Let’s get one thing absolutely clear, Justice League is not an irredeemably awful movie. It’s not Transformers 5, or Geostorm for example, but as Warner Bros. major franchise (until Harry Potter fires up again) you’d think they’d try a little harder than this….
Mired by family tragedy, groping allegations, multiple directors, rotten tomatoes scandals, petitions to get everyone involved taken off a movie, or put back on one and an unshavable moustache (more on that later), the DCEU has had an insanely tough time of it.
Man Of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman and Suicide Squad all took a Krypton sized critical hammering from critics while only Wonder Woman emerged unscathed, embraced by reviewers and fans alike. It seemed that the “too gloomy” accusations were finally behind them and DC’s heavy hitters were ready to finally “assemble” on screen (speak to my lawyers, Disney). In somewhat of a reversal of what Marvel created, with only two solo films to it’s roster so far, DC has tried to fast track their super friends early and dig into all the new characters back stories as we go…
Well, it hasn’t worked.
Zack Snyder’s original movie runtime (he still has directors credit despite 20% of the film being rewritten and directed by Joss Whedon) has been pared down to a multiplex friendly two hours, presumably by committee, and what it’s seemed to jettison was any excitement whatsoever. Stuff just happens, characters wander in and out of the film with no sense of fanfare or purpose.
The new recruits are fine, Cyborg broods, Aquaman dudes and The Flash wisecracks faster than he can sprint, but apart from seeing them do their thing, you don’t get much of an urge to want to see them again. And Batfleck, in light of all these bat-recasting rumours, seems to have bat-checked out early.
Thank God for Gal Godot, then. Building on her impressive solo debut, she takes control, wades into a scrap before everyone else and essentially radiates dignity despite everything around her lacking any sense of weight or peril.
This lethal lack of threat is provided by Steppenwolf, a rubber faced warlord with all the awesome powers of second-rate, PlayStation 3 CGI at his command. Bland, unthreatening and utterly without personality, you’ll lose count how many times he curiously employs the same trick of using his battleaxe to avoid falling on his ass. It also gives us DC’s fourth giant CGI monster fighting finale IN A ROW and the third to feature one in a spikey helmet. Through their ups and downs Marvel’s kept this shit together for nearly ten years, DC’s barely managed it in 5 movies.
Everything they attempt to inject gravitas into this film falls flat. Even Danny Elfman’s score is half hearted and dropping in beats from his own Batman score from 1989 seems less like a tribute and more of an unwillingness to come up with something new (Hans Zimmer came up with two completely different Bat-themes about four years apart, Elfman couldn’t manage it in twenty eight?).
And then there’s the red and blue Krytonian elephant in the room…
Despite his no-show in the advertising campaigns, I don’t think it’s any huge spoiler to reveal that a certain Man Of Steel makes an appearance here, but his two major entrances in the film are such without any meaningful fanfare he might have well been out buying a Subway with his phone off rather than languishing six feet under. And that moustache covering CGI upper lip that Henry Cavill’s been saddled with? A new kind of creepy.
And that’s the underlying feeling to Justice League. Watchable? Sure, I guess, but nothing here feels EARNED. Nothing here feels legendary or epic. DC’s build up to this was largely weak but their pay off is simply a non event. You can’t just have these guys show up, swap some banter and then punch an alien in the chops, if it were that easy, every film would be The Avengers.
There will be fans out there who will be enthralled by this movie simply because the Justice League are in it, and more power to them, but all geeking out aside, I’ve seen better leagues in a bowling alley.