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Movie Review: Justice League

It’s time to join the big leagues: five years after Marvel’s Avengers team made their big-screen debut, the Justice League arrives in cinemas. While Wonder Woman was seen as reinvigorating the DC Extended Universe, it’s Justice League that is deemed the make-or-break moment for the franchise. Read on to see how it stacks up.

After the events of Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are gathering a team of superheroes to fend off an impending alien threat. The recruits to this group include college student/speedster Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), the ocean-dwelling Atlantean Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and a cybernetically-enhanced former college football star Vic Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

This team must face off against Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a world-destroying alien warlord who hails from the planet Apokolips and answers to the tyrannical Darkseid. Under Steppenwolf’s command is an army of insectoid warriors known as Parademons. Now more than ever, earth needs Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill), who died at the end of Batman v Superman. The heroes must put on a united front as earth faces its doom.

 

There’s a great deal riding on Justice League, and Warner Bros. desperately needs this one to go over well. The film suffered its share of setbacks during production: director Zack Snyder withdrew from the film after a personal tragedy, with Joss Whedon stepping in to oversee reshoots and post-production. Then, rumour has it that the film’s 170-minute runtime was pared down to 119 minutes, under a mandate from Warner Bros. boss Kevin Tsujihara. It feels like a two-headed monster – one head being Snyder’s, and one being Whedon’s, but sometimes the interaction between these two heads is interesting.

Justice League has a shape, but the seams are readily visible. At times, it feels choppy and fragmented, and it’s clear that quite a bit has been left on the cutting room floor. On the whole, it is a gratifying experience: there are moments that will induce cheers, and the action sequences are fun. The various abilities of the League’s members are realised in creative ways, and the visual effects work is more polished than in some previous DCEU entries, some dodgy moustache removal work notwithstanding.

The overall plot beats are familiar, and Justice League bears passing similarities to numerous recent comic book movies. There’s a motley crew with clashing personalities and astounding powers banding together to defeat the otherworldly threat of a faceless army led by a fearsome warlord.

Bits of backstory for each of the new characters are parcelled out, and one can notice the film trying to shuffle along from point A to point B. Tonally, there are some jokes that stick out as being a little unsubtle, but in trying to course-correct from being self-serious and morose to a little lighter on its feet, Justice League takes a few steps in the right direction.

Batman is no longer the irrational, weary, rage-driven character seen in Batman v Superman, but it’s to Affleck’s credit that it doesn’t feel like someone altogether different was swapped in. We see how the events of the earlier film have changed Batman’s attitudes, and witness him attempting to be a team player. It’s a bit of a shame that Affleck seems to be looking for an out, since he’s growing into the role nicely. He’s also got cool vehicles including the tank-like mecha Knightcrawler and the Flying Fox transport plane, which should sell a healthy number of toys. Geek gripe – the ears on the cowl look too similar to those of Nite-Owl’s from Watchmen.

Wonder Woman’s characterisation remains consistent, and Gadot continues to embody her badass side in addition to her empathy and wisdom. In many ways, Diana is the most mature of the team, who can sometimes behave like children. There are many opportunities to showcase the character’s abilities, and the introductory scene in which she foils a terrorist bombing is a stylish and exciting sequence. The dynamic that develops between Batman and Wonder Woman is the closest the movie comes to being poignant, and I wish it were developed further.

The Flash will be the runaway favourite for many viewers. Miller eagerly conveys the character’s wide-eyed awe and just how thrilled he is to be part of the team. He’s the rookie and, since he’s prone to geeking out, is the audience-identification character. Barry, a budding criminologist, also appears to be a fan of Rick and Morty and the South Korean pop group Black Pink. He provides the lion’s share of the film’s comic relief, and never comes off as insufferably obnoxious.

Momoa’s iteration of Aquaman has been termed ‘Aquabro’ by some. While the irreverent jock personality isn’t exactly in line with how Aquaman has been portrayed in the comics, it works within the context of the larger team. It seems like more scenes set in Atlantis were cut – we only get a fleeting glimpse of Amber Heard as Mera, and Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko is altogether absent.

Fisher’s Cyborg might be the most angst-ridden character, as he struggles to come to terms with his newfound existence as part man, mostly machine. He gets a RoboCop-style character arc. If the version you’re most familiar with is from the Teen Titans cartoon, this is a significant departure from that. He does eventually get to utter a fan-favourite catchphrase, though.

Steppenwolf’s design works well and Ciarán Hinds’ expressions contribute to a fairly mean-looking character, but he’s just never that scary. Steppenwolf is largely generic and is close in characterisation and his function in the plot to Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a threat that never quite takes hold, despite multiple attempts to explain just how fearsome the character is.

Jeremy Irons’ sardonic Alfred cracks a few jokes, while J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon seems to have stepped straight off the comic book page. I can’t wait to see what he does with the role in future films.

When Whedon replaced Snyder, he dropped Junkie XL as composer, replacing him with Danny Elfman. It is a delight to hear Elfman’s Batman theme from the 1989 Batman movie in the theatre again. There are also hints of John Williams’ original Superman theme.

While Justice League has its issues and feels severely truncated, it has enough energy and verve to kinda-sorta compensate for its shortcomings. Long-time fans of these characters will get at least a tiny bit of a thrill out of seeing them together on the big screen, and if you’ve complained about how gloomy earlier DCEU entries were, this might be more your speed.

Oh – stick around for a fun mid-credits scene, and a spectacular post-credits stinger that left me gobsmacked.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Originally written for inSing

Director : Zack Snyder
Cast : Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons, Connie Nielsen
Genre : Action/Adventure/Comics
Run Time : 119 mins
Opens : 17 November 2017
Rating : PG-13

19 thoughts on “Movie Review: Justice League

  1. You touch on an important point. Henry Cavill may be a decent actor with an admirable physique, but he’s just not Superman any more than George Clooney was Batman (in Batman & Robin, 1997). Constantly, you’re reminded of the fact that “This is an actor STANDING IN for this character.” I really, really, really wish they tried harder to do a better job of casting Superman.

  2. I’m with you about underuse of the female leads. Part of it can be blamed on the stultifying plotline. They could do more things in a story having broader scope. This movie boils down to a canned slug-fest against a 2-dimensional, uninteresting villain.

    Moreover, I found Cyborg extraneous and superfluous, an annoying, politically-correct afterthought. In South Park terms, he was the “Token Black.” Everything about him comes across as staged and forced and lame, from his costume to his lines to his Assimilation Tubules. No disrespect to the actor, but I wish Cyborg wasn’t in the film.

    I sense that the writers didn’t grow up reading classic comic books. There’s not enough attention to the things that made them great.

  3. The article really wasn’t that long, perhaps you have a reading issue.

    Though I doubt you’d be complaining if the author agreed with you.

    Didn’t you jump down someone’s throat earlier this year for not listening to opposite opinions?

  4. Anyone who thinks Affleck’s Batman is fat clearly has no concept of comic history.

    And anyone who likes their own comment is sad.

  5. I don’t think they are the ones having trouble with the joke, considering they aren’t posting serious replies. You’re seemingly trying to offend or make some kind of point while hiding behind the “joke” excuse, but failing quite miserably. Perhaps changing your name again would help?

  6. I’ll rent it from the library when they get the extended edition in. No sense in spending money on a beta test.

  7. Considering she’s IDF trained, she’d probably absolutely destroy you if you tried that.

  8. Honestly, I think BvS was better. The only less enjoyable DCEU film was Suicide Squad. I can’t make sense of people thinking it was one of the better DCEU films. At best, it was just a “good time.” Kinda like just spending a couple of hours on YouTube watching a compilation of pretty cool DC Animated Universe clips. Not “awful” but still kinda a waste of time.

  9. There is no need to write so much about this movie . It’s just very very very BAD.

  10. I went into this with a lot of enthusiasm, thinking the triumph of Wonder Woman meant the DCEU had finally hit its stride. I was wrong. I thought it was a disaster. It was a bland, angry, insultingly stupid exercise is Superman fanwank with a thin veneer of puerile humour laid over the top.
    I’m not sure why you would think Wonder Womans characterization was consistent either, it was not. She went from the brave, funny, risk taking hero in her solo film to the team mum who stands there at pouts at the boys crazy antics. It was fucking insulting.
    Credit where it’s due, I did like Batman more in JL than I had previously, and I was never one who hated Affleck in the role.
    Aquaman was ok apart from the disrespectful, casual misogyny towards WW. Flash was rubbish. Cyborg was ok. The less said about Superman, both the way the film treated him and his appearance the better. Amy Adams was completely wasted. Steppenwolf reminded me of Corypheus from Dragon Age Inquisition without the character development and menace.
    The only upside is that it’s opening weekend take was terrible and it might under-perform enough to actually force WB to get their act together.

    I really, really wanted it to be good too.

  11. I think you summed it up nicely. It’s nice to read a review that isn’t afraid to admit the enjoyment, without glossing over the stuff that needed work. I put it in a solid B-to-B+ category.

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