Review – Justice League

The leap forward taken by the DC Extended Universe courtesy of this summer’s refreshingly charming Wonder Woman has sadly U-turned faster than a speeding bullet.

Justice League PosterWhile Marvel hasn’t perfected the superhero genre, with often underwhelming villains and a penchant for slam-bang finales that can feel overly familiar, it does boast a well-drawn gallery of central and supporting characters and plenty of crisp dialogue.

By playing the long game, it has also taken the time to enable audiences to grow comfortable with its slate of superheroes before throwing them together in a giant Marvel mash-up.

In a desperate effort to play catch up, the DCEU has, on the other hand, relied upon moviegoers’ love of Batman, Superman and, most recently, Wonder Woman to quickly sell them on the idea of a team-up involving several characters who, hitherto had only received a fleeting glimpse via Lex Luthor’s laptop in Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Justice League hasn’t entirely lit up the box office, while one would hope the muddled and deeply uncertain tone of the movie should provide definitive proof to Warner Bros that the direction the franchise is being taken on by Zack Snyder simply isn’t working.

The post-Batman vs Superman studio panic was evident in the lamentable Suicide Squad, which tried to crowbar humour in to what had obviously started out as a Snyder-aping ‘dark and gritty’ action-fest.

Justice LeagueThe same can no doubt be said for Justice League. The insistence by cast and crew that this was always going to be a far lighter affair than Batman vs Superman smacks of “the lady doth protest too much”. Besides, what jocularity there is falls mostly into the lap of Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen, who rattles off lines as fast as his Flash alter-ego can handle, leaving the audience as little time as possible to absorb the fact that 99% of them simply aren’t amusing.

Jason Momoa may look the part as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, but he’s reduced to doing little more than grunting and being flung around the place (one confrontation with a phalanx of baddies is lifted straight from The Return Of The King). The prospects for a standalone movie doesn’t look promising.

One character who would benefit from more screen time is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg (aka Victor Stone), easily the most compelling of the new characters. With a tragic back story that piques the interest, Fisher sells Victor’s frustration and sadness, as well as his desire to do something good.

Of the returning comic book comrades, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman once again stands head and shoulders above the rest, having become DCEU’s golden girl following the huge critical and commercial success of her debut solo outing this summer.

Justice LeagueWonder Woman‘s focus on luminous positivity in the face of the great darkness of World War One, as well as the ease in which its central team play off each other stands out even more when its lead character stars in something as flat-footed as this. It’s also fair to say that film’s director Patty Jenkins wouldn’t have focused her camera on the parts of Gadot’s body Snyder regualrly chooses to stray on.

Ben Affleck, meanwhile, looks like a man who’s realised he’s sleepwalked in to another Pearl Harbor as he leads the league in the wake of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death against a nondescript CGI villain called Steppenwolf who, surprise, is hell-bent on conquering the Earth.

The wildly unbalanced tone of the film can perhaps be explained by the fact that Snyder stepped away towards the end of filming and handed the reigns to Avengers head honcho Jos Whedon following a family tragedy. However, one suspects Whedon didn’t contribute as much as some may suggest, meaning the blame for Justice League‘s shortcomings must ultimately fall upon its original director.

The path ahead for the DCEU is therefore clear – a fresh vision is needed in order for this particular universe to avoid imploding in on itself.

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10 comments

  1. Nostra · 11 Days Ago

    Quite a disappointing film with bad CG and like you say too much wanting to ape Marvel’s success. It wasn’t as bad as BvS:DoJ, but not nearly as good as Wonder Woman. And Ben Affleck truly seemed not to want to be in the movie. The way he portrayed him gave the character no screen presence at all.

    • Three Rows Back · 3 Days Ago

      Not much is as bad as BvS! Man that film was a stinker. Good to see you’ve been busy on the reviewing front buddy.

  2. Tom · 11 Days Ago

    Mark is back, and with a freakin zinger! Haha it’s great to read you again buddy. And let those asshats at DC have it, it’s unbelievably frustrating how inconsistent this universe is. It’s so, so lamentable. Wonder Woman was awesome but it really should not be the franchise’s golden goose. Actually because it’s DC, maybe that just makes it their silver goose.

    I still haven’t seen this movie haha

    • Three Rows Back · 3 Days Ago

      I am back! Thanks Tom; didn’t want to be a stranger for too long. Shame I’ve returned to reviewing by focussing on this underwhelming effort though! Man, I don’t know where DC goes from here. Drop Snyder for starters!

      • Tom · 2 Days Ago

        I like Zack Snyder. But I do agree his tone is becoming increasingly oppressive. There’s a time and place for everything, so why does he have to be so mopey about everything in these movies? It’s getting old, I will say that.

      • Three Rows Back · 1 Day Ago

        I really liked his Dawn Of The Dead remake and thought 300 was great. I also found parts of Watchmen to be sublime, but he’s turned into a one-trick pony and that trick ain’t all that.

  3. Zoë · 3 Days Ago

    Great write up. I should actually just slog through Batman vs Superman at some stage and try give the rest of these a shot. Guess we will see.

  4. MovieManJackson · 2 Days Ago

    Agree with your take. I feel after it that DC is on the right path, but if they were more patient, this would feel so much more like the epic moment that The Avengers had that was only earned by going into solo movies. As repetitive they can be, they are needed, especially for lesser known characters, for people to understand and latch onto emotionally.

    Great post, man.

    • Three Rows Back · 2 Days Ago

      Quite right. A solo DC movie like Wonder Woman should tell them that building a rapport between audiences and the characters first pays dividends later.

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