Co-Review by Emma Smith (Reporter) and Matt Sernaker (Managing Editor),
At one point in Justice League, Superman says to Batman, “I know you didn’t bring me back because you like me” and Batman awkwardly responds, “I don’t not.” And that pretty much encapsulates Justice League. One damns it with faint praise by saying it’s not unlikeable.
I’m not going to pretend that Superman coming back to life in this movie is a spoiler. I’m not dumb enough to not have known that was going to happen, and you, Reader Of This Review, are not dumb enough to not know that is going to happen either. Maybe Warner Brothers and DC want to pretend they have carefully crafted this secret twist in Justice League, but I have more faith in your intelligence. That they treated this obvious storyline as a secret reveals one of the largest problems with Justice League – it’s predictable. And yes, I doubt it will come as a surprise given the recent line of DC movies that there are a lot of problems.
This is not to say that Justice League is all bad. There are some great and fun moments in the movie. For all that “Superman’s return is not a surprise,” the characters manage to do it in a way that works well within the context of this cinematic universe. Some of the fight scenes are fun to watch, especially if you enjoy seeing all the high tech ways Batman compensates for being a mere mortal among the godlike. There is also a fight scene early on that ties this film into the larger DC universe in a surprising and interesting way. Also a good amount of the jokes land their punchlines, provided you are a fan of Joss Whedon’s style of quippy humor.
By far the strongest part of the movie is the main cast. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is just as amazing to watch as she has been in every one of her DC universe appearances. Jason Momoa swaggers as Aquaman in a way true to the wildness of his ocean origins, if not necessarily to his comic origins. Ezra Miller may have been somewhat controversial casting choice for The Flash, but he provides much needed comic relief and an endearing awkwardness. While Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is mainly restricted to stoic lurking in the background, he manages to find humanity even through the lens of a partially CGIed face. Ben Affleck primarily focuses on Bruce Wayne/Batman’s sense of responsibility for Superman’s death and finds a better balance for the character than in previous films. Overall, the cast has good chemistry with each other and manages to feel like a true team by the end of the movie.
But a cohesive cast cannot make up for the fact the movie itself isn’t cohesive. The original director Zack Snyder had to step down before the film was completed. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish it. While Whedon added what Snyder has always lacked – the ability to connect with characters on an emotional level and occasionally be funny – the segments belonging to each director are painfully obvious onscreen and never coalesce into a unified vision for the film.
In addition, the CGI is wildly inconsistent. While there is some that is quite impressive, particularly involving the Speed Force, there are also fight scenes that look like subpar video games and nature set pieces from which one might expect the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland to appear. When it comes to the villain, Ciarán Hinds performs a wonderfully evil voice under horrible visual aesthetics but cannot save the Big Bad. Steppenwolf may have seemed like a good villain in the story room, but the writers’ failure to explain his place in the “New Gods” universe means his motivations are unclear beyond “evil being trying to take over the world.” Also, I don’t care what Jack Kirby fans say “mother boxes” is not a good name for a mystical energy source and is uttered far too many times in this movie.
Look, if you are a big fan of any member of the Justice League, if you go see every Joss Whedon or Zack Snyder movie, if you want to see Jason Momoa shirtless or Wonder Woman kick someone’s ass, if you like giant fight scenes, or if you are a hardcore fanboy who wants to critique all the ways this movie fails to match up to the comic books, you are going to enjoy this movie. But given the depth and wealth of the source material and the resources Warner Brothers and DC devoted to this movie, it is disappointing that this is the best they could do. It’s better than Batman v. Superman but not as good as Wonder Woman. So recently tantalized by an actually good DC movie, once again the audience is left to wonder if the potential in this universe will pay off – next time.
Our ComicsOnline team is split on final score for this release:
Reporter Emma Smith gives Justice League 2.5 out of 5 “Booyahs.”
Managing Editor Matt Sernaker gives Justice League 3 out 5 “lineups for the Justice League that would have been better with Green Lantern”.
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