Film Review: Justice League (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

Justice League, 2017

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons

 

*This review contains minor spoilers, but most of which should be expected*

Here is a list of all the major events which happen in Justice League:

  • The after-effects of Batman v Superman
  • The Flash’s introduction
  • Cyborg’s introduction
  • Aquaman’s introduction
  • Formation of the Justice League
  • Introduce villain and his plan
  • Execute villain’s plan
  • Bring back Superman from the dead
  • Superman fights against the Justice League
  • Everyone unites as a team
  • Big fight against villain
  • Set up future films

Now here’s a number: 120. This film has all that action and story-telling, in 120 minutes. Justice League is about the formation of the Justice League of America (Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo), Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) as they try to fend off Steppenwolf, who wants to unite all three mother boxes to unleash their true power. This film is 23 minutes shorter than The Avengers; yet, with The Avengers we knew the characters so they didn’t need much time to introduce them. Justice League needed so much more time, and that was, ultimately, its biggest disappointment.

It’s a shame that after DC finally produced a fantastic film this summer (Wonder Woman) they looked like they were finally on the right track (especially with Marvel’s Spiderman: Homecoming receiving pretty average reviews) but here we are, a few month later, and Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok is being praised while Justice League condemned. But the film isn’t completely terrible, there are some nice moments; one of my favourites is a scene between The Flash and Cyborg as they’re digging somewhere; yes, the scene is only there to show how they got their powers, but it’s a nice character-building moment in a film which doesn’t have too many to boast. And, despite mostly having poor humour, Alfred (Jeremy Irons) does get in a few funny jokes, as does a scene between Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

And I have to admit, despite the poor writing and characters, the actors aren’t to blame. Everyone in this film gives a pretty decent performance; Ben Affleck again is brilliant as Batman (who would have thought that when he was announced), Gal Gadot is shining as Wonder Woman, still, and the newcomers, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher, all bring a uniqueness with their acting to the roles (Ezra’s facial expressions are hilarious at times). It is a real shame that they managed to get so many decent actors but didn’t really give them anything worth their talent to work with.

However, as good as some of the moments are, the overall quality was lacking due to its condensed packing. The film had to introduce The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman by giving them a back story, personality and an introduction to the Justice League, all in time to fight a villain and save the day, while with a tone a lot less serious than the previous DCEU (DC Extended Universe) films. Marvel’s The Avengers had built up its characters for years heading into The Avengers film, and still gave them more time; at no point during Justice League was I worried for the heroes because they never allowed any moment of reflection or worry, it was a scene after scene.

And one of the worst parts of the film was Barry Allen. Let me just start by saying I love The Flash; as a child he was always my favourite member of the Justice League (I was a bit of a runner as a child and he ran so I always felt I could have that ability if I was a superhero) and when they made the TV show a few years ago I was eagerly excited about it. And the TV show is fantastic. They combine the right amount of seriousness with the goofiness that The Flash comics were famous for. Barry Allen on the TV show is clever, he’s passionate, he’s willing to fight for justice, he’s got friends and a family and a story. Barry Allen in Justice League has none of these. He’s basically put in the film to be the comedy element, and, as much as it pains me to make the comparison, I was just reminded of Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace; a character put in to be funny but it anything but. He wants to join the Justice League as he has no friends (why did they cut Iris West out of this film?) but soon admits to not wanting to fight, so the entirety of the film he just saves people (despite there not being an awful lot of people to save in the final fight). And as for Aquaman, they pick a location so far away from water it seems almost pointless having him there. He’s supposed to be able to speak to fish or have some aquatic powers over the water yet they’re in a area of Russia with only land as far as the eye can see. And Cyborg doesn’t fight in the final fight as he’s trying to fix the boxes (it was really lucky the villain’s plan can be thwarted by a computer genius and the Justice League just so happen to have one) and Batman, as great as he is, is a mere human against whatever Steppenwolf is. (See after the ratings for a continuation of this point).

It’s a film so full of holes that it takes away any emotional investment: characters placed to be funny, a plot sped-up so much you could easily have missed it, next to no character introductions or integration and Superman saves the day (Henry Cavill’s name is second to come up at the start of the film, despite the lore saying Superman is dead. Good job on trying to maintain our belief that he’s dead and isn’t returning in this film). It does have its moments; some character interaction is nice, but too short, some of the jokes (mainly Alfred’s) are funny (even if it does take away from the urgency and seriousness they should be feeling), the CGI isn’t too bad and, for the most part, the acting is really good. It’s a fine film, despite all my criticisms, but it won’t have you emotionally invested in anything, nor will it have you on the edge of your seat with worry. It’s a series of pretty visuals with colourful characters fighting an army of throwaway flying things and a guy with a horned face.

Oh, there are two end-credit scenes: one is a nice comic book moment, and the second had what was probably the most exciting moment of the entire film. Which says something for the film.

 

Plot: * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ¾

 

One other criticism of this film does fall slightly into spoiler territory: you have been warned.

Superman. That’s one of this film’s biggest issues. Now, similarly with The Flash, I grew up loving Superman (I really was a DC kid), and his films, for all their faults, have always been fun for me (even Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, for all their faults I still enjoyed them as I enjoy Superman). But I hated him in this film, more so than anyone else. After he comes back to life and belatedly joins the fight (first he has to beat up every member of the Justice League without breaking a sweat then he has to return home to mope about with his mother and girlfriend) he basically beats Steppenwolf all on his own while saving a building’s worth of people in the process. Completely undoing the mall family The Flash saved and all the fighting Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman were doing up until then. He comes in, Steppenwolf immediately fears him, then he wins the fight. As a wrestling fan I understand the dramatic moment when the good guys get a helping hand then defeat the odds stacked against them, but this had none of that. It was basically the rest of the Justice League holding back Steppenwolf while waiting for Superman to finish the job. This film felt like a way of building up everybody else, making them all as important as one another (in a way Marvel does, with the exception of Black Widow and the guy with the bow and arrow.. why is he in the Avengers? Come to think of it, why is she in the Avengers?), in much the same way Batman came across as a serious threat in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for being able to go toe-to-toe with Superman. But nope. Superman is the hero, everybody else are in his team. They may as well rename it to Superman’s Justice League. What happens in Justice League 2 when the rest are in a fight? We’ll have been programmed from this film to not worry because Superman will save the day, and it’s that effect which I know will carry on with me and I’ll be subsequently disappointed in that film; it was such lazy writing that their script may as well have read: ‘Stuff happens. Stuff happens. Steppenwolf comes. More stuff. Something about boxes. Superman saves the day. End credits.’

I love Superman but in this film they dropped the ball on so many things: his film arc the most frustrating.

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