Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons
After a few missteps, the DC Extended Universe seemed to have hit its stride this past summer. Wonder Woman was a colourful, vibrant and exhilarating solo outing for Gal Gadot’s Amazonian warrior. Following on from the dreariness of Batman v Superman and the disaster that was Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman was a much-needed breath of fresh air, giving us hope that maybe Zack Snyder and the team at Warner Bros. might finally be stepping in the right direction.
So, does Justice League continue the vibrant upsurge as demonstrated by Wonder Woman? Unfortunately… no, it does not. Well… it does, in the sense that the finished product is not a complete disaster, as some critics would have you believe. However, it’s nowhere near as fun, disciplined or as well put together as Wonder Woman. Instead, what we have is essentially a Saturday morning cartoon special given a two hundred and fifty-million-dollar budget.
Justice League is a film that feels like it was designed, then redesigned, then redesigned again by not one but several committees, who were themselves redesigned by several other sub committees with the ire of fanboys lurking over them through the internet. With all the reported reshoots and whatnot, the film certainly feels like a disparate mish-mash at times, failing to generate any such engagement beyond the CGI artificial surface of its compromised exterior.Following on from the death of Superman, the world has been left vulnerable to threats not of this world. One such threat is the villainous Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who has come from unknown worlds afar, bringing with him a mindless drone CGI army (because that’s the standard for mega supervillains these days) to retrieve three items referred to as the Mother Boxes (boxes of pure world ending power).
With this threat, too large for any one individual to defeat, and with Superman lying dormant in a grave, Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) and Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman) decide to bring together a special group of heroes to combat it: Arthur Curry aka Aquaman, a man borne of the mythical world of Atlantis. Barry Allen, aka The Flash. Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, a former college student who after suffering a near fatal accident has been resurrected by one of the Mother Boxes to become an enhanced cybernetic organism. Together they’ll team up, fight and blah blah blah.
That’s really about it as far as the plot goes. There’s some exposition, followed by a big CGI fight scene, then some more talking (never interesting), then another big CGI fight scene (perhaps punctuated by a sly little jokey aside or two) and so on and forth, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, end credits. It’s a film of gloss emptiness. A film that barely fulfils the bare minimum that is required for a superhero movie of this kind.
For die-hard fans, seeing these characters together on the big screen in live action form will be more than enough to satisfy. But for those fans who were hoping for more depth, some character development and something to distinguish it from all the other superhero movies, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Okay, it’s Justice League I hear you say. It’s a film that doesn’t rely on any sort of substance. It’s about heroes fighting supervillains. It isn’t meant to be anything more. Well, when we’ve had films like Logan, Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman, it shows that the bare minimum just isn’t enough anymore. There’s absolutely nothing to connect with in Justice League, aside from the action figure sheen of its characters’ costumes.Part of that has to do with the characters’ arcs, or lack thereof. There are hints within the film – Barry’s relationship with his imprisoned father and his desire to connect and establish his own life, Diana’s inability to get over Steve Trevor’s death, Arthur Curry’s need to stop running, and Victor’s need to come out from the dark and re-join the world. Yet none of these arcs are really developed or elaborated on beyond a scene or two.
None of the characters are given much to do dramatically beyond fight and react. They are merely action figures, brought to life and forced to smash together in order to kill some time. It also doesn’t help that the camaraderie between the group never feels genuine. Ezra Miller gives it his all but in the end, his Flash feels more like comic relief than a breakout character about to get his own spinoff. Gadot is still the best thing, whilst Mamoa’s Aquaman feels only developed to the point of his costume design and rock hard abs. Meanwhile, franchise stalwarts like Affleck and Amy Adams merely seem to be stopping by to pick up the paycheck.
In terms of tone, it’s much lighter in fare than Batman v Superman with plenty of humour that may bring a titter or two, but in the end, Justice League is insubstantial fare. The action scenes have very little weight, descending into no more than computer game cinematics, with little sense of threat or stakes to keep one invested.
Given the thoroughly engaging and well-developed superhero movies we’ve had this past year, it’s a shame that Justice League is such a meandering mess. It may satisfy on a basic level, but you’ll be hard pressed to recall anything memorable about it once you leave the cinema.