and the near perfect portrayal of each character show that this movie was meant merely as a primer: a means to instil an audience with a greater interest in its characters so as to get them on board for the many inevitable spinoffs. It may make you see superheroes as cool again in a most perfunctory way, but little else beyond that.
Replay value: B+