Superhero movies have been going strong for almost a decade now and even more so recently with smash hits like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Logan and Wonder Woman. However, there have been a few flops along the way with Thor: Dark World and I shudder as I speak the name, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The latter brings us here today, so what did I, a new reviewer of the modern hero epic, think of Justice League? It ranges from okay to great, in my opinion.
The Plot. Justice League revolves around the search for interdimensional technology called Mother Boxes and stopping the movie’s villain, Steppenwolf, from using them to basically terraform/destroy the Earth, making it into the image of Apokalips, the home of Steppenwolf and for the comic reader, planet of Darkseid. The idea itself is pretty boring as it’s one that’s been used in superhero films before, such as in Man of Steel and Avengers: Age of Ultron. This movie isn’t different in that regard. Continuity wise, it’s a direct sequel to Dawn of Justice, so of course there are direct references to past events, such as Zod’s ship still being in Metropolis, the Superman statue still being destroyed and Batman searching for the other members of his new team. Speaking of…
Characters and Acting. This is a difficult subject to take on. I say this because I like when characters act like their comic counterparts, which some of the League does in very good ways, but others not so much. I’ll start with who I believe will be the fan favourite: Aquaman.
- Arthur Curry aka, Aquaman in the comics is the respected and sometimes regal King of Atlantis, son of the former Queen Atlanna and fisherman Tom Curry. Aquaman, portayed by Jason Momoa in the movie, keeps his familial line intact and even references the former Queen, however, Aquaman seems to have placed himself in a self-imposed exile due to not being fully accepted by the Atlanteans and feeling betrayed that his mother sent him away. Aquaman is crass, brutish and arguably one of the best characters in the movie. He’s presented as a powerful force, commanding the oceans with his trident and the viewer can believe in his strength and honour in the third act of the movie. He, alongside The Flash, serves as a bit of comic relief as well, differing from the 1970s Super Friends where he was the joke. Jason Momoa can be thanked for helping to make Aquaman a cool character for the modern day because of his cool demeanour and devil may care attitude.
- Barry Allen aka, The Flash in the comics, is a forensic scientist at the Central City Police department, who initially is trying to prove that his father wasn’t the person who killed his mother until he gets struck by lightning while doing work with chemicals one night. He’s granted the powers of speed and uses them to fight injustice and villainy. Portrayed by Ezra Miller in the movie. He was an odd choice for the character as he had been known as a comedic/dramatic actor in the past. His portrayal of the character of Barry Allen could be seen as cringeworthy with Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen from The Flash television show seeming like such a normal, put together person, while Miller’s was a sort of vagrant. He had many jobs and moved homes constantly and had no friends. While it’s not my place to judge such things, I do believe Miller’s Flash to have had Asperger’s disease or at least ADD as he was constantly talking, zipping about and quipping often, coming off of Thor: Ragnarok, I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for so many jokes. His actions scenes were great and visually stunning, using blue lightning instead of the normal yellow that the Flash normally has and he’s definitely one of the most useful characters of the movie right until the last 20 minutes. He was good, but the jokes and attitude put me off a little bit.
- Victor Stone aka, Cyborg is a former football player, but after an accident caused by his father leaves him near death, he’s saved by his father and transformed into a combination of alien metals and technology. Most people are confused by his inclusion in the movie as they’re under the impression that he should be only in the Teen Titans, however, he’d been included to nod to the current comics where he was never a Titan and was part of the Justice League since its formation. Cyborg is normally a comedic or light-hearted character considering the inner turmoil he feels by being more machine than man and Ray Fisher sort of captures that. However, despite being a man made of metal, acted like he was made of wood. He was quite boring as Cyborg and this might likely be because of how much he was trying to capture the pain of his situation.
- Diana of Themysciyra aka, Wonder Woman is the exiled daughter of the Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons and protector of humanity. She was absolutely fantastic for most of the movie, acting as the de-facto leader of the Justice League, giving her even more of the star power that both Diana and Gal Gadot deserve. The only problem I had with her in the movie had to be the motherly feel she had over the team in the second act of the movie, but otherwise her characterization was great, playing off her newfound hope after fighting with Superman and Batman in the previous movie.
- Bruce Wayne aka, Batman, the billionaire playboy and architect of the League had kind of an awkward place in the movie. Ben Affleck was noticeably different Justice League than in Dawn of Justice, this is likely because he himself was inspired by Superman’s sacrifice and allowed himself to lighten up which was assuredly needed as he’s surrounded by gods and he’s just a man. He jokes more, uses the monetary resources at his disposal in pretty useful ways and he acknowledges that his peers are way more powerful than he is and he accepts it to save the Earth. This dynamic, however, is painfully noticeable in how the action scenes play out and how often he seems to need rescue, that itself isn’t a problem unless you’re used to Batman always having a way out every situation which gets played on in a great way in the third act.
- Clark Kent aka, Superman needs no introduction. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman here is much better in this movie than in either Man of Steel or Batman V Superman. When he gets reintroduced in this movie, the viewer is well reminded of how powerful he is and what he cares about. However, he’s also one of the movie’s biggest problems as he becomes a deus ex machina. This reviewer thinks, however, that his part in the climax was what was best needed for the character.
- Steppenwolf in the comics is a general to Darkseid, the biggest, baddest villain the DC universe has ever seen, while he is…a pretty low tier character. His being chosen as the main bad guy was also odd given that the movie could have used someone much more powerful to bring the team together, but nonetheless, he was a very credible threat to the League. He was very imposing, powerful and downright ruthless being able to take them apart easily, but he fell apart towards the end. He wasn’t the worst part of the movie, but he could have been so much more.
- Side Characters: Martha Kent, Lois Lane, Jim Gordon, Henry Allen and Silas Stone. To keep it short and sweet, Martha Kent and Lois Lane had some heartfelt scenes together and added the drama where it was needed when it came to Superman. Jim Gordon and Silas Stone had some good scenes, but were mostly there to move the plot along, so they weren’t too memorable. Henry Allen might be the side character I cared the least about because his first mention was a throwaway line about why he was in prison and then Barry just visiting him. He was good for an introduction into the Barry Allen character, but would do better being further explored in the Flash solo film.
Music. The music in the movie was very well done, being scored by Danny Elfman. Where the orchestra was needed, they were amazing, setting the tone for each individual character with both old and new songs. This included the 1989 Batman theme song, John Williams’ Superman theme and the current Wonder Woman theme song introduced in her solo film.
Direction. Justice League was originally going to just be the work of a singular director in Zack Snyder, but family tragedy forced him to take time off and this allowed for Joss Whedon to take over and finish the rest of the movie. This resulted in a few reshoots that may have benefitted the movie for the better. Zack Snyder is known for his gritty and grim takes on movies that have varied from great (300 and Watchmen in my opinion) to absolutely horrible (Sucker Punch and Batman V Superman) and there’s no telling how this movie may have turned out with only his direction. This is to say that Joss Whedon coming on and helping out gave the film a bit of a jarring direction. Snyder’s direction can be seen with the sombre scenes with Barry’s father and Cyborg’s introduction and Whedon’s with the light-hearted scenes with the whole team and many scenes with Batman joking. This was distracting and noticeable, the worst being the rising action to the climax where there’s a dramatic tone change for one of the characters with a joke thrown in. However, there’s an offense that can be taken with the way that Wonder Woman is shot in comparison with the rest of the characters. There are about four gratuitous upshots to Wonder Woman’s posterior that were greatly unneeded and can pull a viewer out of the scene while they’re thinking about her in form fitting leggings or tights.
Animation, Special Effects and Costuming. The special effects for the movie were extremely par. Cyborg never quite looked right and lacked emotion on his face in every scene he appeared in. It was easy to tell when it was Ezra Miller running as the Flash and when CG had taken his place as his running animation looked wonky and extremely off from how any normal person would run. Steppenwolf and the Parademons looked like characters from God of War 3 remastered on the Playstation 4 and their movements were far too quick and blurry. The worst offender, however, was Superman’s face below the nose. It reached into that uncanny valley pretty hard. The backgrounds during the fight scenes were horribly done and very easy to tell that they were just green screens with how bad the screen would tear during certain fight scenes
Writing. Definitely a lot more light-hearted than Batman V Superman and Man of Steel, but a lot more serious than Suicide Squad. This balance was needed to make it its own movie, not falling in the shadow of its predecessor and not necessarily a joke fuelled movie, like everyone expects superhero movies to be nowadays because of Marvel. Barry Allen did have a few too many for my taste, but he absolutely put heart into this movie. Batman and Wonder Woman talked like the seasoned veterans that the audience knew they were. Cyborg and Aquaman captured the pain of not belonging to the world and trying to exist as part of a team that knew very little about them; and Superman spoke with the clarity and calmness that a hero like him needed, inspiring hope the very moment he appeared and we saw the shield of his family.
Overall, the movie gets a solid 8.3. It doesn’t do much to innovate the superhero movie formula, but the acting, writing and lighter tone make up for that, however, the weak villain, poor visuals and Super Ex Machina bring down the experience from the heights that could have been. It’s well worth at least one watch and the after credits scenes do set up a few future events.