I wanted to love Justice League. Truly. As someone who heavily criticized Man of Steel‘s third act, and the abomination that was Batman vs. Superman, I wanted to really get behind this response to The Avengers. I made all the excuses and even accepted Zack Snyder leaving in post and Junkie XL getting replaced in the middle of production. I waited patiently like everyone else and was lucky enough to hear some great things from friends who had a chance to catch it earlier. Yet, as much as I heard, it also came with words of warning that this movie was essentially not Zack Snyder’s. Yikes. As a comic book fan I took it all with a grain of salt, missing out on the Rotten Tomato score before I saw it. Justice League is currently sitting at a 39% score which is insane. This movie is not 39% bad. Maybe 67% good, but absolutely watchable. It comes down to how you view the DCEU, is it in a world of it’s own, or in a shadow of Marvel’s? It’s hard to answer that question, but I can say as a fan, this was a serviceable. And for DC right now, serviceable works.
Justice League was always going to be met with criticism as they didn’t set up the universe in any way like Marvel. Marvel followed a very successful method of making individual movies that lead to one team up film. So far this has worked wonders. Throughout those years DC focused on Batman, Batman, Batman, and oh yeah Superman. Their only foray in something not Batman or Superman was the abysmal Green Lantern (by the way, Taika Waititi, the visionary from Thor: Ragnarok was in that, I am mad I forgot this). Soon after it became integral to develop something beyond that after The Dark Knight Rises was met with a tepid response. Instead of focusing on developing individual movies, DC said “screw it” and threw down Man of Steel (Superman movie), Batman vs. Superman (a Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman movie), Suicide Squad (uh – a movie), and Wonder Woman (self explanatory). Only one really hit audiences where they should have – Wonder Woman. To be fair, Man of Steel wasn’t bad at all, but it’s third act felt like battle porn. From this was birthed Justice League, a rushed concept that actually changed it’s moniker midway through production (Unite the 7 to All In). Wait what? Oh yeah, they didn’t know what to do about a 7th member so they just scrapped the hackneyed catchphrase. But Justice League works in a lot of ways. In a world where Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead and an ancient menace, Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), finds his way back to Earth, Batman (Ben Affleck) must form a team to stop him and protect our planet moving forward. Simple enough. Wrong.
The movie felt stunted, almost choppy in a lot of ways. It paced well in some areas and just fell flat in so many more. As the infighting was revealed leading up to the premiere and the weekend, it made sense that we had two different directors ( Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon). It also was very noticeable we had reshoots. The movie picks up quick with the introductions and Steppenwolf stealing the three motherboxes that when united bring hell to Earth. The three were hidden thousands of years ago in an epic battle that combined Atlantis, Themyscara, and Humans (an amazing flashback that gives us a glimpse of the Green Lanterns and lasts all of maybe 45 seconds). As Steppenwolf collects and kills, Batman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) attempt to corral in beings with special abilities to join their cause. They include a cocky and self destructive Aquaman (Jason Momoa), a young and immature Flash (Ezra Miller), and a self loathing machine, Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Each of them is an integral part in this plan against this other worldy figure. Then the second act happens. Or really a fight scene that brings together our 5 main heroes. Conveniently. Boom now we’re in the third act. Huh? Well it’s easy to happen when you only have 1 hour and 59 minutes to tell a movie with 9 of this minutes credits. What happened to the 2 hour and 50 minute behemoth we were promised – you know Zack’s movie? I would settle for another 20-30 minutes to really flesh out some of this story and team. I needed a longer and better constructed second act. Damn it, I also deserve a better first act that included Cyborg playing football, Iris Allen, and Vulco.
But then we do get probably the best scene in the DCEU so far, even better than that Joker scene in Suicide Squad with Common – I kid. The League decides to resurrect Superman and doing so leads to a temporarily deranged Man of Steel. I mean we have the whole league going after Clark Kent’s better half. But when the Flash decides to run behind him as Superman holds down Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman? Superman ever so slightly follows him with his eye, freaking out the Flash who had no idea that someone else could be as fast as he is. This might have been the only scene that got the crowd going in my screening. Actually, any Superman scene was a crowd pleaser. From there we hit the formula of uniting, and you know fighting and defeating a villain.
I did love how they came together and even some of the camaraderie between the Flash and Cyborg. I wasn’t a fan of puffy Ben Affleck or the push for this strange flirting with Wonder Woman. Superman seemed like a deus ex machina akin to Eleven in this past season of Stranger Things. I think that’s okay though because Cavill has such a charm about him. I will always root for him. Jason Momoa is a legend, literally playing this badass version of Aquaman. He is angry and drinks a lot of booze, but his reluctance is straight out of the comics. I think he and Ezra had some of the best one liners in the movie. The real issues? The reshoots were telling, from CGI backgrounds to CGI Henry Cavill lips. Steppenwolf had some of the worst CGI known to man. It was as if they decided to hire the team from The Incredible Hulk circa 2008 in 2017. I did not understand why such an accomplished actor as Ciaran Hinds needed CGI. Why couldn’t Steppenwolf just be a guy with some makeup on? You know like Ronan the Accuser? Why did we get that painstaking dialogue between Mera and Aquaman? Why couldn’t Superman just have a damn beard instead of that awkward CGI to remove his mustache? What really happened with Zack Snyder? Why did the movie have to be under 2 hours? There are so many questions and unfortunately we have no one to give us answers. All we know is that critics hated it and Ben Affleck is looking for a “cool way to segue out of Batman”. He is now known between my friend Fredy and I as “Segue Batman”.
Realistically I am trying to be fair. I absolutely enjoyed a lot of this movie and might even see it again. Shit, I saw Suicide Squad 13 times. I have no idea how, but I might be crazy. I am sane enough to attempt to wait for this Flashpoint storyline we are promised, and the Aquaman movie coming out next year. I’ll have three more Marvel movies to digest in that time period, so there might be less benefit of the doubt moving forward, but no more bad CGI please. PLEASE. What’s even crazier? Zack Snyder hasn’t even seen the movie yet. But you should.
Justice League stars Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Ciarin Hinds, and of course, Ben Affleck